Report Card: Predicting the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, by Andre Jute

March 15, 2017 14:02:45

The Top 13 teams in the 2017 Iditarod Sled Dog Race have now passed under the burled arch in Front St in Nome, after 979 miles of racing in very cold temperatures that, however, made for a good trail.

1. Mitch Seavey  in 8d 3h 40m 13s RECORD
2. Dallas Seavey
3. Nicolas Petit
4. Joar Leifseth Ulsom
5. Jessie Royer
6. Wade Marrs
7. Ray Redington Jr
8. Aliy Zirkle
9. Peter Kaiser
10. Paul Gebhardt
11. Jeff King
12. Ramey Smyth
13. Michelle Phillips

Besides shattering his son Dallas Seavey’s speed record from last year, Mitch Seavey, who was already the oldest man at 53 to win the Iditarod the last time he won, is again the oldest man at 57 to win. And no doubt he’ll be back next year to try for a fourth victory to match Dallas’s four…The first 9 mushers all brought their teams home under the magic 9 days, and the tenth, Paul Gebhart, was only 6 seconds over the 9 day mark.
The last Iditarod champion whose name isn’t Seavey was John Baker in 2011, and his time was 8d 18h 46m 39s. Until the start of this Iditarod, the club of sub-9 day mushers added up to 13, and it isn’t much larger today because the usual over-achievers are also the front runners this year.
[right] The beautiful and
talented Jessie Royer
Most years I make up the list of teams we (readers of my novel IDITAROD, Facebook friends) will follow by choosing a few extremely popular mushers, a few fast mushers, a beautiful musher or two (only checking to see if you are awake!), and someone worthwhile from the rear of the field. Before you ask, I don’t consciously include women (or Norwegians for that matter), though the Iditarod is notable for women running on equal terms with men, and for the large number of women who do enter, and sometimes win. By the time I’ve included popular and fast mushers, I usually have selected several women anyway — and a Norwegians or two as well!Aliy Zirkle mushing in characteristically exuberant style.
Who can resist adding her to a shortlist?
For 2017 before the race started I chose the mushers I thought would be in the top ten. That turned out to be the two Seaveys, Mitch and Dallas; three young guns, Petit, Marrs and Kaiser; two women, Royer and Zirkle; two Norwegians, Ulsom and Johannessen; and the perennial top-ten runner and multiple champion Jeff King.Of those King was 11th and Johannessen 16th. Maybe next year.So, out of my choices, eight of “my” ten were in the actual top ten. I should have put on some money.

[L to R, T to B] Here are my eight out of ten winners, in order of finishing: Mitch Seavey, Dallas Seavey, Nicolas Petit, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Jessie Royer, Wade Marrs, [Ray Redington Jr, not shown, was 7th], Aliy Zirkle, Peter Kaiser, [Paul Gebhardt, not shown, was 10th]
I also forecast the winner: “…I’d advise [some notional bookmaker] to shorten the odds on a Seavey win, putting the chances of another Seavey win at near enough even-steven, maybe 45-55.” You can read my logic here.Thank you for joining me for an exciting ride.
Extraordinary detail from the now-famous watercolor cover painting by Gino D’Achille commissioned by Grafton for the original paperback edition of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth. When there was talk of changing the cover illustration for the CoolMain 20th Anniversary Edition, the D’Achille painting was retained to avoid a revolt of readers who believe it encapsulates the story.
Articles about the 2017 Iditarod from most recent to earliest:

How to discover who really leads the Iditarod.
Who can deny Dallas Seavey another Iditarod victory?
Can one of the Seaveys win the Iditarod, again?
Surviving the Iditarod by intelligent information flow.

If you’re on a nostalgia kick, here’s a list of Iditarod articles from earlier years (in this decade). Also, in another place, nostalgia from the first years of the Iditarod, here are a few Reminiscences from the great Joe May, champion in 1980.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of
The Greatest Race on Earth
by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK
GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy
There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on Amazon Google iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUNandre_jute_singapore
André operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iditarod: Three Women in Top Ten before White Mountain. Andre Jute reports.

