Extra-special effort to deliver order

A little thing like a flooded creek was not enough to keep an Alaska restaurant owner from delivering Thai ribs and fried rice to stranded customers over the weekend.jd-greatbigworld

Anuson “Knott” Poolsawat, owner of Knott’s Take Out in North Pole, forded the swollen waters of Clear Creek to reach two customers stuck along the Richardson Highway, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Mike Laiti and Brandon Borgens were completing a multi-day drive Saturday night up the Alaska Highway when they called in their order to the restaurant, which was near closing.

As they approached Clear Creek, they learned a sinkhole had developed from heavy rain near the creek. The state Department of Transportation closed the bridge.

Laiti called Poolsawat to cancel their order at the restaurant more than 25 miles away in North Pole.

“I called him and said, ‘Hey man, I can’t make it,’ and he said, ‘Not a problem, I’ll come cross the waters,’” Laiti said. “He called me and said, ‘Should I bring a boat?’”

Poolsawat arrived with takeout boxes containing Thai barbecue ribs and Thai fried rice. Another box held a “dinosaur egg” — a hardboiled egg that’s fried and covered in a sweet sesame sauce.

Poolsawat hiked up his shorts and waded through the creek, holding the takeout boxes over his head. The cold water was hip-deep.

Poolsawat had already done them a favor by staying open late, Laiti said. The delivery was beyond expectations.

“He’d help anybody out. He’s just a really good positive attitude, just a good guy,” said Laiti. “He’s definitely a goofball character and the food he makes is great.”

Reported by the Associated Press from FAIRBANKS, Alaska.

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Dallas Seavey rockets to win 2014 Iditarod

Dallas Seavey sits under the burled arch in Nome, Alaska after winning the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Dallas Seavey sits under the burled arch in Nome, Alaska after winning the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Dallas Seavey ran a blistering pace to rally from third place and win his second Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Tuesday in a record-breaking finish, after a sudden storm blew the front-runner out of the competition and kept another musher minutes away from her first win.jd-iditarod-logo

The victory was so strange that Seavey said he didn’t even realize he won the race until about 90 seconds after he crossed the finish line.

“Man, this is a lot of people coming out to see third place come in,” he thought about the hubbub when he arrived in Nome early Tuesday morning.

“I just found out that I won. I think you guys knew before I did,” he told a packed convention hall in Nome early Tuesday morning.

In fact, he thought he was “racing my dad for third,” he said. But in fact the trailing musher he thought was his father, defending champion Mitch Seavey, was actually Aliy Zirkle, and they were battling for first place.

Only Zirkle knew it, though.

Dallas Seavey holds one of his dogs after winning the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Dallas Seavey holds one of his dogs after winning the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

How it played out: The strange finish started Monday afternoon when four-time champ Jeff King enjoyed an hour’s lead over Zirkle and left the checkpoint at White Mountain.

King wasn’t challenged as he maintained, and at times, extended his lead along the Bering Sea coast. He was trying to become the race’s second five-time winner.

Then Safety happened.

Jeff King: Safety is the last checkpoint in the race, 22 miles from the finish line in Nome. The area was buffeted by extremely high winds and a ground blizzard.

A gust of wind blew King off course and into driftwood about 4 miles before Safety. He was able to get the team back together, but they wouldn’t run.

So he sat for 2 1/2 hours until he flagged down a passing snowmobiler. He hitched a ride to the checkpoint at Safety and scratched.

Zirkle’s struggle: Zirkle had made up the hour on King, and conditions were so bad, she decided to stay in Safety — a checkpoint no one ever uses for a break.

“I had to stop in Safety for a couple of dogs and myself,” said Zirkle, who had frostbite on her hands.

When she went to sign in, the paper was blank. She asked workers where King was, and they were surprised she didn’t see him on the trail.

“I never saw Jeff out there, but I wasn’t on the trail most of the time. I don’t know where I was,” she said.

Because of the blizzard-like conditions, she wasn’t going to continue.

“I said, to heck with it, I’m staying,” Zirkle said.

She had a cup of coffee, talked to people in Safety about how bad the conditions were, took a nap.

And after she woke up, she saw Seavey breeze through the checkpoint, staying only three minutes. She walked outside, and decided to get on the trail, after resting there two hours and 38 minutes.

Zirkle then left the checkpoint 19 minutes after Seavey.

She lost the race by two minutes.

Talking to the dogs: “I wasn’t in a big hurry. I was racing for third, and I was telling my dogs, ‘We’ve done our work here, you guys have done a good job, let’s go home,’” Seavey said. “‘No rush, guys, let’s take it easy.’”

