2010 Iditarod begins today

Following the ceremonial start in Anchorage yesterday, the 2010 Iditarod officially begins today with 71 mushers, and their dog sled teams, setting out from Willow, Alaska on a two week long odyssey through some of the most remote and rugged wilderness that North America has to offer. Over the course of the next two weeks, they’ll face challenging weather conditions, endless miles of snow covered trails, and each other, as they race to the finish line in Nome.

Officially known as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the event began back in 1973 as a way to commemorate the famous 1925 race against time in which dogsled teams delivered a diphtheria serum to Nome, saving dozens of lives in the process. Since then, however, it has earned the moniker of “the Last Great Race”, thanks to its incredible length and challenging conditions. The mushers and their teams will cover over 1100 miles on their journey, while dealing with sub-zero temperatures and whiteout conditions.

The odds on favorite to win this year’s race is three time defending champ Lance Mackey, although he’ll be pushed by past champions such as Jeff King and Martin Buser. And should one of these dog sled racing legends falter, there are a host of young racers preparing to leave their mark on the race, such as Dallas Seavey, son of former champ Mitch Seavey. Both father and son, hope to contend this year.

To win the Last Great Race, the competitors will need incredible endurance, perfect strategy, and even a little luck. But most of all they’ll need a great team of dogs. These canine athletes are born and bred for pulling a sled, and they are impressive to watch in action. As such, their safety and health is of the utmost concern, with vets on hand at all checkpoints, and mushers taking great precautions to ensure that their dogs are well cared for.

At 10 AM local time today, the 2010 race will get underway. Expect the winner to cross the finish line in roughly 10 days, with the rest of the teams spread out over the following week. The winner will take home a nice fat check and a new pick-up truck.

Lance Mackey Wins 2009 Iditarod

Two time defending champ Lance Mackey claimed his third straight Iditarod crown yesterday, arriving in Nome less than ten days after setting out on the trail from Anchorage. He was followed in the evening hours by Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker, who finished second and third respectively.

The Iditarod is known as “The Last Great Race” and is Alaska’s premiere sporting event and has been held annually since 1973. The race commorates the rich dog sledding tradition of the the 49th state, while following a historically significant trail that was once used to run mail and supplies throughtout the region. Back in 1925, when a diptheria epidemic hit Nome, the trail was famously used to deliver medical supplies, with a chain of heroic mushers passing the serum along like a baton in a relay race. Fortunately, the serum arrived on time, and the events caught the attention of the entire nation.

The course that is used in the Iditarod race today stretches 1150 miles in length through some of Alaska’s most remote and demanding terrain. The mushers in this year’s race dealt with brutal weather conditions as well, with temperatures dropping into the -50º F with windchills, and howling breezes creating whiteout conditions on the trail. Some were forced to seek shelter wherever they could to wait out the worst of the weather.

There are still a number of mushers out on the course, and they’ll continue to cross the finish line over the next day or two. These men and women are celeberties in Alaska, and they’ll each be met with cheering crowds when the reach the finish. The last competitor to reach Nome also receives a red lantern sympolizing the old kerosene lanterns that were used to light the way for mushers in years gone by.