It was the first day of Iditarod, a legendary sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome (this year via Northern Route: 964 miles). On Saturday the mushers and dogs have a ceremonial start in downtown and by auction fans can buy a ticket to have a ride in a sled. We have been waiting for the start for a long time and we knew some friends of our were excited to hear our stories from there :D.
After a pancake breakfast we got a ride to down town from a guy from Texas who was wondering why the Iditarod is so interesting for us. I think the excitement was easily read from our face!
In downtown the streets were filled with musher trucks and dogs were outside fastened to the trucks.
With over 60 mushers participating the race, you can imagine the streets were crowded. The mushers were taking care of the dogs, talking to people, having pictures with fans and giving autographs. Piia's first dream came true when she got a picture with her and Lance Mackey! He's a superstar, with 4 wins in a row in Iditarod and a big heart for his dogs. Go Mackey go!
Julien made himself and his friends very happy and got a picture of him and Dee Dee Jonrowe, another Iditarod legend who has finished the race several times. We have a lot of respect for her!
Among other mushers we also saw Martin Buser, Jeff King, Kristy Berington, Jake Berkowitz, Ryne Olson and many many exciting dogs. Finally we also met Allen Moore and Aliy Zirkle, the owners of SP Kennel in Two Rivers and got to talk to them and their handler Wes about the race, the dogs and mushing generally. It was so amazing to actually get to talk to the mushers that you have only seen in documents and movies! Like Hollywood of the mushing world! :)
The dogs were there around the trucks and many people cuddled them. We didn't want to disturb the super athletes so we settled for observing them. And some of them are very small! But like Wes from the SP Kennel said, the people who run the marathon aren't so big either! But you could definitely notice these dogs are fit and ready to work.
Then it was time to start. We found a good spot for taking pictures a couple of hundreds meters from the actual start.
We saw mushers passing us with strong dog teams and happy fans. It was snowing quite a bit but it was part of the atmosphere.
The Winner of the Jr. Iditarod Coonway Seavey
The ceremonial start
Jeff King, maybe thinking it's the finish line... :)
Aliy Zirkle with SP Kennel
The Red Team
Allen and Aliy
The Pink Lady Dee Dee Jonrowe
And ladies and gentlemen: Lance Mackey!
This one is for Marie :) Hugh Neff
And for Julien :) Kristy Berington
After all the 66 mushers had started the race we headed to get some posters and got warm cider and hot choco and amazing American cookies as well. For the main course we had reindeer sausage hot dogs, completed the awesome day!
Now we get ready for tomorrow, the actual starting day for the race, by eating pizza in our hostel :)...