NOME, Alaska — Susan Butcher, breaking the record time she set last year, out-dueled her archrival and neighbor Rick Swenson on Wednesday to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Butcher and her team won $50,000 by being the first to trot under a spruce log arch on Front Street in this historic gold rush community on the coast of Norton Sound.
She covered the more than 1,100 miles from Anchorage in 11 days, 2 hours, 5 minutes and 13 seconds--about 13 hours faster than last year when she won the race.
Hugs Lead Dogs
Butcher, surrounded by thousands of spectators celebrating Alaska's popular winter sport, hugged her lead dogs and her husband and said: "It feels really good winning twice."
Butcher's winning dogs began nodding off to sleep after crossing the finish line, but Butcher said she was not tired and would "take a week's break and then start training for next year's race.
"I have 150 dogs at home. I'll be training them for future races all spring and summer," Butcher said. "They're all treated like pets. They do it for me because we mutually like each other."
Rival Won Four Times
The victory made Butcher only the second person to win the marathon mushing contest more than once. Swenson has won it four times.
Swenson conceded the race even before Butcher arrived. He held up in Safety, just 22 miles from the finish, to rest his dogs. He had been only 20 minutes behind when the final sprint from White Mountain began early Wednesday, but could gain only one minute over the next 55 miles.
Butcher and Swenson live 3 1/2 miles apart in the tiny mining and dog mushing community of Eureka, which is about 80 miles northwest of Fairbanks.
Butcher and Swenson both own and operate kennels, and Swenson spends summers working as a gold miner.
Race of Champions
This year's contest was billed as the race of champions with special emphasis on Butcher and 1985 winner Libby Riddles, the only two women ever to win the race.
But Riddles scratched last week short of the halfway mark, and by Wednesday three other former winners were running well behind the leaders.
The Iditarod is the longest sled dog race in the country. Named after an abandoned gold rush town midway along the route, the race commemorates the 1925 relay in which mushers rushed diphtheria serum to Nome.