In fact, at one point, he stopped to take selfie photos during sunset right before he hit the bad weather.

“Sure, yeah, hindsight, blah, blah, blah … second’s pretty good,” Zirkle said about her third consecutive runner-up spot.

“I’m sure I’m going to be bummed,” an exhausted Zirkle told fans who mobbed her in the city’s convention center, where top mushers traditionally meet with fans immediately after coming off the trail.

But she also noted that three second places are “better than scratching.”

The time and the trail: Seavey finished the race in eight days, 13 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds, easily breaking the previous record set in 2011. Zirkle was 2 minutes 22 seconds behind him.

The trail this year has been marked by poor conditions because of a lack of snow after a warm winter by Alaska standards.

A number of mushers were injured at the beginning of the race as their sleds ran on gravel near the Dalzell Gorge. One musher, Scott Janssen of Anchorage, had to be rescued by a National Guard helicopter crew after breaking an ankle.

Snowless conditions again greeted mushers as they reached the western coast of the nation’s largest state.

The race began March 2 in Willow with 69 teams. As of Tuesday morning, 17 mushers had dropped out and one was withdrawn.

The Iditarod winner receives $50,000 and a new truck. The 29 teams after that get cash prizes decreasing on a sliding scale. All other teams finishing the race receive $1,049.

John Baker had held the fastest finish in Iditarod history, covering the trail from Anchorage to Nome in eight days, 18 hours and 46 minutes in 2011.

Reported by MARK THIESSEN of the Associated Press from NOME, Alaska

Iditarod musher Jeff King, from Denali, Alaska, mushes between the checkpoints of White Mountain and Safety, the last checkpoint before the finish line in Nome. King was the first musher to leave the White Mountain checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Jeff King, from Denali, Alaska, mushes between the checkpoints of White Mountain and Safety, the last checkpoint before the finish line in Nome. King was the first musher to leave the White Mountain checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

MORE IDITAROD ACTION

Junior Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

Junior Dispatch also offered a series of “Fast-Facts” to help familiarize readers with the rules of the game:

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Fast-Facts on winning the Iditarod

In this 1973 photo, Joe Redington, left, and Orville Lake, right, present Dick Wilmarth the trophy for his victory in the inaugural Iditarod race in Nome, Alaska. Wilmarth completed the race in a whopping 20 days and 49 minutes, followed by an even slower race the following year, when the winner took 20 days, 15 hours and one minute to reach the finish line. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Mike McCormick)

In this 1973 photo, Joe Redington, left, and Orville Lake, right, present Dick Wilmarth the trophy for his victory in the inaugural Iditarod race in Nome, Alaska. Wilmarth completed the race in a whopping 20 days and 49 minutes, followed by an even slower race the following year, when the winner took 20 days, 15 hours and one minute to reach the finish line. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Mike McCormick)

In the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, there’s always a heart-pounding thrill at the finish line in Nome, a rollicking frontier city on Alaska’s western coast.jd-iditarod-logo

The city’s siren blares as the winning team trots along Front Street at the edge of the Bering Sea. Spectators are heavily bundled against the bone-chilling cold as they cheer and chant the victor’s name. In the winner’s circle, the dogs are calm, standing nobly, like crossing almost 1,000 miles of punishing terrain was no great feat.

But some finishes have stood out among all others in the annual race that began in 1973. Here are five things to know about some of the Iditarod’s most memorable finishes.

WINNING BY THE BLINK OF AN EYE

Only one second separated the winner from the runner-up in 1978, the closest race ever. The frantic dash down Front Street left Dick Mackey as the winner over Rick Swenson, who went on to become the Iditarod’s only five-time champion.

QUEENS OF THE TRAIL

 In this March 20, 1985 photo, musher Libby Riddles stands in front of the City Hall at Nome, Alaska, shortly after crossing the finish line, becoming the first female champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Riddles forged through a blinding ground blizzard nobody else dared to challenge to become the first woman to win the Iditarod.(AP Photo, File)

In this March 20, 1985 photo, musher Libby Riddles stands in front of the City Hall at Nome, Alaska, shortly after crossing the finish line, becoming the first female champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Riddles forged through a blinding ground blizzard nobody else dared to challenge to become the first woman to win the Iditarod.(AP Photo, File)

In 1985, Libby Riddles forged through a blinding ground blizzard nobody else dared to enter to become the first woman to win the race. It took 18 days and 20 minutes — the fourth slowest Iditarod on record. The late Susan Butcher, who would go on to win four Iditarods, was knocked out of the running that year when a moose ripped through her team, killing two dogs and severely injuring several others. Butcher defended her team using only her ax and parka against the moose, which was shot by another musher. Aliy Zirkle, who’s in second place now and was the runner-up the last two years, is hoping to become the third woman to win the race.

