Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It's time for saying Goodbye...

The house a few summers back before Gma's stroke. Their yard always
looked like something out of Sunset Magazine.
The last few days the Muppets' song "Saying Goodbye" has run through my mind. It typically does when someone close to me leaves for other parts of the world. This weekend we moved my Grandfather out of his home of over 40 years down to my uncle's house in Oregon. Okay, well, we packed up his house and said goodbye and he flew to Oregon with my uncle.

It was a very quick up and back for us. While my grandfather for the last year or so had been packing things and giving them to family, his health took a very quick turn and we needed to move quickly. In the last 4-6 months things began to get away from him, he wasn't able to remember basic tasks. My uncle and cousin had been concerned, but it wasn't until my cousin's last visit and then my dad and my last visit that the family realized we needed to move NOW. So my uncle flew up and we all headed to gpa's house to help him.

Packing up a person's life is not an easy task. Splitting them up between 3 sons and 2 granddaughters went easier than we thought, but it was just getting all of the stuff packed up (and, first, found!) that was hard. So many memories in one spot - not just the physical ones we held, but the ones those items and the walls around us brought up. We had a lot of laughs, and it was just good to have some fun one last time. The last time we were all together was when my grandmother passed, so while seeing Gpa overwhelmed was difficult we were still in a much happier frame of mind this time around.

Saturday we took a break from packing up and had some of the family friends over. The Gallaghers have been friends with my grandparents since before I was born. Jim and Karen help every year with Iditarod, and Karen's mom Pete was friends with my grandmother forEVER. Jim and Karen's daughter Christine grew up with my cousin and she would baby sit me on occasion. They're more family than just friends. We also had the Frolichs over - they are buying the house from my grandfather. They live across the street and Mathieu was my first best friend. We grew up together - even after my family moved to Kenai, every summer I was up with my grandparents and we spent every waking hour causing chaos in the neighborhood. I am so happy that the house is going to someone we know and that I know will treasure it for what it is!

The "Framily" together at the house one last time.
Sunday we tried to get Gpa to go to church, but the emotions of the weekend took their tole and he decided to stay home. Mom, Dad and I went to Gpa's church anyway as we'd given them the heads up that Gpa was leaving and they had things for us to give him. Joel Engle is one of the pastors at Changepoint and we've known him pretty much since my parents have been Christians - he used to be a Christian singer who toured the country doing ministry, and now he's pastoring. It's a small world. We met him when he was still starting out and so I was excited to get to hear him preach this weekend! The message was good, and then we headed out for one last family meal at Texas Roadhouse before we all went our separate ways.

Now we're back home and I'm going through the boxes of the memories I collected. 4 boxes of photo albums with memories that go back generations, more Iditarod memories, the different knick knacks that lined the shelves... a few cookbooks... I just have to find a way to properly display or store them all.

Dad called down to Gpa tonight, and he's doing well. Dad says he sounds better than he has in months. I think this change is what Gpa needed, but man... it feels weird for the rest of us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My 15 seconds of fame

Just when I thought I'd just be little ol' me tweeting and blogging on my own blog for Iditarod for the first time in 3 years, I get asked to be a guest blogger for an awesome mushing fansite. I've followed SofaMushing on twitter for a couple of years now, and they do great work. They're based in Europe, so it's nice to see a different perspective on the sport - plus it's a great way to follow their races. They contacted me a couple of days ago asking me to be a GUEST BLOGGER. I don't feel like I have the knowledge or the credibility, but apparently I'm doing something right.

So while I do cross post most of my stuff, I have tried to give their blog a few posts that aren't on here. Be sure to check their site out. It's fantastic. They have an Iditarod news feature that follows the mushers' facebook/social media pages. A GREAT RESOURCE!

That then led to me being asked to be a guest on Dog Works Radio, apparently I'm a social media expert. Robert Forto is the host and one of the bajillion mushers I have the pleasure to know. He's been around social media for I don't know how long, and is able to keep it all together while doing the podcast, run dogs, and go to school (and run a business). Pretty cool. His co-host is Alex Stein who made a documentary on the Iditarod a few years ago called "Mush" which is a pretty interesting bit of film and history. Alex is in SoCal and he and I have been social media buddies for 4 or 5 years now? I think?

