Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dallas Seavey is Iditarod 40's champion

I grew up knowing that Mitch Seavey was a Peninsula musher. An "also ran" when I was growing up, Mitch wouldn't win his title until I was in college. Peninsula mushers were people we cheered for because they were "from the area" but they weren't the big names as far as teh media was concerned.

Then I was a "starving" college student in need of a job. I'd tried working during the school year and let's just say I'm still trying to get over that nightmare. I saw a job posting in Anchorage for "Ididaride" I figured that that was what the Iditarod called their giftshop. I was unaware of the Seavey's long time family business. Come to find out that it was a job for a gift shop of a new show they were planning for Anchorage called Wildride Sled Dog Show. It would later be renamed to Wildride Sled Dog Rodeo.

I vaguely knew who they were, and when I got called for an interview I was told I'd be meeting with Danny and Dallas. Dallas I knew only as one of the Iditarod rookies who was a couple years younger than I was and he finished. Not really enough to feel confident in getting a job with these people. But it was a shot.

I didn't get the job.

I got a different job. They needed someone who could run a sound board. Did I have experience. I'd worked at my church as a multimedia person, so I was in the sound booth but I worked with a computer. Didn't matter. I'd seen one, and I could turn one on. I'd learn the rest on the go. Two weeks before show time I was working 8+ hour days while everyone learned what the heck we were doing.

That job is still my favorite job I've ever had. Not counting my photography, I didn't get much more joy than when I was at the arena. Granted there were times we'd butt heads, and I shed tears over not knowing what I was doing, but I loved it. The people - were more like family - the being outdoors - ok so the threat of electrocution was bad - the puppies! - until they turned pirhana... I was hooked. I'd work for Dallas and Jen for the next four years. The last two years I also worked a full time job for the Federal Government as a receptionist. I'd finish work there and drive down to the Arena to help with the evening shows. The last year I worked, I did it so sparingly that I didn't take a paycheck. I just wanted to stay involved.

My move back to the Peninsula kept me from being a part of the action last year. Earlier this year - try a week before the Iditaod - I took a different job with the Seavey's. I'll be working for Danny now, not Dallas, but it's all pretty much the same. Tonight I got to be a part of Dallas's win.

No, I wasn't in Nome, but while Dallas closed in and then ran into Nome, I "reported" it on their social media. In a small part I felt a part of the whole process. It was an amazing acomplishment for Dallas, and I couldn't be more proud. Dallas and I might have butted heads numerous times while I worked for him, but he has my upmost respect. I've always been pulling for him - even though I promised him I wouldn't so I didn't jinx him - and it doesn't surprise me that he won. I downplayed it because I didn't want it to not come to be, but deep down I was bursting with pride.

Dallas is a worker, he's intelligent, he's personable; a great speaker. Watching him thank the Iditarod sponsors, and his supporters... talking about what got him to the win... he's one of the best choices to be the face of the Iditarod. They've been waiting for him to take it. And take it he did.

I'm delirious, if any of this makes sense I will be surprised... CONGRATULATIONS BUBBA! SO PROUD OF YOU!

History Rewritten

Around 6pm Alaska time, Dallas Seavey will pull into Nome's Front Street and aim his dogs to pass under the famous Iditarod Burled Arch. He will be be the youngest musher to win, beating Rick Swenson's long standing record, at just age 25.

Seavey has worked for this achievement over the last four years. He's built his kennel, trained his dogs, and worked his strategy for this moment. Whenever tourists asked what his goals were, one of them was to win the Iditarod before age 26. He had a record to beat. This was his year. Just like Lance Mackey in 2007 took his bib number, lucky #13, and said it was a sign that it was his year, Dallas knew this was his. After Mackey's win in 07, folks began saying 13 was a lucky number for Iditarod (Mackey's brother and father won their Iditarod titles with the bib #13). Today is the 13th of March.

Considering Mackey's declaration that he wanted anyone but Dallas Seavey to win due to his feeling that Seavey was cocky and obnoxious, well, one can't help but enjoy the irony.

