Posts Tagged With: mushers

Iditarod XLI Finishers Banquet

Finishers Banquet

The Finishers Banquet took place Sunday afternoon in Nome. Rookie Christine Roalofs was off the trail in time to receive her Red Lantern Award, the award given to the Iditarod’s last place finisher. “As a former volunteer who used to stand here in Nome at these banquets and watch the finishers get up here and accept their awards, I’m just as honored as I could ever be to be one of you guys,” Roalofs told the hall of mushers, race officials, and veterinarians.

Upon receiving his GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award for first musher into the Iditarod checkpoint, Lance Mackey joked that he would use some of the $3,000 in placer gold nuggets awarded to him to replace his missing front tooth. Mackey broke the tooth on the trail while biting into a piece of fudge. He more seriously added that he would buy his girlfriend some earrings.

It was the third time Mackey won the Halfway Award.

In addition to the seven-course meal Martin Buser enjoyed in Anvik as part of his Millennium Alaskan Hotel First Musher to the Yukon Award, the veteran musher was presented with a tray of $3,500 in one-dollar bills and a bottle of Dom Perignon.“I’m very much looking forward to ending my sober streak which started at Thanksgiving,” Buser said.

Receiving his Wells Fargo Bank Alaska Gold Coast Award, which he won for being first into Unalakleet, Mitch Seavey quipped, “I understand that when I arrived in Unalakleet I was supposed to be Aaron Burmeister.”

Burmeister led for much of the stretch from Kaltag to Unalakleet before Seavey overtook him, just beating Burmeister into the checkpoint.

Seavey received a trophy and $2,500 in gold nuggets for reaching the Bering Sea Coast checkpoint first, a nice addition to the $50,400 and brand new Dodge Ram truck he won for winning Iditarod XLI.

Here’s a listing of the awards presented at Sunday’s banquet. Looking at some of the checkpoint awards, it’s interesting to note how often the lead changed throughout the race.

Pen Air Spirit of Alaska Award (first musher to McGrath checkpoint)Aaron Burmeister

GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award (first musher to Iditarod checkpoint)– Lance Mackey

Millennium Alaskan Hotel First Musher to the Yukon Award (first musher to Anvik checkpoint) – Martin Buser

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska Gold Coast Award (first musher to Unalakleet checkpoint) – Mitch Seavey

Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Winner’s Truck Award (Iditarod XLI winner)– Mitch Seavey

Wells Fargo Bank Winner’s Purse (Iditarod XLI winner) – Mitch Seavey

ExxonMobil Mushers Choice Award – Mike Williams, Sr.

Alaska Airlines Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award – Jake Berkowitz

Horizon Lines Most Improved Musher Award  – Nicolas Petit

Northern Air Cargo Herbie Nayokpuk Memorial Award – Mikhail Telpin

Sportsmanship Award –Cim Smyth

City of Nome Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award Winner – Tanner, Mitch Seavey’s lead dog

Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time from Safety to Nome Award – Ramey Smyth, 2 hours 19 minutes

Jerry Austin Rookie of the Year – Joar Leifseth Ulsom

Northern Air Cargo Four Wheeler Drawing Winner – Anna Berington

Golden Clipboard Award (presented to best checkpoint) – Ophir

Golden Stethoscope Award (presented to best veterinarians) – Dr. Sterling Thomas & Dr. Dirsko von Pfeil

Red Lantern (last place finisher) – Christine Roalofs

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Look, Up In the Sky! It’s Kibbles! It’s Bits!

Iditarod Food Bags

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the 2013 Iditarod, mushers living in the Alaskan interior are bringing their supply and dog food bags to the Air Land Transport in Fairbanks to be shipped to Anchorage. Each of the 67 mushers signed up thus far have been bagging and dropping off around 40 bags full of dog food, human food, and supplies weighing 1500 to 2000 pounds total. The bags are labeled with the mushers’ last names and the name of one of the 20  checkpoints along the trail where each is to be delivered. The food bags will be flown from Anchorage to the various checkpoints along the trail by the Iditarod Air Force, a team of volunteer pilots who fly food, supplies, and tired or sick dogs to and from checkpoints.

40 bags x 67 mushers = a lot of dog food in the air over Alaska.

Full story here: http://www.adn.com/2013/02/18/2793619/interior-alaska-mushers-prepare.html

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Who Are Those Crazy Iditarod Mushers Anyway?

