AD Main Menu

Zirkle overtakes King and leads Iditarod down homestretch

Dallas Seavey runs down the finish chute with his dog team to the the burled arch in Nome, AK to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Christian Turner and two dogs pull the sled across a small stream in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The rest of his team waited along the trail less then a mile ahead of him.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Karin Hendrickson reacts while watching a video of fellow musher Jeff King driving his dog team through the Dalzell Gorge at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014. 140301
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle, from Two Rivers, AK, arrived second behind Jeff King into the White Mountain checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014. Zirkle cares for her dog team at the checkpoint.
Bob Hallinen
Jake Berkowitz and his team wait for help next to the trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Berkowitz's sled is busted beyond repair and he scratched.
Bob Hallinen
Martin Buser is second into the Unalakleet checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Paul Gebhardt, of Kasilof, AK, leaves the start line during the ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Anna Berington mushes down the Iditarod Trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Hugh Neff, from Tok, AK, went through the Takotna checkpoint without stopping to rest during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The dog team of Dan Kaduce of Chatanika heads down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Iditarod musher, from Denali, AK, leans on his sled and talks about the race and the trail after arriving first into the White Mountain checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Hans Gatt has dried blood around his eyes after coming off the Farewell Burn and into the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Gatt hit a tree on the Burn just outside of Rohn.
Bob Hallinen
The dogs of Iditarod musher Allen Moore, from Two Rivers, AK, howl as they prepare to leave the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014. 140301
Bob Hallinen
Jake Berkowitz and his team wait for help next to the trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Berkowitz's sled is busted beyond repair and he scratched.
Bob Hallinen
Martin Buser is second into the Unalakleet checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Gus Guenther of Clam Gulch, Alaska, leaves the starting line. Racing began for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Dallas Seavey runs down the finish chute with his dog team to the the burled arch in Nome, AK to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Jason Mackey winces with pain as he moves his arm in the school cafeteria at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle accepts the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award for the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The dog team of Dan Kaduce of Chatanika heads down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Musher Hans Gatt has dried blood around his eyes after coming off the Farewell Burn and into the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Gatt hit a tree on the Burn just outside of Rohn.
Bob Hallinen
The dogs of Iditarod musher Allen Moore, from Two Rivers, AK, howl as they prepare to leave the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Dallas Seavey's daughter, Annie, plays in her dad's dog truck. Racing began for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Flash, a team dog for musher Mike Williams Jr., rests on his bed of straw at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at sunrise on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Hans Gatt drives his team off the Yukon River into the village of Kaltag during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Gus Guenther of Clam Gulch, Alaska, leaves the starting line. Racing began for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Musher Jason Mackey winces with pain as he moves his arm in the school cafeteria at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle accepts the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award for the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Jason Mackey will carry an urn of ashes taped to his handle bars for part of this year's Iditarod. Racing began for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Aaron Burmeister's sled dogs rest at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Burmeister injured his knee about 18 miles past the Rohn checkpoint on the snowless Farewell Burn. His knee popped out and he had to tape it up so it would stay in place.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Dallas Seavey's daughter, Annie, plays in her dad's dog truck. Racing began for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Flash, a team dog for musher Mike Williams Jr., rests on his bed of straw at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at sunrise on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Hans Gatt drives his team off the Yukon River into the village of Kaltag during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the chute during the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, AK on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
One of Hans Gatt's dogs is ready to go as Gatt made a brief stop at the Yukon River village of Kaltag during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team into the Unalakleet Checkpoint. Zirkle is first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Jason Mackey will carry an urn of ashes taped to his handle bars for part of this year's Iditarod. Racing began for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014. Sixty-nine teams started this year's Iditarod.
Marc Lester
Aaron Burmeister's sled dogs rest at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Burmeister injured his knee about 18 miles past the Rohn checkpoint on the snowless Farewell Burn. His knee popped out and he had to tape it up so it would stay in place.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team in front of Mount Foraker, Mount Hunter and Mount McKinley just after the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race out of Willow, AK on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A stuffed toy husky wearing a helmet sits on the front of the sled of Nicolas Petit at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Euro rests next to the back of Iditarod musher Richie DiehlÍs snow and frost plastered sled at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team down the chute during the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, AK on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
