August 18, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Fog for Finishers

Anna Berington who started mushing behind a collie and a Great Pyrenees brought 10 peppy sled dogs to the Burled Arch early on Thursday afternoon. She’s the 22nd musher to complete Iditarod XLVI. As a youngster in Port Wing, WI, Berington and her twin sister, Kristi learned about sled dogs from a neighbor. Soon the inventive duo pieced a sled together with a pair of skies and a milk crate. They hitched their pet dogs to the sled and their mushing career had begun. Of course there’s been many miles on the runners between those days in Port Wing and these days at their kennel in Knik. Anna has completed her seventh consecutive Iditarod advancing from 28th place in 2015. It was very foggy in Nome earlier in the day. This photo from the Post Office on Front Street back toward the Burled Arch might give you an idea of what visibility was like for Anna on the 77 miles from White Mountain to Nome. She said it wasn’t a sight seeing run because of all the fog but she’d seen it before and was happier to not have sun.

Arriving during the breakfast hour this morning in 21st place was Hugh Neff. Neff was born in Tennessee then moved to Illinois. While in Illinois, Neff worked as a professional Gold caddie. After coming to Alaska, he’s lived in many interior Athabascan villages. On the Iditarod run, Neff sees many friends from those villages. Neff has competed in thirty – yes THIRTY – 1,000 miles races since Y2K. He’s won the Yukon Quest twice and has place as high as 9th and 5th in Iditarod. In 2004 Neff earned Rookie of the Year Honors with 22nd place.

Earning 20th place was Norwegian Lars Monson. Lars joined Michelle Phillips in the chute. Monson has been a full time adventurer since 1991 and has spent more than 4,500 night in a sleeping bag, more than half in extreme winter conditions. His trademark is long expedition. He’s crossed Canada by foot, canoe and dog sled in 947 consecutive days. Compared to his other accomplishments Iditarod would be considered nothing more than a long weekend outing. Monson finished 29th in 2016; 26th in 2017 and has now moved into the top twenty. With a time of 10 days 11 hours and 38 minutes, Lars didn’t make the top 10 as he had hoped.

Michelle Phillips secured 19th place at 02:36 Thursday morning. During the Insider chute interview, Phillips characterized the race as WEATHER – blizzards, wind, and snow all combined to created lack of glide.   Phillips was born and raised in Whitehorse, YT. She grew up in an athletic family and trained for many years as a figure skater. She says she enjoyed challenging herself and training with such an elite and talented group of athletes. After training sled dogs and running the Yukon Quest, she was hookedth and received the vet’s Choice award in 2009. Phillips has completed nine consecutive Iditarod races beginning in 2010.

Mats Pettersson claimed 18th place at 01:55 this morning. Matts finished in 10 days, 10 hours and 55 minutes. Pettersson has a long history with long distance mushing in Norway. He’s considered the Swedish champion of long distance mushing. In four previous Iditarod runs, Mats has placed between 29th and 25th. He’s very happy to move into the top twenty in Iditarod XLVI. Pettersson is interested in Alaska Husky bloodlines and breedings. Mats has also played semi-pro hockey as a goalie.

Kelly Maixner announced he’d be taking some time off from Iditarod at the Award’s Banquet a couple years back. Kelly is definitely back with a sound 17th place finish. Maixner, behind a team of Mackey dogs covered the trail in 10 days, 8 hours and 34 minutes. Kelly practices as a pediatric dentist. Prior to becoming a dentist, he pursued a number of interesting careers – farmer, snowboard instructor, soldier in the National Guard, bartender, doughnut maker, Physical therapy assistant for the Phoenix Suns, state champion boxer and semi pro football player for the Bozeman Kodiaks. Kelly has completed multiple marathons and triathlons. He hopes one year to complete the Iditarod, climb Denali and race the Boston Marathon. Annually Dr. Maixner goes to Haiti to provide dental care.