Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I do NOT belive this!!!

I do NOT believe this!!!!

When I knew that Aliy Zirkle had checked in and out of the Safety Point checkpoint I was so confident that my friend and mentor was going to win the race that I smiled smugly and then tucked myself into bed for a few hours sleep. I was astounded, flabbergasted, totally blown away when I read the headline on our local newspaper website proclaiming "Seavey wins mad dash to Nome; Zirkle only minutes behind".
 I couldn't believe it. I thought it had to be some sort of cruel joke until I looked at the Iditarod site to confirm it. I'm still having trouble understanding and accepting the fact that Dallas Seavey, with only 7 dogs left on his gangline, beat Aliy Zirkle with her big string of 10 dogs lead by superdog Quito running in a single lead position, by less than 3 minutes.

How did that happen? Well, Mother Nature decided to step in and change the outcome of the race much as she did back in 1985 when Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod. Libby won when a storm forced the front-runners to stop and seek shelter. She kept mushing through those nearly impossible conditions to claim the prize. This year it was Dallas Seavey, who didn't even realize he was doing so, who kept marching through the blizzard to unknowingly claim his victory.

When I checked the weather forecast for the coastal region yesterday, the forecast included a brisk wind advisory, calling for winds in the range of 30 mph and a wind-chill of minus-35 F (-37C). The gaps along the hills just off the coast sometimes funnel those winds through "blow holes" that blast across the sea ice at incredible velocity. Apparently the weather service underestimated the amount of wind the region would see.

Jeff King, with nearly an hour head start, was mushing along the coast, perhaps oblivious to the opened carabiner that could have cost him his team, when a gust of wind blew him and his team completely off the trail and into a pile-up of drift wood. In the blowing snow he couldn't begin to see the trail, and when he finally got the dogs untangled from the driftwood they refused to go forward. They just quit. He was eventually able to flag down a passing snowmachine to get word to the village, officially scratch from the race, and get some help to move his dogs to shelter at Safety Point.
Image captured by Sebastian Schnuelle show open gate on carabiner attaching gang line to sled as Jeff King leaves White Mountain.

Meanwhile, Aliy never even saw Jeff or his team as she passed by the scene of King's catastrophe. She and her team marched past and into Safety. With the horrendous weather, Aliy decided to hole up at the checkpoint and wait out the storm. Two hours later Dallas came straggling in. Seavey, who believed he was racing for third, said he decided to go through the storm to give his still young dogs a good learning experience. He signed in and then out, without knowing that Jeff had scratched and Aliy was in town. With no power in town due to the storm, he couldn't see her team in the checkpoint.

 It took Aliy nearly 20 minutes to prepare her team to give chase, putting them into insulated dog coats, booties and so forth. Although she gained ground on Dallas throughout the 22 mile run, it wasn't enough to overtake him and his abbreviated team.

Here is how one reporter described Seavey's finish.

Seavey, 26, jogged beside his sled down Nome's Front Street to help his dogs, one hand on the sled and the other on a ski pole.

After crossing the finish line he sat down on the back of his sled and leaned his head on his handlebar, exhausted.

"How did you do it?" an Iditarod Insider videographer asked.

"What'd I do?"

"You just won the Iditarod."

"What? I thought that was my dad behind me. Where's Jeff and Aliy?"

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/03/11/3368344/b ... rylink=cpy

As I write, Dallas' father, Mitch Seavey, is just a few miles out of Nome heading for a third-place finish. All of the other front-runners are still in White Mountain. Instead of waiting out their mandatory layovers they are wisely waiting out the stormy weather that has had such a dramatic impact on the finish of this year's race.

Even having read the news accounts, perused the Iditarod website for information and insights on how the race literally unfolded, all I can say is I STILL do NOT believe this!!!!

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