One of Hans Gatt's dogs is ready to go as Gatt made a brief stop at the Yukon River village of Kaltag during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team into the Unalakleet Checkpoint. Zirkle is first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 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
Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla, Ak., rubs medication into Shrek‰Ûªs leg at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A Sonny Lindner team dog rests its head on the snow at the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A musher drives his dog team in front of Mount Foraker, Mount Hunter and Mount McKinley just after the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race out of Willow, AK on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A stuffed toy husky wearing a helmet sits on the front of the sled of Nicolas Petit at the Nikolai checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Euro rests next to the back of Iditarod musher Richie DiehlÍs snow and frost plastered sled at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
DeeDee Jonrowe sleeps on her sled at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod Air Force pilot Wes Erb loads dropped dogs into his Cessna 180 at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Jessie Royer, from Darby, MT, mushes over bare tundra on the Blueberry Hills out of the Unalakleet checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 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
Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla, Ak., rubs medication into Shrek‰Ûªs leg at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A Sonny Lindner team dog rests its head on the snow at the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher drives his team down the Yukon River after leaving the Ruby checkpoint and heading towards Galena during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher crosses a frozen pond between the Shaktoolik and Koyuk checkpoints during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
DeeDee Jonrowe sleeps on her sled at the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod Air Force pilot Wes Erb loads dropped dogs into his Cessna 180 at the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker arrives at the Unalakleet checkpoint at sunrise during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher drives his team down the Yukon River after leaving the Ruby checkpoint and heading towards Galena during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Harald Nassuk and his sister Tara Nassuk, who holds a sign welcoming the mushers to Koyuk, pose for a photo at the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher drives his team down the Yukon River after leaving the Ruby checkpoint and heading towards Galena during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Jessie Royer, from Darby, MT, mushes over bare tundra on the Blueberry Hills out of the Unalakleet checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 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 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ray Redington Jr., from Wasilla, Ak., feeds his dogs next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Martin Buser, from Big Lake, AK, comes in off the ice through a cut in a pile of ice pushed up near the shore in Koyuk during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
John Baker comes into the Finger Lake checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday morning, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher drives his team down the Yukon River after leaving the Ruby checkpoint and heading towards Galena during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
An Iditarod musher crosses a frozen pond between the Shaktoolik and Koyuk checkpoints during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
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 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth, from Willow, Ak., arrives at the Ruby checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Martin Buser, from Big Lake, AK, comes in off the ice and into the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 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 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ray Redington Jr., from Wasilla, Ak., feeds his dogs next to the Ruby Bible Church at the Ruby checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Harald Nassuk and his sister Tara Nassuk, who holds a sign welcoming the mushers to Koyuk, pose for a photo at the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Hugh Neff drives his dog team out of the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A dog of Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rests on a bed of straw at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. 140306
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle, from Two Rivers, AK, arrived second behind Jeff King into the White Mountain checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014. Zirkle cares for her dog team at the checkpoint.
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 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 3, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Ramey Smyth, from Willow, Ak., arrives at the Ruby checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Friday, March 7, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Martin Buser, from Big Lake, AK, comes in off the ice through a cut in a pile of ice pushed up near the shore in Koyuk during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Christian Turner and two dogs pull the sled across a small stream in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The rest of his team waited along the trail less then a mile ahead of him.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Karin Hendrickson reacts while watching a video of fellow musher Jeff King driving his dog team through the Dalzell Gorge at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher, from Denali, AK, leans on his sled and talks about the race and the trail after arriving first into the White Mountain checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 10, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Hugh Neff drives his dog team out of the Cripple checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
A dog of Ralph Johannessen, from Dagali, Norway, rests on a bed of straw at the Takotna checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, March 6, 2014. 140306
Bob Hallinen
Paul Gebhardt, of Kasilof, AK, leaves the start line during the ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Iditarod musher Martin Buser, from Big Lake, AK, comes in off the ice and into the Koyuk checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Anna Berington mushes down the Iditarod Trail in the middle of the Farewell Burn during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
Musher Hugh Neff, from Tok, AK, went through the Takotna checkpoint without stopping to rest during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Bob Hallinen

