Iditarod Mushers Begin Ticking Off Mandatory 8-Hour Rests

Mar 8, 2019

Iditarod musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom leaves the Shageluk checkpoint on March 8, 2019.
Credit Ben Matheson

In the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, rough trail conditions and strategy are playing out on the Yukon River.

When Joar Leifseth Ulsom stood by and watched Nicholas Petit head out to the Yukon River, he wasn’t just giving his team a break, he was also getting his mandatory 8-hour rest off the table. He left this morning for Anvik exactly one minute after his eight hours were over.

This afternoon, Leifseth Ulsom caught up with Petit in Grayling, checking in just a couple hours behind the Girdwood musher despite having spent eight hours at a river checkpoint. The other mushers at Grayling this afternoon, including Jessie Royer, Pete Kaiser, and Mitch Seavey, also have yet to complete their 8-hours. If they plan to take their required rest in Grayling, they will be getting out on the trail late tonight.

Back at Shagaluk, Richie Diehl, Ryan Redington, and Matthew Failor, along with others, were getting on the trail with their 8-hours behind them. When Diehl left Shagaluk at 1:31 p.m., he was 40 miles behind Leifseth Ulsom. That’s a lot of miles to make up, but the day may come when Diehl can pass other mushers who are ahead of him, and they will have to sit and watch as their eight hours pass. There are a half-dozen other teams in Shagaluk who appear to be taking their required rests before moving on to the relatively clear and well-used river trails on the Yukon. 

Also this afternoon, Bethel rookie Jessica Klejka made it past the tussocks to Iditarod. Niklas Wikstrand is behind her, slogging over rough ground into the checkpoint. Victoria Hardwick has spent the afternoon in Ophir after getting there late this morning.