MASTERS OF MOMENTUM

The 2011 winner, John Baker, holds the record for the fastest Iditarod completed, clocking in at the Nome finish line in eight days, 18 hours and 46 minutes. That time was four hours faster than the previous record set by Martin Buser in 2002. Given the blistering pace of this year’s race, another record would not be out of the question.

EMPLOYING A LITTLE TRICKERY

Lance Mackey, the son of photo-finisher Dick Mackey, pulled off a stunt in 2008 that proved to be the turning point in his second victory of what would be four consecutive Iditarod wins. He could not shake four-time champion Jeff King for much of the trail until the two reached Elim, a checkpoint 123 miles from Nome. Mackey, who was leading by three minutes, made a show of settling in for a nap, telling checkpoint volunteers to wake him in an hour. With King soon snoring, Mackey sneaked out of the checkpoint 70 minutes ahead of his opponent, beating him to Nome by one hour and 19 minutes.

POKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Iditarod’s first winner, Dick Wilmarth, completed the race in a whopping 20 days and 49 minutes, followed by an even slower race the following year, when the winner took 20 days, 15 hours and one minute to reach the finish line. Winning times have gradually quickened, thanks to innovations in dog breeding and gear and stiffer competition among mushers. Times finally reached the nine-day mark in 1995. Even the last musher to reach Nome these days is often faster than the early winning teams. Last year’s recipient of the Red Lantern award for arriving last made the trek in 13 days, 22 hours and 36 minutes.

___

Reported by RACHEL D’ORO of the Associated Press from ANCHORAGE, Alaska. Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

In this 1978 photo, Dick Mackey, right, runs in front of Rick Swenson, left, in a sprint to the Iditarod finish in Nome, Alaska. The 1978 dash down Front Street left Mackey as the winner with one second to spare over Swenson, who went on to become the Iditarod's only five-time champion. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Rob Stapleton)

In this 1978 photo, Dick Mackey, right, runs in front of Rick Swenson, left, in a sprint to the Iditarod finish in Nome, Alaska. The 1978 dash down Front Street left Mackey as the winner with one second to spare over Swenson, who went on to become the Iditarod’s only five-time champion. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Rob Stapleton)

MORE IDITAROD ACTION

Junior Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

Junior Dispatch also offered a series of “Fast-Facts” to help familiarize readers with the rules of the game:

Read More

King pulls ahead of Zirkle as mushers near the end of the 2014 Iditarod

Jeff King talks about the trail from Rainy Pass to Nikolai at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Nikolai, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Jeff King talks about the trail from Rainy Pass to Nikolai at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Nikolai, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Four-time champion Jeff King took a razor-thin lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, trading places with his closest rival by departing a checkpoint one minute earlier on Alaska’s wind-scoured western coast.

Aliy Zirkle led hours before when she arrived at the Norton Bay village of Koyuk one minute ahead of King on Sunday afternoon.jd-iditarod-logo

King rested his 12-dog team at the checkpoint for three hours and 42 minutes, while Zirkle and her 11 dogs took a break for three hours and 44 minutes. King departed Koyuk at 5:50 p.m. Sunday, and Zirkle got back on the trail at 5:51 p.m.

Not far now: They are on a 48-mile dash to the next checkpoint of Elim on Golovin Bay, 123 miles from the finish line in Nome.

King last won in 2006 and is trying to be only the second musher to win five races.

Zirkle has come in second place the last two years in the nearly 1,000-mile race. She is seeking to become only the third woman to win the race and the first woman since the late Susan Butcher in 1990.

Zirkle arrived at Koyuk at 2:07 p.m. Sunday after a 50-mile run from the previous checkpoint at Shaktoolik. King arrived close behind at 2:08 p.m.

Other front-runners Sunday were four-time champion Martin Buser, who arrived in Koyuk in third place at 4:20 p.m. Sunday, followed 13 minutes later by 2012 Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey. Veteran musher Sonny Lindner arrived in fifth place at 4:47 p.m., followed by defending champion Mitch Seavey, father of Dallas Seavey, at 5:23 p.m.

Veteran Aaron Burmeister had been sixth out of Shaktoolik but arrived in Koyuk at 5:58 p.m., after Mitch Seavey.