The famous 1000 mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race across Alaska is one of the few top sports in which women compete as equals. There is no separate entry list for women. They must compete with some of the hardest men, and definitely the toughest terrain, anywhere in the world. But in Alaska men are men, and women can win the Iditarod, and have won the Iditatod.
So only rookies are surprised to see three women in the Iditarod top ten before White Mountain, where all teams must take a mandatory 8 hour break to rest the dogs for the 77 mile sprint to the victory arch over Front Street in Nome.
Left to right:  Jessie Royer looks fairly safe in 6th. Aliy Zirkle in 8th may come under pressure from Peter Kaiser. Michelle Phillips in 10th also looks relatively safe.
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of
The Greatest Race on Earth
by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK



GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on AmazonGoogle and all the vendors above:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUN

andre_jute_singaporeAndré operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

IDITAROD ANALYSIS BEFORE WHITE MOUNTAIN. Andre Jute thinks Mitch Seavey’s raw speed will be decisive.

The youngsters don’t have Mitch Seavey’s raw speed.
 
All Mitch needs at White Mountain is half an hour of clean air behind him, then he can put the win in his pocket with well-rested dogs sprinting the 77 miles to Nome.
 
Only the weather or tired dogs refusing to run can now stop Mitch.
Dallas Seavey just isn’t fast enough and Nicolas Petit is 2h10m behind Mitch out of Koyuk, too much to make up in less than a 100 miles.
Unless Dallas picks it up, Petit will be second into White Mountain. And second out of it. And faster across the trail. It’s a killer combination.
 
Space behind a musher into White Mountain is the same space behind him leaving White Mountain for the sprint to Nome.
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of
The Greatest Race on Earth
by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK



GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on AmazonGoogle and all the vendors above:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUN

andre_jute_singaporeAndré operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Surviving the Iditarod by intelligent information flow. Andre Jute reports.

Actually, the first thing the Iditarod Sled Dog Race watcher needs is enough sleep, especially towards the end, when it can get very tense whether your favorite starts the compulsory 8-hour rest close enough to the front runners to catch them on the short final stretch to Nome. Newcomers to this tense race are then tempted to wait out the layover; experienced watchers catch some sleep the minute the first three or four mushers are in, because they know you don’t want to miss a moment of that last sprint, on which Dallas Seavey famously has come from hours behind to win from Aliy Zirkle. It could happen again, it could even happen to Dallas. (Don’t bet the house on that last wild speculation, though.)

Next you need plenty of nutritious snack food and hydration because you won’t have time to cook anything demanding, and your family will soon be glued to the screen next to you.

Information without which you can’t follow the Iditarod

These, and only these, are pages of essential information you should keep open on your computer screen, neatly cascaded for instant reference. Other pages you open you should close instantly you finish with them, or soon you will drown in inessential information, and you’ll miss crucial bits of the race because you couldn’t find the right page.

First, the page that will be your action control centerThis is where the selected most relevant news arrives hot and ready to your screen.

Next you need to know when it happens, so here’s Alaskan clock you can scale to the space available on your screen by simply dragging the bottom right hand corner.

You also need to know who it happens to, so here’s a list of the usual suspects, complete with mug shots; they’ll look worse towards the end of the race.
Of course, the question of why it happens to her will strike you with great force, and the answer is often Alaska’s perfectly predictable weather: it will turn lethally nasty at unpredictable times.

CdnFy4NXEAEhX5S.jpg-largeAliy Zirkle running hard for Nome

This is the page for one of my books at my publisher, which collects other essential Iditarod information in one place

Finally, the only guaranteed way to judge the progress of a dog team and its musher is from checkpoint to checkpoint, so you need a checkpoint progress sheet. 

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Come join me at the IDITAROD: The greatest race on earth since Marathon — and a bookie’s nightmare

IDITARODcreatespaceBannerImage

Every year I take a busman’s holiday at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I have a page that helps people follow the race. In theory my presence and the helpful page promotes my novel about the race. In practice the book, long since a best seller, promotes itself, and is anyway better promoted by enthusiastic readers than by the author, and I maintain the page to help myself keep track of a confusing race spread over 1046 miles (approximately) of the most inaccessible and dangerous terrain on earth, and share it with others of like mind. The other thing I do every year just before the Iditarod is amusing: I try to pick some outsiders who will do well; I’m proud of an outstanding track record, for intance picking Aliy Zirkle in each of the years she came second. Obvious now, but this woman, already over forty, with small dogs, in the beginning just wasn’t an obvious choice against the hard men with their brawny dogs. Another example: I picked the poster boy, the Iditarod heart-throb, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, when he came from nowhere, with no track record at this level of mushing.

