The 37th Iditarod Sled Dog Race is underway! This is Jeff’s 20th Iditarod and 27th one thousand mile race. He should be feeling at home on the trail today.
The most significant concern of and for the teams this year, as always, is the weather and trail conditions. This year in particular with the recent storms and hefty amounts of snow all along the route… the entire state… Jeff’s thoughts and musings continually returned to the unknown of weather and trail conditions. Lots of snow can create dramatic stories of teams that get ahead of a nasty storm leaving the other contenders locked behind a nearly impassable trail (Libby Riddles 1985 and Doug Swingley for one of his wins). The reverse can also happen where the “rabbit” team ends up breaking trail for the teams behind only to exhaust his/her dogs leaving them to watch the others travel the same trail in half the time and eventually pass them. Both are gambles… but is it truly a gamble if the decision is made with knowledge and experience?
From the stats and GPS Tracker information this morning, it appears as though the trail must be in good shape. Travel times are comparable to other years and I don’t see any dogs dropped in the tops 30 teams, at least. Jeff typically arrives in Rainy Pass around noon on Monday and it looks like he is right on track.
Back tracking a bit now. The race start was definitely the quietest for the King Team. It was actually quite relaxing; if you could call a banquet, breakfast presentation, two booking signings, a gallery open house, the ceremonial start and the restart with dinner and breakfast engagements in between, quiet. Of course Jeff spent “down” time concocting equipment for specific conditions. He does have a couple of new inventions for his sled this year that will likely show themselves before too long.
The ceremonial start was very fun. Jeff brought his wooden freight sled complete with Gee Pole and skis. This is an old, traditional arrangement for hauling heavy loads (no offence to Carrie and our Iditarider!). Jeff spent many miles riding Gee skis during the time he was hauling freight up Mount McKinley for climbers. He even used this set-up during some years while racing in the Yukon Quest because of the heavy loads and long distances presenting by the race format. There are very few mushers still around today that are comfortable riding gee skis so it was a special treat. Check out the video footage from the sled with the You-Tube link provided.
The restart presented some tension and excitement; enough so that I realized that Jeff’s head is still wholeheartedly in the game. Bronte and Kilarney had a ride in the sled from the race start. Both are valued leaders that Jeff likes to offer additional rest to. Of course he was on his new and improved Tail-dragger sled with a trailer. The set-up is perfect for the conditions offered by this year’s trail. Jeff has a wonderful team this year. All but one have completed the Iditarod before. The oldest dog is six years old (I believe that is Bronte). Only one of our brilliant 2-year olds made the team. Dollar (one of the rental car litter) is a beautifully built female with tons of potential.
Stay tuned by checking out the Iditarod website and be sure to sign up for the Iditarod Insider and the GPS Tracker. What a fantastic addition to the race for us spectators! The Tracker this year is on all the teams and the signals are synchronized so that they send simultaneously. That makes it mush easier to truly keep track of the teams in relation to one another. Have fun watching the race!