Aliy Zirkle poses for the photo with 8-year-old Autumn Nanouk. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Autumn's grandmother, Rhoda Nanouk, made Nanouk's wolf ruff parka. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle poses for the photo with 8-year-old Autumn Nanouk. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Autumn’s grandmother, Rhoda Nanouk, made Nanouk’s wolf ruff parka. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

The racers, who have two more checkpoints after Elim and before Nome, are expected to begin arriving in Nome no later than Tuesday.

Waiting in Nome: While the front-runners were gunning up the Bering Sea coast, volunteers and Nome city crews were busily preparing the old Gold Rush town for the coming onslaught of dog teams and spectators. Dog lots were being readied, and volunteers at the town’s mini convention center were folding souvenir T-shirts to be sold. Early Sunday morning, the famed burled arch marking the finish line was moved by bulldozer from a city parking lot to its yearly spot on Front Street.

Temperatures in Nome hovered slightly above zero Sunday, which brought clear conditions and brilliant sunshine. Snowfall has been light this winter in the frontier town of nearly 3,700, so the city has been stockpiling snow, which was being trucked to Front Street for the final stretch to the finish line.

The race began March 2 in Willow with 69 teams. As of Sunday afternoon, 16 mushers had scratched, leaving 53 teams on the trail, which was marked by long stretches of bare and rocky ground that made for an icy, treacherous trail in the early part of the race.

Zirkle on Saturday was the first musher to reach the coastal community of Unalakleet. But she thought she was running second behind Buser, learning only later that he was resting at a cabin. Thinking she was running second, she wasn’t all hyped up thinking she was first, Zirkle said before taking off from the Unalakleet Saturday night.

“I made the run really mellow,” she said in a video posted on the Iditarod website.

King left Unalakleet 69 minutes later, saying he and his dogs were feeling great. King, 58, has been battling a stiff back, shoulders and arms all winter, but he was feeling “loose as a cucumber now,” King said in an Iditarod video.

“Man, my aches and pains go way when I rattle down the trail,” he said. “I swear it.”

The first to reach Nome wins $50,000 and a new truck. The 29 teams after that win cash prizes decreasing on a sliding scale. All other teams finishing the race receive $1,049.

___

Reported by RACHEL D’ORO of the Associated Press from ANCHORAGE, Alaska. Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Nome, Alaska. Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

MORE IDITAROD ACTION

Junior Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

Junior Dispatch also offered a series of “Fast-Facts” to help familiarize readers with the rules of the game:

Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

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Musher drops out of Iditarod as questions about dogs’ diet linger

 Nicolas Petit, from Girdwood, Alaska, changes the plastic on his runners at the Cripple checkpoint in Cripple, Alaska,  during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race . (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Nicolas Petit, from Girdwood, Alaska, changes the plastic on his runners at the Cripple checkpoint in Cripple, Alaska, during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race . (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

About 11 miles before reaching this Bering Sea community, snowmachiner Dave Branholm was curious to find a team stopped along the Iditarod Trail, so he pulled over his snowmachine to check things out.

About 30 minutes earlier, Nicolas Petit, the driver of the team and a top contender in this year’s Iditarod, had pressed his emergency locator button to officially withdraw himself from the race.

jd-iditarod-logoBranholm asked Petit what happened — a question asked by race followers ever since the Girdwood musher scratched at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

“He was so tired, he wasn’t thinking straight is what happened,” said Branholm, a three-time Iditarod finisher. “The dogs looked fine.”

A sixth-place finisher last year, Petit was putting together another solid race. At one point along the 80-mile stretch from Kaltag to Unalakleet, he was in third place behind Aliy Zirkle and Martin Buser.

Branholm said he passed beds of straw that a musher had laid down for dogs to rest, and then about eight miles later encountered Petit’s team, stopped and unwilling to go any farther. Branholm speculated that Petit may have roused his dogs too soon after bedding them down.

Petit, a 34-year-old carpenter, was in Unalakleet on Sunday waiting for a flight to Anchorage. He said Iditarod race marshal Mark Nordman told him he is not allowed to speak to the media.

All Petit was willing to say was that his dogs were dealing with a “dietary issue,” and that’s why he scratched. He said he heard mumblings in Unalakleet that something was wrong with him, but at the airport he said he fed his dogs a new kind of food on the trail and some of them had “issues” with it.

“The dogs looked great, but if the musher thinks there’s an issue, people should respect that,” Petit said. “I don’t have kids. They (the dogs) are my kids.”

Petit ended the interview there.