Those that know me know how much I hate any sort of "real" social interaction (which is why social media and I get along, no real human interaction), so calling into a podcast and talking was out of my comfort zone. It was fun, though, the guys were great at not putting me too much on the spot and the discussion was easy. My cell phone doesn't work in my house so I was sitting in my car, with our wind storm howling around me, and I'm sicker than sick... so I don't know how much of a good thing my interview was, but it was fun. If I get asked again I wouldn't say no! Thanks again guys, you are awesome.

So I've had my 15 seconds of fame. Go me.

You can listen to my "episode" of Dog Works Radio by clicking here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

There's a freight train loose on the Iditarod trail...

Dallas Seavey and team during the
Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 43.
March 7, 2015
…and the conductor is Dallas Seavey.

Now that the leaders are bearing down onto the coastal community of Unalakleet we’re starting to see the typical strategies emerge from the teams. Dallas is back to his typical run rest schedule, and he’s gaining time and miles on everyone around him. Dallas took off out of Kaltag at 5:35am this morning, Jeff King and Aaron Burmeister left the same checkpoint almost an hour ahead of him. He’s run down King (who is currently resting on the trail) and nearly ran down Burmeister. He is currently resting, and we can assume he’ll camp for a few hours before blowing through Unalakleet.

Expect this same run pattern for the remainder of the race (or at least until White Mountain). Dallas’s team is one of only maybe three teams that is steadily gaining speed at this point in the race. He will continute to chug down the trail picking off anyone ahead of him. Jake Berkowitz blogged today saying Dallas was terrifying to have behind you, and in front of you. He’s declared the younger Seavey the one leading the Iditarod – and he’s not wrong.

Burmeister is maintaining, but slower than before – and King is showing major signs of slow down. Aliy’s team is older and is at a steady pace. Mitch Seavey is another team looking like they’re on an upswing. He’s been running conservatively up to this point, waiting to pull out the reserves and make a move. Still not seeing that move, but I expect to see it soon. Perhaps this will be the year they come in 1 and 2?

Jessie Royer is making a statement still, and is currently resting in the same spot Aliy did earlier today. She’s looking at a possible top 5 finish if she can maintain her lead she has on the rest of the pack, and she’s in shooting distance if another team falters to climb further.

There’s just about 300 miles to go, so it’s still too early to tell who the winner is, but you can expect an exciting run up the coast. If you haven’t caught the “Iditaflu” yet, you might want to start coming down with it so you can call into work. The next three days will be exciting!

Iditarod Day 7 - Morning Update

Good morning world!

The race is on to Unalakleet, the first checkpoint on the coast. Many race fans know that the race kicks into high gear at this checkpoint. Weight is dropped, slowest dogs are dropped. From here to Nome it's all about speed and how best to conserve it while not spending a lot of time stopped.

Aliy was first out of Kaltag, and is now camped out on the trail. Jeff King and Aaron Burmeister were next out (in that order) and are running very close together judging by the GPS pings. Dallas Seavey has the fastest time into Kaltag of the front runners, taking basically an hour LESS to get there than Burmeister did. He rested his team for 4.75 hours and is back on the trail as well.

Mitch Seavey came into Kaltag sounding very happy with his team, said he let them pick their speed. He wanted to be a little faster, but the trail was great. His team seemed eager and still cohesive, so all positive in the video for Mitch. He is still in the checkpoint, and nearing 5 hours of rest.

Jessie Royer has been "silently" creeping in on the front runners fun and is looking like a contender. She is also out of Kaltag. Jessie trains her dogs in Montana, where they had snow and good trail all winter. It seems that gave her an advantage as some mushers in Alaska who did (or could) not get to good trails for training have said that their dogs weren't ready for this type of trail base. Royer learned from 4 time Champion Doug Swingley, so those of us who've paid attention to the race have been waiting for her to make a move. It looks like this is the year for her to do it.

Kaltag is getting busy this morning with more teams filing in. Fast trail, fast race... still on track for a Tuesday night finish.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Just a little Kaltag update before bed

So Aaron Burmeister's tucked into rest for 8 hours in Kaltag, he can leave at 4:49am. Jeff King made it into Kaltag a little while ago running just over 15 minutes faster than Burneister's time. Dallas looks to be third into Kaltag, he's about 15 miles away. That puts him into the checkpoint sometime after midnight/1am. Aliy Zirkle finished her 8 in Nulato and is also headed to Kaltag.

