Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2021 Kobuk 440 Musher Roster

Iditarod may be over (still not okay with that) but that doesn't mean the mushing season has ended! This Friday (starting time was moved back a day due to weather keeping planes grounded meaning many teams were unable to get into Kotzebue until Wednesday) a little after noon 12 teams will charge down the trail from Kotzebue to Kobuk and back. The Kobuk 440 boasts they are "the toughest race to take place above the arctic circle." The roster this year is small but competitive. Due to covid-19 mitigation, only 10 teams were allowed to come from outside the region. 

As I've done with many of the races this season, here's the roster with the links to all of the ways you can interact with the teams online (that I've found). You can view the musher bios on the Meet the Mushers link on the race's website.

2021 Musher Roster

Reese Madden - Facebook / Instagram
Nic Petit - Website / Facebook / Twitter
Gunnar Johnson - Website / Facebook / Twitter 
Philip Hanke - Facebook 
Hugh Neff - Facebook / Instagram
Ryan Redington - Website / Facebook
Tony Browning - Facebook
Dereck Starr - Facebook 
Jeff King - Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Sam Brewer - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Dempsey Woods - Facebook 
Kevin Hansen - Facebook

I am unsure if bib numbers will be in the order of registration. The Kobuk 440 is one of the few races that begin with a mass start. Who are you cheering for? Leave a comment below with your thoughts, hopes, and predictions!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Bringing Iditarod 49 to a close

Full on confession time - I absolutely hate the end of the Iditarod. For many mushers and fans alike Iditarod is a lot like Christmas... weeks to months long planning and preparation and it's gone in a blink of an eye. I no joke sing/hum "It's the most wonderful time of the year" during the week leading up to Iditarod. That's how important this race feels. I know I'm not the only one, but I may be the only one willing to publicly admit it (I have this semi-secret dream that Rick Swenson gets all giddy this time of year and decorates and celebrates the race week... though maybe not this year since his record was tied). I'm to the point where I want to leave out cookies and hot tang for the Spirit of Joe Redington Senior and salmon snacks for all the amazing sled dogs who've run this race and have since gained their "silver harness". Probably creepy and a little too much information (I'm gonna get blacklisted as a creepy person who needs to be committed, I just know it). 

But, seriously, this is an event I look forward to all year. The countdown to the picnic (Volunteer appreciation, ITC Member Meeting, and Iditarod race sign ups) that happens mid summer starts the second the red lantern is extinguished (well... this year, most years it's after the banquet... but... well... covid). Then the countdown to the beginning of the race season. Then the countdown to the race itself. Sure, the mushers are still recooperating... but we've heard so many of them already talking about next year.

Next year. Next year will be Iditarod 50. That's such an achievement. Against all odds the first race went off in 1973. It was a "we do this now or we never will" type race. Loved ones cried as their men went off with their dogs into an unknown race that many believed they would never come back from. The promised purse wasn't even paid for when the teams left Anchorage! Everyone talks about "Seward's Folly" when Alaska was bought from Russia, but the Iditarod was certainly going to be "Joe's Folly" if it flopped from the get go.

The race would go on to evolve every decade or so. Better equipment, better training, better dog care... women dominating the race in the 90s. Huge purses and personalities in the 90s. Records made, records broken. Faster and faster finish times. Our red lanterns are now finishing in fewer days than some of the legends in the race did just 25 years ago. 

Trails have changed. The starting point has changed so many times it's crazy. Low snow. No snow. Bering Sea breaking up ahead of the race. You have to wonder if Joe Redington would even recognize his race with all of the changes that have happened just since his passing. Would Susan Butcher? 

Yes. While I think they'd probably fight like most of the other "old dawgs" against some of the changes, the ultimate goal of protecting and preserving the Alaska Sled Dog is still the same. Sure, there are things that need to be worked on more. Joe wanted to preserve the culture of the sled dog within the villages that birthed it. Costs of racing, much less travel and just basic kennel care, are enormous. We're to the point where very few Native Alaskan mushers are able to participate. It's still alive and well in certain communities (Huslia and Bethel both come to mind), but how do we translate it to the "Last Great Race"? This was a question Joe had "back in the day" and it continues. Mushers like Pete Kaiser, though, help get that back in the spotlight to inspire the next generation. 

I ramble. But as we look toward the huge milestone of 50 years, there's the question of what does the future hold past 50? How does the race survive climate change, culture change? There are more top teams than ever. The field this year was insanely competitive. There's no lack of interest in the race from participants, to volunteers, to fans. Iditarod isn't going anywhere, but it's interesting to dream about what it will look like in another 10, 20, or even 50 years.

Tonight the last two mushers of Iditarod 49 will come into the finish. It's unknown which will get to extinguish the red lantern, but what an accomplishment. It will be a celebration of the dogs, the mushers, the race. In a year that we weren't even sure there would be a race. A year that saw the race stay away from traditional checkpoints, go to Iditarod and back. No Nome, no Takotna Pies, Peace on Earth Pizza... but it happened. There were bumps - there always are - but overall the race was a success. It persevered as it always does. As the sport always does. As the mushing lifestyle always does. As the state always does.

When Victoria Hardwick and Dakota Schlosser cross the finish line, it will close the latest chapter of the Last Great Race on Earth. The stories will continue to be told as mushers finally come off of their race high and come back to reality. Volunteers will share their memories and photos. But then spring (and so much frozen dog poop turning to mush... ah Springtime in Alaska), and summer with a cobbled together tourist season, and before we know it it will be fall and the training season.

I believe this was one of the best races we've had in a long time. It looked different, it felt different, but the stories and the people and the coming together... I want to remember this year for a long, long time.

Thank you to everyone who've allowed me to ramble on this blog, who've listened to the Dog Works Radio Iditarod Podcast and given so much positive feedback and encouragement, and allowing me to really clog up your social media timelines with my IditaSpam. I LOVE this race. I LOVE the people who run the race. I LOVE the dogs! And I love being able to talk about it with people. I love sharing my love for it and my knowledge and my thoughts. This is the most rambly blog post I've done in a long while, so I'll end it here. But THANK YOU. This has been the best season for my blog in 10 years, and I very very much appreciate the support! The race season isn't done, so hopefully I keep the momentum and finish out the season for the blog. Stay tuned. I have goals and plans for this blog... just need to find the drive and the know how to do it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

We're not done yet

We have the majority of teams across the finish line in Deshka, but we're far from finished. Twelve teams are still on the trail this evening, with only four teams out of Skwentna at the moment. Next in should be Travis Beals who had to change plans drastically after accidently taking a long run early in the race (his run into Iditarod should've been broken up and he told the Insider he didn't even know why he didn't stop, that it was a big mistake). He slowed his team and gave them more rest, but then again had to change course when running out of Nikolai S he realized his dogs were not going to enjoy the run and he turned back to the checkpoint to rest longer.

