March 26, 2016
First there was the Yukon Quest held in February then followed by the Iditarod, the most storied race in dog sledding and incomparable to any other race in the world. The Alaskan race is one that spans 1000 miles through some the roughest and beautiful terrain that Mother Nature can offer. The biggest obstacle beside the trail itself is the temperatures that plummet below zero degrees Fahrenheit and winds that cause loss of visibility. The race begins in Anchorage in south central Alaska to Nome on western Bering Sea coast.
This is an event for all of Alaska and it’s so embraced in its culture and history. The race pits man and animal against nature in the wildest that Alaska will present. The Iditarod trail is now a National Historic Trail which began as a mail and supply route from coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the outlying mining camps. Not only did the trail get so dependent on the dog sleds because of mining but to bring medical supplies to fight off Diphtheria which ravaged Nome. Through the years the town and villages relied heavily on their services that one could see why they are part of lore of Alaska. The race also was way for the sled dog culture to be preserved and the Alaskan huskies which were being phased out by snowmobiles.
The race itself is very unique in the way mushers and their dog teams maneuver through the geography. The mushers come all over the world to compete even though the winnings are sparse in comparison to the winners in other sports. Most of the mushers rely on financial sponsoring and assistance to be able to afford the teams of dogs. A lot planning and strategy goes into this race along with year-round training.
This year’s field has brought together teams from all over the world. The team that persevered in the end was Dallas Seavey, who set a new Iditarod time of 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 11 seconds. He beat his dad, Mitch Seavey by 45 minutes. This is Dallas’ fourth Iditarod victory and a follow up to last year. It appears Dallas is on his way to be the most celebrated musher of all time because he is only twenty-five years and looks like he can do this for another twenty years. The take home prize was $75,000 and new truck which may seem meager capered to other sports, but that number keeps getting higher every year.
This year had its troubles aside for the lack of snow in Anchorage, a tragic crash when a snow mobile ran into a couple of teams of dogs and killed one and injured others. The accident happened at night and the driver admitted he shouldn’t have been out driving. He was charged with various counts of criminal misdoings. In addition, a lot of the mushers were ill prior to race start with various degrees of flu and cold symptoms. Twelve mushers out of the starting 85 have to quit. Seavey said he felt horrible when the race started and didn’t feel somewhat better until the second half of the race.
Of course, we have the dog athletes that are beloved by their owners and are treated with the utmost care and respect. The lead dogs of Dallas Seavey’s team are Reef and Tide. At his victory speech Seavey credits his dogs for pulling him through the nights due to his illness and his fatigue that was a battle through the whole race. This is just one reason the Iditarod is a great race like no other in the world.
To see the way the towns along the trail embrace the mushers and dogs is really special. You have to remember that this is Alaska in the winter and the population in these towns is not booming with people. The citizens come out of the wild winter to celebrate and cheer on their participants. I love seeing that this event is still going strong almost a hundred years later, kind reminds me of the other great race in the world, the Tour de France.