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Iditarod: the ceremonial start

Saturday,  03/05/16  08:08 PM

Today I watched the 2016 Iditarod's Ceremonial Start, a slow procession of each musher down 4th Avenue in Anchorage, accompanied by their Iditarider (a passenger who's paid for the privilege of riding along at the start).  The "live" coverage on Iditarod.com was great; charming, relatively low tech, and pretty informative.  I especially liked the little vignette interviews with each musher; you can learn a lot overall by picking out the little pieces here and there.

Tomorrow of course is the Restart, when the actual racing begins.  This year is even, so the Iditarod is taking the Northern Route, shown in purple on the map below:

Iditarod Map, 2016 will take Northern Route (purple). Click to enbiggen!
The Idita-route ... click to enbiggen.  In 2016 the race will follow the Northern (purple) route.

For those of you who are Iditarod rookies, welcome!  It's an amazing event.  Here are some of the key facts:

  • The race is about 1,000 miles, from Willow to Nome.  There are 21 checkpoints.
  • There are 86 teams in the race.  Each team has a musher (human) and sixteen dogs.  Each team must finish with at least five dogs.  If desired, a musher may "drop" a dog at any checkpoint, either because they are tired, injured, or for strategic reasons.  Most teams finish with 10-16 dogs.
  • Each team can rest or run whenever or however they please, but they must take one 24-hour rest (usually at McGrath or Takotna), then one 8-hour rest somewhere along the Yukon river (Cripple, Ruby, or Galena), and one final 8-hour rest at White Mountain.  There is considerable strategy in where to rest and for how long.
  • Dog sleds can run at 9-14mph.  A team can run for 6-8 hours before it needs rest.  The dogs need less rest than the mushers...  and burn about 10,000 calories each day!  A good time for the race is 10 days, and 8 days will probably win it.  This year is expected to be a little slow due to ice and wind.
  • Teams must carry [at least] a sleeping bag, ax, snowshoes, eight booties for each dog (to protect their feet from ice), an operational cooker and pot, and a veterinary notebook.
  • No communication with the outside is allowed, other than conversation between mushers at checkpoints. 
  • The teams each carry GPS trackers.  So we know where they all are, even though they do not!

I am rooting for DeeDee Jonrowe to win, she's the reason I became a fan in the first place, and is am amazing person.  Not only a 34-time competitor, but a cancer survivor and someone who has worked tirelessly to raise money for cancer research and cancer treatment "in the wild".  This year was especially tough for her, she lost her Mom and then her home in the horrible Sockeye Fire.  But she started and she's going to be competitive...  here's a picture of her team at today's start:

Go DeeDee!

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