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Racers struggle to slow teams on icy-fast Iditarod Trail

Martian Buser mushes across the virtually snowless Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher leaves the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen drives his team onto Puntila Lake as he comes into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ray Redington Jr. rests at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen gets his finger taped up at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Johannsessen had earlier cut the finger opening a can of Heat.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his team down the river on his way to the Rohn checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes tips over on the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Jim Lanier eats his lunch at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes over the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod Vet George Stroberg blows on PreciousÕs paw as Anna Berington holds her at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Precious tore part of a toe nail off and the vet snipped off the rest of it and then cauterized it to stop the bleeding.
Bob Hallinen
DeeDee Jonrowe sleeps on her sled at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Jessie Royer gets straw to bed down her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Kristy Berington feeds her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Linwood Fiedler surveys his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Santos drives his dog team into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Ellis comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mitch Seavey feeds his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod checkers Susanne Rieder and Michelle Keagle work in the cook area as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod volunteer heads to the communications tent as checkpoint volunteers wait for mushers at Finger Lake during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod veterinarian Paul Pilfer, from Sylvain, Oh., looks at photos on his iPad as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The Winterlake Lodge is home to Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and is quiet on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014 as volunteers await mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Frank Macias cooks up scallops as Brandon Gchachu and pastry chef Amanda Dixon plate the Soffrito Sunday evening, March 2, 2014, at Winterlake Lodge. Soffrito is a slow roasted pepper stew with Kodiak Bay scallops, arugula salad, and crispy prosciutto and shaved mahon cheese. The Winterlake Lodge is home to the Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and staff was busy serving guests as they awaited mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Martian Buser mushes across the virtually snowless Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher leaves the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen drives his team onto Puntila Lake as he comes into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ray Redington Jr. rests at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen gets his finger taped up at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Johannsessen had earlier cut the finger opening a can of Heat.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his team down the river on his way to the Rohn checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes tips over on the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Jim Lanier eats his lunch at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes over the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod Vet George Stroberg blows on PreciousÕs paw as Anna Berington holds her at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Precious tore part of a toe nail off and the vet snipped off the rest of it and then cauterized it to stop the bleeding.
Bob Hallinen
DeeDee Jonrowe sleeps on her sled at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Jessie Royer gets straw to bed down her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Kristy Berington feeds her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Linwood Fiedler surveys his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Santos drives his dog team into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Ellis comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mitch Seavey feeds his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod checkers Susanne Rieder and Michelle Keagle work in the cook area as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod volunteer heads to the communications tent as checkpoint volunteers wait for mushers at Finger Lake during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod veterinarian Paul Pilfer, from Sylvain, Oh., looks at photos on his iPad as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The Winterlake Lodge is home to Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and is quiet on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014 as volunteers await mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Frank Macias cooks up scallops as Brandon Gchachu and pastry chef Amanda Dixon plate the Soffrito Sunday evening, March 2, 2014, at Winterlake Lodge. Soffrito is a slow roasted pepper stew with Kodiak Bay scallops, arugula salad, and crispy prosciutto and shaved mahon cheese. The Winterlake Lodge is home to the Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and staff was busy serving guests as they awaited mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Martian Buser mushes across the virtually snowless Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher leaves the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen drives his team onto Puntila Lake as he comes into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ray Redington Jr. rests at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen gets his finger taped up at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Johannsessen had earlier cut the finger opening a can of Heat.
Bob Hallinen
A musher heads towards Rainy Pass after leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his team down the river on his way to the Rohn checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes tips over on the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Jim Lanier eats his lunch at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rolls his sled as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Rick Casillo comes over the last drop as he comes down the steps onto the Happy River between the Finger Lake and Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod Vet George Stroberg blows on PreciousÕs paw as Anna Berington holds her at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3. Precious tore part of a toe nail off and the vet snipped off the rest of it and then cauterized it to stop the bleeding.
Bob Hallinen
DeeDee Jonrowe sleeps on her sled at the Rainy Pass checkpoints during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
Jessie Royer gets straw to bed down her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Robert Bundtzen comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Kristy Berington feeds her team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Linwood Fiedler surveys his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Santos drives his dog team into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mike Ellis comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Mitch Seavey feeds his team at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod checkers Susanne Rieder and Michelle Keagle work in the cook area as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod volunteer heads to the communications tent as checkpoint volunteers wait for mushers at Finger Lake during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod veterinarian Paul Pilfer, from Sylvain, Oh., looks at photos on his iPad as they wait for mushers at the Finger Lake checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The Winterlake Lodge is home to Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and is quiet on Sunday evening, March 2, 2014 as volunteers await mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Frank Macias cooks up scallops as Brandon Gchachu and pastry chef Amanda Dixon plate the Soffrito Sunday evening, March 2, 2014, at Winterlake Lodge. Soffrito is a slow roasted pepper stew with Kodiak Bay scallops, arugula salad, and crispy prosciutto and shaved mahon cheese. The Winterlake Lodge is home to the Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and staff was busy serving guests as they awaited mushers early Monday morning.
Bob Hallinen
Martian Buser mushes across the virtually snowless Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen
A pair of mushers drives their dog teams down the Dazel Gorge out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3.
Bob Hallinen

From Casey Grove in Finger Lake –

The word from Iditarod mushers resting here is that the trail is hard and fast, and some are finding it difficult to keep their teams from speeding. (Going too fast now could derail carefully planned tactics later down the trail.)

The ice made it a challenge to put on the brakes, said many, including Willow racer Justin Savidis.

Savidis said he’s been standing on the brakes for much of the race.

“I’ve been on the drag since I left Willow,” Savidis said. “The trick is to keep them to 10 mph. It’s a lot of work.”

“It’s too easy to injure dogs in these conditions, and yourself,” he added. “There’s no sense in taking too much out of the tank right now.”

Longtime Iditarod veterinarian Paul Pifer said he has not seen as many injured dogs as he expected. With about 40 teams into the checkpoint – officially more than 110 miles into the race -- Pifer said only five had been dropped. All but one suffered sore shoulders. 

The shoulder joint is like a shock absorber on a dog, Pifer said. “When they’re on a hard surface like this, they take a lot of shock.”

Pifer said he was “flabbergasted” not to see more dropped dogs.

“I don’t know if the mushers are being extra cautious, if they’re getting extra lucky, or if it’s a combination of the two. We haven’t seen the back of the pack yet,” Pifer said about 9 a.m.

How are the mushers holding up? Some said their feet were sore from stomping on the brakes for long distances. The oldest racer on the trail, 73-year-old Jim Lanier, said he’d been bucked off his sled 10 miles out of Skwentna on the way to Finger Lake. Lanier is wearing a helmet for the first time on the trail this year, to go with the hockey gear he wears under his coat.

“It was one of those places where the trail was rough, going left, right,” Lanier said. “I kind of got on the side of the trail, and the sled just flipped.”

The helmet did not hit the ground, but Lanier said he’s looking forward to feeling triumphant when it does. “I can say, ‘Ha ha.’”

The trail becomes more dangerous from here. The steep Steps and the Dalzell Gorge await, and the difficulty braking could lead to crashes.

“It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like,” musher Pete Kaiser said. 

 

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