Aliy Zirkle says her Iditarod team isn't competitive and she doesn't know why

Aliy Zirkle tends to her dogs on the trail of the 2019 Iditarod.
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NIKOLAI, Alaska (KTUU) - Aliy Zirkle says her Iditarod team isn't competitive and she doesn't know why.

"They're great dogs, they're happy dogs," she said while taking a rest Tuesday afternoon in Nikolai. "They're just not excited about going real fast, right now."

The Iditarod veteran, who has finished runner-up three times, is a favorite with fans. Less than 300 miles into a 1,000 mile race, Zirkle feels like it's virtually certain she can't win.

"I guess I'm six hours behind the front teams, probably, or maybe eight," she said, explaining that gap is likely insurmountable, even early into the race.

The reason for Zirkle's slow runs remain a mystery.

At first she thought it was due to soft snow that blanketed the first leg from Willow to Yetna Station. "And then, we hit good trail and everyone is passing me," Zirkle said.

More than half of the dogs are very experienced veterans, having run 10 or 11 thousand-mile races between them.

Zirkle is mushing a 14-dog team made up of eight dogs that ran the Yukon Quest five weeks ago with husband Allen Moore. There was nothing to suggest the team wasn't up for running another long-distance race, she said.

The Two Rivers-based musher put her younger dogs up front to run into Nikolai but she didn’t see an improvement.

Zirkle will keep mushing down the trail but is forlorn about her chances. “I see a lot of teams which are really good, they’re just not mine.”

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