So, why am I bragging about past triumphs? Because this year the organizers, by accepting so many novices, have made it almost impossible to pick genuine outsiders, short of sticking a pin into the entry list, or laboriously tracing the provenance of each musher. And I intend “provenance” in the precise dictionary meaning: that a musher grew up in a mushing household and community clearly matters in winning the Iditarod, as does the learning experience of the race itself. It’s a dangerous race, so the organizers, terrified someone will die on their race, let in only those with experience and a track record in other tough races. This in turn makes it even more difficult to pick the newcomer who will emerge from the pack.

I wouldn’t bet tuppence of my own money on a race as long, and over such terrain, and through such uncertain weather, as the Iditarod. But if I were staking serious money, I’d grit my teeth and accept the short odds on Dallas Seavey to take a third win. Lance Mackey and Jeff King, both four-time winners, stand at the head of a line of contenders who think they’re finishing the Seavey’s run — Dallas’s dad Mitch is also a two-time winner and a current contender to be reckoned with. There, let’s leave the list of hard, experienced men, several more with victories or many high finishes on their record, and look at the outsiders.

At the beginning of the Iditarod last year (2014), Aliy Zirkle was all set, by her record of two second places, to leave the list of underdogs and outside chances for the permanent powers that be, the perennial threats. But events in the closing stages of the 2014 race have raised the question whether she is only a nice lady with athletic gifts — or whether she’s a winner. After Jeff King was blown off the trail and was forced to scratch only 25 miles from a fifth victory to protect his dogs, it was Aliy Zirkle’s race to lose. And she did lose it by not being ready when the gritty, relentless competitor Dallas Seavey arrived from nearly two hours behind to blow without rest through Safety, where Aliy was resting. Dallas staggered on to victory in Nome.

1924633_754426211236322_206420366_nDallas Seavey, winning the 1000+ mile 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from 1h49m behind 77 miles before the finish.

That Aliy, had she not relaxed into champion mode already in Safety, could have caught the worn Dallas and his tired dogs is shown by the fact that, starting from 17 minutes behind in Safety, 22 miles later in Nome Aliy was only 2m22s behind Dallas, an otherwise incredible gain that tells us much about their relative condition.

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The popular Aliy Zirkle, runner-up for the third year running in 2014.

Dallas won that race because he is first and foremost a winner.  Which is how come we pick him to win again. He’s a pretty obvious choice: young and hard, yet hugely experienced, a proven winner.

And once more I pick Aliy to upset the running behind Dallas, possibly to be second again, especially of there is a settled weather over all or most of the race to favour her light, fast dogs. Who knows, she may have learned her lesson last year: the race isn’t over till you cross the line, and use her chances better this year. We’re due for a woman winner, and Aliy is still the best-placed woman to deliver that victory.

For newcomers, the Iditarod is one of the very few great sporting events in the world where men and women compete on equal terms. As the saying goes, “Alaska, where men are men, and women win the Iditarod.” The late Susan Butcher has four victories too.

And for a new champion from among the outsiders? Once again I fancy the impressive Norwegian  Joar Leifseth Ulsom. This is no longer a daring prediction because everyone knows his time will come, but I’m betting on sooner rather than later.

An underdog who could easily choose this year to become a top ten top dog is Nathan Schroeder, the 2014 Iditarod Rookie of the Year.

If the ladies want someone interesting to follow besides Aliy, try DeeDee Jonrowe, a veteran runner with an enviable record of high finishes, still a threat for the top places. And don’t forget the grittily courageous Cindy Gallea, 63, who last year was forced to scratch through illness.

Fewer people have finished the Iditarod than have ascended to the summit of Mount Everest.

2015-iditarod-route2

The toughest race in the world, a race of attrition because of trail and weather conditions just short of the Artic Circle.

My page Iditarod follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race live, as it happens. You’re cordially invited to join us.

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André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and all ebook formats.