Iditarod Blizzard

Who would be crazy enough to mush dogs over 1100 miles in freezing, unpredictable weather, across difficult, sometimes dangerous terrain, for a purse that, by American sporting standards, is relatively small? And who would spend years breeding, raising, and training dogs, at great personal expense, to enter such a grueling race, not once, but many times? For some, many, many times?

It helps to be Alaskan. It’s not necessary, but it helps. And even if you’re not Alaskan, after racing several Iditarods, there’s a good chance you’ll become one. You also have to love the wilderness–the bitter cold wilderness. And, of course, you have to love huskies. You have to love them because it’s the only way–even after all the breeding, raising, training, and fitness regimens–that they’ll pull you a thousand miles through inclement weather across a sometimes difficult-to-find trail.

The musher-dog bond is a mysterious one.

You also have to like being alone–or, at least, alone with the dogs–for days on end. In her book Race Across Alaska, written with Tim Jones, 1985 Iditarod champion Libby Riddles describes stopping on the way to the Elim checkpoint to rest and give her dogs and herself a snack. After feeding her dogs lamb and eating some trail mix and moose jerky herself, she contemplates the still night.

Then I sat on the sled with the light off, enjoying the darkness and the silence. A part of me wanted life to be like this always: just me and my dogs, alone in this vast, silent country, our goals always sure, living out of the sled day after day. This was the most seductive feature of the Iditarod, the reason I would come back time and time again, despite all the suffering that went along with it: this intimacy I had with those fine animals…and with the magnificent land of Alaska.

And so these mushers come back, time and time again, and along with them come the rookies, some of whom will, perhaps, learn what they have learned and come to feel what they have felt, the inextricable bond between the musher, the dogs, and the land.

Below, in alphabetical order, are some of the most notable mushers in Iditarod history. An “x” preceding a name indicates a musher entered in the 2013 race.

John Baker

x-John Baker: Fifty-year-old John Baker was born, and currently lives in, Kotzebue, Alaska. Of Inupiat descent, Baker won the 2011 Iditarod with a record-breaking time of 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds, besting Martin Buser’s previous record by three hours. He is the first native Alaskan to win the Iditarod since Jerry Riley took first place in 1976. Since completing his first Iditarod in 1996, Baker has finished 13 races. He has placed in the top ten in all but three of them. His website can be found at www.teamjohnbaker.com

Martin Buser

x-Martin Buser:  Martin Buser was born in 1958 in Winterthur, Switzerland. He is a four-time Iditarod champion, winning in 1992, 1994, 1997, and 2002. Buser moved to Alaska in 1979 to train and race huskies. He entered his first Iditarod in 1980. With his 2002 win, he held the fastest finishing time of 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, and 2 seconds until John Baker broke his record in 2011. Following his 2002 win, Buser became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He owns Happy Trails Kennels in Big Lake, Alaska.  The website can be found at www.buserdog.com

Susan Butcher

Susan Butcher: Susan Butcher was a four-time Iditarod champion, winning in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990. With her 1986 victory, she became the second woman to win the Iditarod. She then went on to dominate the race in the late 1980s. Butcher was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and moved to Alaska in 1973. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005 and died in 2006 at the age of 51. In 2008, Governor Sarah Palin signed a bill making the first Saturday in March in Alaska “Susan Butcher Day,” coinciding with the Iditarod’s ceremonial start.

Carl Huntington

Carl Huntington: Carl Huntington mushed to victory in the second Iditarod in 1974, becoming the race’s first native Alaskan winner. He finished in 20 days, 15 hours, 2 minutes, and 7 seconds. Born in Galena in the Alaskan interior, he is of Athabaskan descent.

DeeDee Jonrowe

x-DeeDee Jonrowe:  One of the Iditarod’s most popular mushers, DeeDee Jonrowe is a  three-time Iditarod runner-up. She holds the fastest time for a woman, completing her 1998 race in 9 days, 8 hours, 26 minutes, and 10 seconds. She has finished 28 Iditarods and placed in the top ten 15 times. Born in 1953 in Frankfurt, Germany, her father was a United States Army officer stationed overseas. Her family moved to Alaska in 1971. Jonrowe competed in her first Iditarod in 1980.

