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:

iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
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.








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:

iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
Createspace Amazon USA UK

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

Is this a close Iditarod, or is it close? Is a new record looming?

13 March 2016 1432 Alaskan Time

Seavey_Dallas_2016-150x195In his record year of 2014 Dallas Seavey left Shaktoolik on the Sunday morning at 1028. This year he left at 1027. That record year he left Shaktoolik with 13 dogs. This year he has 9. He says he likes a light team for a fast end run. However that may be, other top contenders, spotting a possible chink, will press Dallas hard, and that could lead to a new record, and possibly an upset too.

Sass_Brent_2016-150x195Remember what I said yesterday, about reaching White Mountain first with enough lead to ensure an easy win? (You can get a screenfriendly map there too!) In that light, check the current official standings, out of Shaktoolik:
1 Dallas Seavey 1027
2 Brent Sass 1125Zirkle_Aliy_2016-150x195
3 Aliy Zirkle 1252
4 Mitch Seavey 1304

Still in Shaktoolik:
5 Wade Marrs, arrived 1352

Seavey_Mitch_2016-150x195Others still on the trail from Unalakleet appear mostly out of contention, though there is still time for an upset to bring them back into play.
iditarod-racePhotos, from the top, D Seavey, Sass, Zirkle and M Seavey.


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:
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&
Createspace Amazon USA UK

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

Risking everything to reach White Mountain first. André Jute explains the Iditarod end game.

No, it isn’t a computer game. It is a real race, the toughest and most dangerous race in the world, running a thousand miles behind a dogsled across the tundra of Alaska, within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle, all the way from Fairbanks to Nome. This is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, famous or notorious depending on your outlook.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Dispatch NewsPhoto Alaska Dispatch News

And after you beat all the human odds of fatigue and sleep deprivation to get to the head of the field by the  time you reach the Kaltag Portage, you have to sprint 250 miles or so to get to White Mountain first.

Why? Because the race is deliberately rigged to set up a sprint for a photo finish under the arch on Front Street in Nome, 77 miles beyond White Mountain. That suited the framers of the competition well, and suits the current race organization equally well, because it also meets the greatest subsidiary aim of the race, next to keeping it alive.

You can tell by their environment that the organizers are hard men and women. But they’re clearly absolutely terrified by a good number of potentials for disaster in the unavoidable dangers that arise from the nature of the race and its immovable geography, terrain and weather. First, they are terrified that anyone will ever say that a dog was maltreated on the Iditarod; they take such good care of the canine contestants that a dog on the gangline, running in the Iditarod, stands a better chance of surviving the period of the Iditarod than the average pooch that you can see your neighbor walking. For the health of the dogs there are several mandatory fixed-length stops during the race. One of these, of eight hours, is at White Mountain.

I said the organizers are visibly terrified by a number of possibilities. We don’t have time or space to go into all of them, but another predictable worry is that a contestant will kill himself on the Iditarod, and perhaps get the race banned. They have very strict entry qualifications to guard against this, and a “rookie” on the Iditarod is always an experienced long-distance musher already. That everyone let into the Iditarod is a very hard case goes without saying, tough, fit, and with unshakable focus.

So now you have a bunch of very tough, fit, focused mushers coming down the mountain from Kaltag, having already beaten out the other very tough, very fit athletes to be in the first ten out of Kaltag checkpoint, knowing that beyond White Mountain, where everyone has to stop eight hours, everyone will be rested, and there will be only 77 miles left in the race.

Seventy-seven miles is not far enough to make up any significant distance on a top competitor.


Every musher wants to be first out of White Mountain. And that means arriving at White Mountain first.

Of course everyone else knows this too. That sets up a longrange sprint of attrition to be first at White Mountain. Every year the sprint for White Mountain starts earlier. This year it visibly started at Kaltag. Some might argue it started earlier, even much earlier…

It doesn’t matter precisely where it started. We’re into the sprint now. Enjoy.

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


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.
* Alaskan clock, scales with the window. Most mushers take elective breaks during the Alaskan daytime hours.
* 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.
* 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.


IDITAROD by Andre Jute, reviewed by LeAnn Neal Reilly

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

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
Reviewed by LeAnn Neal Reilly

I very much enjoyed this tale of adventure, romance, and danger on the Iditarod Trail. Set in 1985, the heart of the story is an impetuous bet between one Rhodes Delaney, a sled-dog racer from Colorado, and James Whitbury, an Olympic gold-medal skier who also happens to be an MIT-trained engineer and inventor with a trust fund. (Yes, James is a bit too-good-to-be-true, but I’m happy to let that slide. After all, I actually know a few young men who could satisfy at least some of these traits. Mostly it’s the trust fund part that doesn’t convince me.)