With last-minute lead changes and the promise of a record-breaking finish, welcome to the final hours and miles of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Four-time champion Jeff King is poised for a fifth title, but any mistakes could allow fan-favorite Aliy Zirkle to make a bid for the upset. 

Update 11:05 p.m. Monday:

Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers is once again leading the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Zirkle arrived in Safety, the final checkpoint ahead of the race's Nome finish line, at 10:57 p.m.

King had led the race out of White Mountain but Zirkle passed him somewhere near the 936 mile marker, according to Iditarod Insider, which tracks mushers via GPS device.

Reports streamed in Monday night of strong winds and poor visibility along the Norton Sound coast. 

Safety is 22 miles from Nome.

Update 4:15 p.m. Monday:

From Casey Grove in White Mountain and Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle is back on the trail, chasing four-time champion Jeff King in an unlikely bid to overcome King's hefty 57-minute lead. 

As she helped the dogs form a straight line, Zirkle held a husky with one hand and signed a girl's "Way to go Aliy!" poster with the other. 

Zirkle often leads her team in a howl before leaving checkpoints. Not this time. "How are you doing? What do you say," she called to the dogs. "Ready! Hike."

Although Zirkle injured her leg on Sunday, possibly by pulling a hamstring, she showed no signs of pain as she jogged along the frozen Fish River behind the trotting dogs. 

If King and Zirkle reach Nome at about the same pace as past winners, they will both shatter the Iditarod speed record by hours. (John Baker of Kotzebue holds that title, finishing in 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes and 39 seconds in 2011.)

That may be baffling for casual Iditarod fans who have spent the past week looking at pictures of mile after mile of snowless trail. Wouldn't the lack of snow slow down a dog sled race? But 2013 champion Mitch Seavey said it's not so hard to understand why teams are setting a historic pace to Nome.

The ground may be bare on parts of the trail, he said, but it's still frozen. The sled runners move more smoothly across the icy tundra than you might think, and huskies are able to get better traction than when running in soft powder. 

The race winner is expected to arrive at the burled arch sometime around 1 a.m. tonight, if King and Zirkle make the 77-mile run at about the same speed of past leaders. 

Update 3 p.m. Monday: 

Jeff King nears 5th Iditarod title. 'I'm going to try to catch him,' Zirkle says.

From Casey Grove in White Mountain and Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage -- 

"Hike! Hike!"

Jeff King, 58, left White Mountain moments ago, kicking from his sled runners as his team begins the 77-mile run to Nome and, barring any major mishaps, a fifth Iditarod title for the Denali Park musher. 

It's too early for congratulations, he warned a fan. “Well, we’ll have to get through this run and then we’ll party." 

Aliy Zirkle, last year's runner up, is scheduled to leave 57 minutes behind King at 3:59 p.m.

"I'm going to try to catch him," Zirkle said as she posed for pictures and readied her huskies. "The team looks good."

Zirkle wore earbuds for one of the first times during the race. Last night the wind drowned out her workout mix of Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson tunes, she said.

Making up nearly an hour on the lead musher between White Mountain and Nome is unlikely unless King is forced to stop for some reason. Zirkle said she's ready for whatever comes. "I feel good." 

A reporter asked if there is anything she would have done differently in the 2014 Iditarod, now that the finish is just hours away. 

"Catching Jeff," she replied. 

Update 10:30 a.m. Monday:

With a team built for bumpy trail, Dallas Seavey leaps to 3rd place

From Kevin Klott --

Willow's Dallas Seavey cruised into White Mountain this morning with a firm grip on third place.

The 2012 Iditarod champion signed in at 9:48 a.m. -- almost two hours behind Aliy Zirkle and two hours, 46 minutes behind race leader Jeff King -- and in good position to finish in the top eight for the sixth time in eight Iditarods.

Unless disaster strikes along the 77-mile trek from White Mountain to Safety to Nome, after Seavey leaves White Mountain at 5:48 p.m., the 26-year-old will be in line for the $44,900 check awarded to the third-place finisher.

Seavey, who was the 11th musher into Unalakleet on Sunday, has leapfrogged his way ahead one musher at a time. Despite being ahead of schedule, Seavey said he is where he is because his team is built for toughness rather than speed.

"They're more of an off-road vehicle than a sportster," he said of his dogs. "This year's been a race on a racetrack, not an off-road track."

His father, defending champion Mitch Seavey, is heading into White Mountain and battling with Big Lake's Martin Buser for fourth place.

Update 9:30 a.m. Monday

King first into White Mountain, almost an hour ahead of Zirkle

From Casey Grove in White Mountain --

Denali Park's Jeff King arrived here in the pre-dawn darkness with a team of dogs loping up the Fish River and into town a little less than an hour ahead of Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle.

There were no church bells to greet the leaders, only subzero temperatures and wind.

After parking his team and spreading hay for their beds, King put a sleeping bag over his leaders, took off his parka and laid that over two team dogs. He piled straw on the others.

Asked how he felt about his lead, while Zirkle's headlamp was just coming into view, King said, "Better every minute."

The 58-year-old said he felt less tired arriving here than in years past. Taking his mandatory 24-hour rest in Ruby, far later in the race than usual, helped keep him fresh.

Not that the path to White Mountain has been easy. Crossing frozen Golovin Bay before heading up the river was a challenge, King said.

"Not everybody's got leaders that'll go on that glare ice with not even a track," King said, giving praise to his leaders Zig and Skeeter. "If there was the teeniest little gust of wind, we all just blew over.

"It is really slippery."

