This year will be Kristy's 6th Iditarod start and Anna's 4th. And it promises to be unlike any Iditarod the twins have raced in before. Heck, this is my 6th time witnessing the start of the race, and it's already unlike anything I've seen before… my first night in town last night, and I got rained on. Yes, that's right. Rain!! If you read the prior post in this year's coverage or have followed any race news thus far, you already know that 2014/2015 is the winter-that-wasn't. The restart of the race has been moved from Willow, near Anchorage, up to Fairbanks this year, and the crews tasked with lining downtown Anchorage's streets with snow for the Ceremonial Start tomorrow sure have their work cut out for them. But unexpected challenges are part of what the Iditarod is all about.
So, while knowing the weather will be a big challenge once again this year, the exact nature of that challenge will only be revealed one day at a time. It may have been raining in Anchorage last night, but forecasters are starting to call for snow on Saturday. In February, race organizers made the decision to move the restart up to Fairbanks, but have already had to make one minor change to their new plans… Instead of staging the restart on the Chena River, it has been moved to a nearby road due to deteriorating ice conditions. But the unusual warmth won't stay with mushers the entire race. Forecasters are indicating an arctic blast is likely to move into the region, which could take temps to -20F (-29C) in the interior early next week. And apparently the Norton Sound coastal area is a veritable winter wonderland.
And who are the admirable, although arguably insane, folks taking on this challenge? Here are a few stats:
Total Number of Teams Entered: 78
Iditarod Veterans: 58
Countries Represented: 7 (USA, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, France, Sweden, and Australia)
States Represented: 10 (Alaska, Montana, Colorado, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Kansas, Michigan, and Idaho).
And what about the dogs? Assuming each team leaves the starting line with the maximum 16 dogs they're allowed… 1,248!
Race mileage is calculated at 979 miles this year (1,575 kilometers) and there are 19 official checkpoints along the trail (vs 25 on the traditional southern route). The longest stretch between any two checkpoints is 119 miles (Tanana to Ruby).
Kristy and Anna drew their bib and starting position numbers at the banquet last night. Their usual twin mojo must have been on the fritz, though, as Kristy drew number 11 and Anna got 39. They normally prefer to be closer together, but in the grand scheme of this race, the 56 minutes that will separate them off the starting line is a minor inconvenience.
And with that, I'll wrap up this Early Edition of my Iditarod coverage. But stay tuned… I hope to have the twins' dog team bios posted later today, there will be coverage of the Ceremonial Start on Saturday, you can read about my first trip to Fairbanks on Sunday, and of course I'll have coverage of the restart on Monday as the racing begins in earnest.
Gear Up, Armchair Mushers! The fun is just beginning.