Iditarod Mushers Continue to Gamble with Rest, Long Runs and Extreme Cold

According to the Iditarod race rules, teams have to rest for 24 hours somewhere along the trail. They also have to take an eight-hour mandatory rest before they leave the Yukon River and again near the end of the race.

Most teams have already taken most of their required rest. For those that haven’t, it’s a gamble: they could either be low on downtime or they could benefit from saving their rest after a few long runs and extremely cold weather.

Musher Aliy Zirkle says there was a 50-50 chance she would stop for 24 hours in either Galena or Huslia. She opted for Galena.

“I stopped early just because I wanted to check in with my team because I wanted to make sure they looked as good as I thought they did as opposed to on down the trail and they do look as good as I thought they did, so that’s exciting,” she said.

The Galena dog yard started to fill up in the late afternoon Thursday as teams parked for their 24 hour layover. (Photo by Emily Schwing)
The Galena dog yard started to fill up in the late afternoon Thursday as teams parked for their 24 hour layover. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Zirkle is one of only three mushers currently running in the top-10 that has not yet taken a mandatory eight-hour rest along the Yukon River. It’s a gamble that may pay off. Added rest could help dogs recover from a series of long runs and extreme cold in the first half of the race.

In Galena, Jason Campeau says it’s part of his race plan to save his eight-hour layover for later.

“Yeah, I think the next couple runs are tough runs, so if you don’t have any longer rest before that until White Mountain, it might be hurting and the dogs might be real slow, so I think having a big rest after these big runs will be a big key,” Campeau said.

But Richie Diehl, says he regrets not taking his eight-hour rest early.

“Maybe in Tanana or Ruby, somewhere back there,” Diehl said. “It would have probably helped these guys a little bit more, especially the ones that I had to drop, they might have benefitted, but I didn’t do it so I’ve got to deal with the consequences now.”

Ray Redington Jr. believes early rest is better for his team.

“I always take my eight hours as soon as I can and it seems like it puts it back into the dogs and keeps them together a little bit better,” he said.

Kelly Maixner agrees.

“I don’t think resting early is as hard of a decision to make as resting later,” he said.

Maixner says he can always rest his team beyond what’s required by the race rules.

“Hopefully, it will work out,” Maixner said. “I don’t get another mandatory long rest for the rest of the race until White Mountain, but you can always rest if you want to.”

But resting beyond the mandatory number of hours is a gamble. Extra rest always benefits the dogs, but it comes at the expense of the team’s overall race time.