UNALAKLEET — Dan Kaduce was calm and relaxed at the checkpoint here Sunday afternoon. He ate pizza next to his 14 dogs as they rested under clear sunny skies with just about 250 miles left to the finish line.
You’d hardly know that Kaduce and his dog team had some of the fastest run times on the way to Unalakleet. He continues to post screaming run times up the Bering Sea coast. And he’s the only musher in the field who still has 14 dogs. Everyone else has sent at least one dog home as they race down the trail.
So how has Kaduce managed to keep all the dogs he started with?
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “You do things long enough and sometimes you get lucky.”
Kaduce lives in Chatanika outside of Fairbanks with his wife Jodi Bailey who also races the Iditarod. This is Kaduce’s fourth Iditarod, he’s placed as high as 16th last year.
Like other mushers, he said, he’s putting a lot of effort into dog care. He said he’s particularly focused on giving his team lots of food, as well as adapting their eating schedule to the temperature.
“If it’s warm out, I try not to feed very much while they’re running. Only while they’re resting,” he said. “If it’s cold, they can get it shoveled at them every two hours.”
Kaduce and his 14 dogs raced out of Unalakleet at 6:53 p.m. Sunday. They made it to the next checkpoint, Shaktoolik, in 5 hours and 7 minutes — a faster run time than every team in front of them.
The steady runs and strong team have helped Kaduce move to the front of the pack.
He left McGrath — about a third of the way through the race — in 20th position after taking his 24-hour stop. By the halfway mark, he was in 11th. Then he moved up to 7th. And by Monday evening, he was in 4th.
While he has won a handful of Yukon Quest 300-mile races, he said he’s not getting sucked into competition.
“For me, the way to go is just mush the team in front of me and pay no attention. If you’re faster than me or are willing to cut on rest, have at it,” he said. “If you’re slowing down or you haven’t quite paid attention, I’m comin’.”