How could I forget the Iditarod? I have followed this annual dog sled race off and on since it began in 1973. More on than off, but college, small kids, and cable TV issues interfered here and there. Thank heavens for the internet.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth, here are some quickie facts:
- The Iditarod is run from Anchorage, Alaska (Which is actually the ceremonial start. The official start is in Willow just outside Anchorage.) to Nome, Alaska. The Iditarod is around 1000 miles. It differs a little between the Northern Route (run in even years) and the Southern Route (run in odd years).
- More than 50 mushers enter each year. Only experienced mushers can participate and must have completed three smaller races in order to qualify. No one convicted of animal neglect is allowed to participate. If the Iditarod Trail Committee feels a musher is unfit they will not be allowed to compete. This holds true during the race. Last year one musher was pulled because it was felt that a cut he got on his hand was too severe to allow him to continue.
- There are 26 checkpoints on the Northern Route and 27 checkpoints on the Southern Route. All mushers must check in to these checkpoints in order.
- All mushers start the race with 16 dogs on the tow line. With 66 teams this year that’s 1,056 dogs on the trail. They must finish the race with no less than 6 dogs.
- Mushers are allowed to drop dogs at the various checkpoints but must check in with all the same dogs they left the previous checkpoint with. If you lose a dog out on the trail, you’re done. One musher has had to scratch so far this year because a dog got loose when a team in front of him stopped suddenly causing his dogs to bunch into a ball. The dog got loose as he was untangling the lines and, spooked because of the mess, took off. The owner has flown in to help catch her as she has been seen hanging around a nearby town. It is the dog’s third Iditarod. It has been reported that another dog is loose, but no word on whether it has been caught or if the musher has had to scratch yet.
- Vet checks are required for the dogs before the race and are also inspected when a musher stops to rest at the checkpoints. Like with human athletes, no performance enhancing drugs are allowed.
- During the race the mushers are required to take one 24 hour layover anywhere on the trail, one 8 hour layover along the Yukon River (a difficult and often nasty portion of the race), and one 8 hour layover at White Mountain, just before the last hard haul into Nome.
- Dogs burn about 5,000 calories a day. This along with the need for regular hydration means that the mushers must stop regularly along the trail to feed and water their dogs. This entails building a fire and melting snow for water. The mushers are required to carry a pot that holds no less than three gallons of water, but it still takes a serious chunk of time to get the dogs fed and watered. Did you know you can burn snow? You have to add water to the pot to avoid this.
- The fastest winning time is 8 days, 18 hours, 46 min., 39 sec.
- In Nome, at the start of the race, a lantern known as the “Widow’s Lamp” is lit and hung on the Burled Arch. This lantern remains lit until the last musher arrives safely in Nome, which takes anywhere from 13 days to thirty.
Well, so much for a few facts. I love this race and could go on and on. Here are some links if you want to get caught up (the race will probably end on Tuesday).
The official website: http://iditarod.com/race/?vid=22246 I like to read the news stories here as they often include local cultural and historical facts. They also have some videos you can watch even if you haven’t paid to be an Insider. The ones I recommend are “Run Dogs Run” just to see a bunch of dogs doing their thing and “DeeDee and Her Wild Ride” to hear one veteran woman musher’s account of a bad day. I can’t get a link to each individual video so you have to scroll through the Insider Videos to get them. DeeDee is under Trail Stories.
The second site is the Anchorage Daily News http://www.adn.com/iditarod/# The articles are good as well, but I really love the daily photo montages. Usually around 35 photos of life during the race that day.
I would really love to see Martin Buser win his 5th Iditarod, but his dogs caught a bug and aren’t moving as well. Mitch Seavey was the first into Unalakleet today. It was a comment on how bad the travel was that both he and Aaron Burmeister were running single leaders on their teams coming into Unalakleet. “What’s that?” you say. When the going gets tough, the mushers put their tough guy lone wolf type leader on a single lead out in front of the rest of the dogs. This is the dog that gets the job done and prefers doing it alone. “Quit” isn’t in their vocabulary. They not only help “marshal the troops”, so to speak, they also have to have an instinct for the trail. Knowing the best line of travel and where the trail is in a white out situation is invaluable to the whole team. It takes a lot out of them being out in front on their own, but when it’s nasty, that’s where they prefer to be. A good lead dog is priceless.
Life At Our House
Yay! Saver is home for Spring Break this year. A special treat as there is a good chance she won’t be home for the summer again.
Play practice is continuing for Spider Bait. He is playing John in “Peter Pan” this year.
Out In The Yard
They look pretty much the same as last time, so no comparison shots. I can tell you trying to set this picture up was a bear because they are all nice and smooth and didn’t want to play nice with each other. They are now in the polish cycle and should be out on Friday. WooHoo!
Hope everyone had a good weekend!