IT IS SNOWING in Anchorage. Timing could not be much better. Some fresh snow, matter of fact any snow, will help with tomorrow’s 3 mile Ceremonial Start. Some white in the pictures will look much better. Friday before race start is a little bit of a breather day for the mushers. Some host open houses, others are busy with last minute preparations. The Start Banquet and number draw are behind them. When it comes to drawing numbers, there are different philosophies. Some mushers like to start in the back of the pack. With 85 teams, the start will last nearly 3 hours, considering teams leave the Willow Starting line in 2 minute increments. With the recent warm weather, it could be pretty warm for a team to pull the hook at 2 p.m, were it closer to a 5 p.m. start it is likely to have cooled off a lot. Some mushers like John Baker usually sign up later for Iditarod, so they consciously get to pick a later starting time. John’s dogs are heavy coated and used to cold Kotzebue weather. Notably Yukon Quest Champion Hugh Neff is also being found in the higher numbers this year and during last night’s interview, Hugh emphasized that he wants to start more conservatively this year. The downside to starting later is usually a much worse trail, as it is chewed up form hundreds of dog paws pounding over the trail and claw brakes leaving deep grooves specially on the downhill sections. Catching any bacteria or a virus from another team is also a great risk. Each musher has their own personal choice.
We did not get all of the mushers in front of the camera, only 16 of them, as time is tight. There were a few missing, which I would have liked to hear speak, watch their facial expressions and demeanor, while answering some pretty targeted questions.
Some mushers like Billy Snodgrass are clearly not here to win a trophy. He is here for the journey to Nome, to make it there in one piece. Others are here to do well and win. Winning takes a lot and countless different levels. The answers to some of the Questions Greg Heister is skillfully asking, can reveal quite a bit about a mushers mindset. I am not going to give away too much personal information of each musher here, that would not be fair. A lot of the bits and pieces of these interviews are later used for the Insider Production of the Iditarod DVD. Some mushers are a lot more analytical and reflective on past races, like Jeff King. Others like Hugh Neff, say that he is a romantic at heart. There is the usual question about “ How is your team doing “, and answers differ greatly. Some mushers drive young teams, which comes with challenges , but also with options, where others drive a very experienced squad like Joar Leifseth Ulsom. The consensus of most mushers is that Dallas is the team to beat. Not much surprise here, after winning 3 out of 4 races. A dominacy seen a few times before in Iditarod, be it the Susan Butcher Days in the late 80th, the Doug Swingley Days in the early 2000th, or when Lance Mackey dominated from 2007 to 2010. Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey seem to have a competition of their own. Places 1 and 2. Father and Son. Mitch seems to have gotten more dynamic than he had been in years past. There is a whole group of younger generation mushers, about the same age as Dallas. Pete Kaiser. Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Nicolas Petit, Mike Williams Jr. Does one have the grit?
Or wild card Hugh Neff, who often is good for surprises? A female Champion, Aliy Zirkle or Jessie Royer. Jessie said: ” You can be sure I do the best I can and will give anybody a run for their money! “
Here a few more shots from last night, enjoy.