Iditarod mushers reached the Yukon River at Tanana on Tuesday night. Teams are ready to launch their race plans as the eight-hour and 24-hour rest periods come into view. But first, they must run the longest stretch of the race between checkpoints and make it through the early race with their teams intact.
Last year, Martin Buser had a tough Iditarod. He finished in 37th place, his lowest position on the leader-board in a decades-long career. But this year, as the four-time champion charges through the race’s early checkpoints, a lot of things are going better.
During the first night of this year’s Iditarod, teams endured frigid temperatures on the Tanana River to reach the second checkpoint of Manley Hot Springs. Teams are adjusting to the deep cold and preparing to push to the Yukon River, where the race will unfold.
The Iditarod trail won’t be full of just mushers: a teacher will be following along as part of a yearly program. For two years, Annie Kelley, of St. Andrew’s School in Chicago has been preparing for a new type of lesson plan.
Mushers are on the rivers heading out of Fairbanks right now, as the 45th Iditarod starts in earnest. This is the second time in three races that the restart has been in Fairbanks. And a lot of the mushers have vivid memories of the 2015 race, so this year, they’re trying to pack accordingly.
Behind many of the world’s top mushing champions is an army of cheap, semi-skilled labor: dog handlers. Across Alaska, handlers play a pivotal role in competitive mushing. They manage sprawling kennels and help train sled-dogs for competition. It’s a system that thrives on an unconventional economic arrangement.