Part of what makes Jonrowe so popular with fans is her remarkable resilience on and off the trail. In 1996, she survived a car accident outside of Fairbanks that killed her grandmother and injured her and her husband. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, underwent a double mastectomy, and went on to compete in the 2003 race just four weeks after completing chemotherapy. She is married to Mike Jonrowe. The couple lives in Willow, Alaska. DeeDee’s website is  at www.deedeejonrowe.com

Jeff King

x-Jeff King: Jeff King belongs to the elite group of four-time Iditarod champions, winning in 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2006. He also won the Yukon Quest, another 1000-mile-plus sled-dog race, in 1989. With his 2006 win, King became, at age 50, the oldest musher to win the Iditarod. The 57-year-old King was born in North Fork, California. He moved to Alaska in 1975 and began racing in 1976. He lives in Denali, Alaska. The website for his Husky Homestead Kennel can be found at www.huskyhomestead.com

Dick Mackey

Dick Mackey: Dick Mackey competed in the first Iditarod in 1973. He won the closest ever Iditarod race in 1978, beating Rick Swenson by a mere one second. His winning time was 14 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes, and 24 seconds. He is the father of Iditarod champions Lance Mackey and Rick Mackey.

Lance Mackey

x-Lance Mackey: Forty-two-year-old Lance Mackey holds the record for consecutive Iditarod wins, with four in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. He also won four consecutive Yukon Quests in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2007, Mackey became the first musher to win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod in the same year. He did it again in 2008. These stunning accomplishments happened after Mackey was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001. He scratched from the 2002 Iditarod and took a year off to recover before coming back to train for, and eventually dominate, the race. His father is Dick Mackey. His half-brother, Rick, won the 1983 Iditarod. Mackey lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. The website for his Comeback Kennel can be found at  www.mackeyscomebackkennel.com

Emmitt Peters

Emmitt Peters: Emmitt Peters was born in 1940 in the interior Alaskan town of Ruby. He is of Athabaskan descent. While still a rookie in 1975, he became the second native Alaskan to win the Iditarod, breaking the previous speed record by six days. His winning time was 14 days, 14 hours, 43 minutes, and 45 seconds. Peters earned the nickname “The Yukon Fox” because, according to him, “I’d sneak away from all my competitors and have five or six teams chasing me.” He completed 25 Iditarods.

Libby Riddles

Libby Riddles: In 1985, Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod, with a finishing time of 18 days, 20 minutes, and 17 seconds. Facing some of the worst weather in Iditarod history, she won by mushing alone into a fierce blizzard on Norton Sound. Riddles was born in 1956 in Madison, Wisconsin. She moved to Alaska at 16. Her website is at  www.libbyriddles.com

Dallas Seavey

x-Dallas Seavey: Dallas Seavey is the youngest Iditarod champion, winning the 2012 race at the age of 25. His winning time was 9 days, 4 hours, 29 minutes, and 26 seconds. He is the son of Mitch Seavey, the 2004 Iditarod champion, and the grandson of Dan Seavey.

Dan Seavey

Dan Seavey: Dan Seavey competed in the first Iditarod in 1973, finishing third with a time of 20 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes, and 16 seconds. He was instrumental in helping Joe Redington Sr. organize the first race. He is the father of Mitch Seavey and the grandfather of Dallas Seavey. Last year, at the age of 74, Seavey ran in his fifth Iditarod wearing bib number 100 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. He is originally from Red Wing, Minnesota.

Mitch Seavey

x-Mitch Seavey: The son of Dan Seavey and the father of Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey won the 2004 Iditarod with a time of of 9 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes, and 22 seconds. He competed in his first Iditarod in 1982 and has run every race since 1995. In 2008, he won the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, setting a new record with a time of 74 hours, 14 minutes, and 37 seconds. Seavey lives in Sterling, Alaska.

Mary Shields

Mary Shields:  In 1974, Mary Shields became the first woman to complete an Iditarod, placing 23rd. Today she gives tours of her home and her huskies in the Goldstream Valley, north of Fairbanks. www.maryshields.com

Robert Sorlie

Robert Sorlie: From Hurdal, Norway, the 52-year-old Sorlie is the only non-American to win the Iditarod, coming in first in 2003. He won again in 2005.

