Iditarod XLVI is underway. Sixty-seven teams of 1,059 dogs departed from Willow in sunny calm weather. Mother Nature joined up with Jack frost to make the morning magical. Hoar frost clung to the trees and sparkled like diamonds in the bright sun.
Cody Strathe wearing bib number 2 took to the trail at 1400 hours. Ten of Strathe’s dogs ran in the Yukon Quest during the early part of February with the other half of Squid Acres Kennel, Paige Drobny.
Libby Riddles, the first woman to win Iditarod, was circulating around chatting with mushing peers and sharing wishes of good luck and fast trail. Libby and Aliy Zirkle talked briefly and shared a few laughs. Upon departing, Libby said to Aliy, “Just win it!”
Jim Lanier is the most senior musher on the trail at the age of 77. Lanier has run in every decade of Iditarod. The past four years have not been kind to Jim. He’s scratched due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, pneumonia and a broken collarbone. A knee injury kept him from entering the 2017 Iditarod. Jim is mended and strong and looks forward to making his 17th trip to Nome. Lanier is currently coaching a JR musher, Mikah Whitehead, who rode his tag sled in the ceremonial start and helped with handling the Northern Whites today.
Sled Dogs are born to run. Their excitement and enthusiasm is over the top. They love what they do! With more than 1,000 dogs in harness today, eagerness was all around. One of Allen Moore’s dogs would lunge and then lean into its harness. Then to answer they question of why are we just standing here, the dog would stand up and look to the front of the team for the answer. The blue eyed canine repeated the lunge, lean, stand and look routine many, many times over before the team was taken to the starting line.
DeeDee Jonrowe is startin her thirty-sixth Iditarod. She’s finished in the top ten sixteen times. Jonrowe is one of the best loved mushers of all time. She is a cancer survivor and inspires young girls to dream and work hard. DeeDee announced at the Musher Banquet that she would retire from Iditarod after the 2018 race. Undoubtedly her journey on the trail this year will be filled with memories from years past.
Hugh Neff a veteran of the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod has completed thirty 1,000-mile races since Y2K. Hugh Neff came to Alaska in 1995 and has lived in many Athabascan villages. Hugh credits Lew Freedman and the stories in Iditarod Classics for sparking his interest in running the Iditarod. Neff was the final musher to depart at 1614.
Stay up to date with the race by following the race stats, viewing Insider Videos and tracking your favorite teams with GPS Tracker. Stay tuned for more news and information about the early checkpoints.