Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Iditarod...The Last Great Race

Iditarod 2010….The Last Great Race…

As the musher’s approach Nikolai, a small Athabascan Village located on the Rainy Pass Trail, on the upper Kuskokwim River that was once the connection between the Ophir gold mining district and Cook Inlet.

As the contenders approach Nikolai they will experience light snows and negative temps, with winds blowing and visibility around 3 miles, great weather considering what is happing in Cook Inlet.

So what does it take for one to run in the Iditarod….Courage would be first on the list, the love of the out doors and spending endless hours alone with the forces both good and bad of mother nature, add those traits with a love for dogs, and you have the makings for a musher…now the work begins.

Endless hours of trail training year round, some of these musher report three weeks a month out running dogs in the Alaskan wilderness.

Several smaller “qualifying races” must be ran and finished to prove your ability to with stand days and nights alone in the cold maintaining your dog team and yourself.

Money of course is an issue, an entry fee to race, food and supplies for yourself and your dogs, much of which you pay to have flown into various check points along the trail. There are certain required items in the sleigh itself, safety equipment, shovels, a rifle for those rampant moose musher’s often startle along the rout, add warm clothing, and personal care items and a musher’s sled is pretty full.

All the dogs in this race must also be certified by a vet, micro chipped and have several sets of booties to protect their feet from endless hours of running. Hay must be flown it to provide bedding along the trail and a musher must prove they have the ability in the sled to melt water for their dogs to drink.

After watching the start of this race, I have decided that in no way are these dogs ran with out their opinion. It was just the opposite, they could not figure out why the musher was not as ready to run as they were.

Strategy for the Iditarod changes amongst the contenders and often times changes by the minute depending on weather conditions and their contender’s actions.

Most musher’s pre-plan where they will spend their mandatory rest breaks, which consist of one eight hour at a check point of their choice, one twenty four hour again Musher’s choice of check points, and another eight hour when they arrive in White Mountain, just a day run from Nome.

Many rules and guidelines now control much of the musher’s strategy, but pretending one is tucked in and asleep until the competition has let down their guard and sneaking off has not been unheard of in recent years.

Another strategy many play is trail breaking, often times the leader has the most work on their dogs so the musher’s most experienced with the trail know when it is time to rest and let another take the lead smoothing the trail and saving their dogs some energy for faster sprints.

Long lonely stretches of wilderness often times find Musher’s pairing up for travel with others that have similar teams of speed and endurance, In 1978 Dick Mackey and Rick Swenson found themselves in this position. The winds were blowing and the visibility was nill, Swenson being a younger musher’s acknowledged the fact that Dick had ran the trail many times and he traveled along with Dick during a storm they both thought they may not see the end of.

Upon arriving on the sea coast they attempted to sever their connection of trail found friendship and regain their sense of competition, but with equal teams it was a tail to nose race across Norton Sound for Nome.

Moving up front street Swenson was in the lead when his team tangled with a bus parked along side the road, Dick passed him and I am sure he was smirking when his team became entangled in a road sign. From my research it sounds like this famous “nose to nose” win was actually a race of who could untangle and retie their teams the fastest.

Dick Mackeys dog crossed the line first but Rick Swensons sled did making it a photo op finish and putting it in the history books forever.

At the moment the 2010 Iditarod is only started, the South route/ North route fork not hit…anyone could take this race, but now is where the strategy begins to separate the contenders into their places at the finish.

On that note, another cup of coffee, wrap in my blanket and take a nap in the warmth of my living room thinking….Mush on!!

Comments on "Iditarod...The Last Great Race"


Blogger Stan said ... (3:45 PM) : 

Yep, you are hooked. Good report.


Blogger real eyez said ... (4:45 AM) : 

Good history report! I remember a musher coming to my school when I was in fourth grade. I thought it was the neatest thing ever!


Blogger yes said ... (12:29 AM) : 

人是受想像力所支配的。 ..................................................


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