Behind Travis is four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser. Buser was one of the front runners in the first couple of days of the race, but by Nikolai N his team was running at only about 60% and it left thier musher "perplexed" as he could not figure out what the issue was. Martin left out of Skwentna a half hour late because he forgot to spring forward on Sunday morning and was "just hanging out" until a volunteer pointed to the correct time. Whoops! 

Following Mr. Buser is Matt Hall who is running very close to Buser. The 2017 Yukon Quest Champion has been just running a race - I believe with young dogs who may have also just gotten overwhelmed? - and having a good time. He may be able to catch and pass Buser before getting to Deshka.

While the rookie of the year came in earlier today (between the Berington Twins at that!) our second rookie should be in sometime tonight or early morning when Joshua McNeal crosses the finish line. McNeal had a pretty good first Iditarod with a team of very young dogs, and told Insider today that there were a few times on the trail he thought he was in over his head a bit (the head on passing on his way to the checkpoint of Iditarod being one of them) but he's already looking towards the future and more Iditarods (though he said probably not next year). 

There are three teams currently in Skwentna, all rookies. Sean Underwood, the rookie from last year who had to be rescued by black hawk after getting caught with two other teams in massive overflow on the coast - is in Skwentna and can leave at 3:33am Wednesday morning. Underwood is running dogs out of Dallas Seavey's kennel (the puppy team!) and has done very well. It will be a great moment to see him come in and get his belt buckle! He's more than earned it.

Five teams still need to make it into Skwentna, and they're all at Finger Lake or closer. We're probably still on schedule to have this race finished out by sometime Thursday (I'm not ready, but my dog sure is. He's tired of not having all my attention). 

This has been such a different race and yet so exciting. While we didn't have the ability to send out Mushergrams this year, you can and should still send messages through social media. And I have you covered with my Iditarod Roster social media account links

Monday, March 15, 2021

Top 13 teams have finished

The 49th running of the running has had a third of its teams (that have not scratched or been withdrawn) finish today. Starting with Dallas Seavey's finish around 5am this morning, the day saw 12 teams behind the five-time champion. Dallas was able to meet his closest competitor in the race - Aaron Burmeister - to the finish before finally succumbing to his exhaustion (his parents drove him home). We probably won't hear from the champion for at least another 16 hours. If then.

Aaron Burmeister gave a very good post race interview where he cited that he had worked out to plans for Iditarod in the months leading up to the race. He had a "passive" race plan and an "aggressive" race plan. He chose the former, and ironically the latter was the exact schedule that Dallas had come up with. The veteran musher was jovial and excited to know he stuck it out with Dallas to the very end. He's also apparently announced that next year will be his final Iditarod (we've heard that before, though, Aaron). 

Brent Sass followed a little over an hour later with a strong team of 13 Alaskan Huskies that looked like they could keep going. Iditarod Insider's Bruce Lee said that in a normal race year Sass would've won with the team in this year's finish. It's definitely possible. That being said, both Burmeister and Seavey would've had different strategy if this was a normal year.

In a hard fought battle, Wade Marrs was able to keep Mille Porsild behind him to place fourth. Marrs came in 4th one other time - in 2016... the last time Dallas won the Iditarod before, well, this year... interesting - and came in wearing a sweatshirt, not his parka. Wade explained for at least the last 15 miles he was running with the sled to make sure Mille did not over take them. Wade was greeted at the finish by his wife Sophia and their baby boy (awww).

Mille Porsild rounds out the top five with an impressive finish. Her team is a mixture of many borrowed dogs from several kennels and she managed to bring them into the finish as a cohesive unit. Mille told Insider that when she started the race she believed her team to be a power team but then they decided to be a speed team (or did I get that backwards). She said the team amazed her and they are superstars. When asked what she would have done differently she said she would have slept more. (Same, Mille, same.)

Nicolas Petit flew down the trail in the last leg of the race picking off teams one by one and nearly caught up with Mille and Wade. Petit's team was another that did not seem ready to stop, even after gorging themselves on prime cuts of steak. (For real these Iditarod dogs eat better than I ever will.) According to his interview with the media Mille said there was no one she didn't want right behind her more than Petit and that she was constantly looking for her shoulder, Petit responded: "She wasn't just looking, I saw her footsteps." The sixth place for Team Petit is a welcome placement after several years of disappointing finishes and scratches.

Coming in with the smallest team so far, Ryan Redington improved his standings by one placement coming in 7th this year. Redington's in a rebuilding stage for his kennel after some professional and personal setbacks, so a top ten finish is a very good placement. Redington told the media that he spent the last several days already planning what to do better for next year as he looks forward to running the 50th. He enjoyed running with friends Nic Petit and Wade Marrs, and it was pretty cool to finish in Willow. 

Joar Liefseth Ulsom - the 2018 Iditarod Champion - was next in in another close finish for 8th. Joar was all smiles as he was greeted by his wife and they had quite a few moments for the camera to capture (ah, newlyweds). Joar's dogs did really well in the final leg, especially to keep Richie Diehl behind them. In a new race that was difficult to gauge ahead of time what would work, Joar was very happy with how things turned out.

Ten minutes after Joar, the 2021 Kuskokwim Champion Richie Diehl made his way to the finishline. The musher from Aniak said that he had hopes of catching Joar near Yentna, but it just didn't happen. He said he expected to run the first half of the race like he would in a normal year and hoped it would pay off. He said it did pay off but that this year was "hell of a fast race". He still managed to finish 9th in a highly competitive field where his best friend and rival Peter Kaiser had to end his race early. With some sleep Richie may be able to appreciate the accomplishment a little more. (He was very proud of his team.) 

Rounding out the top ten was Ramey Smyth. Long time race fans were hardly shocked to see Ramey come charging down the trail and pick off at least a dozen teams to make 10th place. Smyth is known for his strong closing runs. If Ramey's behind you (especially seemingly out of nowhere) worry. The veteran musher had few words instead telling the interviewer asking if he learned anything in the race to "keep it on the trail." And with that he was headed with his team to load up and go home. It was great to see him make another top 10. 