My guess is Dallas will leap frog and take control of the race... unless King gets up and out before Dallas can leave. I expect Dallas to rest on the trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet - but I do not have any knowledge on what his plans are. I'm just guessing. I also expected King to not stay long in Kaltag and he did. So what do I know? I am not a musher and don't pretend to be!

Friday, March 13, 2015

It's time to take your 24!

Jodi Bailey's team run through Anchorage
for the Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 43.
March 7, 2015
The leaders have made their way into Galena and Huslia. Most are taking their 24+start differential hour mandatory rest in one of the two checkpoints. Of the front of the pack, only Jeff King has taken both his 24 and his 8 hour rests. He is currently on the trail to Huslia. I expect King to take a bit of a rest in the checkpoint before continuing on. The trail report says the run into the checkpoint is extremely cold (like -40 below and colder) which causes more friction on the sled and slower going. In other words, it zaps the energy of the dogs faster. Can't blame them, no matter what you're used to THAT'S COLD.

Mitch Seavey took his 24 in Ruby after noticing some of his team was dealing with soreness. He had thought Ruby would be his stop, but that sealed the deal. He's passed through Galena and is on the trail to Huslia. He still needs to take his 8 hour somewhere on the Yukon (he has till Kaltag). According to his Insider interview last night, he plans to break up the run from Galena to Huslia. My guess is he'll take his 8 in Huslia.

Aaron Burmeister was first to the halfway point and collected the prize. He told Insider that his team was finally coming together - sharing he's had his fair share of problems with one of his main dogs coming into heat so all of his male lead dogs were "more interested in making puppies than running down the trail." He's declared his 24 and will have 24 hours and 32 minutes until he can leave... don't ask me to do the Idita-math as I can barely figure out how to get the answer for 1+1 apparently. It will be late tonight (sometime after 11pm).

Dallas Seavey is also in Huslia taking his 24. Dallas' dogs came in from a long cold run looking VERY good. They were happy, still stretching out in the line, and actually pulling at the line wanting to keep going. That's a good sign that they have a lot of juice left in them. After a 24+ hour rest? Yeah, good luck holding back that "monster" of a team. Dallas' wife Jen has reported that this team has been a joy to train, and that with how well they're doing Dallas has changed up his race strategy to best match their potential. We may be watching Dallas' run to a third victory... but there's a lot of trail left and another 20 or so teams that are just as good and deserving.

Aliy Zirkle is still in the mix, and while she's considered further down in the standings - she also took her 24 in Galena. Zirkle has been working hard on the back of her sled by ski-poling, pedaling, and running with her team. This makes for a very tired musher, and it's showing in the videos Insider has interviewing her. However, she got a nice long rest in Galena and with the hopefully warmer temps of the day as she runs to Huslia her energy may be boosted. Don't count her out. She'll kick into another gear in the second half.

Martin Buser is still in the mix, but had a very interesting chat yesterday with the Iditarod Insider saying he was going to take it slow and not worry about placement. With the news about Lance Mackey's team yesterday - Lance's 3 year old dog, Wyatt, passed away suddenly on the run from Tanana to Ruby - I have to assume part of his decision was based on that event. He talked about running for the dogs, not for his fifth win. I don't think this was a slight at Lance, but more just a "I need to stop pushing them beyond what they're capable of just because of placement/human ego." Which maybe he felt that's what he himself was doing. Martin is currently in Huslia, has taken his 8 and I assume he's declared his 24.

So while most are resting for 24+ hours, it's time for the fans to step away from the computer, stretch their legs and go take a look outside. The next 3-4 days we'll be glued to the screen non stop with little rest. So get in some YOU time while you still can. We'll see ya on the flip side.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The end of the Lance Mackey era?

Lance Mackey and team at the
Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 43.
March 7, 2015
Lance Mackey made an alarming statement via Iditarod Insider yesterday afternoon - Iditarod 43 is very likely to be his last. Mackey's heath issues have been no secret the last few years - the man is in considerable pain even after treatments and surgeries to help counteract the effects brought on from the aggressive cancer treatments he went through over a decade ago. Lance has poor circulation in his hands and feet, and it was a major concern going into this year's race. During the Yukon Quest he admitted his team was not the reason they were not competitive - he was.

Looks like things may have been worse than what we all originally thought.

On his run into Tanana, Lance had to deal with a dog tangle. This typically occurs when there is a dog fight (which is caused for any number of reasons). Mackey told Insider that he lost his mitts somehow, so his fingers were essentially frozen. He can't bend them, and he doesn't have any feeling (other than pain) in them. This makes bootying his dogs (to protect their feet) nearly impossible. He declared his 24 in the checkpoint to hopefully be able to recover.