Rick Swenson

Rick Swenson: Rick Swenson is the winnningest musher in Iditarod history, with five wins in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1991, earning him the title “King of the Iditarod.” He is also the only musher to win in three separate decades. Until Dallas Seavey’s 2012 victory, he was the youngest musher to win the Iditarod at the age of 26. Swenson has completed 26 Iditarods. In 1978, he came in second in the closest Iditarod finish ever, losing to Dick Mackey by one second. Swenson moved to Alaska in 1973 from Willmar, Minnesota. He currently lives in Two Rivers.

Doug Swingley

Doug Swingley: Doug Swingley has won the Iditarod four times, in 1995, 1999, 2000, and 2001. He is the only winner from the lower-48 states. He lives in Lincoln, Montana. He married Melanie Shirilla under the Burled Arch in Nome in 2002.

Dick Wilmarth

Dick Wilmarth: A miner and trapper from Red Devil, Alaska, Dick Wilmarth won the first Iditarod in 1973. His winning time was 20 days, 49 minutes, and 41 seconds. His part of the purse amounted to $12,000. Wilmarth later said that first race was not really a sled dog race but “a time to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness with friends.” He never competed in another Iditarod.

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Anatomy of a Dog Sled

Sled Diagram

Sleds used in the Iditarod come in many designs, shapes, and sizes and are made from various natural and synthetic materials. Traditionally, and for the first Iditarod in 1973, sleds were made entirely of wood, typically birch. A few of today’s indigenous mushers still make their own sleds the way their ancestors have for centuries. However, most mushers today purchase commercial dog sleds. Such sleds have become pretty hi-tech over the years, utilizing toboggan-style designs, stanchions reinforced with carbon fiber or fiberglass, and even pull-down seats or collapsing handle bars. They can cost thousands of dollars. However, the basic parts of a professional dog sled remain pretty much the same. Above is a diagram showing the different parts of a sled. Here are some brief descriptions of the parts:

Brush Bow: An arched piece of heavy plastic or wood at the front of the sled that acts as a bumper. In a collision with a tree, snow bank, or other sled, the brush bow receives the shock of the impact and keeps the rest of the sled from being damaged.

Stanchions: Vertical pieces of wood between the runners and top rails, forming the framework upon which the rest of the sled is built.

Top Rail: Curved pieces of wood along the top of the sled that hold the stanchions in place and form the top of the cargo basket.

Cargo Basket: As the name suggests, this is where a musher stores his or her supplies while on the trail. A heavy-duty nylon sled bag fits over the basket to protect supplies. The basket is large enough for a musher to sleep in, using the sled bag as a tent to protect from bad weather. Also, if a dog gets sick or injured on the trail, a musher can carry the dog in the basket to the next checkpoint. You’ll often hear the expression “dog in basket” or “dog in bag.”

Runners: Two long strips at the bottom of the sled that slide along the snow, ice, or dirt (yes, dirt!). The runners extend beyond the back of the sled for the musher to stand on. Runners are made of wood or metal and topped by strips of plastic to protect them and help them slide more easily over the snow. The strips of plastic can be removed and replaced when they become worn or damaged.

Foot Boards: Strips of rubber or plastic that fit on the back of the runners for mushers to stand on. They give the musher traction so he or she won’t slip off.

Handle Bar: Arched piece of wood or metal at the back of the sled extending from the runners and forming the highest point of the sled. Used by the musher to hold onto the sled and steer. Tired mushers on the trail have been known to tie themselves to the handle bar so they won’t slide off the sled if they fall asleep.

Claw Brake: A spring-action steel claw that attaches to the rear of the sled brace running from front to back. It is positioned between the musher’s feet. When the musher steps on the brake, the claw digs into the snow, causing the sled to slow down (but not come to a full stop).

Snow Hook (not shown): A large steel or aluminum hook that attaches to the sled with a rope or other line and is used to anchor the sled when stopped. It looks something like a big two-pronged fish hook. Snow hooks are designed to dig into the snow when pulled to keep the dogs from running away with the sled. A horizontal piece between the two prongs allows the musher to dig the hook into the snow with a heel or pull it out with a hand. Snow hooks can also be anchored to a tree to keep the dog team and sled in place. Some mushers have snow hook holders attached to their sleds to keep the hook in place when not in use.

Next up: Who are these crazy mushers who dare to tackle the Iditarod, anyway?

