The ceremonial start is going on now, and actual racing starts Sunday at 2:00 pm, Eastern Time (10:00 am in Alaska). Typically the restart, as it is called, leaves from Willow, but poor conditions there have moved it to Fairbanks. The race lasts 9 – 12 days, ending when the last team makes it to the burled arch in Nome.
The mushers leave at 2-minute intervals in a staggered start that keeps the dogs and sleds from getting tangled with each other. The time is made up by adding time to the 24-hour mandatory rest period. Every musher has to add two minutes to the rest period for every person that left after him or her. The first of the 67 mushers to leave Nome, Cody Strathe wearing Bib # 2, adds 134 minutes to his required rest period because he gets to start 134 minutes before Hugh Neff wearing Bib # 68, who takes only the required 24-hour rest period.
Think you know what goes into getting a race this big together? Aside from all the behind-the scenes preparations done throughout the year, here are just a few of the things that have happened in the public eye over the past month or so:
- Straw Packaging (straw is used to bed the dogs during rest periods)
- Dog Handler Class (for volunteers who handle dogs dropped from teams as the race progresses)
- Making Foot Ointment (gotta protect those hard-working paws!)
- Musher Food Drop in Fairbanks
- Musher Food Drop (at all rest stops)
- People Food Sorting and Packaging (hundreds of volunteers, mushers, veterinarians, etc.)
- Jr. Iditarod Start (mushers aged 14 – 17 race for about 150 miles, depending on the exact route)
- Jr. Iditarod Banquet
- Iditarod Teacher Conference (a big element of the race is educating people on the history of sled dogs and their importance in Alaska)
- Iditarod Media Briefing
- Mandatory Musher Meeting
- Meeting for Out of State Volunteers
- Iditarod Musher Meet and Greet
- Iditarod Musher Drawing Banquet (the drawing determines bid numbers, and thus, starting order
- Dog Handler Class
- Mandatory Idita-Rider Meeting (kids from Make-A-Wish and other fans ride along on the sleds for 11 miles during the ceremonial start)
A live feed of the ceremonial start is currently running on the Iditarod site. I’m not sure how long free live coverage continues, so check it out soon!
Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!