Photo Finish!

Oh my gosh!  What an amazingly exciting and nerve-wrecking night!

We started watching the tracker, still convinced that Jeff King was going to pull up in Nome as only the second person to win the Iditarod five time.

We watched Aliy Zirkle get closer and closer and closer and close the gap between her and Jeff King, and then bam!  She passed him.

Now, all this time we had been hearing about how bad the weather was getting. The winds were really picking up.  There were gusts between White Mountain and Nome of 65 miles per hour.  It was really bad around the Safety checkpoint cabin and even worse on Cape Nome.  

Then we realized something must be wrong.  The tracker showed Jeff not moving outside of Safety and Aliy sitting at the checkpoint. No one ever sits at that checkpoint. In fact, technically the mushers don’t even have to stop there.  They can just breeze through.

We finally learned part of the story of just what happened out there, but honestly, I’m sure that over the next few days more and more of the story will emerge.  Jeff got caught in a gust of wind and he, the team, and the sled got blown off the trail and into a lot of driftwood.  They all got tangled up and probably a little freaked out!  He stayed with the dogs for two and half and then signaled a snow machine to take him ahead to the checkpoint so he could contact race officials and get help to move the team.  By accepting the ride from the snowmachine, he accepted outside help which violated the rules and resulted in his scratching  While all of this was happening, Aliy who started almost an hour behind Jeff passed him and didn’t realize it.  She arrived in Safety and apparently decided to stay for a bit, most likely to get out of the wind.  I’m told that from the Safety checkpoint you can see mushers coming an hour before they arrive.  So she probably thought she was safe for a bit.

But, enter Dallas Seavey, who has be quietly plugging along all race with his team of three year olds and his two year old leader!  He gets to Safety and blows through the checkpoint! 

Aliy heads out to give chase. It was neck and neck for the longest time.

But in the end, Dallas Seavey pulled into Front Street first, giving him his second win and the fastest time record. He was running and pushing the sled the whole way into the chute. When he arrived he put his head down on the handle bars and just sat for a moment.  He got off the sled and gave each of his seven dogs some love, attention, and thanks.

About two minutes after Dallas pulled in, Aliy pulled in.  I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through her mind.  Her third second place finish it three years – and always to a Seavey.  Dallas won in 2012, his dad MItch won in 2013, and the Dallas again this year.  But Aliy is class-act all the way.  Her handlers fed the team snacks while she hugged Dallas, loved on her dogs, and then went to the fences to see the fans.  They love her.  She is obviously the sweetheart of the sport at this time.  She did manage to have her typical huge smile on her face.  

There were lots of interviews, tons of questions, and the presentation of the prizes including the $50,000 check from Wells Fargo and the new truck.  The dogs got draped with their yellow roses, and had their picture take too.

So the leaders are in to Nome, but there is a lot more race left to happen. Plus, I think stories about this storm will continue to emerge as the week goes on!  I’m so anxious to watch Nathan and Monica cross under the Burled Arch.  What an amazing accomplishment it will be!