Iditarod, toughest race in the world, stressfree from your armchair

For a zero stress Iditarod you need these three pages open and only these three. Close any pages you refer to instantly you finish with them or you’ll soon be lost in a tide of pages.
* IDITAROD. Here you find the most important and exciting race reports in comprehensible format.  Come join the best party going. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iditarod-a-novel-of-The-Greatest-Race-on-Earth/193084334057961?ref=hl
* Alaskan clock, scales with the window. Most mushers take elective breaks during the Alaskan daytime hours. http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fullscreen.html?n=18
* Iditarod Race Map, so you can see where your favourites have reached and how far they have to go. Total race distance is about 1000m. Click on the map and a bigger version will open on your screen. http://coolmainpress.com/iditarodcompmap.html
* IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth: a bestselling story to read in downtime from the race when you are too excited to sleep. Yeah, it’s that addictive. http://coolmainpress.com/iditarod1.html

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IDITAROD POST MORTEM: A RACE WON, A RACE LOST by Andre Jute

IDITARODcreatespaceBannerImage

IDITAROD POST MORTEM
A RACE WON, A RACE LOST
by Andre Jute

After Jeff King was blown off the trail and had to scratch only 25 miles from a fifth victory, this was Aliy Zirkle’s race to lose. And she did lose it by not being ready when the gritty, relentless competitor Dallas Seavey came from nearly two hours behind to blow without rest through Safety, where Aliy was resting. Dallas staggered on to victory in Nome.

1924633_754426211236322_206420366_nDallas Seavey, winning the 1000+ mile 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from 1h49m behind 77 miles before the finish.

That Aliy, had she not relaxed into champion mode already in Safety, could have caught the worn Dallas and his tired dogs is shown by the fact that, starting from 17 minutes behind in Safety, 22 miles later in Nome Aliy was only 2m22s behind Dallas, an otherwise incredible gain that tells us much about their relative condition.

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The popular Aliy Zirkle, runner-up for the third year running.

The post mortem and excuses will run and run, but the truth is that Dallas won this race because he is first and foremost a winner, and Aliy lost it because she presumed Dallas would behave reasonably. True competitors are rational. That’s not the same as being reasonable.

Before the race I picked Aliy to win, so yeah, I’m pissed off to see her throw the race away.

iditarod_trail_sled_dog_race_map_800_72_125kb

The toughest race in the world, this year a race of attrition because of trail and weather conditions.

My page Iditarod – a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth picks and follows semi-outsiders, the non-obvious top ten runners. My pick for champion next year: the poster boy, the Iditarod heartthrob, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who’s made two top ten finishes for two starts, an awesome record in this company. Also on my shortlist for next year, tipped to be second, Aliy Zirkle.

iditarod_cover_6dec13_72dpi_800pxh

André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth.

Y’all are cordially invited to come racing at the Iditarod Tail Sled Dog Race with me.

Ally Zirkle, leading the 1200 mile Iditarod, cutting a corner tighty, fighting to keep her sled upright.
Y’all are cordially invited to come racing at the
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race with me.
You will need these pages:
The Greatest Race on Earth http://on.fb.me/10epqwn
Alaskan Clock http://bit.ly/1d7uzeu
Race Standings http://bit.ly/1fRn1xM
Race Map http://bit.ly/1cu1Pcw
KEEP THESE PAGES OPEN PERMANENTLY.
CLOSE ALL OTHER PAGES IMMEDIATELY YOU FINISH VIEWING
OR YOU’LL SOON BE LOST.THIS PAGE HAS FURTHER ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATION:
http://bit.ly/1fyvyag

 

Right, let’s pick my five likely winners of the Iditarod 2013

There are  so many multiple champions because experience matters. You therefore must include the defending champion, Dallas Seavey. It’s his race to lose. The target is on his back. Unfortunately for his competitors, Dallas is pretty level-headed and, despite his apparent youth, a very experienced musher, the third generation of his family, the son of another champion. Any front runner will be asking what Dallas is doing. Big, sturdy all-weather dogs.

Next, another champion, Big John Baker, champion before Dallas, a musher who positively relishes the foulest weather. If the weather turns nasty, and he’s in position, Big John will be a threat. He holds the record for finishing in the shortest time ever, and he took it over the longer, Southern Route, raced in odd years. With Big John, slow and certain, and long killer stints on the trail, add up to fast from checkpoint to checkpoint.

Ally Zirkle, leading the 1200 mile Iditarod in 2012, cutting a corner tighty, fighting to keep her sled upright

If the weather’s fine and the trail is good, smaller, faster dogs come into play. Last year Aliy Zirkle ran out front almost all the way, to be overtaken by Dallas Seavey near the end. Men and women run on equal terms, and you have to weight up whether Aliy, lighter and riding the runners, going like the clappers, will be faster than Dallas, heavier, running for hours behind his sled so the dogs don’t have to pull his muscle along, going like the clappers, has the better clappers. I suspect we’ll see on the run from Anvik through Grayling to Eagle Island, up the Yukon with the wind in their faces.

