The mushing community is abuzz with rumor and speculation about this year's race. For a while it was heard the start might be moved from Anchorage to Fairbanks. One musher predicted, "we're starting in Nome, just like in '03." Another claimed there would be no race at all. And that's a small sampling of the chatter out there.
At this point, however, official reports from Iditarod HQ are encouraging. They're optimistic the race will still be traveling the traditional trail (the northern route this year), and good trail is reported from McGrath to Nome. That bodes well for the second 2/3rds of the race, but those first 300 miles or so could get interesting. That includes the notorious Happy River steps between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass, which may be bypassed if the area doesn't get a good deep freeze to make it safe enough to travel.
The twins have several very busy weeks ahead of them. They need to maintain a very active training schedule with the dogs, often involving 6 hour drives to find snow. Iditarod food drop bags are due in Anchorage on the 12th or 13th, which will have to be the former for the twins, as they hit the trail for the Denali Doubles on the latter. Oh, and EKGs are scheduled for the roster of pups potentially heading to Nome on the 8th. Blood work will also be done closer to the race start. There's a lot to get done before the mandatory mushers' meeting in Anchorage on Thursday, Feb. 27th.
The Iditarider Auction closed mid-January. For those unfamiliar, this is a chance for armchair mushers to bid on and win a ride in their chosen musher's sled over the roughly 11 miles of the ceremonial start. Proceeds from the auction go directly to support the race, and the winning bids on the twins' sleds raised a collective $5,650 this year.
The Musher Banquet is the evening of Thursday, Feb. 27th, where bib numbers are also drawn. This year's field breaks down as follows:
73 initial entrants
2 withdrawn (as of this writing)
Iditarod Veterans: 55
Iditarod Rookies: 16
Men: 52 (race veterans ~ 43, rookies ~ 9)
Women: 19 (race veterans ~ 12, rookies ~ 7)
Oh, and Dogs: 1,136 (assuming 71 teams pull out of Willow, each with a full compliment of 16 pups)
The Ceremonial Start should be in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1st, 10am local time.
The Official Restart should be on Willow Lake on Sunday, March 2nd, 2pm local time.
We'll keep you posted as the clock counts down!