However, Mackey sees the writing on the wall - his body is telling him that his career is just about over. He was tired, cold, and in pain - so no one is willing to truly count him out yet - but he knows the inevitable is coming. Lance was most emotional when he talked about how his brother Jason, also running in this year's Iditarod, was going to scrap his race plan to now run with Lance and help him with the detail work - bootying the dogs, etc. The idea that his brother was willing to "screw up his race" to help him choked the 4 time champion up big time. That was when I started bawling.

Lance can be heard saying "I LOVE this sport... I just can't do it anymore." and that's rough. Lance is only 44 years old. God willing, he'll be around for at least 44 more. He's still at the "prime age" for a musher. The man who holds the record of four consecutive Iditarod wins, the man who won the Iditarod and the Quest in the same year... this man has gone from the top to being barely able to care for his dogs on the same trails that saved his life. It's tragic - Lance has never had an easy go of things, but it seemed that dog mushing was his saving grace... and now even that looks to be leaving him.

This is not how he should have to go out.

Lance and Jason headed out on the trail this afternoon and arrived in Ruby a short time ago. No reports on how the teams are doing, but an interview earlier with Jason on Insider had Jason saying that Lance was determined to get to Nome. If this is to be his last race, he's going to take it all the way.

We're all running with you, Lance. No matter where you place - you'll forever be one of this races biggest champions.

(If you want to go through an emotional roller coaster, read Danny Seavey's blog post about Lance. Bring tissues.)

The irony of Zoya Denure

I will preface this post to say - I am aware that my opinion will not be popular. That I have been called out before on this subject, I'm well aware that Zoya - for whatever reason - is well liked and her fans are fiercely loyal. Good for her. I wish all the mushers had such a great fanbase. However I've been stewing about this subject since this year's Yukon Quest... and I think it needs to be said.

Zoya Denure reacts to the trail conditions during the Ceremonial
Start of Iditarod 43 in Anchorage, Alaska. March 7, 2015
Zoya Denure scratched this morning in Tanana citing personal reasons. That's a pretty vague explanation - but it's the only one we've got. Considering all of her other reasons over the years in the Iditarod and other races, I'll take it. At least it seems more honest than accusing the Iditarod of forcing her to use contaminated straw or the whole nursing issue. This time, it seems, she's at least taking a little responsibility - for now. I expect a blog post from her in a day or so with the "real" excuse that will vilify the race, or another musher, or a muskrat.

The irony is that Denure's husband just wrote an article last month calling Jeff King and other mushers out for scratching in the Yukon Quest. He was immediately called out by fans who began to list the number of scratches his wife had to her name. Zoya came to her own defense saying it was "irrelevant". How this is the case, I'm still scratching my head. A scratch is a scratch. Each musher who John named in his article had LEGIT REASON for scratching. That John is against the best care for these dogs was staggering as he and Zoya are very vocal about how they care for their dogs (and dogs no one else wants). All it did was give fuel to the anti-mushing groups who believe that his mentality in the article is shared by those out on the trail.

But we're not talking about the Quest, we're talking about the Iditarod. One that just went from having a "brutal trail" over the Alaska range to having a "race track like course" on the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. The trail is hard packed. It's fast. The dogs are all said to be doing extremely well...

...and yet Zoya has scratched for personal reasons.

And all I can think is John's article asking the questions:
Isn’t running the Yukon Quest about running dogs? Why do mushers run the Yukon Quest?
Replace "Yukon Quest" with "Iditarod" and ask the questions. Most do it for the adventure - rookies want that belt buckle - to say that they did it. Most want to be out with their dogs on the most exciting 10 day camping trip they will ever experience. The front runners might be running for a title, a little gold, a new pick up truck, but they too are more about sharing that bond with their dogs. They run with sore bodies - the Lance Mackey's look like death warmed over but they LOVE the sport and they LOVE the dogs and you will have to carry them out in a body bag before they give it up.

Very few do it for the money or the glory - there really isn't a lot of money to be made and the glory typically goes to those that win or at least have some awesome human interest story. But Team Zoya is an exception - she markets herself extremely well. She gets a lot of attention for not accomplishing much (yes the belt buckle is a huge accomplishment, one no one can take away from her... but... Oprah chose her over Aliy Zirkle to feature in her magazine). She's able to get a lot of funding from sponsors. She's pretty, she weaves a good tale. She's a promotions dream.

