Iditarod live blog for Thursday, March 9: Dog dies on trail near Galena

A 2-year-old male dog named Deacon, running on Sterling musher Seth Barnes' team, died outside Galena late Thursday, Iditarod officials reported.

A report from the race said the dog died at about 11:40 p.m. "just prior to Barnes' arrival at the Galena checkpoint."

"A necropsy will be conducted by a board-certified pathologist to make every attempt to determine the cause of death," the report said.

Barnes is running his second Iditarod. He placed 35th in the 2015 Iditarod and eighth in the 2016 Yukon Quest. He is from Stockton, Alabama, but he has lived in Alaska since 2010, according to his website.

Mitch Seavey claims halfway prize; Petit 2nd to arrive

Two-time champion Mitch Seavey is $3,000 richer after becoming the first Iditarod musher to reach Huslia, the halfway point in this year's 1,000-mile race to Nome.

Seavey reached the checkpoint at 8:18 p.m. Thursday. And while the Seward musher is closer to the finish line than anyone else, it's premature to call him the race leader.

Seavey, 57,  has yet to take either his 24-hour layover or his eight-hour layover. His closest pursuers have already completed their eight-hour mandatory breaks, including one — Nicolas Petit — who is also in Huslia.


Petit arrived about six hours after Seavey at 2:07 a.m. Friday. On paper that puts him roughly two hours ahead of Seavey.

Seavey made the run from Ruby in 12 hours, 1 minute. Petit did it in 10:41. Both reached the checkpoint with 16 dogs.

The first musher to reach Tanana on Tuesday, Petit took his eight-hour break in Galena on Thursday.

Petit was the sixth musher to leave Galena, checking out at 3:26 p.m. Thursday. He passed four of the five mushers who left ahead of him — in order, John Baker, Ralph Johannessen, Michelle Phillips and Jessie Royer. All four of those mushers have also taken their eight-hour layovers.

Seavey left Galena at 8:17 a.m. Thursday. By beating everyone else to Huslia, he claimed the GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, a prize that includes $3,000 in gold nuggets.

— Beth Bragg

When to press pause?

Does it feel like your favorite musher has been stopped for an eternity? If so, they might be taking their "24."

As mushers begin to close in on the halfway point of Huslia, more will start bedding down teams for a 24-hour mandatory break, when their start time differential is adjusted. Mushers can declare their mandatory rest when they first arrive at any checkpoint along the trail, but they can leave before taking it all. They must, however, take the full 24-hours consecutively in a single checkpoint. They can choose the checkpoint.

Most years fans can guess that mushers will stop in between the checkpoints of Nikolai (260 miles into the race) or Takotna (330 miles in). On the northern route, some mushers push as far as rural Ophir (mile 350)  and sometimes an intrepid few go all the way to Ruby (495 miles into the race).

This year, it's hard to say how far mushers will go before resting, but we can make some guesses based on the 2015 race.

Here's a breakdown of where 74 mushers took their mandatory 24-hour break during the 2015 race:

*Tanana (215 miles from Fairbanks): Four mushers, including four-time champ Lance Mackey, who stopped early to deal with frostbitten fingers.

*Ruby (335 miles): 17 mushers, including Mitch Seavey, who went on to place second, and 2011 champion John Baker.

*Galena (385 miles): 43 mushers. With a population of nearly 500, this checkpoint has more amenities than any other village on this stretch of trail. Aliy Zirkle, Jeff King, and Joar Leifseth Ulsom all rested here in 2015.

*Huslia (470 miles): 10 mushers, including eventual race champion Dallas Seavey and third-place finisher Aaron Burmeister.

This year no one elected to take their 24-hour break in Tanana. Current red lantern Roger Lee spent the longest time in the first checkpoint on the Yukon River, taking a total of 15 hours of rest there.

— Suzanna Caldwell


Dogs and sled arrive without musher

Two-time champion and last year's runner up Mitch Seavey was the first into and out of Galena on Thursday, leaving at 8:17 a.m. after a short rest.  He made the 50-mile run from Ruby in just over five and a half hours, and by early Thursday afternoon, he was the only musher who'd left. He has yet to take his mandatory eight-hour rest at some checkpoint on the Yukon River.

As mushers near the halfway point of Huslia, expect to see the standings shift as many begin their mandatory 24-hour breaks. Top leaders will appear to fall far behind during the rest period while others will appear to surge.

Seavey was followed into Galena about an hour later by Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom. By early afternoon, seven had arrived.

[Iditarod standings and full coverage]

While most mushers made the long run to Ruby without major issues, one musher did have a hiccup Thursday morning. The team of veteran musher Linwood Fiedler pulled into Ruby in the middle of the night — sans musher — according to a video posted to Iditarod Insider.

In the video, officials seem flummoxed over the missing musher, speculating as to what could have happened as his team waits calmly in the checkpoint for further instruction.

But it appears all is well. A note accompanying the video says Fiedler arrived in the checkpoint about an hour after his team, having fallen off his sled after dozing off on the trail. According to the Insider, "(Fiedler) and his team are in fine condition."

— Suzanna Caldwell


‘Camping’ on the trail?

When Iditarod mushers say they "camp" along the trail, there are usually no tents, but there is straw.

"No tent. It would take too long, especially if you're trying to race," said Allen Moore of Two Rivers. Moore said he lies on a sleeping pad in the open air.

With longer runs between checkpoints on the Fairbanks route, teams have camped in brutally cold temperatures on the Yukon River to break up the miles.

Sometimes, "camping" means turning off your headlamp and lying in the straw with the dog team for an hour, said Mark Selland of Anchorage.

Sometimes it means sitting on a cooler and dozing off for a few minutes while tending to the team, said Anna Berington of Wasilla.

Sometimes it means climbing into a sleeping bag while wearing bulky gear and big boots and using a parka as another blanket, said Justin Stielstra of Michigan.

While some mushers scoffed at the idea of carrying a tent during the race, at least one veteran musher brought one. Four-time champion Martin Buser told APRN that he brought a lightweight tent for the trail.

— Tegan Hanlon