Jute carefully establishes the main characters, including a monstrous wolf pack, before the actual Iditarod race begins, deftly weaving in details with a light hand. Initially misunderstandings and unfamiliarity color the nascent relationship between Rhodes and James (they met by chance at the outset), who train for the race of a lifetime in very different ways. Rhodes, the daughter of a Colorado rancher, will eschew corporate sponsorship to keep her father’s hand-carved wooden sled unspoiled with advertising; instead, she’ll work 12-hour days in a salmon-processing factory to raise the $20,000 to compete. But at least she’s bred and trained her own dogs and has half a lifetime’s experience racing. James, on the other hand, can afford to train and race, but he accepts sponsorship from Frontier Construction, getting dogs, training, and other elite help in return for designing and testing a lightweight alloy sled. He spends the better part of his training-year prototyping and testing a sled for production, but that’s okay. He’s got an experienced dog breeder and coach, along with the best nutritionist and gear that money can buy.

Once the race begins, so too does the story. Jute skillfully paces the writing to match the events. Though it moves quickly, the story never gets ahead of itself. At first, the story is told from Rhodes’s point of view, but at a critical, terrifying moment, it switches to James’s and then to a third-person view of the wolf pack, a distant but clearly festering problem. As the two racers face growing dangers and challenges on the 1200-mile trail from Anchorage to Nome, the wolves circle just outside their awareness but never far outside the reader’s. The viewpoints continue to alternate until settling down with Rhodes’. Jute ups the ante as the race draws to a close, heaping exhaustion and terrifying danger upon his two main characters. The final harrying sequence of events, while not nail-biting, does require sitting up straight, scooting to the edge of the seat, and paying attention very closely.

I particularly enjoyed the story because of its realistic, and thorough, description of the Iditarod race, its history, the trail, and what it takes to compete. For a brief (and irrational moment), I wistfully wished I could experience the thrill of riding on the runners behind a sled pulled by a dozen well-trained dogs. However, I’m not so keen on facing angry moose, bear, or wolves, nor do I wish to ride into the teeth of 40-mile-an-hour wind. And I’d prefer to sleep more than a few hours at a time, especially on a soft, warm bed.

I must also say that I found the romance between Rhodes and James both charming and a bit quaint (though I don’t mean anything pejorative by this). James has a gentleman’s manners from another era: he politely requests permission to be excused by an elderly woman at the beginning, and he gallantly charges into a blizzard to help Rhodes, then camps chastely with her.

It isn’t simply the romance that calls to mind a different, more genteel, era. There is a clear sense of propriety and duty throughout, a stiff-upper-lip sort of stoicism in the face of grievous difficulty, the understanding that the race takes precedence over everything else for Rhodes and James because they have said that they will run it, and their honor and sense of self are bound up in completing it to the best of their abilities. I personally am attracted to such characters.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
eBOOK iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS Createspace Amazon USA UK

IDITAROD “Stunningly Intricate and Fascinating Tale of Adventure”

“Stunningly Intricate and Fascinating Tale of Adventure”
5-star review by Matt Posner “The Dean” of
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth

I bought this book to read for pleasure because I am already a fan of Andre Jute, as an author and as a human being. I’m very glad I did, as it was thrilling. Andre’s deep research led to a stunningly intricate and fascinating tale of adventure with two appealing and admirable young protagonists. I really liked both Rhodes Delaney and James Whitbury, a woman and man with courage and integrity, ingenuity and athleticism, who are racing each other in the Iditarod as a way to resist their nigh-irresistable attraction to each other, an attraction that is fed by rivalry and danger in the greatest race on earth.

I was not initially convinced that the Iditarod would provide steady interest as the subject of a book. I didn’t think there would be enough variety in the situations it presented to a reader. I changed my mind right away when the race began with a lively series of problems and challenges for the young people. There is not one possible threat they do not face and overcome, in an atmosphere so authentic that I can’t help wondering if Andre took part in the race some time under a pseudonym and doesn’t want to tell us…

The best praise I can offer this book is to compare Rhodes and James and their dogs Toots, Delilah, and General to beloved characters from my childhood in the 1970’s: Alec and the Black, from Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Those books, showing the union of a young person and a working animal through love and respect, defined a genre. Iditarod might be the best book of its kind since.

Thanks for a great read, Andre.

From Matt Posner‘s 5-star review of
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth