Iditarod opening events only days away, it's time we take a quick look at this year's entrants and trail conditions.
Basic Stats, as of this writing:
Mushers Entered: 85
Iditarod Veterans: 68
Iditarod Rookies: 17
Men: 59 (48 veterans, 11 rookies)
Women: 26 (20 veterans, 6 rookies)
Dogs: 1,360 (assuming each musher starts with a full complement of 16 dogs)
Countries Represented: 4 (USA, Sweden, Canada, Norway)
US States: 9 (AK, OK, MT, ID, MN, NY, IL, MI, WY)
Northern Race Route
24 Official Checkpoints
22 Racing Checkpoints Willow to Nome (inclusive)
Trail Conditions: On February 12th, the Iditarod Trail committee made the final call to keep the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the restart in Willow. At that time, there was reported to be "ample snow on much of the trail." Organizers are keen to avoid the brutal, snowless trail that bruised teams in 2014 and then prompted them to launch the restart of 2015's race in Fairbanks.
Allegedly Anchorage has seen rain and unseasonably warm temps while the range has been colder and still has a good snow base. But the warm trend has continued since that decision passed the point of no return, so only time will tell what the mushers will really encounter out there. As it is, the ceremonial start will be a logistical challenge. The Alaska Railroad is bringing in 300 cubic yards of snow from Fairbanks to help line the city streets and make the traditional start possible. The surrounding trail system is equally deprived of snow, though, so there is chatter the typical 11-mile run will be shortened.
Whatever conditions bring, there promises to be hundreds of fans in attendance, yours truly included. I'll have updates from Anchorage, and be sure to look for pictures on Instagram (app users look up @SeeingDoubleSledDogRacing, web users can go here). The twins will draw their starting positions at the banquet Thursday night, and we'll see what their twin mojo brings as they're again hoping for numbers close together. The ceremonial start is Saturday and they'll hit the trail in earnest on Sunday afternoon.
As for the twins in the meantime, they're focusing on last minute training and gear preparation. Drop bags are out, dog blood work and EKGs are complete and came back in good shape. And now it's a waiting game. Waiting for the last great race, waiting for 1,000 miles in the Alaskan wilderness.
Next up in the blog ~ Anna and Kristy's respective dog team bios and starting positions.
Gear up, armchair mushers. It's about time to hit the trail.