Another Iditarod musher drops out

Mary Pemberton
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DeeDee Jonrowe takes a break with one her sled dogs at the Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday. She later decided to bow out of the race. (Al Grillo/AP)

NIKOLAI, Alaska ” Already feeling overwhelming fatigue, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher DeeDee Jonrowe ate some oatmeal and sipped on hot chocolate as she and her team got some much-needed rest.

“I am bone-tired,” Jonrowe said Monday at the Finger Lake checkpoint, as she speculated whether the 25-mile per hour winds and the 30-below wind chill were sucking the strength from her body or if the long-term effect of chemotherapy was making her feel especially lousy.

Jonrowe, 53, decided to bow out of her 25th Iditarod Monday at the Rainy Pass checkpoint in the Alaska Range after taking a series of nasty falls on the trail. Jonrowe broke her little finger and may have incurred more damage to her hand, officials said Tuesday.

Jonrowe, who finished fourth last year, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and underwent a double mastectomy.

“It is harder after chemo,” Jonrowe said. “I am not going to be silly and try to pretend that didn’t make a difference. It did.”

Jonrowe was the second of the Iditarod’s best and most experienced veterans to scratch from the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

It also ended early for four-time champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., who withdrew Monday after being injured in a spill on a slick and icy hill a few miles before Rainy Pass, just two days into the race.

Race officials said Swingley, 53, may have broken ribs and possibly dislocated a thumb. He told them he wanted to scratch because he didn’t think he could properly care for his dog team. Race rules do not allow mushers to get help with the care and feeding of their dogs.

Swingley’s dogs were not injured in the accident.

Swingley, who won in 1995, 1999, 2000 and 2001, knows that better than most. He scratched from the 2004 race after frostbiting his corneas when he took off his goggles when the wind chill factor was 90 below zero.

Swingley and Jonrowe weren’t the only veteran mushers having trouble.

When Rick Swenson of Two Rivers ” the Iditarod’s only five-time champion competing for the 31st time ” was asked how his race was going this year, he said “poorly,” while packing up his gear to pull out of the Finger Lake checkpoint, one checkpoint before Rainy Pass and about 200 miles into the race. He rested his team 3 1/2 hours.

“I’m here and I sure don’t want to be,” Swenson said, with more than half a dozen teams already out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint 30 miles up the trail. “I stopped here because I had to.”

Swenson said his team had been running well before the race, doing 100-mile training runs, but wasn’t performing the same for the big event.

“The dogs just need a break,” he said, as his team slept on beds of straw at the checkpoint set up on a frozen lake in the Alaska Range.

Teams at the front of the pack on Tuesday were making the 80-mile run from Rohn to the village of Nikolai on the Kuskokwim River. Jason Barron of Lincoln, Mont., 35, was the first musher to leave Rohn, 850 miles from the finish, at 9:09 p.m. on Monday. He was followed about an hour later by Cim Smyth of Big Lake, 29, and Lance Mackey of Fairbanks.

Mackey, 36, just got his third consecutive win in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Both his father, Dick, and brother, Rick, have won the Iditarod.

Mackey was followed by Zack Steer, 33, of Sheep Mountain and four-time champion Martin Buser, 48, of Big Lake.

Musher Jeff Holt, 46, of North Pole, dropped out of the race at Finger Lake on Monday evening after blacking out on the trail, Iditarod officials said. Musher Jacques Philip, 49, of Nenana, has also scratched.

Eighty-two teams started the race Sunday from Willow, about 80 miles northwest of Anchorage. The first team is expected to cross the finish line in Nome, a historic gold mining town on the Bering Sea on Alaska’s western coastline with a rough and tumble frontier spirit, in about nine days.


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