Well, you probably know that already. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had its ceremonial start on Saturday, March 3rd, in downtown Anchorage. This portion of the whole event is little more than a media circus photo op. Mushers are required to participate, but have little love for the contrived first day of the race.
In the early days of the Iditarod, in the late seventies and early eighties, the race actually started in Anchorage. With the city’s growth and the development of freeways, driving a dog team into the Alaskan wilderness from downtown became untenable. So the ceremonial start was developed. With TV cameras rolling and crowds cheering, mushers leave the start line on 4th Avenue in Anchorage with only twelve dogs on the team and an “Iditarider” in the sled. The Iditarider is an individual who has paid big bucks for the chance to ride eleven miles to Eagle River in the sled of his or her favorite musher. Riders in the sleds of top mushers pay several thousand dollars for that one-hour ride; the money goes to the Iditarod Trail Committee, not to the musher.
The real race starts on Sunday. Mushers must transport their teams by truck from Eagle River to the restart in either Wasilla or Willow. Timekeeping begins on Sunday, and mushers go out in the same order, wearing their number bibs, with all sixteen dogs in harness. Sunday is actually Day One of Iditarod. This year, 82 teams left the start line.
As of today, Day Three, ten teams have scratched, including two very experienced mushers, Doug Swingley from Montana and Dee Dee Jonrowe from Willow, Alaska. Both sustained injuries from sled crashes in the Alaska Range and were unable to continue. Swingley, who has won four previous Iditarods, was hoping this would be the year he would join Rick Swenson as the only five-time champions of The Last Great Race.
Our friend Aliy Zirkle is doing well so far. Currently she is in eighth place with fourteen dogs on the gangline. Mike Williams is in 43rd place, and Aliy’s husband Allen Moore is in 47th place. Positions will change a lot for the next few hundred miles, as mushers follow their pre-arranged schedules for runs and rests. After all mushers have taken their mandatory 24-hour rest, usually somewhere between McGrath and Shageluk, it will be a bit more clear who the leaders are. As always, Jeff King and Martin Buser are looking strong.
Bethel is keeping a close eye on its own Iditarod rookie this year. Andrew Angstman is a 25 year old man who was born and raised in Bethel. He grew up mushing sled dogs and learning dog lore from his dad, Myron, who ran the Iditarod in the late seventies, and who has won the K300 several times. Andy has run the Kuskokwim 300 and the Kobuck 440, and is a previous winner of the Bogus Creek 150. Bethel is pulling hard for its native son; everyone hopes he will be Rookie of the Year (i.e., the first rookie to finish).
For some interesting “insider” views, check out the SP Kennels blog written by Aliy’s sister Kaz. You can find it at: http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/.
Photos of 2007 Iditarod start by Peter G. Ashman, friend of The Tundra PA.
Labels: Dog Mushing