Just outside the top ten was Michelle Phillips. The 51 year old Canadian musher held onto 10th for much of the race only to have it lost in the last leg. Still she was all smiles as she was met at the finish by family and friends including fellow musher Jodi Bailey (whose husband is still out on the trail) who immediately threw a boa around Michelle's neck as is their tradition. She didn't give much of an interview either, instead choosing to focus on her dogs and make sure they knew just what a great job they did and make sure they got all the best snacks (including fatty snacks!) 

Jeff Deeter held off Jessie Royer to come in 12th place after a harrowing night dealing with a moose who would not give up the trail. (Okay he didn't make a big deal about it, but moose on Iditarod Trails don't always end well.) Jeff told insider that he enjoyed the going back through the Alaska Range and stated that running up the gorge was "so cool." During his interview he looked over to Race Marshall Mark Nordman saying that he wanted to do that again and that he was putting in a vote to do it again. Nordman gave a very hesitant "uhhhh" to which Deeter said "for like every 10 years." Mark then said that was fine because he wouldn't be around for the next one (what?! no!) While Deeter was hoping for top 10 this year, he is very happy with 12 as the race was a very fast and competitive one.

Jessie Royer came in soon after in 13th and was greeted by Jeff Deeter. The veteran musher was very animated and happy with finishing. She said she really enjoyed running back up the gorge saying that it was actually a really beautiful trail when you aren't having to hang on for dear life. "Going up the gorge it's like 'oh wow, this is actually kinda nice, oh look a squirrel!'... going down it though you're like 'AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!'" While fans may worry this seems like a step back for Jessie, it's just another race she'll use to build an even better team for next year. She was very excited about the dogs in front of her and I'd say watch out for them next year.

Several teams are on the trail headed into Deshka Landing tonight, but if today's finishes are any indication, the runs will be slow and we may not see another finish until midnight (or really really really late tonight, depending on how fast Aaron Peck can go the next 22 miles). There are 23 teams out on the trail, most have made it to Rohn with just three not yet in that checkpoint. We should see a close to the 49th Iditarod by Thursday. 

Congratulations Dallas

Some said it would never be duplicated. Many believe Rick Swenson's record was sacred and had some magical power that would keep any four-time Iditarod Champion from ever claiming a fifth. That thought was never more qualified than in 2014 when Jeff King had a solid lead out of White Mountain and was blown off course and forced to scratch just three or four miles from the last checkpoint of Safety. Doug Swingley ended up with frozen corneas. Cursed. That has been the theory of many a musher. It's cursed. Dallas even voiced that concern in Skwentna as he was parked taking his final mandatory 8. 

But here we are. In a year fraught with so many unknowns, so many changes and challenges. Here we are. Dallas is only the second five-time champion the Iditarod has ever had. I'm sure you could make the argument that it was shorter, that the trails are better that the race is hardly the same as when Rick was winning. And you're right. Dog care is better. Breeding programs are better. Training is better. There are more ways to afford to be an Iditarod musher without scratching two pennies together and hoping it's enough. All valid. But if it was that much easier, why don't we have more 5 time champions? There's something about this number that is more legend than attained.

We've come a long way from the musher who was "just" training his dad puppy teams. The one that was going to hold the title of youngest musher to start the race, finish the race. Then it was the plan to leave the mushing behind and become a national champion wrestler and the Olympics. When that ended with injury and he returned back to the puppy team training it was "I'm not doing this forever". There were plans for horses in Montana or something else. Not dogs. But the challenge continued calling... and here we are. The youngest Iditarod Champion, a rivalry with the sport's most beloved icon of the era (no, not Mitch, I'm talking Aliy Zirkle). A come from behind win due to crazy weather. 3 wins in a row. 

And then the dark days. The scandal. Personal drama. Dark days where I'm sure at times he felt very alone. But there were dogs, and there was family. And Norway. And finding the fun in the challenge again. And a dad taking a year off and suddenly the rebuilding part of Dallas's life was coming together and here we are.

Number five. No, there's no burled arch. No running up Cape Nome. No siren. No coming up off the sea ice right behind the Subway/Movie Theater. No Front Street.

But it was 850+ miles on trail known well but not known well backwards. Of Covid Bubbles. Of hay stealing ponies. And so much attention about one wool sweater that it now has its own twitter account (I wanna be there when he finds out about that). 

And somehow, here he is. Back on top as Champion after 3 years away. It's like he never left and nothing has changed. 

Congratulations, Dallas. It was well earned. 

And, hey, welcome back to Iditarod. You've been missed.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Seavey maintains hour lead over Burmeister

Dallas Seavey and his 10 dog team surged into the checkpoint of Skwentna at 12:44pm today looking like they were ready to continue down the trail without stopping. However, due to Skwentna being the checkpoint all teams will take their final mandatory 8 hour layover and dogs charged over into the dog parking space and immediately got to work getting into rest mode. Several dogs laid down and excitedly started pulling at their booties (think of it as like those of us that have to wear bras taking our bra off immediately after work, it's just ahhhh). Dallas went to work getting the dog food repaired and straw laid down for the dogs. 

Aaron Burmeister and his team of 13 marched into the checkpoint an hour later with an official time of 1:45pm. Aaron has made up a lot of ground since McGrath, but he's quickly run out of real estate. The veteran musher running his 20th Iditarod this year made his move last night knowing he would have to make a monster run from Rainy Pass to Skwentna if he had any chance of challenging Dallas. With having an hour between the two suggests he will need a major wind and snow storm ala 2014 to blow up Dallas's lead. It's not impossible, but it's also not probable (thank you Capt Jack). 

It also looks like Brent Sass is now trying to preserve his placement as third. Maybe he's hoping Aaron pushed too hard and won't have any gas left in the tank and can be over taken, but it seems like with the time gaps between the top three, we're pretty set for placements. Brent came in an hour and fifty-five minutes behind Aaron Burmeister, checking in at 3:40pm. 

The mileage from Skwentna seems to be debatable. Some are saying 67 miles, others say 61. There is a steady snow falling in Skwentna and much of the area is supposed to get snow through much of the night. This may play a small factor, but it should not play a huge role in who ends up where.

The top three can leave Skwentna at the following times:

Dallas Seavey can leave at 8:44pm
Aaron Burmeister can leave at 9:45pm
Brent Sass can leave at 11:40pm

Then it's 60-70 miles to Deshka Landing and the finish line.