Still, I can't help but feel bad for those that she's buffaloed into supporting her financially. Maybe not the corporate sponsors - though that money could be used better elsewhere on a team that actually has a chance of making it and not just taking the money and going to Hawaii to become a Yogi -  but the individuals who want to support a woman musher who seems to love her dogs and the sport. Honestly, I'm sure she does care for her dogs, but I don't think she loves the sport.

Think about it folks, in all the years she's run - she's only finished once. She cites personal issues for the scratches each time. This suggests she's just not cut out to run the long distance race. She rarely even finishes the shorter races rookies use to qualify for the Quest and Iditarod races. She runs just long enough to keep her sponsors happy. So I guess more power to Team Zoya - but there are far more deserving mushers who will at least finish if at all possible who are just as personable, and dare I say it more trustworthy to use the funding for the dogs and not for a home remodel.

But, I *am* just an armchair musher who is not out there on the trail with her. However, if you're going to talk about the other mushers - either individually or as a team as they do - you better be ready to "put up or shut up". And that's where the irony is.

If ever there was a year that Zoya NEEDED to make it to Nome, this was it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Brent Sass' Iditarod ends due to disqualification.

Brent Sass and team during the
Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 43.
March 7, 2015
The news is all over social media and Iditarod.com - Brent Sass was DQed this evening due to his use of a device that has the capability to be used for two way communication. While Sass was using his iPod Touch to play music, the device has the capability of connecting to WiFi and is therefore not allowed on the Iditarod Race. It is allowed on the Yukon Quest, but as Sass said in an Insider Video after it happened - "this is a completely different race with completely different rules and I should've just thought that."

Brent won the Yukon Quest this year with the race mantra "I believe" - while he said he wasn't expecting to win this year's Iditarod, he was set to make at least the top 10 (and a lot of folks believed he'd be able to win). Brent is a true competitor, and a good dog driver. He just wasn't thinking. There's no reason to think he was trying to sneak one past the officials. This is just a bonehead mistake that ANYONE could have made - it's just that Brent was the one that made it.

I have no doubt he'll be back next year hungry for redemption.

You can read the official press release here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So much to blog so little time!

Mitch Seavey's famous lead dogs - Taurus & Tanner lead the team through
the Tudor Crossing section of the Ceremonial Start trail.
Anchorage, AK March 7, 2015
This weekend was a blast! I want to find time to blog about all of it with pictures and video and all, but at this point I don't know if that's possible. How does Sebastian Schnuelle do it?!

The race JUST STARTED today and already it is moving very quickly. All teams are in Nenana - with most of the top names well out of the checkpoint and on the trail to Manley which is a 90 mile trek. Most will break it up into two runs, resting at some point along the trail.

At present Nic Petit is in the lead, with Aliy Zirkle in front of him - the standings won't show this as they only to by times in and out of checkpoints, but if you can follow along with the GPS tracker you get a better idea of what is going on. A lot of teams are resting at the moment.

I'm doing my darndest to get photos edited - I took 1,601 pictures at the Ceremonial Start - as well as get videos uploaded. It's slow going as I keep falling asleep! I guess I wore myself out more than I realized!

Anyway, back to editing. I won't be staying up much longer. They're expecting the first team around 2am. It's the first night, I don't need to be up to see them come in.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just what happens at a Musher's Banquet?

Jeff King happily signs a volunteer's armband at the Willow Restart. (2013)
Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to get to volunteer to work the merchandise tables at the Musher's Banquet. I'd never been to one, and I was really looking forward to the experience. I haven't gotten to go back since (I moved away from Anchorage, so it's hard to get up there on a weekday/night).

The Musher's Banquet is another opportunity for race fans to mingle with all of the mushers. It is a mandatory event for participants because it is where they will draw their bib numbers - this of course determines when they leave out of the start (both Ceremonial and Restart). The banquet typically has Hobo Jim on stage singing away - and sometimes other talent as well (in 2010 we were serenaded by a very young Conway Seavey, it was highly entertaining... and now he's making a name for himself in music). There is an auction, there's good food, there's Iditarod inspired wine.

