We had a blast going to the Ceremonial start of the Iditarod. We parked downtown and began walking to the event. Very quickly, the streets were lined with trucks, dogs, sleds, dog handlers, lots of spectators and racers getting things ready to go. There were over 70 racers this year... With more than 12 dogs each... That makes for crowded loud streets. It was all very exciting!
Due to a rather warm winter, the race officially started 2 days later in Fairbanks. We were about 200 ft down from the starting line, right by a camera boom. They had to ship in snow to line the streets for the sleds. I had thought that all the racers would start all at the same time... But they have them draw their starting positions the night before at a dinner. They go one at a time, with 2 minutes in between each one. It makes for a slow start.
Most of the racers all have an "Iditerider" in the sled instead of their gear. Usually a major sponsor, political leader or head of the Iditerod Planning Committee. The minute those dogs are connected to their harnesses they are ready to run, and so happy to be doing it. The handlers have to help hold them back before they are allowed to go. They all ran with their tails wagging and their tongues dangling out of their snout. I'd swear they were smiling!
One of Elliot's friends' uncle is John Baker, one of the racers. He won in 2011. We were able to meet him before the race, but we didn't see him start (he was #78 or something like that) because David got called out for work. But I think seeing the first 20 or so gave us a good idea of what it was like.
The race is 1049 miles long. They have checkpoints along the way. They are mandated to take one 8 hour break, and one 24 hour break during the entire race. Vets are stationed at each checkpoint to look over the dogs, help keep them healthy. Other than that, they keep racing. It's not uncommon for the racer to fall asleep standing on the sled.
During the race, due to a major solar flare, the Northern Lights were very intense. I can't imagine how spectacular the views were!
The race ended in just over 8 days. John Baker did not win. (I think he was in 22nd)... And at the moment I can't remember which of the Seavey's won (there were 2, father and son. They came in 1st and 2nd). Christian Turner, from Australia came in 15th. Quite impressive! I know full well, I wouldn't handle that long of a race. Frostbite and I are not good friends. But I would love to ride on a sled for a short sprint. I think it would be amazing!!