Some Iditarod leaders pushing race pace

Denali musher Jeff King at the 2016 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 5. (Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)
Denali musher Jeff King at the 2016 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 5. (Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)

Mushers seem to be pushing their dogs a little farther down the trail this year before they opt to take their mandatory 24-hour rest.

It’s a move Jeff King predicted at the ceremonial start of the race in Anchorage.

“I would just about bet the farm that if significant changes don’t occur in the weather and snow, there will be all kinds of teams going to Ruby and beyond, somewhere in there,” King said.

It’s a move King tried to pull off in his 2014 run for Nome. He was within roughly 30 miles of claiming victory in that race, before his team unexpectedly quit and he was forced to scratch from the race.

This year some mushers pushed the pace early, it’s a move that Cim Smyth thinks is risky, but he also says he’s worried

“There are a couple teams that are way ahead that are way too strong to make up a lot of time on,” he said.

Smyth didn’t name names, but he says he’s shooting to complete the race in under nine days.

Scott Smith is also hoping to finish up front. In Ophir he said he was in a good position to “battle.”

There’s a lot of good teams here though, so it’s gonna be a battle to the finish but it’s nice being in a position to battle,” Smith said.

This is Smith’s fourth Iditarod, so he knows there’s still at least 600 miles of tough trail ahead.

“We’re racing dogs. It’s not an easy job,” he said. “We’re dog mushers not ballerinas.”

But this year, at least one musher is moving a little more gracefully.

Former Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey seems to be having more fun than he ever has in the last three years.

“Well I’ve done some things in the past year to take care of myself personally,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of pain, a lot of back issues and things like that, which as a musher you just ignore, but doing this relatively pain free is a hundred percent different than barely being able to stand up.”