'Go As Fast As I Can'

Mar 12, 2019

Musher Jessie Holmes' team rests in the Ophir checkpoint.
Credit Ben Matheson

Two teams are in White Mountain, waiting to run the last legs of the Iditarod to Nome.

Bethel’s Pete Kaiser will be the first out on the trail. He arrived at the checkpoint to start his required 8 hours rest at 8:05 a.m. on Tuesday. Last year’s winner, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, was right behind him, arriving 41 minutes later. That may sound like a cushion, but Kaiser says it doesn’t mean anything because Leifseth Ulsom has a fast team and is a tough competitor.

“We’ve been traveling together for quite a while, and he’s had some issues and stuff with his team,” observed Kaiser. “He never goes away, and I wouldn’t have expected him to. So not surprised at all we’re sitting here together after several miles of traveling together. Yeah, he’s tough. He’s got just as good a shot at winning this as I do. Probably be fun for the fans.”

Leifseth Ulsom was clearly winded when he arrived at White Mountain. He set about caring for his dogs and thinking about what’s ahead for this afternoon when the two teams get back on the trail. Leifseth Ulsom has a 41-minute gap to make up; he has only one plan left for this race.

“Go as fast as I can,” he laughed. “You give it all and hope it works out.” 

Pete Kaiser starts back on the trail at 4:05 p.m., and Leifseth Ulsom will be leaving right behind him at 4:46 p.m. Kaiser earned a $2,500 check from Northrim Bank for arriving in White Mountain first.

The rest of the Iditarod mushers are also making their way to Nome. Jessie Royer is on her way to White Mountain, and Aliy Zirkle and Matt Hall have arrived at Elim. On the way in to the Elim checkpoint are five teams: Mitch Seavey, Travis Beals, Page Drobny, Aaron Burmeister, and Ramey Smyth.

The Norton Sound ice may have claimed another victim. This year’s K300 winner, Matthew Failor, may be having dog trouble in exactly the same area that forced Nicolas Petit to quit the race yesterday. He left Shaktoolik yesterday at a little after 1:30 p.m. The tracker has him staying put for over 23 hours near the shelter cabin on Norton Sound a couple of hours outside of the checkpoint.

Five teams are resting in Koyuk this afternoon, getting ready for their run to Elim. Those include Aniak musher Richie Diehl, who arrived at 5:18 a.m.

There are only two Bethel rookies left on the trail. Jessica Klejka is on her way to Unalakleet and is expected into the checkpoint early this afternoon. Victoria Hardwick is mushing up the Yukon River. She is expected to arrive at the last checkpoint on the river this afternoon.