After leaving Nulato early Saturday morning after resting for 3.5 hours, Petit blew through the next checkpoint in Kaltag. A move like that usually includes a stop at the Tripod Flats or Old Woman along the way, but according to Petit’s GPS tracker, he appeared to be go to Unalakleet without stopping.

Lance Mackey made the Nulato-to-Unalakleet run famous in 2010. His dogs ran the 120 miles nonstop in 18 hours, which catapulted the Fairbanks musher from third to first and resulted in his fourth Iditarod championship.

Branholm said that when he encountered Petit, the musher asked him to stay with him until assistance arrived.

“I just felt so bad for him,” Branholm said. “The guy’s about ready to cry. You darn-near want to cry with him. It’s just a shame.”

“Nick has come a long way,” he added. “Gosh, if I could’ve got there a little bit earlier, I could have kept him from pushing that button.”

A volunteer eventually arrived on a snowmachine and transported Petit to Unalakleet along with his dogs.

___
Reported by CASEY GROVE of the Anchorage Daily News from UNALAKLEET, Alaska. Daily News correspondent Kevin Klott contributed to this story.
(MCT)
(c)2014 the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska)
Visit the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska) at www.adn.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services

MORE IDITAROD ACTION

Junior Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

 

Junior Dispatch also offered a series of “Fast-Facts” to help familiarize readers with the rules of the game:

Read More

2014 Iditarod photo gallery: Weekend action

The 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race began last week and the first mushers are expected to reach the finish line in Nome, Alaska, sometime Tuesday. Keep checking back at Junior Dispatch for the latest updates. These images are from weekend action in the race.

Trix, a team dog for Iditarod musher John Baker, from Kotzebue, AK, keeps an eye on the musher at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Trix, a team dog for Iditarod musher John Baker, from Kotzebue, AK, keeps an eye on the musher at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle mushes her dog team between the checkpoints of Kaltag and Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle mushes her dog team between the checkpoints of Kaltag and Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Robert Sorlie gives a pill to his dog at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Robert Sorlie gives a pill to his dog at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Robert Sorlie gives a pill to his dog at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Robert Sorlie gives a pill to his dog at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Kelly Maixner of Big Lake, Ak., puts a bootie back on Chanty after his sled dog removed it at the Cripple checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Kelly Maixner of Big Lake, Ak., puts a bootie back on Chanty after his sled dog removed it at the Cripple checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Ray Redington Jr.'s, team dogs rest next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Ray Redington Jr.’s, team dogs rest next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hugh Neff's dog team sleeps in the sun at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hugh Neff’s dog team sleeps in the sun at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle accepts the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award for the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Aliy Zirkle accepts the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award for the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

One of Hans Gatt's dogs is ready to go as Gatt made a brief stop at the Yukon River village of Kaltag during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

One of Hans Gatt’s dogs is ready to go as Gatt made a brief stop at the Yukon River village of Kaltag during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Mackenzie Tulloch and Aubrey Tulloch are selling treats at the Galena checkpoint to raise money for musher Lance Mackey's medical expenses during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News Bob Hallinen)

Mackenzie Tulloch and Aubrey Tulloch are selling treats at the Galena checkpoint to raise money for musher Lance Mackey’s medical expenses during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod pilot Wes Erb loads dropped dogs into his Cessna 180 at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod pilot Wes Erb loads dropped dogs into his Cessna 180 at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Mitch Seavey packs some straw into his sled bag at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. Seavey did not rest at the checkpoint. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Mitch Seavey packs some straw into his sled bag at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. Seavey did not rest at the checkpoint. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hugh Neff drives his dog team out of the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hugh Neff drives his dog team out of the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Ramey Smyth, from Willow, Ak., arrives at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Ramey Smyth, from Willow, Ak., arrives at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hans Gatt, from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, feeds his dogs next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Hans Gatt, from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, feeds his dogs next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Richie Diehl, form Aniak, Ak., rests at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Richie Diehl, form Aniak, Ak., rests at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

A dog belonging to Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rests on a bed of straw at the Takotna, Alaska, checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

A dog belonging to Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rests on a bed of straw at the Takotna, Alaska, checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Wade Marrs, from Wasilla, AK, arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Wade Marrs, from Wasilla, AK, arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Michelle Phillips, from Tagish, YT, Canada, arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Iditarod musher Michelle Phillips, from Tagish, YT, Canada, arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

MORE IDITAROD ACTION

Junior Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

 

Junior Dispatch also offered a series of “Fast-Facts” to help familiarize readers with the rules of the game:

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Miserable — and dangerous — conditions for Iditarod

Kristy Berington mushes down the Iditarod Trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Kristy Berington mushes down the Iditarod Trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

After fighting their way down an icy gorge and across a snowless expanse, a wave of Iditarod mushers hit the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday telling tales of survival, not racing.

