Craig Medred

KOYUK -- Heavy snow and blowing winds that piled it into drifts along the Bering Sea coast had the leaders in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race slogging it out on the way to the coastal village of Elim on Monday night. Race leader and defending champ Dallas Seavey from Willow continued to cling to a lead of a hour and a half or more over chasing Aaron Burmeister from Nome, but it was slow going for both teams. Satellite trackers on their sleds showed the dogs often making only 5 to 7 mph. They would normally be doing 8 to 9 mph. Last year, on the way to an upset victory, Seavey made the 50 miles run from Koyuk to Elim in just a shade over five and a half hours. As of 10 p.m. Monday night, he'd already been on the trail five hours and was still about 12 miles out of the checkpoint. At the...Suzanna Caldwell,Craig Medred
Nome's Aaron Burmeister led the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to the icy coast of Alaska's Bering Sea and the checkpoint of Unalakleet on Sunday afternoon, but he didn't get much of a chance to celebrate. Less than four hours after the frosted, 39-year-old musher received the warm welcome for which the checkpoint is famous, defending champ Dallas Seavey from Willow pulled in behind a string of 12 very strong-looking dogs and was almost as quickly gone into the howling coastal winds. Seavey told bystanders he didn't plan to stop until Shaktoolik, another 40 miles north along the trail. Burmeister, who'd been planning grab a nap, was immediately up and awake. He started checking gear hung to dry in the checkpoint and then got himself a cup of coffee. A little more than an hour after Seavey...Craig Medred,Suzanna Caldwell
As if four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champ and cancer survivor Lance Mackey hasn't faced enough hardship already this year, another disaster struck on Thursday night. Iditarod officials reported a three-year-old dog in Mackey's team died of unknown causes while the musher and team were making the 120-mile run from Tanana to Ruby along the Yukon River. The Iditarod said a necropsy was planned to try to determine what caused the death of the dog, Wyatt. He is the first dog to die while racing in the Iditarod since 2009. One dog did die in 2013 after it was left at a checkpoint to recover. That dog was buried by snow in a storm and suffocated. The Iditarod has since provided shelter for dropped dogs. A dog also died at this year's ceremonial start when it was struck by a car in...Craig Medred
A Minnesota friend of Alaska musher Brent Sass says she'd like to help him make as much money for getting booted from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race as he would have earned for winning it. Sass, a 35-year-old from the rural outpost of Eureka, was disqualified from the race on Tuesday. Race officials said he was traveling the trail with an iPod Touch in his sled. The device is capable of two-way wireless communication via the Internet. Race rules ban two-way communication devices. Sass has said he was unaware he was breaking the rules and only brought his iPod along on the trail to listen to music and watch movies. Some fans believe the recent winner of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race was unduly punished by Iditarod for an oversight. "I know many of you wanted an...Craig Medred
The Seavey gang led the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race into Ruby late Wednesday afternoon. A few hours later, Jeff King led the way out. Papa Seavey -- 55-year-old two-time Iditarod champ Mitch -- arrived at the checkpoint two minutes in front of fellow two-time winner and defending Iditarod champ Dallas, his son. Behind them were a string of Iditarod contenders trying to keep up with the blistering pace of a 1,000-mile race moved this year from the rough, wild and snow-short mountains of the Alaska Range onto the smooth ice of Interior rivers. And they weren't far behind. Aaron Burmeister rolled into town at 6:35 p.m., followed by Martin Buser at 7:07 p.m. and Aliy Zirkle at 7:17 p.m. King, the 59-year-old four-time champion from Denali Park, reached Ruby at 9:32 p.m. and stopped long...Craig Medred,Beth Bragg
TANANA -- Puffs of warm breath formed little clouds in the frigid air embraced by the dozens of people who turned out in this historic musher community on Tuesday to greet the arrival of Martin Buser, the leader in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Cold-weather scenes have been somewhat rare in Alaska in this strange winter of warmth, but the season seems to have set itself right just in time for the running of the 49th state's No. 1 sporting event. After a rainy start to Iditarod in Anchorage on Saturday followed by a long drive north to the relocated restart in Fairbanks, the Iditarod is rolling into what fans have come to expect -- cold weather and hot dogs. Buser's dogs are, so far, the hottest. They blazed the way from Manley Hot Springs into this riverside community of 250 at the...Craig Medred
Once again, four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champ Martin Buser is starting with a seemingly go-for-broke goal to win it all or pay the price. He was the first musher into Nenana, the first checkpoint, on Monday and quickly thereafter the first musher out to grab the immediate lead in the 1,000-mile race to Nome. Before leaving Fairbanks, the location for this year's Iditarod restart, the 57-year-old musher from Big Lake insisted “I’m not going to jump out front . I want to be first at the end, not the first at Tanana.” Not long after he was off down the Tanana River into Alaska's newly returned winter. After weekend rain in Anchorage and a Saturday thaw in Fairbanks, temperatures were pushing back toward their icy norm. The National Weather Service was reporting the thermometer...Craig Medred
Winter returned to Southcentral Alaska too late for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which will follow its ceremonial Anchorage start with a long drive north to Fairbanks, where the real 1,000-mile race to Nome begins Monday. The Fairbanks start appears destined to ensure speed in a race that might well have been slowed by the foot or so of snow forecast to fall over the weekend across the Susitna Valley and north into the Alaska Range and the upper reaches of the Kuskokwim River. Bare ground in the latter area is what forced the Iditarod start north and changed -- many believe -- the way this year's race will be run. A Fairbanks-to-Nome race is not wholly new for the Iditarod, but it has taken place only once, more than a decade ago. Nobody worried about Sorlie The year was 2003, and...Craig Medred
Ultra running phenomenon David Johnston from Willow has notched another win in the first stage of the Iditarod Trail Invitational. The holder of the record time for the 350-mile stage from the community of Knik over the Alaska Range to the Interior community of McGrath, Johnson reached the finish line in the tiny, Kuskokwim River city at 10:45 p.m. Thursday. His time was 4 days, 8 hours and 45 minutes. It was about seven hours off the record pace he set last year. The hard, often snowless Iditarod Trail that was a boon to fat-tired bikers this year did not help runners and hikers. They pull their survival gear along the trail on sleds, and sleds slide better on snow than on rocks, dirt and frozen tussocks. Most of the Iditarod north of the Alaska Range this year is dirt and frozen...Craig Medred
Iditariders touring Anchorage in the sleds of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race mushers on Saturday will produce almost $250,000 in revenue for the Last Great Race, according to Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley. Iditarod fans from around the word bid for seats in the sleds, or buy them outright. The bids and buys netted a total of $231,571 this year, Hooley said. Seven riders paid the $7,500 asking price for rides in the sleds of their favorite mushers. An earlier Alaska Dispatch News story identified only two of those fan favorites -- Jessie Royer from Montana and Kristy Berington from Kasilof. Hooley said fans also bought a ride with Berington's twin sister Anna from Kasilof; 2011 race champion John Baker from Kotzebue; longtime Iditarod favorite DeeDee Jonrowe from Willow, three-time runnerup and...Craig Medred