Dallas will be pulling into Safety in just a few minutes it looks like. Safety is the last checkpoint to Nome. This is where he will don his bib - #34 - and snack his dogs. He will be congratulated, and it's a mere 22 miles more to go. Bells will begin ringing - large bells - church bells - and he will have the first of many moments. He could stop on the trail between there and the finish. Mackey did one year to congratulate his team before the craziness of the finish chute. He may snack his dogs. But he'll be headed to Nome. He'll be headed to family.

Meeting him in Nome will be his paternal grandmother, mother, brothers. More importantly his wife and daughter will be there. They knew he was going to win this year. Jen bought tickets well ahead of time, Annie was already celebrating daddy's new truck. Missing from the celebration: two men still on the trail beaming with pride. Mitch, Dallas's father, has been at that moment. He won in 2004. He was welcomed by his father, Dan, who is at the back of the race pack also missing his grandson's moment. They've been interviewed, they know that this is Dallas' moment. They want to be there, they're torn, they have a job to do, too. But, they get bragging rights none the less.

So an early Congratulations, Dallas! We're all sitting in front of TV and computer screens waiting to watch you finish!

Dallas Seavey could be champion by 7pm AKST Tuesday

He's being declared the winner already by many tonight, but there's still 77 miles to go. Plus 3. He hasn't even hit White Mountain and the manditory 8 hour layover yet. But he's leading. By five to six miles on Aliy, and more on Ramey Smyth.

Yes, that Smyth the one that nearly ran down John Baker last year. The one that, this year, was in the 30s position wise until jumping up to third this evening. The one that tried to catch Dallas and Aliy all afternoon. The one's that still about 12 miles behind. The one that could easily throw off everyone's predicitions.

It's now midnight, and I'm freaking tired. I can't imagine what Dallas and Aliy and rest of the mushers are feeling. I'm sure through the sleep depravation, Mitch and Dan Seavey are both keenly aware that their son and grandson is close to making history. Just about 77+4 miles away from his first Iditarod title. They may be exhausted, but they're proud.

But there's still 77+ miles to go.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No doubt now, only two in to win

Dallas Seavey and Aliy Zirkle are not just front runners, they're clearly the only ones with a solid chance of taking home the big prize. Aaron Burmeister is making a good effort, but it seems there's now too wide a gap between the top two and third.

Dallas breezed through Elim just forty minutes or so ago, taking time to only grab some hay and some food for the dogs, obviously planning to stop on the trail or in the town of Golovin where they do not have a drop bag location. He is still running in first and about three miles ahead of Zirkle. A lead that can be taken away from him if Aliy's team is willing to push that hard.

Report just in from Elim via Tyrell Seavey - Aliy is staying in Elim and Dallas has gone. Aliy may be hoping he pushes hard not know she's stayed and he'll tire his dogs out more than hers will be.

Can Aliy do it?

With Dallas Seavey seemingly firmly in the lead, many have wondered if the race is in fact over for Zirkle. Aliy, for most of the race, determined the pace for the rest of the field, and just two days ago had the world celebrating the idea of the first woman in over twenty years was going to win. Then Dallas Seavey made up a lot of time difference and followed that with taking control of the race in Unalakleet.

Dallas seems to be in complete control. He's a veteran of this race running six of the last eight Iditarods. He's steadily climbed the ranks, he's trained with the best mushers out there, and he's quickly and effectively built up a respectable kennel. Dallas has said all season that he fully intended to win the Iditarod in 2012. Not that it was the goal, but that he would. That's a big statement even for a 25 year old guy. It's been a long while since someone in their early to mid 20s has won. Rick Swenson holds the record of being the youngest at 26. Dallas has been pushing to beat that record since starting his own kennel.

Everything seems to be coming together for Seavey. He's stuck to his schedule for most of this race, only changing it up a bit now that he's on the coast. He's still gaining speed on some of the other front runners, and he's still very much aware of himself when it comes into checkpoints. Maybe he has one up on everyone thanks to his youth (I've actually never seen him exhausted, and he doesn't seem to find time to sleep, he is always moving)! Every analyst and musher along the trail has said this is his race to lose, and he doesn't look to be giving anyone that chance.

Dallas has rested his team more than anyone else here on the Coast, and is still ahead by nearly an hour. The more rest the dogs get at this stage in the game, the more they're likely to keep a faster set pace. The dogs will listen and trust their musher more if they know that he is taking care of them. That's not to say that those resting less are any less caring - far from it - but more rest is NEVER a bad thing. If he can afford to take it, he will. If he needs to take it, he's going to have to so that he can push them to the limit if it's a sprint for the finish - which Dallas has planned for.

Before you start mourning Zirkle's loss, however, reconsider. We still have quite a bit of trail before White Mountain, and there's a small enough gap that this race could still be determined between White Mountain and Nome. Zirkle is just two miles behind Dallas and is keeping the pace. She and her team have been showing signs of tiredness, but her dogs are willing to go with her to the end. While others - like Jeff King and Pat Moon - have had dogs flat quit on them and not move another inch, Zirkle's team keeps going... and going... and going... It looks like that's starting to wear on them, but who knows.

All Aliy has to do is keep within range, and wait for Dallas to make a mistake in judgement or for his team to tire. That is a huge possibility. But her team can tire, too. And there's still Burmeister and Baker to consider. This is the Iditarod. Anything is possible.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Anyone but Dallas. Anyone!!"

From http://www.facebook.com/ididaride - written by Dallas's older, wiser brother (ha ha!).

""Anyone but Dallas!!! Anyone!!" Lance Mackey reportedly hopes someone else wins, thinking Dallas is "cocky and obnoxious" according to ADN.

As his older brother, fan, and one of his best friends...I completely agree. He's a third child. Anyone who has one knows what I mean. He's a three time state and one time national wrestling champion, and represented the US in international tour...
naments. He's pretty darn good at everything from dog mushing, playing poker, throwing knives, telling stories, running businesses, shooting stuff, and public speaking. He has a beautiful wife and awesome daughter. He owns a home, a business and rental units. He has one of the best dog teams in the world. And he turned 25 last Sunday. I would admit it has gone to his head, but in a good way. Dallas is cocky in a confident way, and obnoxious in a fun way. Anyone who knows him knows what I mean; he's the clown, the joker, the one making everything fun. Sometimes at their expense, usually at his own. It takes a lot of self-confidence to swing for the bleachers. All those guys are some pretty confident dudes.

I don't blame Lance at all. I don't really think he means it in a negative way. Remember my post about the chances and consequences, Lance is having a rough year. All mushers say and do things when they're under stress, when they haven't slept in a week, and their dreams are turning into nightmares, that they normally wouldn't. I'm sure some of them have been related to me.


We've made the coast...

The West Coast of Alaska. You can see Russia from your house... well, okay maybe not. Just in certain places, and none of the front runners are much concerned with scenery. This could be the hardest part of their journey. The West Coast is brutal in cold, there are no trees really and the wind comes right off of the Berring Sea. It's a lot of white, and a lot of wind, and it can be demoralizing... and it's the last third of the way to Nome.

Up to now Aliy Zirkle has had an unprecidented command of the trail. Commentators, mushers, and fans alike all wondered if she could keep the pace all the way to Nome. Her run from Kaltag to Unalakleet suggested the team was tiring. Most have now turned their attention and bets to Dallas Seavey. Seavey was second into the town of Unalakleet, and is about an hour behind Zirkle. Dallas made comments before the race to family and friends that this was his year. He was going to win.

It's still a long way to Nome, and anything can happen. Burmeister is also within striking distance, and all it takes is a mistake or a slowing team and Aaron could take the prize. There's also King coming up fast. Mitch Seavey's team seems to have slowed with no plans to catch up. Mitch's race apparently ended in Ruby, now he's going to maintain to stay in the top 10.

Right now the top teams that have made their way into the first checkpoint on the Coast are resting. It was a cold night out on the River, and it's time to get a few winks and recharge and regas the batteries - both human and canine.

Can Dallas win? Sure. He's got a great team, he's extremely competitive, and he's within range. But, will he? So many are beginning to count Aliy out, but that's always a dangerous thing to do. How many times did we think King was going to beat Mackey in those four years? Things change, drama happens and anyone can win. I wouldn't be surprised if Baker's team also found their second wind and drove it home.

