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Dog team arrives at Iditarod checkpoint without its musher; where did he go?

When the dog team of Linwood Fiedler pulled into Ruby, the fourth checkpoint of the famous Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska, someone asked, "Where's Linwood?"

The 63-year-old Fiedler, competing in his 23rd Iditarod, was not on the back of the sled when his team of dogs arrived at the checkpoint in the darkness at around 4:10 a.m. Thursday, according to KTUU.

Where was Linwood, indeed? The stretch between checkpoint Tanana and Ruby is 119 miles, he had to be somewhere in between.

About an hour later, the question was answered.

Veteran mushers Paul Gebhardt and Ken Anderson pulled into Ruby having picked up Fiedler on the trail about eight miles before the checkpoint.

What happened? Fiedler fell asleep and fell off his sled.

"I thank Paul and Ken," Fiedler told KTVA reporter Dave Goldman. "They saved my bacon."

KTUU reported that the trail leading into Ruby along the Yukon River is relatively boring and, according to racer Rick Casillo, could make it easy to fall asleep.

Goldman said in his report that though sleep deprivation is part of the race, the No. 1 rule of the Iditarod is to stay with your team, a tenet supported by one commenter on the KTVA Facebook page.

"Like driving a car, if you feel that tired, pull over," the commenter wrote. "Love the dog races, but the musher is responsible for the dogs and you can't note if a dog is faltering if you are asleep. It puts the lives of your team at risk. Happy all are all right, but this should not be acceptable."

After a 7 1/2-hour layover in Ruby, Fiedler was back on the trail heading for Galena.

"Now you've seen it all," a cameraman in Ruby quipped.