One of my favorite annual events – the Iditarod – gets underway tomorrow in Anchorage, Alaska. The 1000 mile (1600 km) long dogsledding race is amongst the toughest in the world, with top mushers on hand to compete in one is arguably the most well known and iconic even the sport has to offer.
As usual, the ceremonial start will take place on the streets of Anchorage on Sunday morning, before the mushers and their teams of dogs move to the Campbell Airstrip for the official restart on Sunday. From there, they’ll face hundreds of miles of challenging trail that stretches across the Alaskan wilderness all the way to Nome.
Last year, the lack of snow caused the restart to take place in Fairbanks, and the Iditarod trail wasn’t in particularly good condition. This year, things are marginally better, with more snow out on the trail. It hasn’t been a particularly snowy winter in Alaska, but race officials say that it is ready for the 85 dogsled teams that will set out tomorrow.
Of those competitors, there are obviously a few that stick out as the clear race favorites prior to the start. It would be tough to bet against three-time champ Dallas Seavey of course, but his father Mitch is still a tough competitor too. 2016 could be the year that Aliy Zirkle finally breaks through and gets a win, while Yukon Quest champ Hugh Neff, as well as Brent Sass and Jeff King always seem to be lurking near the front. Or perhaps someone else will break out of the pack and surprise us with a new winner being crowned.
Having just gone dogsledding for the first time while in Canada a few weeks back, I know have a bit more of an understanding of what these men and women go through out on the trail. There is a lot of nuance and skill for the mushers and their dogs, and covering a 1000 miles will take its toll on just about anyone. The Iditarod is as much of an endurance sport as it is a dogsledding event.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting regular updates from the race. As always, it should be interesting to watch events unfold. Stay tuned for more.
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