Nome, Alaska • Two hours, 38 minutes.
That’s how long musher Aliy Zirkle spent waiting out a storm at the final checkpoint, 22 miles from the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
That’s how much of a lead Dallas Seavey had over Zirkle in leaving the checkpoint, in Safety.
Two minutes, 22 seconds.
That was Seavey’s winning margin over Zirkle early Tuesday morning.
Seavey ran a blistering pace to rally from third place and win his second Iditarod early Tuesday in a record-breaking finish. The twist ending to the 1,000-mile long competition came after a sudden storm blew front-runner Jeff King out of the competition.
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.
He thought he was "racing my dad for third," he said. But the trailing musher he thought was his father, defending champion Mitch Seavey, was actually Zirkle, and they were battling for first place.
Only Zirkle knew it, though.
"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 strange finish started Monday afternoon when four-time champ 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.
Safety is the last checkpoint in the race and 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 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.Next Page >
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