Fans, sponsors and mushers gather at tables... check out the merchandise... check out the wines... they hob knob. Mushers reconnect. It's really a big party - just with a few dignitaries. Mushers go up to the podium to draw their number - and the order with which they go up is by the order with which they signed up for the race. They are given a few minutes to thank their family, friends, and sponsors and give soundbytes. You can guarantee the more charismatic mushers put on a show.

It's a ticketed event and it's well worth it - I don't know if they're sold out this year, but even if you can't make the actual event you CAN watch on the Iditarod Insider. If you haven't signed up for a subscription - do so. It's well worth the $$ for all of the inside info. Especially the video and GPS. You can watch the Musher's Banquet LIVE tomorrow night. It starts at 6pm AKST.

I won't get to watch - I will be on the road headed to Anchorage. Can't wait to get up there! I'm getting a toasted Quiznos Sub for dinner. Then Friday it's all about the Iditarod, and capping it off Saturday with the Ceremonial Start! w00t!

Friendly Reminder Alaska Drivers

Tustumena 200, Feb 2013, set up area.
My good buddy Bob posted this on Facebook this morning, and was gracious enough to let me snag it and share it on the blog. Today and tomorrow are big travel days for the teams. And again Sunday into Monday. So please, if you're driving any of the highways in Alaska this weekend, take note.


Today there will be many Dog Trucks loaded with precious cargo, teams and individuals on all the Alaska Highways as the annual migration to Anchorage occurs. PLEASE everyone slow dow and give these folks some space, show some courtesy and be a good neighbor. These rigs and entourages can't and shouldn't travel as fast as the rest of can.

Thank You!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Iditarod FAQ - 2015 edition

So I haven't done an FAQ for the Iditarod in the last few years - mainly because I was focused on reporting via facebook and twitter - and I realized a lot has changed in the records/standings that needed updating. So With the Iditarod just a week away from the ReStart (less than now) I figured now is as good a time as any to get this thing done!

You can view previous FAQ's here, here, and here.

The first Iditarod was run in 1973, Dick Wilmarth won in 20 days. The average winning time now is around 9 days. Trail grooming, equipment innovation, and better training have all made a shorter race possible. 

Dallas Seavey in 2014 shattered the fastest win time record when he won in 8days, 13hours, 4minutes and 19seconds. In 2012 Dallas became the youngest musher to win the Iditarod at the age of 25. In 2005 - his rookie year - he became the youngest musher to run and finish the race; he turned 18 the day before the race started.

Mitch Seavey's win in 2013 made him the oldest Iditarod Champion at age 53.

The last time a woman won the Iditarod was in 1990, that woman was Susan Butcher. It's been 25 years, it's time for a woman to take it!

Only two women have ever won the Iditarod: Libby Riddles in 1985, and Susan Butcher is the only female 4 time Iditarod Champion.

Lance Mackey is the only 4-time consecutive champion (2007-2010).

Rick Swenson is the only 5 time champion.

In 2003 a warm wind came in and melted most of the snow in the South Central region making a Willow ReStart impossible so the restart was moved to Fairbanks. The winter of 2014-2015 never came, and so for only the second time the ReStart will move north. The trail will be different than the 2003 trail so that the race can visit different villages.

How can I follow the race?
There are several great tools in order to follow. The official way is to become an Iditarod Insider - which gives you access to the live GPS Tracker as well as video and blog updates.
Another great way is facebook, many of the Iditarod teams have family/friends running their pages during the race giving updates on their progress. Some, like Danny & Conway Seavey blog not only about their teams, but the race in general. Sebastian Schnuelle is the "Armchair Musher" for both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod (he's won the Quest and come very close to winning the Iditarod) also keeps folks up to date on the race as he follows closely by snow machine. The Sportsman Channel will have a follow up series AFTER the race concludes. (It looks like they plan to show the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage LIVE on their channel. Cool!)

There are also some great twitters you can follow (I can't list them all it'd take too long, just look up the hashtag #iditarod, and ignore anything from Margery Glickman - she spreads lies not facts). And the Alaska News Sources are another great way to follow. KTVA is the official station for this year's Iditarod, KTUU always has good coverage. The Alaska Dispatch has a great Iditablog, as does KNOM. These are the links I follow religiously. With the start moving to Fairbanks I assume the Fairbanks News-Miner will also have a lot of great articles.

Lastly you can follow my blog and twitter to stay up to date. I hope to be able to give updates and share my favorite links as the race goes on. And I'll of course have photos of the Ceremonial Start to share.