Some openly criticized the Iditarod Trail Committee’s decision to keep the race on its traditional route, rather than move the restart from Willow to Fairbanks and avoid portions of the trail made miserable by relatively warm weather.jd-iditarod-logo

Broken brakes: Musher Hans Gatt, a 12-time Iditarod finisher, said keeping the race on the traditional route was “totally irresponsible.”

The problem with the poor trail, the mushers say, is they could not set brakes on the ice and frozen mud well enough to control their sleds as dogs pulled them over, through and into the hazards. When their sleds got caught on stumps and rocks, several of them broke their brake.

One of those belonged to Hugh Neff, whose metal brake pedal broke in half.

“We’re going over trees, huge rocks, stumps. It’s a mine field out there,” Neff said just after arriving in Nikolai.

Danger: Many mushers carried wounds from the battle, having slammed their bodies on sleds and, in some cases, on trees and rocks. Some limped from one task to the next in Nikolai, feeding dogs and checking gear.

“They should not send people out there. It’s not safe,” said four-time finisher and two-time champ Robert Sorlie. “I’ve never been so scared before in my life.”

Mushers Jason Mackey and Rick Casillo echoed the sentiment, both saying “I thought I was going to die.”

Others said they did not want to second-guess the trail committee’s decision on the route. Race officials said the decision to keep the restart in Willow was based on trail reports two weeks before the race. Warmer weather since then made the trail more dangerous than they had anticipated.

Musher Karin Hendrickson cuddles with one of her sled dogs at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Musher Karin Hendrickson cuddles with one of her sled dogs at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Dogs: Veterinarians reported 11 dropped dogs in Nikolai late Tuesday after 40 teams had checked in. The only injuries were minor — sore shoulders and wrists, the vets said.

“It seems like the dogs fared better than the mushers,” veterinarian Bruce Nwadike said.

Dallas Seavey of Willow, the 2012 champ and one of the prerace favorites, nearly lost his team on the way to Nikolai when his sled hit a tree about 20 miles out of Rohn and the line connecting most of his team to the sled broke.

“I was doing a good job of dodging trees until that one,” he said. “I guess kind of out of instinct I started running and actually caught up with them.”

Seavey said the 12 dogs that got away looked stunned that he was running down the trail after them, so they slowed down. But the loose line of dogs sped up when he got close.
“It was kind of a running jump and I actually caught hold of something,” Seavey said.

Seavey said it was the worst he’d ever seen the Dalzell Gorge or the Farewell Burn, but he did not want to blame the trail committee for sending the mushers down the trail.

“Obviously somebody had to make the best decision they could. I don’t want to go with hindsight,” he said.

Race officials: Race marshal Mark Nordman said Tuesday night that the Iditarod Trail Committee had seen pictures of the trail and heard reports that convinced them the race could be safely run on the traditional route.

A “tremendous” amount of trail work was done, Nordman said, but higher temperatures in the days before the race started melted the snow cover, creating a hazardous route down the Dalzell Gorge and across the Farewell Burn.

The committee made the best decision they could at the time, Nordman said.

___
Reported by CASEY GROVE of the Anchorage Daily News from NIKOLAI, Alaska. Reach Casey Grove at cgrove@adn.com.
(MCT)

(c)2014 the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska) Visit the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska) at www.adn.com

One of John Dixon’s team dogs looks back at the musher after they arrived at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News,Bob Hallinen)

One of John Dixon’s team dogs looks back at the musher after they arrived at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News,Bob Hallinen)

Rick Casillo comes over the last drop as he comes down the steps onto Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints heading to Puntilla Lake, Alaska, during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen, File)

Rick Casillo comes over the last drop as he comes down the steps onto Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints heading to Puntilla Lake, Alaska, during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen, File)

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Nome native reaches Iditarod’s halfway point, earns gold nuggets

Aaron Burmeister’s sled dogs rest at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Burmeister injured his knee about 18 miles past the Rohn checkpoint on the snowless Farewell Burn. His knee popped out and he had to tape it up so it would stay in place.  (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Hallinen)

Aaron Burmeister’s sled dogs rest at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Burmeister injured his knee about 18 miles past the Rohn checkpoint on the snowless Farewell Burn. His knee popped out and he had to tape it up so it would stay in place. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Hallinen)

Aaron Burmeister has the lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.jd-iditarod-logo

Officials say in a release that Burmeister was the first musher to reach the checkpoint in Cripple. He arrived just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

For his efforts, he picks up $3,000 in placer gold nuggets for being the first musher to reach the halfway mark of the Iditarod.

