There are currently four women running among the top-20 in this year’s Iditarod. This year’s race could be both extremely fast and extremely competitive. The women in the race aren’t holding back.
After placing second last year to Dallas Seavey, Aliy Zirkle decided she was no longer just training dogs, but she’d also need to train herself to claim an Iditarod win.
“We decided our lifestyle oughta be a little more fit. Our dogs are the most fit athletes in the world and standing on the back of the sled like a big lug seemed a little bit unfair,” Zirkle said.
This is Zirkle’s 13th Iditarod. She has her sights set on a win, but she’s learned that anything can happen on the way to Nome.
“The first 300 miles, I run my own team, because I’ve gotta see what I’ve got,” Zirkle said.
Zirkle has a friendly rivalry with fellow musher Michele Phillips. The two battled for first place in last month’s Yukon Quest 300, taunting and jeering each other down the trail. Phillips, from Tagish, Yukon is running her fourth Iditarod. Her highest place was 16th.
“I’d really like to finish top ten. That’s my goal, so I hope we accomplish that,” Phillips said.
When asked about the competitive women’s field, Jodi Bailey, who runs dogs out of Chatanika with Dan Kaduce, was surprised to find out people consider her one of the top women.
“I think that might be a slight mistake. People make that list based on what we have done and accomplished and that’s great, but you need to consider what our goals are for an individual race. This year Dan and I have a young team we’ve been working on building for the future,” Bailey.
Other women rounding out the field include veteran Kelley Griffin, as well as Jesse Royer who may have lucked out when she decided to train her dogs in the warmer Montana climate.
“It’ll be good for me. I’ve definitely been training at a lot of 40 above, so it’s not gonna hurt me any,” Royer said.
The 10-day forecast isn’t calling for terribly frigid weather along the Iditarod trail this year.
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