A tightly crowded field such as this year’s race prompts dramatic moves by racers who want to move out to the front. Jeff King’s bold move through Ruby last night was just such a move. After a long cold run coming into Ruby, King stopped for just long enough to load his gear and moved on to Galena. In doing so he appears to have grabbed a few hours lead on the other front runners. He had already completed his eight hour break, and is now doing his 24 hour rest at Galena. The obvious question, why doesn ‘t every team just plunge on ahead like that? Not every bunch of dogs is capable of that kind of run, at least not with another several hundred miles left in the race. But King’s dogs are tested race dogs and his experience allows him to make the call as to whether they are up to such a run. Knowing he was taking a 24 hour break at the end had a lot to do with his choice as well. Of course it could turn out his move was too early, and he will sacrifice a small bit of speed for the rest of the race as a result.
Zoya Denure’s departure from the Iditarod at Tanana is bound to create quite a stir in the mushing community. For those unfamiliar with Zoya, she made her first Alaska appearance at my kennel as a handler, where she lasted 10 days before being terminated. She made her way to Fairbanks and later married John Schandelmeier, a veteran racer. For a full appreciation of the Zoya story, a visit to her many social media pages and website is a must. She is now known online as a former Super Model, but when hired at the Dog Farm she was a clerk in an insurance office in Madison, Wisconsin making $1500 a month and flat broke. A careful search online has revealed precious little about her former life.
Controversy erupted in February when Schandelmeier wrote a column for the Fairbanks paper which was critical of the racers scratching from the Yukon Quest. He was attacked by the commentators, who noted that his wife scratched more than any other racer in the world. They also noted that deciding to continue or not in a dog 1,000 mile dog race is best made by the person on the trail, not a commentator sitting at home.
Thus many race fans were watching closely as Zoya started the Iditarod. Her scratch marks the fourth time she has done so in five races. Racers will be watching for Schandelmeier’s commentary on this one.
Myron Angstman is a veteran of the Iditarod and past champion of the Kuskokwim 300 and John Beargrease sled dog races. He practices law in Bethel, Alaska. For more dog race stuff, check his website at angstmanlawoffice.com