If Dallas manages to win this will be his fifth title. He will be the first musher to tie Rick Swenson's record of 5-wins. Dallas acknowledged today that the fifth win is elusive telling Iditarod Insider "the damn thing is cursed." Dallas went onto say his biggest worry in Skwentna is that he will fall asleep and take the wrong river on the home stretch. Which is possible. We've seen it happen in other races. But it will be a big mistake like that to allow Aaron a chance to overtake Dallas and his Monsters.

Predicted finish:
Bruce Lee told insider between 2am-3am
Danny Seavey 4:50am
Me: Heck if I know but I'd say about 3:30am.

Oh and to make it a little more fun and maybe more "real" Pete Kaiser's website has a recording of the Nome Siren you can play when the team is two miles out. The siren is played for every team that comes into the finish (unless it's after the top... 30? then it's only those during waking hours bc noise ordinance can only be ignored for so long). 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Dallas Seavey first into Rainy Pass

 After allowing Burmeister and Sass pass him on the way to Rohn, Dallas blew through the checkpoint earlier this afternoon after stopping just long enough to check in and grab gear and go. The climb ahead was anyone's guess how things would go, and it's no doubt Dallas had every intention of just going with it and not think too much. His team looked strong coming into the checkpoint and charged down the trail at a strong trot after a brief moment of confusion when Lead Dog North tried to take a different path. 

When coming into the checkpoint his team came in hot. They were strong, still tugging fully on the line. The musher announced he was staying for "a little bit" and asked where to park his team. He's learned that due to the Rainy Pass Lodge ponies stealing hay from the haybale area he would have to wait until someone opened the electric fence. "Wow, all sorts of new obstacles (challenges?) for mushers!" 

When Dallas was asked by Bruce Lee of Iditarod Insider how the climb was Dallas answered with a chuckle, "Steep." He also said his feet were frozen due to there being "a little bit of overflow out there."

Dallas managed to make the run into the checkpoint only about a half hour slower than when he was on the outbound trail. Considering it was a rough climb for most of it, it's impressive that he managed to only slow slightly.

It also looks like Burmeister is doing well with the trail, and should keep in step with Dallas's time at the very least (he ran the Rainy to Rohn trail much faster than Dallas). 

Brent Sass has also started the chase. Should be an exciting night and early morning. 

Time to get that last nap in, folks... we aren't sleeping much from here until the finish tomorrow, whenever it is.

Aaron Burmeister leading into Rohn

 Aaron Burmeister passed Dallas Seavey from where he was camping on the trail around 1:45pm today. Seavey did not give chase as some speculated he would, and allowed Brent Sass and Ryan Redington to pass by before he, too, pulled the snowhook. It's now 3:35 and it looks as those Seavey has already passed Ryan Redington.

With his rest on the trail Seavey still has the advantage over Sass and Burmeister - and it's assumed the both of them will rest in Rohn. Dallas should slingshot out ahead of them as he chose to rest closer to the checkpoint and he'll be the first to head UP the gorge.

I've gotten a few questions in the last day if this trail has ever been done in reverse in Iditarod history. As far as racing, absolutely not - this is the first time. However, race fans may remember that Jeremy Keller chose to scratch after the first breaking news of Covid shutting the world down hit last year. Keller wanted to get home to his family before everything went crazy (he had a sixth sense it, if you think about it). So he chose to run the trail with the dogs backwards instead of waiting for transport off the trail which we know can take a few days. So it's been done, and been done recently. It's not easy, but it's doable.

Dallas said in a pre-race video up on his youtube channel that he does not enjoy this part of the trail they are on now (other than Hal Hanson I haven't heard one musher say they enjoy it... rookies). It doesn't mean Dallas will struggle, but it's anyone's guess how any of this will play out. We are looking at him hitting the gorge as the day begins to cool down and the sun starts to sink lower. I would guess he SHOULD be through the "worst" of it before dark, but it doesn't matter much now because I don't expect a team to really stop when in the gorge.

Dallas is currently 2 miles behind Sass who is 7-8 miles behind Burmeister. 

This is going to be a fun night. 

It's a three way race

Fans followed through the night (I passed out around midnight. I'm too old for this, man! lol), others woke up to the early morning news to see that Aaron Burmeister and Brent Sass had caught and passed Dallas Seavey in Nikolai. The race leader to that point made the decision to rest a few hours in the checkpoint before continuing down the trail. In a pre-race recorded video on his youtube channel that dropped today, Dallas explained his strategy for this part of the race. Essentially, Dallas is planning to break up the run to Rainy Pass with just a quick pass through Rohn (cuz, you know, checkpoints). In his video he expected that most teams would do the same. So far he's right.

While Burmeister and Sass left Dallas in Nikolai they both chose to stop just a few miles out to camp. Dallas overtook them and now has about a 17 mile lead (if we can trust the trackers). While Sass is technically still right there with Seavey and Burmeister, he has allowed Ryan Redington to get with him. It's honestly surprising to see Ryan keep up as his dogs just seem not as peppy. It could be more than Brent is still healing from a broken collar bone suffered about 7 weeks ago. This section of trail is painful in the best of health, and it could be that this is where we leave Sass to the chase pack. It will really depend on just how healthy Brent is and if there's any significant pain going on.

This is also a section of trail that the trackers aren't always pinging so it'll be up to Iditarod checkers to get the info to the comms quickly so we can know just how teh teams look against each other.

The chase pack has a few familiar faces we haven't seen in a while (Joar has made a move and it looks like Diehl is also trying to make a play). Pete Kaiser pulled back last night and has now reportedly decided to scratch in the best interest of his team. His team posted earlier today that his dogs were feeling under the weather, so his decision truly was in the best interest of the team. The 2019 Iditarod Champion really is one of the best.

Don't expect to do much else but watch the trackers for the next 24-36 hours. This race is going to be nailbiting for those wanting any number of outcomes... and pretty soon we'll see just how the Gorge factors in to all of this (will they all wish for "the Blowhole" on the coast).

Friday, March 12, 2021

Seven teams headed for Nikolai

Dallas may have a strong lead ahead of the chase pack, but he can't rest easy yet. With 250+ miles left in his race there's still enough time for one mistake to cost him the race. Behind him are some decent looking teams, some of which have admitted to holding back until the final third to be able to have the power and energy to run down the leader - whoever it is.

We're already seeing some who were in the front falter. Petit and Buser were the first two to be overtaken in the first few days of the race, and now it seens Ryan Redington's team is fading. While he did give his team 5 hours of rest in McGrath the dogs seemed a tad reluctant to stop napping and start running. By the time they headed down the trail, though, they perked up. But as of about 10:40pm Aaron Burmeister, who left 39 minutes after Ryan, had overtaken the team dressed in lime green. This could be the first of many passings Redington will endure in the next two days.

