Iditarod Friday, the calm before the storm

Hello Race Fans,

Friday before the Ceremonial Start is the calm before the storm. And storm it already is, depending on where you are located in this big state. While Mushers are busy with last minute preparations, the Iditarod Air Force is out trying to get race personal into the early checkpoints. Planes are taking off constantly from outside the Lakefront Hotel. Specially the Alaska Range Checkpoints of Rainy Pass and Rohn can be a real challenge. Currently it is too windy in Rohn to land with the small planes. It is the hurry up and wait game. Looking to the next couple of days, the weather does not look like it will be improving much, much on the contrary, there is another system with snow and wind moving in sometime tomorrow.

Talking to some of the mushers, getting ready means finding yet another trailer tire for Lance Mackey, who in typical Mackey Fashion has been plagued with vehicle issues. I remember those all too well from my own racing days. Others like Canadian Aaron Peck will go for a long, 60 mile, training run today out of Martin Buser’s yard. Coming from all the way from Alberta meant his dogs were sitting in the truck for a few days. Beginning Wednesday he had been gradually increasing distance from 20 to 40 to 60 miles to get the team back into the groove.

Back in my racing days I tried to keep the team at home, in the usual surroundings, as long as I could and only drive them to town on Friday before the race. John Schandlemeier is en route from Delta Junction as we speak, to drive Zoya Denure’s Team down to Anchorage. Even normally windswept and dry Delta Junction has had pretty big amounts of snow this year. 

Another popular spot to train a team, for shorter miles, is the Chugiak Dog Track. Well groomed and marked, many mushers head over there. Of course local teams like that of Lindwood Fiedler have home turf advantage, of sleeping right at home and running on their Willow Trails. Specially on Sunday that is very nice for the dogs, with only a short drive to the starting line, heck some live so close they could almost mush over to the start. 

Last nights pre race musher Interviews gave once again a very interesting insight in the different Mushers mindsets. Quite a few are definitely here to win. Be it Jessie Royer, Thomas Waerner, Aliy Zirkle and of course the past Champions Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Pete Kaiser and Mitch Seavey. Others like Wade Marrs or Aaron Peck seemed well aware that climbing a bit higher in the ranks, vying for a Top 3 in Wade’s case or a Top 10 for Aaron were likely necessary steps to an eventual Championship. Competition is deep once again. The reaction to Greg Heisters question, if they have time to enjoy the scenery was priceless for some of the teams. It is well worth while to listen to these Interviews.

Here a few shots from behind the scenes: