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Warmth, pace, illness slow some top teams

Kyle Hopkins
Sebastian Schnuelle, from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, works with his team at the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser's leaders Sweeper and Frosty are ready to hit the trail as the musher arranges his dog team before leaving the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Williams Jr. looks to where he is to park his team as he arrives at the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher John Baker from Kotzebue, AK sleeps on his sled at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
A team dog on Iditarod musher Cain Carter's team gets the last morsel form his bowl in the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Johnson of Unalakleet, AK rubs his eyes over a bowl of moose stew at the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday night, March 8, 2011. Johnson made it past the worst of the Dalzell Gorge when he had his sled leaned over to avoid going into the creek and it hit something and veered sharply hitting a lone dead tree. Johnson lost hold of his team, they went about a hundred yards around the corner and stopped, and the tree fell over onto Johnson hitting him in the head. The ride since then has been good.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Nick Dennis and Verdrisia Dennis of Nikolai and Iditarod race manager and marshal Mark Nordman visit at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, AK works with her team at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The cemetery at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Rick Swenson from Two Rivers, AK leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod checker Tamara Roberts checks the hot water at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The sun sets at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen from Anchorge puts on his boots at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, AK works with her team at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Judy Currier from Fairbanks, AK leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Justin Savidis from Willow, Alaska, sews up his suit in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011. Savidis ran in a branch crossing the Burn.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
John Baker, Paul Gebhardt and Lance Mackey talk about the the steps between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser from Bethel, AK rubs his face in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Justin Savidis from Willow, Alaska, sews up his suit in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011. Savidis ran in a branch crossing the Burn.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage leaves the Nikolai checkpoint as Paul Gebhardt's dogs sleep in the sun during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Gebhardt scratched in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Gebhardt carried three sled dogs in the basket, Hag, Recon and Queen, into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Gebhardt is considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Michelle Phillips from Tagish, Yukon and Jessica Hendricks from Two Rivers, Alaska, talk in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, AK puts the collar back on team dog Daffy after he slipped out of it at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Cim Smyth from Big Lake, AK comes into the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey visits with one of his sled dogs at the Nikolai checkpoint early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington Jr. booties up his team as he prepares to leave the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Daffy a team dog of Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, AK sleeps at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
John Runkle checks in Paul Gebhardt into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning during the 2011 Iditarod sled dog race on Tuesday March 8, 2011. Gebhardt has three dogs in the basket which he will drop. Gebhardt is also considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Martin Buser was the first team into the Nikolai checkpoint early early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser, from Bethel, Alaska, leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Gebhardt mushes into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Martin Buser massages the leg of Caribou at the Nikolai checkpoint early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Buser was first into the checkpoint.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage leaves the Nikolai checkpoint as Paul Gebhardt's dogs sleep in the sun during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Gebhardt scratched in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington Jr. booties up his team as he prepares to leave the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod vet Samantha Yeltatzie and Paul Gebhardt's sled dog Cocoa as she examines his team in the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Gebhardt is considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey works with his sled dogs at the Nikolai checkpoint as village residents look on early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Nick Dennis and Verdrisia Dennis of Nikolai watch the action at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Stephanie Petruska and her grandmother Oline Petruska of Nikolai at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Sebastian Schnuelle, from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, works with his team at the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser's leaders Sweeper and Frosty are ready to hit the trail as the musher arranges his dog team before leaving the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Williams Jr. looks to where he is to park his team as he arrives at the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher John Baker from Kotzebue, AK sleeps on his sled at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
A team dog on Iditarod musher Cain Carter's team gets the last morsel form his bowl in the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Johnson of Unalakleet, AK rubs his eyes over a bowl of moose stew at the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday night, March 8, 2011. Johnson made it past the worst of the Dalzell Gorge when he had his sled leaned over to avoid going into the creek and it hit something and veered sharply hitting a lone dead tree. Johnson lost hold of his team, they went about a hundred yards around the corner and stopped, and the tree fell over onto Johnson hitting him in the head. The ride since then has been good.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Nick Dennis and Verdrisia Dennis of Nikolai and Iditarod race manager and marshal Mark Nordman visit at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, AK works with her team at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The cemetery at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Rick Swenson from Two Rivers, AK leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod checker Tamara Roberts checks the hot water at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The sun sets at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen from Anchorge puts on his boots at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, AK works with her team at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Judy Currier from Fairbanks, AK leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Justin Savidis from Willow, Alaska, sews up his suit in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011. Savidis ran in a branch crossing the Burn.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
John Baker, Paul Gebhardt and Lance Mackey talk about the the steps between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser from Bethel, AK rubs his face in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday afternoon, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Justin Savidis from Willow, Alaska, sews up his suit in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011. Savidis ran in a branch crossing the Burn.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage leaves the Nikolai checkpoint as Paul Gebhardt's dogs sleep in the sun during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Gebhardt scratched in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Gebhardt carried three sled dogs in the basket, Hag, Recon and Queen, into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Gebhardt is considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod mushers Michelle Phillips from Tagish, Yukon and Jessica Hendricks from Two Rivers, Alaska, talk in the school at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, AK puts the collar back on team dog Daffy after he slipped out of it at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Cim Smyth from Big Lake, AK comes into the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey visits with one of his sled dogs at the Nikolai checkpoint early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington Jr. booties up his team as he prepares to leave the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Daffy a team dog of Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit from Girdwood, AK sleeps at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
John Runkle checks in Paul Gebhardt into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning during the 2011 Iditarod sled dog race on Tuesday March 8, 2011. Gebhardt has three dogs in the basket which he will drop. Gebhardt is also considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Martin Buser was the first team into the Nikolai checkpoint early early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Peter Kaiser, from Bethel, Alaska, leaves the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, afternoon March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Gebhardt mushes into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Martin Buser massages the leg of Caribou at the Nikolai checkpoint early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Buser was first into the checkpoint.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Bundtzen of Anchorage leaves the Nikolai checkpoint as Paul Gebhardt's dogs sleep in the sun during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Gebhardt scratched in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington Jr. booties up his team as he prepares to leave the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod vet Samantha Yeltatzie and Paul Gebhardt's sled dog Cocoa as she examines his team in the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Gebhardt is considering scratching in Nikolai.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey works with his sled dogs at the Nikolai checkpoint as village residents look on early Tuesday morning, Mar. 8, 2011, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Nick Dennis and Verdrisia Dennis of Nikolai watch the action at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Stephanie Petruska and her grandmother Oline Petruska of Nikolai at the Nikolai checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