Sass is running in fourth at the moment and of the teams chasing has the strongest looking team to the minds of many analysts (why are they counting out Burmeister?). His team does look really good, and it seems he's learned a thing or two about team management. They looked good coming into McGrath and leaving.

Wade Marrs left McGrath an hour after Brent and it doesn't look like he's gaining anything on the Yukon Quest champion. And just a short while ago Travis Beals and Mille Porsild left McGrath just minutes apart. Mille is posting some of the fastest times against all of the front runners and she's really made it clear she wants to be not just top lady but top dog. 

Dallas is about 12 miles away from Nikolai. It'll be interesting to see what he does in that checkpoint. Will he drop his trailer? Will he stay long in the checkpoint?  

And will anyone really push to challenge the four-time champion?

Dallas Seavey leads out of McGrath

 Dallas Seavey left McGrath and headed towards Nikolai today at 5:32pm after taking his mandatory 8 hour rest in the checkpoint. Brent Sass, who was second into McGrath today, also declared his 8. Brent came in at 12:42pm and won't be able to leave until 8:42pm if he takes that full 8 (if he doesn't he'll have two more checkpoints to take it in). Dallas has just under 3 hours over Sass at this point. 

Third in was Wade Marrs. Wade's been sitting back in the chase pack for most of the race. According to his social media team on facebook, Wade's said that he planned to start pushing once he left the checkpoint of Iditarod, and clearly it's worked. He's caught up and managed to come into McGrath 59 minutes behind Sass. Marrs also needs to take his mandatory 8, so if that's what he does here, he'll be leaving McGrath at 9:41pm.

The former leader on paper Ryan Redington came in just under 2 hours after Marrs. Redington took his 8 fairly early in the race as well as his 24. When speaking with Iditarod Insider on his return to Ophir this morning Redington all but conceded the race stating that both Seavey and Sass had great looking teams and that his team can't catch them - he spent quite a bit of time resting in Ophir before giving chase. Redington is down to 9 dogs, which isn't too small a team, but it sounds like they're showing signs that they aren't up for the big push at the end. With his mandatory rest completed Ryan and team can leave whenever he feels they are ready.

As Dallas was pulling out of McGrath, Travis Beals was pulling in. Beals had already completed his 24 and his 8 and it was speculated he would try to blow through. Beals has -imo wisely- chosen to bed his dogs down for a rest in McGrath before giving chase. It will be interesting to see how long Beals and Redington stay in the checkpoint before challenging the leader.

In other news, Larry Daugherty's tracker has been glitching for over 24 hours and it's finally been replaced and he is once again shown as moving. So if you thought his name jumped significantly on the map, he was not perpetually in McGrath. It was the aliens, and they have finally released their hold on the signal. He currently sits in the checkpoint of Iditarod and will no doubt be headed back soon. Hal Hanson seems a solid Red Lantern at this point. I got curious last night and asked Dallas Seavey if a team of Seavey dogs had ever won the red lantern. He couldn't verify one did in Iditarod (he says it sounds right, though) but he did point out Dallas got the red lantern during the 2005 Knik 200. My how times change.

Iditarod Poll Time

 Alright, fans, let's have some fun. For the next day we're going to answer the question EVERYone is asking.... WHICH IS COOLER:
Dallas Seavey or
Dallas Seavey's sweater

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The race is on

Sure this blog should have gone out much earlier today, you know, when Dallas Seavey decided to cut his rest in Iditarod short and head back down the trail towards the finish. We've still got -hopefully- a full three days until a champion is crowned, but this is when the RACE part of the race truly begins. Up until now, they were all jockeying for position. They all pretty much feel they still have it. Dallas is miles ahead, but he didn't take his 8 in Iditarod like he first planned, and so now those that already have have a few hours on him. Not enough to declare this not Dallas's year (and I'd argue a top 10 finish in this deep of a field after a three-year hiatus would be a win), but it's not as clear cut as some would like.

On paper when you look at rest, it appears Ryan Redington is leading the Iditarod. This is exciting because in 48 races, a Redington has never won. Iditarod 49 looks like it's trying to change that (and what a story a Redington winning on essentially the original trail Joe Sr. dreamed of). Ryan, however, has pushed from nearly the beginning and has had to send a few dogs home (at last look he was down to 10). With just under half way to go, he should be fine, but it's still really unknown what the teams will expect running back across the burn and through the gorge. 

Aaron Burmeister and Travis Beals have also taken both the 24 and the 8 hour rests and are within striking distance of either of the two frontrunners. Brent Sass is still capable though he still needs his 8 (as do the three amigos of Pete, Richie, and Joar). Mille has taken her 8 and is finishing up her 24 in Iditarod and could really play a spoiler. 

Currently Dallas is shown as resting just 30 miles from Ophir S. It's a good guess that he does not plan to take his 8 in Ophir, which means who the heck knows how this will all play out. Apparently Dallas has made mention that he's still rotating carrying dogs (as he has all race) in the sled bag while running, and he's "still building the monster". He's hardly not a front runner or even in the top spot, whatever the Iditamath suggests.

This field is incredibly talented and it's just mind boggling how many combinations there are to decide who is going to finish where... and we haven't even hit the big obstacles that everyone keeps saying they dread (well all but apparently Hal Hanson who WANTS to see the Gorge again). 

Speaking of the back of the pack, everyone is out of McGrath, though it looks like either Larry Daugherty's tracker never reset/died or he left it behind (uh oh) because he is clearly listed as OUT OF McGrath on the standings, but his tracker still shows him as resting. I do believe he was planning to swap sleds and it could have been the easy mistake of never taking the tracker off/out of the old sled to put it with the new one. Either way it probably won't be remedied until Ophir so just keep refreshing the current standings.

Our current red lantern is Will Troshynski who stated in an interview with Insider this morning about how he is just taking in every experience and his "mistakes" have been so excited to talk to people to gain knowledge that he's left out of checkpoints hours later than he was supposed to. Whoops! His energy in the interview was infectious (though I don't want to think how much caffeine or sugar may have been in his system at the time) and it was just so great that Insider gave the back of the pack so much attention throughout the day (keep it up Insider, you give me a glimmer of hope that you're listening!) 

This may be the last night that I get a decent amount of sleep. I suggest everyone do the same. It's gonna be a *WILD RIDE* (do not judge me in all of my years of writing out into the void I've never used that to talk about Iditarod).