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The Iditarod Trail

Map of the Iditarod Trail

Iditarod Trail (map shows northern and southern routes). © 2008 Iditarod Trail Committee

Above is a map of the route sled-dog teams will follow for the Iditarod, which starts March 2. It is the official map put out by the Iditarod Trail Committee. Iditarod veteran and bush pilot Don Bowers (now deceased) wrote some wonderfully detailed descriptions of what sled-dog teams face on each leg of the race. They can be found here (scroll down to the table links) along with a printable version of the map.

I’ll mention only a few of the trail’s more salient features.

The first thing to note is that the map shows the trail splitting at Ophir, near the halfway point of the race, into a northern and southern route before meeting again at Kaltag. The northern route is used during even-numbered years (e.g., 2008, 2010, 2012), the southern-route during odd-numbered years (e.g., 2009, 2011, 2013). The southern route was added to the race in the late 1970s for several reasons:

  1. To involve the southern villages in the race.
  2. To include the historic gold rush town of Iditarod.
  3. To give the northern villages a break by having the race run through them only every other year.

This year’s mushers will, of course, follow the southern route.

CHECKPOINTS AND MANDATORY RESTS

Mushers must check in with a race official at each labeled checkpoint. The race official notes the musher’s time in, number of dogs, and asks whether the musher will stay to rest or pass through the checkpoint. For most checkpoints, staying or going is up to the musher. However, there are three mandatory checkpoint rests each musher must take:

  1. One 24-hour rest, to be taken at a checkpoint of the musher’s choosing. Most mushers take this long rest at McGrath.
  2. One 8-hour rest at one of the checkpoints on the Yukon river (for the 2013 route, this would include Anvik, Grayling, and Eagle Island).
  3. One mandatory 8-hour rest at White Mountain.

Mushers may also rest anywhere along the trail between checkpoints provided they move off the trail to make way for other dog teams.

During checkpoints rests, mushers unharness their dogs and spread straw for them to rest or sleep on. (Before the race, mushers arrange with the ITC to have straw bales and dog food shipped to the various checkpoints.) Mushers remove their dogs’ protective booties and apply ointment to the dogs’ feet. They also feed the dogs before getting a hot meal and sleep themselves.Veterinarians at each checkpoint along the route examine the dogs for any health issues. If a dog is overly tired, sick, or injured, a musher can drop it from the team at a checkpoint. (Mushers start the race with a maximum of sixteen dogs and must have at least six on the towline when they finish.) Mushers are not allowed to leave sick or injured dogs on the trail between checkpoints. If a dog gets sick or injured or dies on the trail (which is rare), the musher must carry it in their sled basket to the next checkpoint.

THE ROUGH STRETCHES

The trail from Willow to Finger is a relatively trouble-free run, though during this early stretch of the race sled-dog teams still have to contend with fans, media, snowmobiles, etc. Once they clear the Alaska Range, after Rohn, they head into the Alaskan interior where they are pretty much on their own, at least between checkpoints. However, they do sometimes have to contend with wildlife on the trail. Moose can be a particular problem, especially when there is heavy snowfall. The moose sometimes use the trail to get better footing. This can lead to violent encounters between moose and dogs. During the 1985 Iditarod, veteran musher Susan Butcher had to withdraw from the race after two of her dogs were killed by a pregnant moose.

The difficulties with the trail itself start after Finger Lake, as sled-dog teams make the 3,000-foot ascent up the Alaska Range to the Rainy Pass checkpoint. On the way to Rainy Pass, sled-dog teams encounter the Happy River Steps, a series of three sharp, twisting descents. Sled brakes often get a good workout tackling this part of the trail, and it can be particularly treacherous during periods of high winds or blizzards.

After reaching the summit at Rainy Pass, sled-dog teams make the steep descent down the western side of the Alaska Range into Dalzell Gorge, a several-mile winding drop into a frozen river valley. It is quite a wild ride! Here is a video clip, shot by Aliy Zirkle, showing a musher’s perspective of heading into the Gorge.

Veteran musher and four-time Iditarod champion, Martin Buser, says of crossing this part of the Alaska Range, “It takes two days to get up it and two hours to get down.”

Once mushers reach the Rohn checkpoint, they’ve cleared the Alaska Range and the most difficult part of the trail. Still, there are some tricky stretches that await them, especially in bad weather.