Burmeister is attempting to become the first Nome native to win the race.

The nearly 1,000-mile race began Sunday with 69 teams. It will end in Nome some time next week.

As of Wednesday, 11 mushers have scratched and one was withdrawn during difficult conditions early in the race. That leaves 57 teams on the trail.

Reported by the ASSOCIATED PRESS from ANCHORAGE, Alaska

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Iditarod racer: I crashed sled, blacked out and broke ankle

In a Saturday, March 1, 2014 photo, Scott Janssen keeps control of his sled rounding the corner near Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 in Anchorage, Ak. Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was back home early Wednesday, Feb. 5 after he was flown to a hospital after a harrowing ordeal that included crashing his sled, hitting his head on a stump and later falling through ice and breaking his ankle. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News,Anne Raup)

In a Saturday, March 1, 2014 photo, Scott Janssen keeps control of his sled rounding the corner near Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 in Anchorage, Ak. Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was back home early Wednesday, Feb. 5 after he was flown to a hospital after a harrowing ordeal that included crashing his sled, hitting his head on a stump and later falling through ice and breaking his ankle. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News,Anne Raup)

An Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher was flown to a hospital after a difficult turn of events that included crashing his sled, hitting his head on a tree stump and getting knocked unconscious. Later on it got worse: He fell through some ice and broke his ankle.jd-iditarod-logo

Scott Janssen, 52, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was back home Wednesday after getting a cast for the broken bone he suffered on Tin Creek, about 40 miles from Nikolai.

“I made it through the worst part of the trail only to slip on the ice and break my foot,” Janssen said as he recuperated from home.

Treacherous trail conditions with little snow have marked the early part of this year’s Iditarod, which started Sunday with 69 mushers. The nearly 1,000-mile race spans two mountain ranges, dangerous wilderness and the wind-whipped Bering Sea coast.

What happened: Janssen’s ordeal began Tuesday when he crashed his sled between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints, hitting his head after he said he bumped across rocks all along the trail. He lay unconscious for at least an hour and awoke to find his sled nearby and his dogs huddled next to him, covered in light snow.

As he dismantled his broken seat, another musher came along. Janssen asked him the time, and couldn’t believe an hour, if not two, had passed.

“I tripped over there, went full-speed and hit my head on that stump,” he said he told the musher. “I think I went night-night for awhile.”

After caring for his dogs, Janssen fixed his sled and continued on.

Dog escape: He made it to Tin Creek and estimated he had only about 7 more miles of nasty trail until it turned good again.

But one of his dogs, Hooper, got loose from the line and took off.

Janssen said he loosely anchored his sled and tried to call Hooper as he crossed a frozen creek. But just as Hooper heeded the call and trotted back to his place in line, Janssen fell.

“I slipped on the ice, and bang, that was it,” he said. “Then I just laid there on the ice because I could not get back across the water to get back to my sled.”

Rescue: He lay there for about 45 minutes before another musher, St. Anne, Jamaica, native Newton Mashall, came along.

Iditarod musher Scott Janssen describes his overnight ordeal while wearing a boot for his broken foot on Wednesday afternoon, March 5, 2014, at his south Anchorage, Alaska, home. Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was airlifted off the trail to an Anchorage hospital for treatment for a concussion along with a broken bone. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Erik Hill)

Iditarod musher Scott Janssen describes his overnight ordeal while wearing a boot for his broken foot on Wednesday afternoon, March 5, 2014, at his south Anchorage, Alaska, home. Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was airlifted off the trail to an Anchorage hospital for treatment for a concussion along with a broken bone. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Erik Hill)

“I said, ‘Help! Help,’ and Newton comes walking up and said, ‘Yeah, mon. How you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m just lying around, kicking back,’” Janssen said.

Marshall was able to retrieve a snowsuit and Janssen’s sleeping bag from his sled, helping the injured musher into both. Janssen said hypothermia was setting in at that point.

After that, Janssen said he encouraged Marshall to get back on the trial and keep racing, but Marshall wouldn’t budge until help arrived. Mushers carry mandatory GPS units that have an emergency button on them, which Janssen said he pushed.

“I had 15 dogs I have to take care of; no way I could responsibly mush in the pain I was in,” he said.