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Some thoughts to close out day 4 of the Iditarod

 Just some random thoughts as I continue to work through the Insider videos and watch the trackers move ever so slowly (it feels) tonight when I should be sleeping.

I really love seen Aaron Peck sticking it out with the "front runners". I'm hoping he can hang in there, he has yet to take any mandatory rest, but he's not the only one (Brent Sass is currently on his 24 in Iditarod and I assume that's what Peck will do, too). 

Mille's most likely vying for not just a top 10 placement, she could probably come in top 5 and right now looks like the top lady. (And now, I've jinxed her.) 

I was surprised to see that Dallas made a video ahead of the race stating that he was most concerned about the part of the trail he is currently on. Basically, he hasn't seen this part of the trail since 2013 (due to bad weather keeping the race off the trail for several years, and then he took a break from Iditarod). He's not normally one to say anything that hints at unsureness so I just found that interesting. As I type this Dallas is INTO Ophir. It will be interesting to see what he says about the run and if he stays long.

I don't know why but I feel like the Iditarod Champion for 2021 was in Ophir today and was resting. Not counting Dallas who just got there or the three that were running away from Ophir for most of the day. I don't know why, my gut just says this is where it will be chosen somehow. I'm no expert and I'm often wrong.

Part of that feeling comes from ever since Rohn, I've felt like Burmeister's team was incredibly strong (there I go jinxing again). He has said in several interviews now that his dogs just don't seem to want to go as slow as he thinks they should. That sounds very familiar as Mitch Seavey kept saying that about his 2017 team, and he broke all kinds of records with his win that year. I've probably read way too much into Aaron's interviews, but he just seems so at ease and set to running his race and I love to see it. It gives me confidence that his team will be right up there in the end. Burmeister has taken his 8 and is currently on his 24.

I've really enjoyed getting to know the different mushers and the causes they want to bring awareness to. Kaiser and Diehl (and Gunnar Johnson) all running to bring about suicide awareness and prevention. Wade Marrs running as always to bring awareness to Turners Syndrome. Other's I'm forgetting at the moment because I'm starting to fade. It's just nice to see mushers using the Iditarod as a platform for causes important for them.

I don't know what to make of Ryan Redington, I think he may be pushing too hard, too long, too fast. He's doing well to be in Ophir and like Burmeister is working to get his 24 done and has already taken his 8. I don't know that he'll stick to top 10. He's down a few dogs already. We'll have to see.

I love that Pete and Richie are running together. Waiting for either one to make a move, not sure we'll see one until Iditarod.

That's all for tonight. There will be a lot of movement tonight. Wish I could stay up for it all... 

Musher tests positive for Covid-19 in McGrath

 In an official statement released by the Iditarod Trail Committee this evening, the race announced it had its first musher test positive for Covid-19. Gunnar Johnson, who is running a team out of Jim Lanier's kennel and mushing to bring awareness to Suicide Prevention and remembering those lost to suicide, received the rapid test upon coming into the checkpoint of McGrath. The rapid test came back with a positive so he was given two more tests, each coming back with the same result. The musher is reportedly asymptomatic and did not come in contact with any of the community members of McGrath.

Gunnar Johnson withdrawn from Iditarod 49 due to positive COVID-19 test

Anchorage, Alaska – Veteran Iditarod musher Gunnar Johnson (bib #11), of Duluth,

Minnesota, has been withdrawn from the 2021 Iditarod race at approximately 3:15 p.m.

today due to a positive COVID-19 test at the McGrath checkpoint.

Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman, in consultation with epidemiologist Dr. Jodie

Guest, made the decision to withdraw Johnson, who is asymptomatic, based on the

protocols established in the COVID-19 mitigation plan. Under this guidance and per the

Iditarod race rules, Johnson understands that he has been withdrawn. He is incredibly

disappointed and felt his dog team looked great.

Per the mitigation plan, Johnson:

• Was immediately notified by COVID-19 Team personnel of the positive results;

• Was immediately removed from the checkpoint area by COVID-19 Team

personnel to isolate away from others in an Arctic oven tent; and

• Will be removed off the trail using safe transport.

Per the COVID-19 mitigation protocols, all mushers are tested for COVID-19 just outside

the McGrath checkpoint using a rapid antigen test. Johnson was tested by a COVID-19

Team member and the rapid antigen test came back positive. Johnson was then retested twice using a molecular-based COVID-19 test and both results came back


Johnson did not come into close contact with race personnel or community members,

nor did he enter any buildings or community spaces in McGrath. However, he did park

his team as he was planning to rest at the checkpoint.

The COVID-19 Team is in the process of contact tracing and performing additional

mitigation measures as needed. The State of Alaska has been notified of the results.

Johnson had 14 dogs in harness at the time of the withdrawal.

Gunnar had a strong run through to McGrath and looked to improve his standings significantly from his previous Iditarods (ok partially due to there being fewer entrants to begin with). Johnson's rookie run was in 1991, he last completed the race in 2017.

Brent Sass is first into Iditarod

 Brent Sass just pulled into the halfway point of Iditarod winning the award for first to Iditarod as well as a nice long rest. Earlier in the race Sass said he intended to 24 in Iditarod. Sass has spent much of his time camping out on the trail away from checkpoints - something he has done in most races. The three-time Yukon Quest's champion's team looked ready for a much needed break from the trail.

Just about two hours ago, Dallas Seavey pulled the snowhook and left McGrath to head on after the front runners. The 4-time Iditarod Champion still has his 8 to do, while there are several teams on their 24 who have already taken their 8. The next couple of days could get really exciting with another bunch of leap frogging.

The back of the pack are almost all into McGrath. Rick Casillo is less than 20 miles bringing up the rear as the current red lantern.

Another scratch was announced this morning when rookie Brenda Mackey called her race in Nikolai this morning. She had nine dogs in harness with still many miles to go and decided it was best for the team to scratch. I'm sure we'll hear more once she's back home, rested, and can put it into words.

The night is young and a lot of teams are close to pulling their snowhooks. There's still a lot of trail left but the gap is closing quickly for those nipping at the heals of the leaders. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Trail Update: No trip to Flat afterall.

 According to Insider and KTUU tonight, due to a large amount of new snow, trailbreakers are unable to break trail for the teams from Iditarod to Flat and loop around so teams will run to Iditarod and turn around right there and head back.

Also DeeDee Jonrowe reports that Brent plans to 24 in Iditarod. 

