Iditarod dogs reach checkpoint without their dozing musher

Iditarod dogs reach checkpoint without their dozing musher

JUNEAU, Alaska — Add sleep to the already long list of hazards in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

A video posted on the official race website shows a dog team that arrived at a checkpoint without a musher. “Now you’ve seen it all, huh?” a man in the video says.

As the video scanned the faces of the mellow-mannered dogs, a man could be heard saying, “Where’s Linwood?”

That would be Linwood Fiedler, a race veteran. He arrived at the checkpoint about an hour behind his dogs after falling asleep and toppling off his sled, according to information accompanying the video.

Fiedler checked in at 4:09 a.m. Thursday and was back on the trail at 11:37 a.m., race standings show.

He told Anchorage television station KTUU that he had been fighting to stay awake.

“I was doing a pretty good job, and then I lost,” he said, laughing.

“I’ll tell you one thing. From the minute my body left the sled until my face smashed into the snow, I was still asleep,” he said.

Fiedler told the station he has fallen off his sled only a few times during his career. The last time it happened, he was awake, so he said, “Whoa,” and his dogs stopped.

“I was really hoping for a repeat of that last night,” he said. “You feel a little alone and naked walking down the Yukon River all by yourself in the middle of the night, looking at wolf tracks that every once in a while, you go, ‘Hmm.'”

Fiedler began dog mushing in 1977, according to his profile on the race website. For the last 16 summers, he’s operated a glacier tour business.

Race director Mark Nordman said Fiedler faced no penalty for his separation from his dogs.

“It’s another story for his book,” he said.

The winner of the nearly 1,609-kilometre race across Alaska is expected in Nome early next week. Racers set off from Fairbanks on Monday.

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press

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