ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle has been injured in this year’s race and flown to Anchorage in stable condition, a race official said.
There were few details about Zirkle’s injuries or the accident, announced in a statement by the Iditarod just before midnight Tuesday.
It said the 50-year-old Zirkle, a fan favorite running in her last race, was injured Monday evening as she was coming into the Rohn checkpoint. Rohn is about 188 miles into this year’s 860-mile race, shortened from the usual 1,000-mile distance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement from Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Marshal Mark Nordman said Zirkle was in stable condition. However, based on information he received from a volunteer with medical training, he called Alaska State Troopers to arrange for a medical transport to Anchorage, he said.
Zirkle and her husband, musher Allen Moore, own SP Kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, near Fairbanks.
A post on the kennel’s Facebook page indicated that Zirkle was injured between the Rainy Pass and Rohn checkpoints, but little was known because communications from the Rohn checkpoint are difficult because of the terrain.
Moore was headed to Anchorage to meet Zirkle, and volunteers at the Rohn checkpoint were caring for her dogs, the post said.
Zirkle announced on her website last month that this would be her last race, noting that the Iditarod has been physically and mentally challenging.
“I know that in the not so distant future, I will not be able to give it my 100%. So, I am retiring before I have to retire,” she wrote.
She told The Associated Press in 2017 that she suffered panic attacks and sought counseling after a man on a snowmobile attacked her and musher Jeff King in separate incidents in 2016 near the checkpoint in Nulato, Alaska. One of King’s dogs was killed.
“Over the course of almost two hours, one man, by using his snowmachine, made prolonged, aggressive and what I believe to be deliberate threats to me and my team,” Zirkle said in a statement just days after the attack. Snowmachines are what Alaskans call snowmobiles.
“I was terrified. Had it not been for my defensive reactions, we could have been maimed or killed,” she said at the time.
Zirkle has never won the Iditarod, but endeared herself to fans with three straight second-place finishes from 2012-2014. Since then, she’s had four other top 10 finishes. Last year, she placed 18th.
This year’s race started Sunday with 46 mushers, and one has since withdrawn.
The Iditarod normally goes from the Anchorage area to Nome, but because of the pandemic, mushers are traveling in a loop from Willow, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Anchorage, to the ghost town of Iditarod, and then back to Willow for the finish. To avoid spreading COVID-19, mushers are breezing through most rural Alaska villages that serve as checkpoints, and are instead resting in tent camps outside towns.
Ryan Redington, grandson of the race’s co-founder Joe Redington Sr., was leading the Iditarod Tuesday morning, the first musher to leave the Rohn checkpoint.