Day 3 of Iditarod makes headlines

What a day for race fans! Most in Alaska woke up to news that Aliy Zirkle had to scratch in her final Iditarod - the first time the 2000 Yukon Quest Champion has ever scratched from an Iditarod. Zirkle sustained a concussion and "orthopedic injury to the upper torso" (preliminary reports said collarbone, while others say dislocated shoulder, there's no official word at this time from Aliy's camp) during her run through the Gorge and into Rohn. She was looked over by officials and medical and it was determined she could not continue. This is a devastating end to her final Iditarod and I cannot say enough how much I wish her well.

Teams continued to move through the Burn into Nikolai throughout the morning. The front runners all noting that they weren't really looking forward to returning to this portion of the trail on the return trip. Martin Buser told Insider in an interview in Nikolai that he tried to "turn back the clock" and relive his championship days, but now his dogs are running at about 60% and he is "perplexed" as to why, so he is giving them extra rest and regrouping.

Dallas Seavey rested before coming into Nikolai, choosing to blow through the checkpoint and run straight to McGrath where it's believed he will take his mandatory 24+time differential rest. Brent Sass also blew through Nikolai but camped out shortly after leaving that checkpoint. Sass was 2.5 hours behind Dallas coming into McGrath but again chose to leave the checkpoint and is currently camped out on the trail. 

Ahead of Sass into McGrath were Pete Kaiser, Richie Diehl, and Joar Ulsom - all coming in just minutes apart. of the top five, Pete had the fastest run over from Nikolai.

The next couple of days is all about getting on those mandatory rests in, so expect for a little bit of leap frogging and then very little movement from the top teams. Now is a good time to get your naps in, or actually do some work in the office. But have fun still watching them move.

(Oh and as I finish this up Bruce Lee just said on the Live Feed that Aliy mushed FIVE MILES WITH HER INJURIES to get to the checkpoint. OH MY WORD. If ever you needed proof that Aliy is not only the real deal but super human... Captain Marvel ain't got nothin' on Aliy.)

Monday, March 8, 2021

Front runners are headed into the Farewell Burn

 Well, so much for the guessing that the race schedule would be similar to a "normal" Iditarod year. The teams are running at fast paces and the front runners are already past the Happy River Steps, Dalzell Gorge and Rohn. Ryan Redington let the pack out of Rohn and currently rests near Farewell Lake. He will soon be joined by Martin Buser and Richie Diehl. 

While a lot of talk happens on how hard the Steps and Gorge are on sleds, it's the Farewell Burn that can really give teams hardship. The frozen tussocks continually hammer the sled and the musher. Sore muscles (if the musher is lucky that's all it will be) and banged up sleds are the norm. Most teams are more than thankful to reach the checkpoint of Nikolai by the end of the run. 

The burn is often unique in that this is most often the part of the trail with the least amount of snow (not counting Anchorage and "downtown" Nome). It's no surprise to see teams rest a while after coming out of the mountains before hitting the trail again. It could be a good mental rest for the mushers as much as it is a physical rest for the dogs. While the tussocks wreak havoc on the sleds and the mushers, the dogs manage really well on the more solid ground even with the bumps. There's no post holing so they can get good speed so long as the sled stays upright.

With the race being 100 miles shorter it looks like a lot of the top teams feel they need to maintain a fast speed early on. There's less time to catch teams that may falter so they all need to be fast but not too fast and definitely not slow. There are a lot of top names that are further down in the standings still trying to run this race like it's the typical 900-1000 mile jaunt. It's anyone's guess on this new loop which strategy will play out.

There's a snow storm on its way (is it Iditarod without one?) and it could dump quite a bit of snow on the teams in the next couple of days. The live cam at Nikolai show big heavy flakes coming down. Should make for an interesting night of mushing.

Gallea scratches due to illness

 As of 4pm (AKST) this afternoon, Cindy Gallea's scratch was officially announced by the ITC. Citing illness not related to Covid as the reason for her feeling it was in the best interest of her team that she end her race in Skwentna. The 69 year old Iditarod veteran last ran in 2019 citing it as her final run, but adventure called and she wanted to give it another go in 2021 saying this was for sure her final Iditarod. Sadly her race ended before the 24 hour mark.

The Deep Root kennel, who partner often with Cindy and cite her as the inspiration for their own Iditarod run last year, posted a statement on Cindy's wellbeing following the official announcement:

"With sadness we wanted to let everyone know that Cindy scratched from the race. She developed severe vertigo and nausea to the point she is unable to stand, let alone drive a sled and manage the care of her 14 best friends.  In the 2014 Iditarod, she developed the same issue causing her to scratch from the race. The symptoms in 2014 lasted a number of days.  

She is resting at friends in Anchorage and dogs are doing great. She said dogs had an amazing 65 mile run.  

Damon will be flying up in the morning to help take care of our gal and dogs.  We pray her symptoms subside soon and her spirit mends quickly. 

I'll send out an update when we know more information soon."

Vertigo is not something to fool around with, and I can only imagine what it was like to deal with that while flying out on a little bush plane while also dealing with the incredible sadness of having to finish the race so early. Wishing Cindy all the best.

Gallea may be out of the Iditarod

 Iditarod fans noticed just under an hour ago that Cindy Gallea's tracker went from sitting in Skwentna to suddenly going 155mph towards Anchorage (the opposite direction of the other teams). We're still waiting on official word, but all experience suggests the musher scratched.

Gallea made headlines just days before the race when she and her team were denied entry into Canada to get to Alaska for the Last Great Race. After a lot of pleading that went no where with the Canadian Government (including, according to a social media post by a fellow musher/kennel, pleas directly from the Iditarod Trail Committee) Cindy resorted to shipping her team and gear via Alaska Airlines and followed a day later. Mushers in Alaska rallied and got her a dog truck and other needed equipment and met her and her team at the airport. 

Concern of added expenses coming in around $5,000 quickly made the rounds of social media and in less than 24 hours $8,000 had been donated to the team to get them to the starting line. Now it appears that their race is over just a day into the game. 

Will update when we get official word.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

First teams lead into Yentna Station

Matthew Failor's team at the ceremonial start
of Iditarod 48. March 7, 2020.
Teams left Deshka Landing with minimal fanfare Sunday afternoon headed down the trail for a historic 49th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Unlike every other year, teams of 14 dogs will only run as far as the ghost town of Iditarod before turning around via a loop in another goldrush historic site of "The Flats" and returning to Deshka Landing. The first "day" of racing is always just the front runners shaking out away from the middle and back of the pack. Teams are just working to calm down the dogs and get into a sustainable rhythm for the next 800 or so miles. 

