The 2013 Iditarod is just around the corner as mushers and dogs alike get set for the grueling trek from Anchorage to Nome.
Dallas Seavey is the defending champion, as well as the youngest winner in Iditarod history—he won last year's contest at age 25.
But there are plenty of veterans of the historic race who will give Seavey a run for his money in 2013, including a four-time winner and a man who set the Iditarod record just two years ago.
Here's an overview of the 2013 Iditarod. The race starts in Anchorage on March 2 at 9:30 a.m. on GCI Channel 1. It restarts in Willow on March 3 at 1:30 p.m. local time.
Mary Pilon of the New York Times highlighted the fact that conditions were ugly in early February in Alaska.
The snow has historically been ideal in Alaska at this time of year. However, in 2013, there was less slow and more rain earlier in the winter, causing the postponement or cancellation of some Iditarod qualifying events.
Former Iditarod racer Joe Runyan did some research and made some calls after the New York Times article came out and discovered that conditions had improved closer to race time.
Dean Osmar, the 1984 Iditarod champ who lives on the Kenai Peninsula, told Runyan, via Iditarod.com:
Well, it’s true. We had poor training conditions early in the winter, but we are leaving now on good trails right from the house in Clam Gulch (look out the window and see the ocean.) Training conditions are great, and Paul Gebhardt (a top contender in this year’s race and Dean’s neighbor) is taking his dogs on long 60- and 70-mile training runs.
While things didn't look good in early February, the conditions have dramatically improved since. The conditions may not be perfect in March, but they never are. It's not as dangerous out there now, and that's what's important.
- The first Iditarod started on March 3, 1973.
- With teams of 16 dogs, over 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage every year in the Iditarod.
- In such a long, grueling race, it's rare that you have a photo finish, but Dick Mackey finished a mere one second ahead of Rick Swenson in 1978. He literally won it by a nose.
- The most mushers to ever finish the Iditarod was 77 in 2004.
- Rick Swenson is the only five-time winner of the Iditarod. He also won in three different decades (1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1991).
Mushers to Watch
Lance Mackey is a four-time winner of the Iditarod, winning the race from 2007-2010.
Mackey also has quite the pedigree. His father, Dick (who was one of the founders of the Iditarod), won the race in 1978. His half-brother, Rick, won the race in 1983.
The 42-year-old finished 16th in 2011 and 22nd in 2012, but a guy with his history always has a shot of roaring back in Alaska.
John Baker, the 2011 Iditarod champion, holds the all-time record of the historic event, finishing the race in 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.
He finished ninth last year and third and fifth in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The 50-year-old is sure to turns some heads once again, as he sets his sights on a second career Iditarod title.
The reigning champion, Dallas Seavey, is the son of 2004 Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey. The youngster is also the grandson of Iditarod veteran, Dan Seavey, who raced in 1973, 1974, 1997 and 2012. All three Seaveys raced last year (Mitch finished seventh, Dan finished 50th).
You can't ignore Mitch. Not only is he the 2004 champion, he also boasts 10 Top 10 finishes in the historic race. That includes four Top 5 finishes.
Seavey first raced in the event in 1982, and he has raced in every Iditarod since 1995.
Seavey has the knowledge, dogs and experience to give everyone a run for their money in 2013, including his son Dallas.
Ramey Smyth has raced in every Iditarod since 1994. You can look at his career thus far in one of two ways: a grand accomplishment or "close but no cigar."
Smyth has racked up nine career Top 10 finishes in the Iditarod, and he's finished in the Top 10 the past five years but has yet to come away with a win.
Last year, Smyth finished third—after finishing second to the record holder in 2011.
Dogs to Watch
Maple (Lance Mackey)
Maple ran the lead in the 2009 and 2010 Iditarods for Lance Mackey. With legend Larry no longer with Mackey, Maple has taken control. To compare Maple to Larry is unfair, but Maple has shown she can lead a team, and Mackey trusts her enough to do so.
Velvet and Snickers (John Baker)
As the proud leaders of the Iditarod's best time, Velvet and Snickers are a fearsome duo gunning for their second career victory.
Joe Runyan, the 1989 Iditarod champion, was able to test-drive these dogs once. He was impressed, to say the least, remarking on the smooth grace of Velvet and the driving power of Snickers (via Iditarod.com).
Guinness and Diesel (Dallas Seavey)
After a fantastic showing in 2012, everyone has his eyes on lead dogs Guinness and Diesel.
Guinness is the veteran of the group. She's raced in every one of Seavey's major races, and she's led in almost all of them. Seavey compared her to a "remote-control dog" after the Iditarod last year (via NPR.org), noting how responsive she is to his commands. Guinness also could be described as having a high motor. She's not the biggest or fastest dog out there, but she never quits.
Diesel is the younger dog. He's still working on his confidence, but he's a big, explosive, athletic specimen who is beginning to come into his own (evidenced by the Iditarod win last year). The sky is the limit for Diesel moving forward. Expect him to put together an even better performance in the 2013 Iditarod.