Sunday, March 11, 2012

Closing In On An Exciting Finish

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Eight more checkpoint stops and about 250 miles separate Aliy Zirkle from becoming the first woman musher since the late Susan Butcher in 1990 to win the Iditarod. The Iditarod is the annual Dog Sled Race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska which follows the original Medicine runs which were so vital for the health of Alaskans in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The 2012 Iditarod starts it's eighth day today.

Zirkle (a ten year veteran of the race) left the checkpoint at Rick Burnham's house in Kaltag, a village of about 235 people, around 5 in the afternoon Alaska Time on Saturday (March 10, 2012). She rested her dog team and herself for nearly six hours for the final push to the finish line. She came into Kaltag with fourteen dogs but had to leave two behind due to exhaustion for the push toward the next stop at Unalakleet nearly 85 miles up the trail.

Unalakleet is situated on the coast of Norton Sound, just north of the Unalakleet River, this village is the largest community on the Iditarod Trail between Wasilla and Nome. The trail is now close to the gateway to the Bering Sea and from here on the mushers might see storms and high winds.

In fact the 2012 race has been notable for much more snow and colder weather than last year when John Baker of Kotzebue Alaska won the race in record setting time.

Zirkle's closest competitor is last year's Champion from Kotzebue, AK...John Baker. Baker is nearly 2 hours behind Zirkle. He was able to make up some time on her by resting nearly 2 hours less than Zirkle at Kaltag. Baker has pretty much been running his type of race... methodical and steady. By following him and the race over the past five years I have come to the conclusion this last part of the trail is where Baker is in his element as it resembles closely where he and his team train in Kotezebue. If he and his team can stay healthy he has a real shot at making up that distance on Zirkle in the final days of the race.

Also in the mix for the race to the finish is Mitch Seavey who left Kaltag only nine minutes behind John Baker, and Aaron Burmeister who left Kaltag about an hour after Baker.

Iditarod Notes: Right after this piece was posted, Aliy Zirkle was the first to arrive at the Unalkaleet check point at 7:28 AM AST on Sunday March 11.

For up to the minute coverage at anytime of the Iditarod 2012 race, be sure to link to via Bosco Radio Sports in our sidebar. Also available on that site are features and articles of the race so far. Extra coverage, including the live video/audio coverage of the finish is also available (for an additional fee) through

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