Drop outs: Janssen is among about a dozen mushers who have dropped out of this year’s race. Iditarod officials also removed a Canadian musher because of injuries.

Janssen also had a frightening experience during the 2012 Iditarod. During that race, he had to give one of his dogs mouth-to-snout resuscitation after the animal collapsed while the team was going down a decline in the Dalzell Gorge. The dog survived.

Weather problems: Warm weather and light snow near the gorge led officials to briefly consider moving the start of this year’s race from the Anchorage area hundreds of miles north to Fairbanks. However, the decision was made late last month to leave the start in Willow, because conditions had improved.

Janssen said the area had snow when that decision was made but not when mushers arrived. He talked of bouncing off rocks on the trail, driving a team on gravel and going “across these rivers that were like smooth ice.”

Sportsman: Janssen has lived in Alaska and been an active outdoorsman for nearly three decades, competing in three previous Iditarods. He hoped he’d never find himself in a situation where he had to be rescued.

But he said there’s one consolation.

“I can always wear the badge of honor that I made it over the pass on the worst year in the 42-year history of the Iditarod.”

Reported by MARK THIESSEN of the Associated Press from ANCHORAGE, Alaska

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Get your 2014 Iditarod fast-facts

In this March 3, 2014 photo, Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race near Puntilla Lake, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

In this March 3, 2014 photo, Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race near Puntilla Lake, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

jd-iditarod-logo

One human wins the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race each year, but it’s the smaller, furry athletes that do the heroes’ share of the work crossing nearly 1,000 miles of merciless terrain to reach the finish line on Alaska’s wind-battered coast.

The 2014 race, which began Sunday, is still in the early stages, with jockeying for the lead remaining fluid until all the mushers begin taking a mandatory, 24-hour layover and two eight-hour rests. Sixty-nine mushers began the race, though several already have dropped out.

On Tuesday, Iditarod veteran Sonny Lindner was the first to leave the Nikolai checkpoint, more than 700 miles from the finish line in the old gold rush town of Nome. Participants say this year’s trail conditions are grueling, including stretches of bare ground. Throughout the race, mushers will keep a close eye on their dogs.

Here are some other key things to know about the four-legged competitors:

IT TAKES A TEAM

Mushers must have 12 to 16 dogs at the starting line. They must have at least six of those dogs to finish the race. If they don’t have enough dogs at the end, too bad. Race rules say no new dogs can be added on the trail.

YOUTH VS. WISDOM

Most Iditarod dogs range in age from 2 to 7, but some dogs as young as 1 ½ and older than 9 have participated. With a good mix of ages, mushers get frisky youngsters and seasoned veterans. It’s the older dogs that have come to memorize the trail. “Like, once a guy’s been in the NBA finals, he knows it,” race marshal Mark Nordman said.

In this March 3, 2014 photo, Ralph Johannessen, of Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints heading to Puntilla Lake, Alaska, during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

In this March 3, 2014 photo, Ralph Johannessen, of Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints heading to Puntilla Lake, Alaska, during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

SUPER CALORIE BURNERS

Oh, to have the metabolism of an Iditarod dog. These are not huge animals, generally ranging from 35 to 55 pounds. Yet each sled dog burns through at least 10,000 calories on the trail, continually snacking besides the three squares a day.

CANINE TRAIL MIX

The Iditarod diet used to be heavy on meat and fish, with some kibble thrown in. But the past decade has seen a reversal. Where it was once a combination of about 30 percent commercial dog food and 70 percent meat and fish, it’s now the opposite for many teams, thanks to the development of increasingly high-quality commercial dog food. “It’s why the pet industry has enjoyed the race so much, because they learn so much from the dogs that they can pass it on to the general community of pets,” Nordman said.

DOG TEAM VITALS

Some dogs still die during the race, including a dropped dog that died of asphyxiation at a checkpoint last year after it was covered by snow from a severe storm. But dog deaths — slammed by animal rights activists over the years — have dramatically declined. Last year’s death was the first since 2009. Dog care is a huge focus, with an average of six veterinarians assigned to each checkpoint to assess the animals’ health through such indicators as heart rate, hydration and appetite. Warning signs vets look for include off-kilter gaits and attitudes.

Reported by RACHEL D’ORO of the Associated Press from ANCHORAGE, Alaska. Follow Rachel D’Oro at —https://twitter.com/rdoro

Veterinarian Bruce Nwadike checks the dogs of musher Mike Williams Jr. at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Nikolai, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

Veterinarian Bruce Nwadike checks the dogs of musher Mike Williams Jr. at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Nikolai, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

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