The end of the 2014 Iditarod was one for the record books. Dallas Seavey arrived in Nome at 4:04 a.m. Tuesday morning beating the old fastest time record by over four hours, set in 2011 by John Baker of 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.
The end of the race shocked everyone. Zirkle, the 2012 and 2013 second-place finisher, was leading the race, but four-time champion King caught up to her in Koyuk. After that, he built up a lead, leaving the second-to-last checkpoint, White Mountain, almost an hour ahead of Zirkle. Seavey left White Mountain almost three hours behind Zirkle.
But a few miles outside of Safety, the last checkpoint, King’s GPS tracker stopped moving. Before long, Zirkle had passed him, and she checked in to Safety first around 11 p.m. Monday night. Speculation was running wild on social media as to why King stopped. The most common theory seemed to be that his team had likely stopped and refused to run in the windy conditions, estimated to be about 45 miles per hour, according to the Iditarod website. It turned out, his sled was blown off the trail and then his dogs wouldn’t run. After two and a half hours with his dogs by the trail, King hailed a passing snowmachiner and scratched from the race.
Meanwhile, Zirkle chose to wait out the weather in Safety while King was still out on the trail. This gave Seavey a chance to catch up with her. He raced through the checkpoint, stopping only long enough to sign in and out, without resting. Zirkle left about 20 minutes later behind him. In the 22 miles from Safety to Nome, Zirkle almost caught up. She crossed the finish line just two minutes after Seavey did, making their finish the second-closest in Iditarod history.
According to Iditarod.com, Seavey didn’t even realize he’d beaten Zirkle and King until someone told him after he crossed. He believed he’d been trying to out-race his father, Mitch Seavey, for third place. The older Seavey crossed the finish line in third place 3 1/2 hours later.
Dallas Seavey wasn’t the only one to break the record for fastest time. Zirkle’s and Mitch Seavey’s times were both faster than the previous record, pushing Baker down to the fourth-fastest time in Iditarod history.
Dallas Seavey has now won his second Iditarod; he won his first in 2012. This is Zirkle’s third second-place finish in as many years.
Fourth-place finisher Joar Leifseth Ulsom and fifth-place finisher Sonny Lindner as well as Martin Buser, Jessie Royer, Ray Redington Jr. and Hans Gatt have also crossed the finish line in Nome. The rest of the mushers are still on the trail as of 8 p.m. Tuesday morning.
Nineteen mushers have scratched so far including Hugh Neff who was having trouble traveling on Norton Sound, according to an Iditarod press release.