The Farewell Burn

Between the 75-mile stretch between Rohn and Nikolai, mushers cross the Farewell Burn, the result of a 1977 forest fire that scorched over 300, 000 acres. When snowfall is light, mushers encounter a bumpy field of grass tussocks and deadfall poking through the snow. It can make for a bone-jarring ride that has been known to break both resolve and sleds.

Once mushers reach the ghost town of Iditarod, they’re halfway to Nome.

The Yukon River

The southern route along the Yukon River, between Anvik and Kaltag, can be challenging as mushers sometimes face fierce 50 mile-per-hour headwinds across the desolate tundra. Windchill can bring the temperature down to 50 degrees below zero.

The Bering Sea

Mushers reach the Bering Sea Coast at Unalakleet. High winds and blizzards coming off Norton Sound are not uncommon. Between Shaktoolik and Koyuk is a 50-mile stretch across sea ice where it is easy to lose sight of the trail in a blizzard.

In addition to these highlights, sled-dog teams face slick glaciers where dogs find it hard to get their footing and mushers work to control their sleds; undulating hills and sharp hairpin turns; holes in the ice; narrow ice bridges spanning rapidly moving water; missing or misplaced trail markers; fighting dogs; dogs in heat; unfriendly wildlife; and trees, trees, trees. It’s also easy for lead dogs to lose the scent of the trail, especially for teams who are out front. Front-runners have to  break trail, which can slow them down considerably. Warmer winters raise temperatures on some parts of the trail to 30 – 40 degrees, which is hard on huskies used to running in -20-degree weather.

Other than that, it’s a sled ride.

Not that you’ll be seeing me try it anytime soon!

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The Super Bowl Is Over. The Iditarod Is Near!

Iditarod Ceremonial Start

ATIA/Matt Hage

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to turn our attention to a real test of grit and endurance. No oblong balls tossed around a grass field. No helmets or shoulder pads. No roaring crowds or smiling cheerleaders or meticulously choreographed halftime shows. Just men, women, and dogs pitted against the worst nature has to offer.

On March 2nd, the 41st Annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway in Anchorage, Alaska. In two-minute intervals, each sled-dog team (69 teams are slated to go thus far) will line up and start beneath a banner strung across downtown Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue, the ceremonial starting line for what has come to be known as “The Last Great Race.”

The ceremonial start is not the official start of the race, but the beginning of an 11-mile parade through the heart of Alaska’s most populous city and out across its environs. It’s an opportunity for fans, family, friends, and news media to view the mushers and their dog teams up close before they tackle the sparsely inhabited Iditarod Trail, a gold- rush-era freight and mail route snaking over 1,000 miles through the Alaskan interior to Nome on the Bering Sea Coast. The official race start, or “restart,” as it’s called,  takes place the following day in Willow 70 miles north.

As the dog teams take on the desolation, challenging topography, and extreme and unpredictable weather of the Alaskan Bush, I will be covering the race via this blog–from the warmth and safety of an apartment Outside. “Outside” is how Alaskans refer to the lower-48 states (or, sometimes, anywhere outside the state), which is why this blog is called “Iditarod from Outside.” Wildly popular in Alaska, and an important part of the state’s heritage and culture, the Iditarod gets little attention Outside, save for an occasional mention in the sports sections of  local and national newspapers. The race is not covered by any of the major American sports television networks.

I myself am new to the Iditarod. Although I’ve been aware of the race’s existence for some time, I only began to seriously follow it last year, when Dallas Seavey became the youngest Iditarod champion at the age of 25. Now, after learning more about the race, I’m hooked–or, rather, harnessed! Through this blog I hope to harness others. (Of course, Iditarod aficionados are welcome to peruse the site and should feel free to correct any misstatements or misunderstandings in the comments section below.)

This month, for those unfamiliar with the Iditarod, I’ll post background information on the race: its origins, history, the people who made it possible, notable events and mushers, terminology, and other odds and ends. Then, starting March 3rd, I’ll cover the race itself with daily updates on team standings. During the race, I may post more than once a day if anything noteworthy happens.

Typically, the winning team crosses the finish line in Nome nine days after the race’s official start. However, I’ll continue covering the race until the nose of the last lead dog passes beneath the “Burled Arch” five or six days later.

I’m excited about this year’s race, and I hope some of my excitement rubs off on you.

Stay tuned….

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