Yukon musher Michelle Phillips has best ever Iditarod showing

The veteran musher finished 13th in the world's biggest long distance sled dog race, 1,600 kilometres across central Alaska. 'It's like a real chess game — the more you do it, the more moves you learn.'

Veteran musher finishes in 13th position in world's biggest long distance sled dog race

Michelle Phillips won the Yukon Quest 300 in February before heading to Alaska for the Iditarod. (Whitney McLaren/Yukon Quest)

Yukon musher Michelle Phillips credits her dogs and experience to her best-ever showing in Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race.

Phillips crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska, just after 2 p.m. Wednesday in a time of nine days, two hours, two minutes and 45 seconds. That put her 13th in the final standings.

She has been in every Iditarod since 2010. Her previous best placing was 16th.

"There's a lot of strategy. It's like a real chess game — the more you do it, the more moves you learn," she said.

"I've also found a bloodline of dogs that I work with a lot that work well with me."

Phillips with one of partner Ed Hopkins' dogs at the 2016 Yukon Quest. (Julien Schroder/Yukon Quest)

Phillips began the race in Fairbanks with 16 dogs. Four were dropped from the team during the race due to injuries or sickness, she said.

This year's course followed a northern route through central Alaska of 1,575 kilometres.

"I really love travelling with my dogs, I love being out on the land," said Phillips.

"It's really special to travel a thousand miles with your team — there's such a connection. And the people you see along the way — many of my friends, who are mushers — this is the only time I see them, really, 'cause we all live in remote locations," she said.

"I enjoy challenging myself and it just makes me feel alive ... I like it."

Phillips' share of the purse this year is $23,798 US. It sounds like a lot, she said, but it isn't.

"It is quite expensive to raise a dog for many years and you need a lot of them to develop a really good team. But it is nice to make some money, for sure," she said.

Ed Hopkins is a frequent competitor in the Yukon Quest. (Julien Schroder/Yukon Quest)

One difference for Phillips this year was that she was able to see her partner Ed Hopkins along the trail. Hopkins is also a veteran musher, but he wasn't racing in this Iditarod.

Most of the route is not accessible by road, but Hopkins and an Alaskan friend followed the race on snowmobiles.

Hans Gatt from the Whitehorse area was the only other Yukoner and Canadian in the race this year.

He finished in 15th place, arriving in Nome about two and half hours behind Phillips.

Gatt could not be reached for comment.

with files from Midday Cafe


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