It wasn't a fit night out for man or beast when Libby Riddles, 28, of Teller, Alaska, and her 13 dogs made their way across the sea ice of Norton Sound on the 15th day of the 1,135-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome. A blinding blizzard, whipped by 70-knot winds, was so fierce it kept the other race leaders—Duane Halverson, Lavon Barve and John Cooper—pinned down in the village of Shaktoolik, 229 miles from Nome. Riddles's decision to forge on alone through the storm, said the male mushers, was "silly." But it was the kind of move that separates the women from the boys, the winners from the losers. Two days later, Riddles mushed across the finish line VA hours ahead of Halverson to become the first woman to win the supermacho Iditarod. "I left those guys in my dust," she chortled.
The 13th annual Iditarod was a particularly rugged test. Storms twice halted the race, the trail was often badly marked, and mishaps induced 15 of the 61 starters to quit by the time Riddles crossed the line. One dropout was Susan Butcher, 29; she finished second in the '84 race but was knocked out this year when an irate moose killed two of her dogs.
Riddles, who scraped together part of the $7,000 she needed for the Iditarod by sewing and selling fur hats and garments in Teller, has been a musher for 12 years. Last summer she trained her dogs by demonstrating sledding techniques to tourists. "I thought I had the team to do it," she said after the race, "but I didn't know if I could keep up my end of it."
Her plans for the $50,000 first prize include a possible trip to Hawaii for herself and a box of biscuits for each of her dogs.