NIKOLAI -- Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof pulled into this village checkpoint Tuesday with three dog heads -- Hag, Queen and Recon -- poking from the top of his sled and a cold realization tugging at his mind.

With the trio cramping from a combination of dehydration and relatively warm weather, he was down to eight strong dogs. Just half of an Iditarod team and another 700 miles to mush.

He scratched early in the afternoon for the first time in 15 Iditarod attempts.

"That's part of the sport -- knowing when to say when," Gebhardt said as he sat on his sled, waiting for a caravan of planes to take him and his team home.

This year's fast, hard trail may be perfect for Martin Buser of Big Lake, record holder for fastest finish. But several other top teams appeared in danger of overheating or flaming out as they stopped in Nikolai for food and a few hours sleep Tuesday.

Hans Gatt, second in last year's Iditarod, says half his team is sick and eating poorly. Now he's simply hoping to place in the top 10. Defending champion Lance Mackey carried three dogs in his basket when he arrived here and had been toting some for roughly 50 miles, he said.

Mackey was down to a dozen dogs. Two more look marginal.

The four-time champion wasn't about to get discouraged, but as he carried a dog from the rear of the team to the front he said the losses dampened his chance of a historic fifth win.

"It doesn't look too promising at this time," he said.

"We're just going to kind of put ourselves in defense mode and try to get these 12 dogs to Nome as healthy and happy as possible. If it puts me there first, great. If it puts me there 21st, well that's the way it is, right?"

After dropping Maple, a veteran leader and the 2010 Golden Harness winner, in Rainy Pass, Mackey left three more behind in Nikolai.

"I could go a long ways and do some damage with 12," he said.

KENNEL COUGH

Hans Gatt, who placed second to Mackey in last year's Iditarod and is a perennial threat, said half of his team appears to be suffering from kennel cough.

While Gebhardt may have been racing too fast too soon, Gatt said his team appeared to catch the bug when six of his dogs ran the Yukon Quest 300 with his wife.

He's dropped two dogs, including one of his main leaders, and believes the dogs are suffering from the contagious upper respiratory infection, Gatt said. Kennel cough can hurt a dog's appetite, which is vital in a 1,000-mile marathon.

"It's the biggest problem," Gatt said, stirring a bowl of moose soup in the Nikolai school gymnasium. His fingers, one cropped by an old motorcross accident, are thick from the second-degree frostbite he suffered on the Quest.

"Dogs need to eat if you want to race," said Gatt, who had been parked in Nikolai for 10 hours and may have elected to take his 24-hour layover there.

Mackey suspects kennel cough may be troubling his dogs too -- maybe from the week he spent in Anchorage before the race. If so, it's only in the early stages, he said. But really, he's not sure why some of his teammates aren't pulling.

"I really don't know what's going on. It's discouraging," he said.

There may be more trouble ahead. Two more dogs were troubling Mackey, including a black wheel dog named Pat who hasn't been eating well and hadn't pulled well for 100 miles, he said.

"A world-class dog team falling apart before my very eyes," Mackey said.

'NOT EXERCISING GOOD JUDGMENT' Five-time champion Rick Swenson, 60, said mushers struggling with dropped dogs may not be holding their teams back as much as they should.

"The trail is fast, and they're not exercising good judgment," he said.

If Swenson sounds a little barb-tongued, it could be because he hates news interviews. Or it could be the apparently broken collarbone he suffered Monday in a crash before the Rainy Pass checkpoint.

"It's painful," he said, clacking two bricks of frozen meat together beside his sled.

"But as long as I keep my arm down as low as possible below my chest and don't try to reach out very far it's not so bad," he said.

"I'm surprised actually."

FAREWELL TO A FRIEND

As Swenson prepared to head 50 miles down the trail to McGrath, Gebhardt waited for a plane to take him home.

He'd carried a dog with cramps in his basket through Dalzell Gorge into Rohn. There had been shoulder injuries and sore wrists. One of the dogs wasn't eating. Another was timid and inexperienced -- too risky to take on a short-handed team.

It's a good thing the Iditarod was arranging his plane ride, he said. "I don't even have a wallet with me. I couldn't fly on a commercial flight."

Dallas Seavey, the 24-year-old who won last month's Quest, prepared to return to the trail a few yards away. He shouted to Gebhardt as his sled began to move. "You coming?"

Gebhardt was not.

Seavey put his palms up. "Sorry to hear it, man."

Dee Dee Jonrowe of Willow walked up behind Gebhardt and kissed the top of his blue Kuskokwim 300 hat. Gebhardt won that race in January and brought the same dogs to the Iditarod, believing he had one of the strongest teams in the field.

The two mushers walked side by side. Jonrowe too, has twice been runner-up.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said.

"I'm not," Gebhardt replied.

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By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com
Contact Kyle Hopkins at or on