This March, mushers from all over the world will run the annual Iditarod sled dog race. The race runs from Anchorage to Nome every year to celebrate Alaska's sled dog culture and to preserve the historical Iditarod trail. In 2014, sixty-nine mushers entered the race to compete for a $50,000 prize, and forty-nine teams crossed the finish line. The mushers pass through twenty-three checkpoints en route to Nome, and the 2015 the race will cover a distance of 975 miles.
Last year, I mushed part of the Iditarod trail to get some race experience first-hand. Individual musher thoughts may vary, but these are pretty universal:
1. This is so great! Just me, my dogs, and the open tundra. I'm so ready.
2. I hope I brought all my gear.
3. How am I already hungry?
4. Forget about being hungry. Gotta show these dogs who's boss.
5. Be the Alpha.
6. Hey, stop biting each other! I'm the Alpha.
7. That's better.
8. It's so peaceful out here.
9. I could do this forever.
10. Man, that's a lot of poop.
11. How do dogs run and poop at the same time?
12. I wonder if I could poop while running.
13. Don't look at that ptarmigan!
14. Good job, team. Way to resist temptation.
15. Wait, why did my dogs stop?
16. Oh God, is one of them injured?
17. Do they smell something?
18. Do they smell an enormous moose?
19. Nope! One of them was just tangled in the line.
20. Come on, guys, we've been training with this line all year.
21. Everybody's paws okay? Good. Let's go.
22. Breathe. You are the Alpha.
23. I'm going blind!
24. Wait, that's just snow on my eyelashes.
25. Whew, not going blind.
26. There we go, team. Great rhythm.
27. How far behind me is the next musher?
28. Who am I trying to catch up to?
29. That Joar Leifseth Ulsom sure is a cutie!
30. I hope my GPS works.
31. What if I die out here alone? No one will know I'm here.
32. Just kidding. They'll find me.
33. They'll totally find me.
34. I wonder what my family is having for dinner right now.
35. Man, this is kind of tedious.
36. Woah! So much poop!
37. The dogs are going to be hungry soon.
38. I am starving!
39. That sunset is so beautiful.
40. I hope my headlamp batteries work.
41. I hope I brought extra headlamp batteries.
42. Whew! The headlamp works! We have light!
43. Everybody's booties okay? Good.
44. The dogs' paws are probably warmer than my hands.
45. I thought these gloves were supposed to be high-tech.
46. They just don't make winter gear like they used to.
47. There is not a lot of snow on the ground.
48. There's way less snow than last year.
49. Must be climate change.
50. I wonder how many more years we'll be able to run the Iditarod.
51. We didn't train for this kind of ice! I hope my dogs will be okay!
52. They're a strong team. They'll be fine.
53. Just be the Alpha.
54. What's that noise?
55. Focus, team! Don't turn towards the noise!
56. Just keep running, just keep running …
57. That sky is beautiful! Those Northern Lights are moving!
58. I can't feel my nose. Was I ever able to feel my nose?
59. I'm so impressed with these dogs! What a great team!
60. How far is it to the next checkpoint?
61. I wonder if they have beer at the next checkpoint.
62. I could really use a beer.
63. And some warm socks.
64. And a fireplace.
65. Okay, cut it out! Focus on the dogs. You are the Alpha.
66. I hope the Bering Sea is frozen solid.
67. Climate change might make the ice thinner this year.
68. What if my team makes it all the way to Nome, and then we fall through the ice?
70. I heard this checkpoint has the best Bloody Marys!
71. I would kill for a Bloody Mary right now.
72. Just … a few … more … miles!
73. Is that the KNOM van? I'm so close!
74. Nome! Front Street!
75. I've never been so happy to see my family.
76. I cannot wait to sleep in a real bed tonight.
77. I'm never doing that again.
78. But I'm definitely going to talk to Joar at the banquet. So, worth it.
79. My dogs did so great! I'm so proud of my team.
80. I can't wait to start training with them again.
81. Where can I sign up for next year's race?
Good luck this year, mushers! Only 87 days until the Last Great Race on Earth!