Ally Zirkle spent just nine minutes in Ruby, tearing through the checkpoint to reclaim the lead in the 2012 Iditarod early Friday morning in central Alaska. Zirkle was there just long enough to drop a dog -- Viper was "looking a little thin," she said -- and comment that it's long overdue for the famous sled dog race to have a woman winner.
It's about time a woman won the Iditarod again, [a fan] told Zirkle. The last time a woman won was 1990, when Susan Butcher won the last of her four titles.
"Women gotta get out there back in the front," the fan said.
"We gotta at least try, don't we?" Zirkle replied.
There are still 12 other mushers in Ruby, the first checkpoint on the Yukon River, including Mitch and Dallas Seavey, John Baker, Jeff King and another woman, DeeDee Jonrowe.
Typically, the first musher to reach Ruby wins $3,500 and, perhaps more importantly during the Iditarod, a gourmet meal, but this year a lack of sponsorship meant no such prize. Instead, Mitch Seavey heated up some of his own frozen spaghetti.
Seavey had to stay in Ruby until at least 6 p.m. EST, opting to take his eight-hour layover there -- all mushers must take an eight-hour layover at one of the four villages on the Yukon River (Ruby, Galena, Nulato or Kaltag). Mitch was joined for the layover by his son, Dallas. It's expected that both will then pass Zirkle once she decides to take her eight-hour rest.
Elsewhere in the race, a special congratulations to Jim Lanier, the first musher into Cripple, the halfway point, and the winner of $3,000 in gold nuggets. What was his secret? No sleeping -- the 71-year-old totaled just three hours of sleep in four days.
Lanier mushed through McGrath, where many mushers "take their 24" to enjoy bottomless pie pans and cooked-to-order cheeseburgers. But when he hit Ophir, 73 miles down the trail, Lanier encountered 1989 Iditarod champion Joe Runyun, he said.
"'You know, you should go for that gold in Cripple,'" Lanier recalls Runyun saying. "I hadn't really thought of that," Lanier said. Fourteen and a half hours later, the musher pulled into Cripple behind lead dogs April and October and collected his spoils. Everyone keeps asking him what he'll do with the gold. [...]
Lanier has a couple of ideas of his own. "I'd like to get a really nice lead dog," he said. "But I know what's more likely to happen. It'll wind up hanging from my wife's neck."
Coverage of the 2012 Iditarod can be found on the official website. With a subscription, one can track riders by way of GPS and watch video from the various checkpoints. For continued updates throughout the race, keep with this StoryStream.