So, are you warming up for the Iditarod?
The epic 1,000 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome starts this Saturday. Longtime readers know, I'm a fan, and I will be posting some updates.
In 2023 we have the "Southern Route", which is slightly longer than the "Northern Route" used last year, and which actually passes through the ghost town of Iditarod. The race ping pongs routes because of the wear and tear of the race on the trails and native villages along the way. There are 26 checkpoints.
It will take the leading teams about eight 1/2 days to finish (last year's winner Brent Sass finished in 8d 14h 38m 32s). The last teams could take five days longer, or more.
This year there are 33 competing teams, a small contingent compared to recent history (last year there were 49, a more typical number). Each team comprises one human musher and 14 dogs. (Used to be 16, but was reduced a few years ago.) Each team starts 2 min apart in Anchorage on Sat, the "ceremonial start", and then starts again 2 min apart on Sun, the "restart" in Wasilla. The times are leveled in the mandatory 24 hour rest stop, to be taken at any checkpoint along the way. Teams must also take an 8 hour rest at any checkpoint along the Yukon River, and an 8 hour rest at the penultimate checkpoint in White Mountain.
When to rest and how much is a key factor in the racing. Over time the teams have evolved to shorter run and rest times, now averaging about 4 hours on and 4 hours off. The teams travel faster in the cold and dark - snow is harder and faster - and slower in the warm and light. But of course you can get lost out there too...
I often like to root for a woman musher - humans and dogs of both genders compete equally in dogsled racing - going back to my initial introduction to the Iditarod by longtime champion DeeDee Jonrowe, who I met when she gave a motivational speech as a cancer survivor to my company Aperio.
This year I'm rooting for Mille Porsild, a Danish musher who now lives in Alaska. She was the 2020 rookie of the year and won an award in 2021 for best dog care. She finished 14th in 2020, 5th in 2021, and 15th last year. And she just finished 2nd in the Yukon Quest 450, a perfect warmup! She's not a favorite to win, but a good outsider pick. Go Mille!
This picture of Mille and team was taken during the Yukon race. She has a Facebook and posts pics and videos during her races, so that will be extra cool. Stay tuned.
Mushers are not allowed to receive information electronically outside of checkpoints, but they are allowed to send and receive in a checkpoint, so these days mushers often take pics and videos en route and then post when they reach a checkpoint. Yay, WiFi.
The teams are all in last minute prep now, distributing food and supplies to checkpoints, watching the weather, and planning strategy.
I have a bit of work to do also; I have to resurrect my Iditarod Tracker, which is a great way to follow the racing. Stay tuned for that!