On Sunday, March 2, I loaded up my two little boys and headed north to Willow. We’d been to Willow before, when we went up for the Winter Solstice 5k, but Sunday was a whole new world up there. We went to see the start of the Iditarod! The idea of the Iditarod has always inspired me. I’m sure I have a predisposition towards grueling races of insane distances over rugged terrain. Although I have no immediate plans, I know I’ll run 100 miles someday. The challenge is just too tempting. With that internal beast calling to me, there was nothing I could do to resist going to see 70 individuals, each with 14 -18 dog teams, start on a journey of over 1000 miles through vast expanses of western Alaska.
Sunday’s weather was beautiful: clear skies, radiant spring sun, and temps just above freezing. Absolute perfection, since the start line was nothing short of an outdoor festival. Starting at 2 o’clock, one musher left every 2 minutes, so the start lasted for almost two and a half hours. It was truly a spectator event. Amongst the crowd of thousands, there were camp chairs, tents, fire pits, beer coolers, snow machines, hockey games (it all took place on a lake), sleds, and everything and anything else you could want for a winter celebration.
As I watched the teams pass on the beginning of the trail to Nome, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of emotion for each one. Considering the planning, training, sacrifices, and commitment of each racer all wrapped up in the history and legacy of the race itself, I knew what I was witnessing was, in fact, a very big deal. In my brief glance of each team, I felt nervous and excited for them all at once. I tried to imagine what each one must be going through: the adrenaline rush of being ushered off by thousands of cheering fans at the beginning of 1000 miles, countered by the anxiety of entering into the unknown of wild and uncontrollable variables. For each team, be they rookies or 30-year veterans, the same possibilities lie ahead, of unexpected dangers and disasters, or anticipated victory and glory. I know experience must be a huge advantage, but this is Alaska. Anyone who enters this kind of endeavor with 100% confidence would be nothing short of delusional.
Looking over the list of entrants, it is interesting to see the diversity. Most racers are from Alaska, and a few are from the Lower 48, but it is an international event. There are participants from the predictable home countries of Canada, Norway, and Sweden, but also less expected locales of New Zealand, Australia, and Jamaica (!). In addition, there are almost 20 women on the roster. You can follow this year’s Iditarod here.
Experiencing the start of the Iditarod was truly an awe-inspiring event. I hope to make it an annual family tradition. Maybe one day I’ll feel all those same emotions (multiplied by a million?!) for my own boys-turned-mushers!
I spent the day in my Flutter Pullover from INKnBURN. I layered it over a merino shirt, and was warm enough all day. I thought the Flutter print was fitting for the day, since monarchs annually migrate 2000 miles! For 15% your first order from INKnBURN, use code INBSK14 at checkout.