This will be Kristy's 11th consecutive year on the Iditarod trail and the 9th for Anna. Many of the dogs on their respective teams are veterans as well, and we'll meet all of them before race time. For now, here's a look at the stats for the field of mushers:
Entrants - 57
Men - 42
Women - 15
Veteran - 46 (34 men, 12 women)
Rookie - 11 (8 men, 3 women)
Countries represented: 5 (US, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Italy)
US States represented: 4 (Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin)
Canadian Provinces: 3 (Alberta, Quebec, Yukon)
Number of Amazing Canine Athletes: 798!
This assumes each musher leaves the start with the maximum 14 dogs per team.
Trail Route: Northern
Reported Race Miles: 975
This year's field as it currently stands is slightly larger than last year (at 57 vs 52) but below either the historic or more recent averages (64 entrants on average since the race first started in 1973 and 72 on average since 2000). Remember that each musher competes at the same level - there are no separate categories for men/women or veteran/rookie.
What have the twins and other mushers been up to recently? Mid-distance races and dog training for starters. Each musher also had to turn in their drop bags by Feb. 20th. These bags, labeled with the musher's name and a checkpoint and filled with dog food, people food, and other gear and supplies, are shipped out in advance of the race and will await teams in each checkpoint as they work their way along the trail. Anna and Kristy shipped out a total of 1,730 pounds between the two of them!!
Which reminds me of how busy anyone has been that is directly involved with this massive undertaking. All those drop bags have to be flown out to checkpoints, as well as straw for bedding down the dogs. Setting up the checkpoints, coordinating the Iditarod Air Force and veterinarian teams... The logistics that go into making the Iditarod happen are enormous and require the help and dedication of many, many people. Here's a huge Seeing Double Shout Out to all of this year's volunteers!
When the twins haven't been out on the trail getting in those last miles with their dogs, they've found time for a couple interviews and local school presentations. I know I'll be keeping an eye out for a number of things to hit the media, including interviews with ADN.com, a piece on professional mushing with MarketPlace.org, and hopefully something with cool photos in Sidetracked magazine... Stay tuned!
What's up in the days ahead? Things really ramp up on Thursday, March 5th. Mushers have a mandatory meeting that morning, which will include the latest information on trail conditions. Current reports are very promising, though, and it sounds like there's a ton of snow out there! More on that as we go along.
Thursday night is the much anticipated Musher Drawing Banquet when Kristy, Anna, and all the mushers draw their bib and starting position number. The twins always hope to be close to (just not right next to) each other off the start. We'll see what this year brings...
Friday is a quiet day for those of us watching remotely, but the party gets started at 10am Alaska time Saturday March 7th with the Ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. Each musher runs a slightly smaller compliment of dogs, has an Iditarider in his or her sled, and tows a tag sled with a second person to help with dog handling and safety. This is a non-competitive 11-mile fun run through and out of the city, and it's a great event to attend if you've never been in person.
Iditariders are folks that won the right during an online auction to ride in a particular musher's sled for these first 11 miles. This year, Anna and Kristy welcome sisters Maidie and Kiwi from Texas into their sleds. The comments these sisters shared about their upcoming experience are sure to make you smile...
Maidie: I am 10 years old, from Texas and am so excited I can hardly stand it about riding with Anna Berington. I love horse back riding, but have sledded only once before. My sister and I watch the Iditarod every year and our favorite mushers are the Berington ladies. Anna and Kristy actually look like me and my sister and they stick together when things get tough.
Kiwi: I am a 12 year old little lady from Texas. I love the vastness of Alaska, its wildlife and am a big outdoorsman, hunter, and love dogs. I have sledded before, but never in Alaska. My favorite mushers are the Berington twins because of their story and how close the sisters are. I still cannot believe I am riding with Kristy Berington…OMG
After all the excitement on Saturday, mushers have a few precious hours until Sunday, March 8th. If they adjust their watches and alarms correctly for daylight savings, they'll be packed up, hooked up, and rarin' to go for the 2pm official race restart from Willow Lake. Teams will depart in precise 2-minute intervals by bib number, and I'll confirm each twin's official launch time once we know their bib numbers in case you want to catch the live action on Iditarod.com.
In the meantime, in addition to anything Anna and Kristy share themselves on Instagram, I'll be posting a funny daily meme to help you get through the week. I'm working with the twins on their respective dog team bios for this year, and will be back with those soon. I'll for sure be live again on the blog after the twins draw their bib numbers Thursday night!
Gear up, armchair mushers. The 48th Iditarod is only days away!