Only an idiot rules out Jeff King, the most scientific of the mushers, a multiple winner. Every likely winner has a shortlist of three mushers who can take the race from him. Jeff King features on each and every one of those shortlists. Don’t count out Jeff King because he gives away thirty years to Dallas Seavey.

I was away from the Iditarod between 1989 and the 2011 race, but one of the first guys I picked when I returned was Ramey Smyth, because he looked so much like the beau ideal of the profesional mushers coming in just then. I’ve been watching Ramey from afar, and this could be his year. Smiling, charming Ramey is a relentless competitor.

Nothing startling about this list. These mushers are in every informed observer’s top ten.

Every year I also choose a couple of outsiders. I’ve for instance chosen Peter Kaiser one year, but he’s no longer a young turk, he’s on everyone’s top ten list, high up on some.  It would be a cheat to pick him again on the principle that “I told you he was a comer.”

So this year I’ll choose a rookie, and an outsider, a Norwegian. I reckon Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the hearthrob or Roros, Norway, 26, is, on the record of past Norwegian entries, worth a bet for an early entry into the top ten, perhaps this year.

I’ve also picked DeeDee Jonrowe as a personal favorite for the last two yard, and last year she came in just outside the top ten. DeeDee is hard as nails and very experienced. “Veteran” hardly describes a woman who has 3o or so Iditarods to her credit and has won half a million dollars in this event. If there’s an upset, DeeDee, 59, another fast lady, could show some of those boys her heels.

Now there are screams of outrage from the peanut gallery. How can I not choose Lance Mackey, the most recently dominant racer? Well, it’s that luck thing. Mackey had such a bad race last year, he was joking about a champion become the Red Lantern, the back marker. It takes a while for your confidence to recover from such a setback.

How can I not choose Aaron Burmeister, on his pre-Iditarod form a likely winner, or Martin Buser, always a threat, even more so now that he has his son Rohn’s best dogs in his team as well?

Well, if you choose five plus two outsiders, you run out of spots. I blame the organizers of the Iditarod. They should make it easier, not put up a slate of 66 winners.

So that’s my slate of five, in no particular order:

Dallas Seavey, defending champion
John Baker, immediately past victor
Aliy Zirkle, spectacular challenger, 2nd last year
Jeff King, multiple champion, scientific musher
Ramey Smyth, a champion in waiting

Plus, since five is simply an impossible limit,  a couple of bets with marginally longer odds:

DeeDee Jonrowe,  perpetual threat
Joar Leifseth Ulsom, worth a bet for a rookie Top 10 finish

We’ll see under the arch in Front Street in Nome in about 12 days whether I’m right.

How even newbies can join the Iditarod race party

IDITAROD, The Greatest Race on Earth, THE REAL THING, starts Saturday 2 March!
To join the party, go to the nerve centre of Andre’s virtual Iditarod experience and bookmark it.


COME SHARE IN THE EXCITEMENT

Ally Zirkle, leading the 1200 mile Iditarod, cutting a corner tighty, fighting to keep her sled upright.
CAN A WOMAN WIN THE TOUGHEST RACE IN THE WORLD? AGAIN.

Last year at the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska, a thousand miles and a bit running behind a dog sled within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle, I noted: ”The first fifteen places are filled by mushers who haven’t won before, most of them in their thirties still, and  two in their early twenties have finished in the top ten.”

And you can still hear the surprise in my tone: “Holy moses, the first Iditarod champion into Nome is Lance Mackey in 16th place, followed by Martin Buser in 18th and Rick Swenson in 20th.”

Then I asked,  ”Is this the changing of the guard at the Iditarod?” By then it was not an ingenuous question. I wondered about it in 2011 when John Baker, 48, won, watching younger men pressing him hard, catching up towards the end of the race. But, while some of the more open-minded observers were willing to discuss it, quite a few with their feet planted firmly on the ground were expecting the process to last five to ten years, because “experience counts for so much in the Iditarod.”

Then Dallas Seavey, 24, won the tense 2012 race.

Not that anyone with brains thinks the old guys are finished, you understand. They are very, very hard men, and women. As I also noted last year, “Swenson heroically ran with broken collarbone since the Steps, and still finished 20th.” And in such a dangerous race, experience counts, something that can’t be said too often, so don’t discount those over technical middle age.

