Good morning Iditarod Fans.
It is Vet Check time. The ITC headquarters is a busy place today with many teams having their mandatory Pre Race Vet Checks performed today. Veteran Mushers also have the choice of having these done ” at home ” at their ” house vet ” who they routinely work with. There is pros and cons to both, and of course logistics play a role. One the one hand when you do the vet check a bit earlier, it is nice to find out early if a dog needs extra attention or has an underlaying condition, before bringing it all the way to Anchorage, specially if you live far away, like On the other hand it is nice to wait with the vet check till the last minute, to get an up to date picture right before the race. Race Rookies like Damon Ramaker from Fountain Minnesota have their vet check mandatory at ITC.
There is quite a few mushers are having long drives. Catching up with Aaron Peck from Alberta, his vet check already done, he was focusing on where to train his dogs for the next few days. Race Rookies like Damon Ramaker from Fountain Minnesota have their vet check mandatory at ITC. A lot can go wrong on those long drives. When driving through Paxson on my way down, I felt like being on Rainy Pass a few times, having to slow down to a crawl to look at the ground for tire tracks, like looking for runner marks. Jason Campeau, who trains up there on the Denali Highway, had just come in from his final training run. He also looked like he had just come in from a run halfway through the race and commented on how tough training has been.
The new decade is definitely starting off with a real winter for a change. It is 10 below F this morning and there is PLENTY of snow on the trails, Anchorage included. Plenty of snow likely means plenty of moose on the trails. They prefer hard pack over deep snow.
I will be doing some ” Armchair Mushing ” this year once again, yet my primary role is being a race judge. So I am not traveling down the trail via Snowmachine and rather be stationed in checkpoint along the trail ( in past years usually 3 different ones ). Last year I was in Rohn. No real internet there, which also means no Armchair Mushing. I will try my best, specially once the front runners have passed, to also report on the ” back of the pack”.
It is bound to be an exiting race. Until yesterday there were 6 past Champions in the race. With Jeff King getting thrown a curve ball with a hospital stay, there is now only 5. I true Iditarod Fashion, things do not go according to Plan A right of the get go for some teams. On the upside Jeff’s troubles did not begin half way down Dalzell Gorge.
There was also a bit of uproar about Alaska Airlines no longer sponsoring the race after this years event. I hope that people can see the good, instead of focusing on the bad. Alaska Airlines has been with the race for 40 years. FOURTY! That is an incredible long time. Their involvement was and is greatly appreciated. They have sponsored the Veterinary’s Choice award and their focus has always been on dog care and the Veterinary program. Having being a recipient of the Alaska Airlines Lenoard Seppala Award myself I am very thankful for all Alaska Airlines has done for Iditarod and the Sport of Mushing and will definitely not ditch them, for having been such a long time supporter.
Taking a quick look at the teams. The field is smaller than in the past, yet incredible deep. Jessie Royer. Tough as nails. 7 Top 10 finishes being 3rd in 2019. Deep snow often means tough conditions. That could play in her favor. Nicolas Petit, known to run unorthodox and speedy. Which has sometimes worked in his favor, other times not so much. Speed and deep snow usually to not go together. Brent Sass a 3 time Yukon Quest Champion, who yet has to find his groove in Iditarod. He came of a Quest win over Yukon Michelle Phillips. Both are driving trail hardened teams with doing the double. Logistics galore doing both races. Wade Marrs is running his 10th Iditarod and has been in the Top 10 three times. Matt Failor is not far behind with his 9th time and steadily climbing the ranks. Ramy Smyth. Never count out that tough, old school musher, specially towards the later part of the race. Aaron Burmeister from Nenana. It is his 19th !!! time down the trail and his best finish was 3rd. Aliy Zirkle. Not much needs to be said about her. It is her 20th Iditarod and she has been 2nd three times. She will be as determined to win as ever. Of course the 2 most recent Champions of Pete Kaiser and Joar Leifseth Ulsom are both hungry for a 2nd win. Mitch Seavey is the oldest Champion to date. I am sure his desire to join the rare ranks of being a 4 time Champion is high es ever. With Martin Buser running Happy Trails B team is focus is likely more onto enjoying himself than storming to the front and ever tenacious 4 times back to back ( 2007-10 ) Champion * Lance Mackey is likely well aware of his physical limitations, specially when it comes to dealing with the cold.
Get ready for a lot of fun! Some beautiful dogs and scenery are awaiting. Personally I look very much forward to visiting the communities along the trail! Nome bound!!!!