As for the drama of Mackey trash talking Dallas Seavey - who knows what's that about. Dallas can be cocky and obnoxious, that's a given. He's 25, one of the best at just about everything he sets his mind to, and what's "worse" is he knows it. That being said I've always heard him speak highly of his competitors, including Mackey. I've never been a fan of Lance, though I cannot deny his dogs are amazing. He won four consecutive titles, there's no way you can deny he has the gift. But that's where the admiration ends. That he's decided to pick on Dallas is not the reason, it's his mouth in general. With his whining of not being loved or appreciated by fans or the Iditarod, he completely turned me off. It doesn't surprise me he mouthed off about Dallas, as if Seavey's the reason his dogs crapped out this year.

Dallas has either not been told of the comments, or decided to take the high road and let his dogs' performance do the talking. Either way, in this case, Dallas easily wins. As Danny Seavey, Dallas' older brother, noted this morning on facebook, "Sorry Lance, but if you think Dallas was cocky already, wait till you see him in Nome!" Oh, snap!

Friday, March 9, 2012

How a fan watches the Iditarod

Duane, Dad, Belinda & Tonichelle at the Willow Re-Start
Let's face it, not all of us have the option to ride out by airplane or snow machine or live in an Iditarod checkpoint. We are sitting at home and waiting for any and all information we can get. Growing up, I remember waiting for the updates at the beginning and end of every school day in elementary school. By the time we were in Jr. High and High School interest in the race, for students, was non existant. If you weren't friends with a peninsula musher, chances are you weren't paying attention. Besides, the internet was booming and you could get updates via the Iditarod.com site or better still the Anchorage Daily News.

Back when I was in the single digits age wise I remember heading over to the post office after school every day and viewing the "current leader board" that they updated as much as they could. They had to call the COMMS department regularly. That's how it was watched before social media, it was all done with a phone call to the race central folk. Phones, I'm told, rang off the hook twenty four hours a day and the calls were from all over the WORLD. Now all one has to do is click a button.

Each team has a website, or the very least it seems a facebook page. Fans can interact with the handlers/family members/employees of the mushers. Most posting are not on the trail, but are watching from home. However, they've seen these dogs train and they know the mushers. And best of all? They know what they're talking about. You didn't have that in the early days. You had what the Iditarod Insider does now, you had an "expert" talking with newsreporters and hoping everything made sense.

Some of the "excitement" is taken away because we have information instantly (or at least with in 15 minutes or so). Fans are complaining that the current standings take "so long" to post (when in actuallity it is so much FASTER than when I was a kid). We have video within hours of it being captured. We have GPS. It's incredible. It brings a new sort of excitement, and armchair mushers can debate until the wee hours of the morning while they wait for the leaders to come off of mandatory rests before they can BS about something new.

And it's all so accessable.

Does that mean I don't want to be out there on the trail? No, if anything I wish I were there even more! The energy is amazing in a checkpoint, and it's a chance to really see the action unfold. And if you're a photog like me? Well, it's a great chance to get pictures that end up in magazines.

So, while it is frustrating that we don't truly see every SECOND of information as it happens, remember, it used to be SO MUCH LESS than what it is now. And go follow a few musher's social media sites. Especially http://www.facebook.com/ididaride - Danny Seavey is doing an amazing job with coverage.

It's the Seavey, Zirkle show!

Mitch Seavey leaves Willow Lake on Sunday.
Seavey is currently running in second place.
The 24 hour layovers did wonders for the top teams. Concern that Aliy Zirkle would not bounce back from her schedule seems to have disolved as she has a firm command of the trail at this point. Until a few minutes ago she was the only one headed to Galena with both Seavey's - who have been running 1 and 2 up to Ruby after their 24s - opting to take their mandatory 8 hour rest. Each team must stop for 8 hours in a checkpoint in one of the four Yukon River checkpoints. Zirkle has yet to take hers. Most expect her to rest in Nulato.
Dallas is, however, the one to watch. He posted the fastest run time to Ruby of the top contenders, and his team is looking solid and, the musher says, "spunky." Mitch was not as happy with his team, and sounds to be pretty tired himself. While Mitch was first to the Yukon, it may have come at a price. Mitch will be watching over his shoulder, and will not be surprised to see Dallas catch or even pass him. This is not to count Mitch out, time will tell if his team can kick into a new and unknown gear, he seems to be holding his own as he travels the second section of the Yukon.

Folks are still hoping for one of two historic options: Aliy Zirkle becoming only the third woman to win the Iditarod, or Dallas and Mitch running down front street in the 1-2 position in some order. Should Dallas win he will also become the youngest musher to win - taking that title from Rick Swenson who was 26 when he won his first Iditarod.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Iditarod sized intermission

Aliy Zirkle at the Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 40
Zirkle was first into Takotna last night.
The Iditarod mushers have quickly approached the point in the race where their rest strategies will begin to play out. The leaders last night all made it into Takotna and declared they were taking their mandatory 24 hour layover. For those less familiar with the race, every team must take a 24 hour stop within a checkpoing. In this time the dogs are looked over and cared for and the mushers eat and get a bit of rest themselves. This is also where the clock "restarts" as the 24 hour for those with the beginning bib numbers are required to take 24+.

Aliy Zirkle, who was first into Takotna and won the Spirit of Alaska award in McGrath, is looking at 106 extra minutes to make up for her default lead by being bib number 14 (the 13th musher out of 66). With the difference in time, the first of last night's top five to leave Takotna early tomorrow morning will be 2004 Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey. Seavey's team is creating a lot of buzz as being one of the best teams he's ever had up to this point. Following a few minutes later will be Seavey's son, Dallas, who's team has impressed everyone who's had the priveledge to watch them.

Earlier today 4-time champion Martin Buser and Buser's son Rohn both blew through Takotna on their way to the next checkpoint of Ophir. Fans are speculating if the Busers will rest together in Ophir or if one or both with go on to Cripple - and $3000 in gold - before taking their 24 hour layover.

This is the day that most Iditarod enthusiasts look forward to so that they too can get some rest, maybe take a shower, and do some overlooked chores around the house.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Zirkle channels her inner Libby Riddles on Iditarod run

Aliy Zirkle turned heads this evening when just nine minutes after running into the Iditarod checkpoint of Rohn, she headed out on her way to the little town of Nikolai. Zirkle will most likely find a place to camp along the trail, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy checkpoint. Zirkle left even with the storm warning coming to the area along the Kuskokwim River, which has many long time fans and media to think back to the race's first lady champion: Libby Riddles.

Still, Zirkle's and Riddles' runs are also drastically different. While Zirkle is taking the chance prior to her 24 hour layover, Riddles did so out on the Alaskan coast just miles away from the finish. Zirkle got out ahead of the storm, Riddles went through it. And Zirkle's storm is a storm warning, Riddles didn't have trail markers to follow because they blew away.

Riddles won with her gutsy move, it will be days before we will see if Aliy's strategy pays off, but one look at the tracker shows a host of past winners on her tail. Jeff King and Mitch Seavey are gaining, and at least one - Seavey - also plans to stop before heading into the next checkpoint. And there's still the 24 hour layovers where the clock is basically erased, and it's every team for themself afterwards. And we're not at the half way point of Cripple yet.

Iditarod leaders already into Rainy Pass

Hugh Neff leaves Willow Lake Sunday
Neff currently sits in second place.
Even with the heavy snow levels, the trail has not seemed to slow the leaders of the Last Great Race. Last minute changes to the trail - oh, yeah, the Steps were put back in - and the snow fall from Saturday did not seem to detour or change musher strategy. The top thirty are in Rainy Pass, with a dozen more on the horizon.

Saturday the decision was announced that the dreaded Happy River Steps were being reinstated. Earlier this year they had decided to take a trail that went around the steps to get onto Happy River, but it was determined that with all of the new snow that the trail saw in the last part of February, that the new trail was no longer considered safe for the dogs. some mushers were happy, others were just determined to get through safely.

All those worries seem to be for naught. Most of the veteran mushers are saying the Steps were the easiest/best they've ever seen. It seems the plus side of having the amount of snow that the trail has gotten was good for something, it created a buffer. So far there are no reports of major damage or injury. One crisis seemingly averted this year.

Moose were another worry in the weeks leading up to the race. Reports of mushers training their dogs last month were almost daily about a moose running into the team. Jr. Iditarod first and second place finishers, Conway Seavey and Ben Lyons, tangled with a moose just fifteen miles from the finish line (which is the start of the Iditarod). Zoya Denure's team was attacked and injured the night before the ceremonial start, with one dog - Demon - injured enough that he almost didn't make race day. Demon is sore, but fine, and is running with Denure's team.