Out of Koyuk the trail had started rough -- "logs and ice and turns and rocks," King said -- but the team eventually picked up speed. King said he thought he would have put more distance between himself and Zirkle, who was only a few minutes behind him in Elim.

"As I have done many times, I underestimated the speed of her team, or what she'd get out of it," King said. "She must've had a great run, too, because mine was really, really great."

Both mushers rested in Elim before the 46-mile run to White Mountain. King said he noticed Zirkle hobbling around. Zirkle had said in Koyuk that she strained her hamstring but said in White Mountain that it was not bothering her outside in the cold. It would probably tighten up inside the checkpoint building in the warmth, she said.

There had been trouble, though, when her leader, Quito, chewed through the tug lines connecting her to the rest of the team in Elim. The dog bolted after King's team, Zirkle said, and it took some time to wrangle her.

"I knew there were dog eyes, I just didn't know which ones were hers," Zirkle said. "I feel like I got a little far behind."

"I'm happy to be here," she said. "It's so funny, this part of the race. You look forward to the race all year, and you enjoy the race, and then you get here, and you're like, 'Oh my god, I want it to end!' "

Update 8:30 a.m. Monday

Zirkle arrives in White Mountain

From Kevin Klott --

Aliy Zirkle checked into White Mountain at 7:59 a.m. Monday with 11 dogs and almost an hour behind leader Jeff King.

Zirkle will be able to leave the checkpoint at 3:59 p.m. Monday after her mandatory eight-hour rest, which will give King and his team of 12 dogs a 57-minute head start on their way to Nome.

Update 7:45 a.m. Monday

King begins 8-hour rest after extending lead

From Kevin Klott --

Jeff King has beaten Aliy Zirkle to the White Mountain checkpoint, the second-to-last stop before mushers reach the finish line.

The 58-year-old King put a considerable amount of distance between himself and Zirkle since he left Kaltag a minute ahead of the Two Rivers musher Sunday afternoon. He checked into White Mountain at 7:02 a.m., with Zirkle several miles behind, according to her GPS tracker.

All mushers are required to stay in White Mountain for eight hours, which means King will be allowed to leave at 3:02 p.m. Soon after, Zirkle will be on the heels of King in hopes of stopping the Denali Park musher from winning his record-tying fifth Iditarod crown.

Almost a decade has passed since King won the Last Great Race. At 50 years old, he became the oldest musher to win the Iditarod. He pulled into White Mountain more than three hours ahead of Montana's Doug Swingley, which allowed him to put his dogs on cruise control for the final 77 miles.

This year, however, could be more of a fight to the finish line, where the winning prize waits -- a check for $50,400 and the keys to a new Dodge truck.

Update 6:30 a.m. Monday

Dueling for the lead: King leaves Elim 8 minutes ahead of Zirkle

From Kevin Klott --

The fight to Front Street continued Monday morning between Denali Park's Jeff King and Two Rivers' Aliy Zirkle, with King leading the way out of Elim toward White Mountain, the last major stop before Nome.

The 58-year-old King checked out of Elim with an eight-minute lead over the 44-year-old Zirkle. The two have been jockeying for the lead since Saturday, when they reached Unalakleet.

King and Zirkle are expected to arrive into White Mountain within the next hour. When they do, they will be ready for their required eight-hour pit stop on the Fish River before making the final 77-mile push toward the Burled Arch on Front Street.

Here are the potential story lines: After coming out of retirement in 2012, King seeks a record-tying fifth Iditarod crown, which would also make him the race's oldest winner at 58; Zirkle, who has finished runner-up in back-to-back Iditarods, is trying to win her first championship and become the first woman to win it since 1990.

Regardless of who wins, one of them is expected to break the record run by Kotzebue's John Baker in 2011. As of Monday morning in Elim, King was about eight hours ahead of Baker's pace.

It could also turn into one of the closest Iditarod finishes ever.

Another intriguing story line is Dallas Seavey, the 2012 Iditarod champion who seems to be making a last-ditch effort to catch King and Zirkle. The Willow musher has only eight dogs but is posting the fastest run times among the top three.

"It makes it really hard to catch up on a really nice trail," he said in Koyuk. "My team isn't built for top-end speed."

Seavey, 26, was an hour and 51 minutes behind Zirkle when he left Elim at 2:52 a.m. Catching her or King is unlikely but not out of the question.

"We've got to give them the opportunity to shine," he said. "They've worked hard to get here. That being said, if a team can do it even better than us, more power to 'em. If not, then I guess we win.

"As long as I can walk away from this thing feeling like I ran the dog team wisely and got them there as fast as they can, then we'll be happy with whatever place that -- hopefully that's in the top five."

Telecommunications services for ADN Iditarod coverage provided by GCI.

 



Anchorage Daily News