The first checkpoint of Yentna Station is typically not somewhere many teams stop for more than a few minutes - and with the Covid-19 protocols in place there's probably even less incentive to stop. They will only pick up supplies and if need be they can leave a dog at the checkpoint in the care of Iditarod Staff and Vets until the pup(s) can be returned to Anchorage and then their handler(s). Some teams may choose to break up the run to Skwentna with a stop near the checkpoint but expect most teams to run right through.

Honestly, the first few days of the race really aren't that "important" to follow the GPS religiously (she says as she is watching and freaking out even though she knows better). Take time away from the screen. It's important to practice self-care while waiting to see news on your favorite team(s). Once they start taking their 24s then it's time to really pay attention.

In other race news, there was a last minute withdrawal today. Rookie Sean Williams announced this morning he was withdrawing - according to posts by fans on social media it was due to "personal family reasons." Hoping all is well and that he'll be back on the runners next year. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

How to follow Iditarod 49

Today marks the first time the Iditarod will not have some sort of start in Anchorage, Alaska. It's a strange feeling not starting the first Saturday in March with the most famous sled dog race in the World, but here we are. Covid can suck it. With the new trail and rules in place, there's little opportunity to sneak a peek at the race in person, and there are fewer media personnel on the trail... so just how does one follow the Last Great Race during the (hopefully) tail end of a global pandemic? I've got you covered with some of my favorite (and best) resources.

Official Links

Of course, we should probably start with the official resources given to us by the race itself. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's website has blogs by several volunteers/staff throughout the race (I miss Sebastian Schnuelle and Joe Runyan's insights). You can find info on race rules, musher profiles, the history of the race. It's a good resource for Iditarod. They also have a lot of ways to give money to the race with their online store, donation buttons, and ITC Memberships. Don't forget their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too.

Iditarod Insider is the official subscription for the GPS tracker as well as live feeds and other video interviews. While they do have a free option, you don't get much with it. Unlike other races, the GPS is behind a pay wall. They do plan to live stream the start FREE to all, however. The feeds and videos are cohosted by Greg Heister (the brains of the Insider) and Bruce Lee (a former Iditarod musher who knows his stuff). They have a "proven formula" on how to do it and while they do tend to focus on the front runners, this is really the only game in town especially in a year when they aren't allowing media to be in checkpoints or have access to the teams during the race.

Alaska's News Source is the official media outlet for Iditarod again this year. KTUU and KTVA merged recently so there's a lot of coverage hopefully to glean. They also have a streaming channel via Viut it with a dedicated channel just for their Iditarod coverage. I assume it will just be the stories they share during their sports segments in their regular news programing, but it's still a great source. They also have Facebook and Twitter.

QrillPet is once again broadcasting the race. The QPAWS project (that "world series"/"grand prix" of mushing that began last year) was curtailed this year as the European races were canceled, but QPAWS is alive and well at the Iditarod. 2020's Iditarod Champion Thomas Waerner will be on deck to give his commentary (I mean, Dallas can't race and commentate... though, knowing Dallas he probably COULD). Their live feeds and GPS work outside of North America, but for those of us in the US and Canada we have to use Insider. You can view the daily updates free on their YouTube channel

Other News Sources

With the Iditarod closing the trail down from most media personnel as a way to mitigate the danger of spreading Covid-19 (mmhmm) there will be a different look to how the race is covered by the rest of Alaska's media, but they still plan to do their best. 

Anchorage Daily News just got word they would be allowed to have one reporter on the trail, so expect some of their excellent coverage as always via their articles as well as reporting from their Iditarod dedicated Twitter account

The Iditapod will be back with daily coverage of the race, though without their tails from the trail, still the team will no doubt give it their all. This podcast is one of the best ones out there following the race and you definitely want to give it a listen. You can follow the hosts of the podcast on twitter as well. Casey Grove and Tegan Hanlon.

Another podcast is Dog Works Radio's Iditarod coverage. Dog Works Radio is run by musher and dog trainer Robert Forto. He and Alex Stein have, for the last ten years, done a special podcast daily during Iditarod following the race. This year, your's truly, is "guest hosting" because Alex begged... kinda. Anyway, take a listen to it. Please ignore my rambling. 

Social Media & Blogs

For Twitter, I'd offer the advice of just be careful when reading any tags. During Iditarod the Animal Rights "activists" (I use that term so very loosely) really attack the race, the fans, and the mushers hard. It's their one way to boost revenue for themselves in the guise of "saving the sled dogs". So if you don't like watching people make complete fools of themselves while distorting the truth, you may want to just stick with twitter handles you recognize and trust. But if you want to follow the Iditarod Hashtags I'd suggest #Iditarod2021 as the safest option. The #Iditarod hashtag is basically PETA and their ilk (so I won't link it here for that reason).

Some top twitter handles to follow during Iditarod (not related to the ones listed above) are:
Danny Seavey - excellent "insider" knowledge, is fairly good at responding, he's come a long way in the three-ish years he's been back on that particular platform.
Alex Stein - one half of the Dog Works Radio Iditarod coverage team, Alex did a documentary on the race a few years back. Definitely give my friend a follow.
Toni Reitter - okay, shameless plug... but, seriously, I'm updating there constantly during races.
Zachary Hughes - former co-host of the Iditapod podcast, Zach has joined up with the ADN to report live from the trail. Due to bubbles and rules he'll be based in McGrath (one of the only places on the trail that has a lot of tent space, I guess). Definitely follow him!  
Jeff Schultz - while not the *official* Official Photographer these days and has said he will not be out on the trail this year, I refuse to not link to the all time greatest sled dog photog. Jeff still plans to work on his Faces of Iditarod project (I was a subject last year, a total honor) and I'm sure will share some of his photos from races past. 

On facebook you'll want to follow:
Danny Seavey - if you've followed the race at all over the last 10 years or so, you know Danny weaves a good tale and explains a lot of what you're watching. No doubt we'll see his blogging skills on facebook again this year (and heaven help him if he ditches us).
Mushing Tech - while they're more apt to follow other races, they still give a lot of insight to the sport and can definitely help you work the math of what GPS trackers are telling you.
Alaska Mushing News - they basically do what I do on twitter - share anything and everything musher. It's a group so there's a lot of info shared all the time.

There are other pages that I'm sure tickle people's fancy, but these are the two I use most (during the full race season).  

So there's a quick list of links that will help you follow along with this year's race. And remember you can always find updates on this blog, too! Did I miss an important link (always possible)? Comment below with suggestions for addition.