Moose were also in several parts of the Ceremonial trail in Anchorage on Saturday. Tudor Crossing had a bull moose come into the trail and laydown. No amount of coaxing by the trail guards could get him to move and it took the Anchorage Police Department's Iditarod Patrol (snowmachines) to convince him to head back into the woods.

There's still plenty of trail, and danger lurks when we all least expect it, but it seems, for now, our worry up to race day was for naught.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where to watch the Ceremonial Start

I get asked this every year. I don't expect people to read this blog, so I know I will still answer this over and over, but just incase you stumble upon my blog looking for suggestions, here are mine.

First off, Downtown Anchorage. The race starts on Fourth Avenue - and it's well marked and blocked off. I think everyone should experience the madness and chaos at least once in their life, if only to understand why I don't go Downtown if at all possible! Ha ha! There's nothing quite like hearing the mushers be announced, hear the roar of all the dogs barking from all the teams getting so excited to finally be out there ready to RACE. The energy is overwhelming for many. If you're not big on photography or having an up close and personal seat to the teams, then 4th Avenue is great.

Next stop I would suggest is Goose Lake. This is a place that people really make a party for the event. Mushers tend to stop for a moment - especially if their fan groups are there (I think it's run by a group of Buser fans, if I'm not mistaken). There are no barriers, and trail guards let you get really close so long as you do not get in the way of the teams.

Just past Goose Lake is the second largest area of the trail that a lot of people come out for. Tudor Crossing. This is the spot that I am at every year (I trail guard) and it's perfect. It comes down near University Lake (dog walkers, PLEASE do not bring your dogs out to watch, they just get in the way. But if you must play stupid for a couple hours at the very least LEASH YOUR DOGS) and goes under Ambassador tunnel, and over the walking bridge over Tudor. There's a lot of parking. Alaska Air the last few years has given out Hotdogs. It's fun, and again you can get very close to the trail.

The last spot I would suggest is Campbell airstrip. This is where the 11 mile start ends and the dogs are packed back up and the mushers all head for Willow for the ReStart on Sunday. There's a different intensity here. Now the race will really begin. Teams are now locked into their 16 dogs, and it's game day. It's also a fantastic spot to take pictures from.

Where do you like to view the start?

