It’s in the rules! Rookies MUST go to school, too.
Rookie mushers are mushers who have signed up the race and have never finished an Iditarod. This doesn’t mean this is the first time they’ve entered Iditarod. Sometimes a musher starts the race but for some reason, they aren’t able to finish the race. Even if a musher has started the race several times, and never reached Nome, they are still a rookie. Every December – every rookie must go to school.
On the first weekend in December each year, the mandatory rookie meeting is held. The 2013 rookie meeting for the 2014 rookies was held on December 7 and 8. The rookies met in Anchorage at the Millennium Hotel for their meeting. Some of the mushers were from Alaska but others were from the lower 48, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and Norway. You can look at the complete list of mushers at this link. Any musher not living near Anchorage, had to travel from their location to attend the rookie meeting. Next time you are doing some math, you might want to calculate how far some of the rookies traveled and estimate how much it might have cost some rookies to go to the rookie meeting.
On the first day of class, the mushers listened to many speakers. Each speaker provided valuable and important information to help them run a successful race from Anchorage to Nome. Some speakers included: Dr. Stu Nelson, the Chief Veterinarian, Mark Nordman, Race Marshall, and mushers Aliy Zirkle, Jake Berkowitz, and Aaron Burmeister. The mushers also learned about the COMMS department (race communications) and heard a presentation from one of the pilots of the Iditarod Air Force. The entire day was filled with tips and information designed to help mushers be successful traveling the trail and arrive in Nome with healthy sled dogs.
The second day of the rookie meeting event was held at the Dream a Dream Dog Farm, owned and operated by Iditarod Veterans, Vern Halter and Susan Whiton. Vern provided a presentation sharing tips he’s learned throughout his racing career. Race Judge, Andy Anderson explained the role of race judges and supplied a few tips. Justin Savidis and his wife provided information and tips from the perspective the reality that there are things you need to know about running the race, but aren’t always written down for you. A key piece of information for the mushers was the advice to have a good support system for training and racing. DeeDee Jonrowe stopped by to provide information and tips for the rookies.
On both days, every speaker had tips for the rookies but each speaker echoed the same piece of advice, “Don’t start the race with a brand new piece of equipment or gear that you’ve never used before this race.”
This rookie meeting provided something else that is very important, as important as the information from each speaker. The meeting provided the opportunity for the rookies to spend time getting to know each other. One thing that is certain, these rookies have something in common. They each have the goal of getting to Nome safe and with healthy dogs. Knowing each other is going to make a difference for each musher as they face the challenges of the race. A familiar face of someone with like goals, is always a welcome ‘thing’. Do you agree?
In some ways, the 2014 rookies are a team. They are their own team, each member of the rookie team has a set of K9 teammates. It makes me wonder, what ‘team’ are you a part of at home, school, or in your own community? Do you rely on your team members to help you out?
Let’s take a moment and give a big “H O W L Song” out to the rookies and wish them a great race!
Lots of Tail Wags,