Jeff King battled through blowing snow and poor visibility Tuesday to earn his third victory in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
King, of Denali Park, crossed under the burled arch that represents the finish line of the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome at 4:52 p.m. Alaska time, with an unofficial time of 9 days, 5 hours and 52 minutes.Arriving in second place at 7:39 p.m. with an unofficial time of 9 days, 8 hours, 49 minutes was Willow's DeeDee Jonrowe, greeted by handwritten signs reading "Go DeeDee Go!"
Her time was just 12 minutes off last year's first-place finish, turned in by Martin Buser of Big Lake.
Jonrowe, a sentimental favorite still seeking a win in 16 Iditarod tries, praised her nine-dog team, saying they had tried their best. She led much of the way to Nome, falling back in the race's last third along the windswept Norton Sound coast
"It's not a first-place finish, but if they give the max, it's still first place to me," she said of her dogs. Second place pays $47,872.
Race veterinarian Stu Nelson said it was the first Iditarod he knew of where no dogs had died along the trial by the time a winner arrived at Nome.
King rode the final five blocks through downtown Nome with his 6-year-old daughter Ellen accompanying him on the sled runners, accepting congratulations from spectators lining the chute to the finish.
He gave his lead dog, Red, much of the credit for the victory.
"He went from a good lead dog to a fantastic lead dog throughout this race. I've never had a better one," King told Gov. Tony Knowles, who called to offer his congratulations.
The final 77 miles from White Mountain were particularly tough, with snow and winds so fierce that King said he could barely see Red at the front of the harness line. But Red, a veteran, knew the way to Nome.
"I don't feel very rugged right now," he said, perched under a red-white-and-blue winner's arch, lead dogs Jenna and Red flanking him, each dog wearing the traditional garlands of yellow roses.
King also credited a strategic Monday at Koyuk, when he and Jonrowe began to head out and agreed to return to their tents for more rest.
"I had a heart-to-heart talk with DeeDee," King said. "She was hunkered by her sled, I was hunkered by the sled, each of us waiting for the other to go."
King said he and Jonrowe, who are friends and ran the trail together the past several days, agreed to work together to secure first and second place by not battling each other at that point in the race.
With that, the two leaders returned to resting tents, allowing the dogs to rest 90 minutes longer as well. King said when it came time to go, he awoke Jonrowe as promised - leaving three other ex-champs to rest on - and the two departed together.
"Not that they (the other drivers) would have jumped up and gone, but we'd rather not announce our departure," King said.
King answered reporters' questions Tuesday while absent-mindedly massaging Jenna's feet as he'd done hundreds of times while checking his huskies at checkpoints.