Bib Numbers for Iditarod 40

Bib #Musher NameSexCityStateCountryStatus
2Redington Jr, RayMWasillaAKUSAVeteran
3Lanier, JimMChugiakAKUSAVeteran
4Pinkham, WilliamMGlenwood SpringsCOUSAVeteran
5Thurston, TomMOak CreekCOUSAVeteran
6Bailey, JodiFChatanikaAKUSAVeteran
7Marrs, WadeMWasillaAKUSAVeteran
8Smyth, CimMBig LakeAKUSAVeteran
9Petit, NicolasMGirdwoodAKUSAVeteran
10King, JeffMDenaliAKUSAVeteran
11Baker, JohnMKotzebueAKUSAVeteran
12Maixner, KellyMBig LakeAKUSAVeteran
13Suprenant, MichaelMChugiakAKUSAVeteran
14Zirkle, AliyFTwo RiversAKUSAVeteran
15Moon, PatMPark RidgeILUSARookie
16Herbst, TrentMAnchorageAKUSAVeteran
17Jonrowe, DeeDeeFWillowAKUSAVeteran
18Mackey, LanceMFairbanksAKUSAVeteran
19Cooper, TravisMBig LakeAKUSARookie
20Griffin, KelleyFWasillaAKUSAVeteran
21Smyth, RameyMWillowAKUSAVeteran
22Santos, MikeMCantwellAKUSARookie
23Willomitzer, GerryMWhitehorseYT CANADAVeteran
24Ekran, SigridFSparbuNORWAYVeteran
25Gebhardt, PaulMKasilofAKUSAVeteran
26Phillips, MichelleFTagishYT CANADAVeteran
27Neff, HughMTokAKUSAVeteran
28Kaiser, PeterMBethelAKUSAVeteran
29Berkowitz, JakeMBig LakeAKUSAVeteran
30Kinzer, JaimeeFWillowAKUSARookie
31Berington, KristyFKasilofAKUSAVeteran
32Steer, AnjanetteFSheep MountainAKUSARookie
33Berington, AnnaFKasilofAKUSARookie
34Seavey, DallasMWillowAKUSAVeteran
35Seavey, MitchMSewardAKUSAVeteran
36Linton, BruceMKasilofAKUSAVeteran
37Janssen, ScottMAnchorageAKUSAVeteran
38Savidis, JustinMWillowAKUSAVeteran
39Anderson, KenMFairbanksAKUSAVeteran
40Steves, JanFEdmondsWAUSARookie
41Buser, MartinMBig LakeAKUSAVeteran
42Robertia, ColleenFKasilofAKUSAVeteran
43Hendrickson, KarinFWasillaAKUSAVeteran
44Burmeister, AaronMNomeAKUSAVeteran
45Stielstra, EdMMcMillanMIUSAVeteran
46Olson, RyneFTwo RiversAKUSARookie
47Barnum, KirkMGrangevilleIDUSAVeteran
48Debruin, HankMHaliburtonONT CANADARookie
49Chlupach, BobMWillowAKUSAVeteran
50Sass, BrentMFairbanksAKUSARookie
51Williams, Jr., MichaelMAkiakAKUSAVeteran
52Giblin, MattMJuneauAKUSAVeteran
53DeNure, ZoyaFGakonaAKUSAVeteran
54Furtwängler, SilviaFRaulandNORWAYRookie
55Cadzow, JoshMFort YukonAKUSARookie
56Ramstead, KarenFPerryvaleAB CANADAVeteran
57Failor, MattMMansfieldOHUSARookie
58Sousa, GeraldMTalkeetnaAKUSAVeteran
59Lindner, SonnyMTwo RiversAKUSAVeteran
60Swenson, RickMTwo RiversAKUSAVeteran
61Perano, CurtMQueenstownNEW ZEALANDRookie
62Buser, RohnMBig LakeAKUSAVeteran
63Peterson, BraxtonMFairbanksAKUSARookie
64Church, Jr, ArtMWillowAKUSAVeteran
65Seavey, DanMSewardAKUSAVeteran
66Clarke, LachlanMBuena VistaCOUSAVeteran
67Redington, RyanMWasillaAKUSAVeteran

66 Mushers are signed up and ready to go. The reason they start at 2 is the Honorary Musher will be #1. Junior Iditarod Champion Conway Seavey will be the first out of the chute during the Ceremonial Start. And, considering it's a big anniversary, how fitting that a Reddington start and end the line up. What a fantastic - coincidental, I'm sure - tribute to the man who was crazy enough to dream up this seemingly impossible dream. May a little bit of Joe be with every mushing team this weekend.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Musher's Banquet opens March Madness #iditarod

While most people hear "March Madness" and think basketball, those in Alaska know it's all about the Iditarod. Tonight will be the Musher's Banquet. This is one of the final fundraisers for the Iditarod, and it is the beginning of the race in many ways. All mushers are in attendance, and fans buy tickets to sit at their favorite's table. They dine on some fantastic vittles, and Hobo Jim entertains.

Then the dinner turns serious, there's an auction - which is fun, but also competitive in its own right - and then the headlining event. Mushers come up in the order of sign up to draw a number out of the hat. This will be their final strategy prep. They will say a few words to their supporters and sponsors and the race, they'll take their number, they'll head back to their seat. And then the mind games begin.

Most mushers will tell you that they want to be the middle of the pack, number wise. The earlier you run out of the gate you break trail, tire early, and you have a longer wait when you take your "24 hour rest". With teams leaving the starting line at 2 minute intervals, depending on how many teams there are, the first person out of the gate's 24 hour rest is actually longer than 24. This then starts everyone over and the race can begin. Again, it all comes down to strategy. The mushers have chosen, in their mind, where they will take their 24 weeks ago. Their food drop bags are marked, and their supplies are flown out to the check point a week or so before the race begins.

What's even more competitive are the fans waiting to hear the bib numbers so they can record them. Mind you, the Iditarod does a wonderful job of getting bib numbers out before the night is over, but folks are mad dashing it to find out. Fans and volunteers alike hover around to get the numbers as they're announced. It's exciting, but a little scary with the way some aggressively go to be the first to write down the numbers in their ITC Membership booklet!

No matter where mushers end up, it all comes down to the team running the week of the Iditarod.