Surprise! King finds happiness in the middle of the pack
Twenty-fourth. At one time, it wouldn't have sounded good to Jeff King. But now it's a happy place.
There are only a few mushers that can claim four Iditarod crowns. Jeff King is in that exclusive club. Thursday saw a different type of finish as he made his way under the Burled Arch with 12 dogs in twenty-fourth place. It would his lowest finish since he placed twenty-eighth as a rookie in 1981. This was his Iditarod and at 62, he's still motivated.
"I feel really, really great," said King. "I'm thrilled and feel very blessed to be here and still have the motivation to go 1000 miles on a dog sled and enjoy it."
Overall, it was a slower pace, but this was a slower race.
"Somewhere around midway thru the race, I got balled up in a place without any help and a long night and drifted trail. I also dropped a couple of key dogs early and I just really wanted to make sure I got here in style, considering I had an unplanned stop out there, outside Iditarod. And then I have some young dogs, I really didn't think they were going to come the whole way, but, in fact, they did and were big values since I sent some others home."
If anything, this year's race built confidence for King in his young team.
"Super nice dog team. I'm very proud of it. I've even sent a message to my daughter this morning, 'this is an awful nice looking Kobuk 440 team, wanna take it?' she's going, 'yeah, man, I'll take it.'"
His attention is turning away from the competitive nature of Iditarod. He now thinks about life experiences while looking forward to new ones with his daughter Ellen.
"I have a daughter who's interested in running Iditarod next year. If she completes the 440 next month, she will be qualified. That's the plan. If so, I'd like to do a father-daughter trip up the trail. I think that sounds like a wonderful thing. I have another daughter that ran Iditarod in 2003, but I was still bent on getting here first. She made the trip in thirtieth place and I made it in second, I believe-- second or third. If I go with Ellen, I would love to do it-- be able to introduce her to some of my good friends along the way-- that's the plan. We'll take 'em one at time, but I really have...I may not move as fast as I have in years gone by, but I've never felt better, that's for sure. If I knew 60 was going to be this much fun I would have gotten here sooner."
In terms of this year's race, preparation was a challenge.
"Been a interesting race. Lots of snow and you know, you really have to train for this. And to train for this you gotta find snow like this. A lot of us didn't find snow like this. The trip over from Shaktoolik, I see on the paper/stat sheet I had one of the fastest times, and yet it seemed like one of the longest nights of my life. Really a tough tough run and always an adventure on the Iditarod. But, I can say, regardless of snow and wind, I haven't been cold the whole way and I'll take that over anything."
The four-time champion met challenges but crossed the line warm and in good spirits.
Now Jeff King can look forward to continuing doing what he loves while mentoring someone he loves.
And in his book, at this stage of his career, that's a win.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.