What kind of dog runs in the Iditarod?
There are generally two "breeds" of dog that run the Iditarod. The purebred Siberian Husky and the mixed breed Alaskan Husky. Siberians are bigger, have more fur, and are slower. The Alaskan Husky is the more competitive breed and has no real rhyme or reason to what their make up is. Each line has a little bit of this and a little bit of that. They harken back to the gold rush days of sled dogs when miners were breeding any dog they had with the Native Alaskan dogs and coming up with a hybrid. When long distance racing came into being, that's when we really started seeing the magic of breeding happen as each musher wanted different qualities (size, fur, feet, speed, etc) in their bloodline. If you spend a lot of time around the races/kennels you begin to notice these differences and can tell a "Seavey dog" from a "Gebhardt dog" or a "King dog" or... well, you get the idea. The Alaskan Husky has no "standard" to the breed and will most likely never be allowed to participate in Westminster.

There was a team of poodles that ran the race in the 80s. Kind of a novelty act, but they made it. No one recommends it, and I'm not even sure it'd be allowed now.

How long is the Iditarod Trail?
The full Iditarod trail is much longer than what the race goes on. The official mileage of the race is 1,049 (the 49 is for Alaska being the 49th state) but it fluctuates from year to year. The GPS shows it closer to 980+ miles, but it does not take into account elevations and does not ping exact twists and turns, so the mileage is longer than what technology tells us. Or, so they say. I am not a musher, so I just go with what they tell me. ;)

Mile 0 of the trail is actually in Seward, not Anchorage, and the ending of the trail is further north than Nome, and is actually a series of trails, not just one long line.

What books do you recommend to someone interested in the race?
There are many books that I love reading this time of year to stay in the "spirit" of the race. Let me list a few:
  • Winderdance by Gary Paulsen - It's a creative look in how Paulsen trained for and experienced the Iditarod. Paulsen is known for his jr novels such as The Hatchet (one of my favorite books of all time) and I believe there is a jr novel version of this book. This is the book I recommend to anyone interested in the Iditarod and not just a particular musher. It is humorous, inspiring, creative, and truthful (even if he basically gives experiences from several Iditarods as one race).
  • The First Great Race by Dan Seavey - Dan was one of the original Iditarod mushers. He was second across the finish line in Nome, though his official standing is third (he had the third fastest time to Nome). He is the father of a two time Iditarod Champion, as well as the grandfather of a two time Iditarod Champion. He's the one that started it all for the Seavey family. The book is part memior, part documentation of how the race was created and run. I will admit I am extremely biased as Dan Seavey is one of my most favorite human beings. 
  • Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jeff King - the autobiography of the "self-proclaimed" winningest musher on earth. Jeff was one of the major innovators of the sport both in sled technology as well as breeding/training in the 80s and 90s... and continues to transform the sport today. He came *this close* to winning last year before a windstorm stalled his chances just three miles out of the checkpoint of Safety. That story's not in the book but a lot of exciting and heartwarming stories are - plus some heart breaking ones. 
  • Trailbreakers: Volume 2 by Rod Perry - this book is full of historical facts and great stories on that first great race. Some nice pictures. Perry was instrumental in creating and running in the first Iditarod (along with Seavey, Mackey, etc). He gives a pretty detailed account not only of his run but of others as he interviewed many of his compatriots and compiled their stories into a great book.
  • Danger the Dog Yard Cat by Libby Riddles with Shelley Gill - okay this is a children's book, and I actually prefer the audio tape because it comes with songs, but this book "changed my life". It's the reason I fell head over heels in love with this sport. I wanted to be Libby Riddles, and then Susan Butcher. I loved the dogs, I loved the adventure... of course I grew up and realized I don't have the drive or insanity to do what it takes to run the race, but I've been blessed to be part of the fandom and the community for most of my life (geez, 25 years now).
Where's a good spot to catch the action at the Ceremonial Start?
For me I'd say anywhere on the trail except downtown. Downtown is far too crowded and they put up large barriers so you can't get right to the trail and the teams. I trail guard at Tudor Crossing - which is a great place but has become a favorite spot of many spectators. Goose Lake is another good spot, or if you want to see dog trucks and handlers you can go to the take out point at Campbell Airstrip. If you come to Tudor Crossing look me up and say hi!

Alright it's nearly midnight and that's all I have in my brain at the moment. Have more questions? Comment below and I will do my best to answer them, some might even get featured in future blog updates!