And don’t discount the women. In a blindingly fast race last year Aliy Zirkle ran out front for most of the race, until worn down by Dallas Seavey’s heavier dogs. In good conditions all the way — possible if not very likely by past history — Zirkle, tooled up with those fast little dogs, could get out front and stay out front.

Last year’s result included three women in the top 20:

10 Jessie Royer 58 00:23:17 10
11 Aliy Zirkle 18 01:22:31 11
12 DeeDee Jonrowe 2 01:24:17 10

Women run on equal terms with men. After a thousand miles running behind a sled, being less than an hour and a half behind such a strong winner as Dallas Seavey is most definitely a threatening posture.

There will definitely be a woman in my shortlist of possible winners for newbies to follow. Well, actually, since the sparkling Zirkle is guaranteed a place on my shortlist, there will be women, plural in my shortlist from the entry list. Watch this space.


Ally Zirkle, ultra-endurance sled dog racer, second in the toughest race in the world in 2012. Will 2013 be her year? Photo by Mike Criss.

The Iditarod is truly The Greatest Race on Earth, 1200 miles running behind a dogsled just a fraction short of the Arctic Circle. It is the only modern race that bears comparison with the Marathon of the Ancient Greeks, the ultimate test. Don’t miss it.

• Andre Jute is the author of the most beloved, prize-winning novel of this iconic race, IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth, available as an ebook for only $2.99 through the race, and also in paperback.
• Every year at the race Andre issues an open invitation to go racing with him from the comfort and safety of your armchair, with commentary provided by experts and discussion you can join in.
• This year the race starts on Saturday 2 March. Go to the nerve centre of Andre’s virtual Iditarod experience and bookmark it.

Gearing up for the Greatest Race on Earth

Last year at the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska, a thousand miles and a bit running behind a dog sled within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle, I noted: “The first fifteen places are filled by mushers who haven’t won before, most of them in their thirties still, and  two in their early twenties have finished in the top ten.”

And you can still hear the surprise in my tone: “Holy moses, the first Iditarod champion into Nome is Lance Mackey in 16th place, followed by Martin Buser in 18th and Rick Swenson in 20th.”

Then I asked,  “Is this the changing of the guard at the Iditarod?” By then it was not an ingenuous question. I wondered about it in 2011 when John Baker, 48, won, watching younger men pressing him hard, catching up towards the end of the race. But, while some of the more open-minded observers were willing to discuss it, quite a few with their feet planted firmly on the ground were expecting the process to last five to ten years, because “experience counts for so much in the Iditarod.”

Then Dallas Seavey, 24, won the tense 2012 race.

Not that anyone with brains thinks the old guys are finished, you understand. They are very, very hard men, and women. As I also noted last year, “Swenson heroically ran with broken collarbone since the Steps, and still finished 20th.” And in such a dangerous race, experience counts, something that can’t be said too often, so don’t discount those over technical middle age.

Aliy Zirkle, leading the 1200 mile Iditarod, cutting a corner tighty, fighting to keep her sled upright.

And don’t discount the women. In a blindingly fast race last year Aliy Zirkle ran out front for most of the race, until worn down by Dallas Seavey’s heavier dogs. In good conditions all the way — possible if not very likely by past history — Zirkle, tooled up with those fast little dogs, could get out front and stay out front.
Last year’s result included three women in the top 20:
10 Jessie Royer 58 00:23:17 10
11 Aliy Zirkle 18 01:22:31 11
12 DeeDee Jonrowe 2 01:24:17 10
After a thousand miles running behind a sled, being less than an hour and a half behind such a strong winner as Dallas Seavey is most definitely a threatening posture.

There will definitely be a woman in my shortlist of possible winners for newbies to follow. Well, actually, since the sparkling Zirkle is guaranteed a place on my shortlist, there will be women, plural in my shortlist from the entry list. Watch this space.

• Andre Jute is the author of the most beloved, prize-winning novel of this iconic race, IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth, available as an ebook for only $2.99 through the race, and also in paperback.
• Every year at the race Andre issues an open invitation to go racing with him from the comfort and safety of your armchair, with commentary provided by experts and discussion you can join in.
• This year the race starts on Saturday 2 March. Go to the nerve centre of Andre’s virtual Iditarod experience and bookmark it.