“It was just one of those years that felt like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” Kaiser said.
Some of the trouble was sick dogs in the team. Sometimes sled dogs—especially from rural kennels– that aren’t used to being around other teams will pick up viruses on the Iditarod trail. . . and it took Kaiser a while to recover from that.
“Yeah, a lot of health issues that lasted a lot longer than they usually do and but they kind of coming around here just at the very end (laughs),” Kaiser said.
The dogs looked happy and healthy at the finish. Nine of them were in harness. Under the burled arch, one of the wheel dogs lunged at his line and whined to keep going. Kaiser, on the other hand, was ready for a break. In the last part of the race, he had the challenge of keeping inexperienced lead dogs going after he had to drop a few key leaders. It required other dogs to step up even though they weren’t used to leading much.
“They did step up and do well but it meant throttling back halfway through the race to make sure I took it easy on them so they could get me here,” Kaiser said.
One of Kaiser’s biggest fans at the finish was his father, Ron Kaiser, also a Bethel musher. He said he was very happy with his son’s accomplishment.
“He had a tough race and 13th is a very good finish in this field. A lot of great mushers [were] behind him,” said Ron Kaiser.
It was Pete Kaiser’s fourth Iditarod and he says it was his hardest. The trail was challenging. Mushers experienced everything from hot weather and water holes to blowing snow and deep trail.
However, Kaiser is optimistic about his future. He has raised a few new litters over the past two years, which could help keep Kaiser Racing Kennel remain competitive.
“There’s a lot of nice dogs at home, they’re really young,” Kaiser said. “Next year they’ll be two and probably be a nice talented group but they won’t have a lot of experience so I don’t know what my teams going to look like next year. It might be kind of a rebuilding phase.”
After Kaiser’s team left the finishing chute, Bethel race fans dispersed and are now waiting around for the next Y-K Delta musher to finish. Still out on the trail are Michael Williams Jr. of Akiak, Mike Williams Sr. of Akiak and Richie Diehl of Aniak.