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"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 3 minutes. She walked outside, and decided to get on the trail.
Zirkle then left the checkpoint 19 minutes after Seavey and lost the race by 2 minutes.
"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.’"
At one point, he even stopped to take selfies during sunset, right before he hit the bad weather.
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 As of Tuesday, 18 mushers had dropped out and one was withdrawn.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.
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