Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Last Great Race On Earth

Sometimes there just isn't enough dogs.
by Robert L. Gisel

 The Alaska Iditarod is not over by a long shot but this year's Champion has crossed the finish line in Nome. It was John Baker's first win in the score of times he has finished the race. His run time set a new all-time record: 8 days, 19 hours and 44 minutes. The last person to finish, of the 62 who started, who will get the Red Lantern Award, will come along across the finish line in about 4 days. Win or lose, the game and the glory is to finish.

 The terminus city is called Nome by default. The cartographer mistook "? name" for Nome and thus it was accidentally dubbed. The race nominally starts in Anchorage, Alaska, with a PR run to Eagle. The re-start was in Willow nine days ago and this year the route traverses 968 miles overland to Nome. In the gold rush days this was the route to take mail and supplies to Nome and bring back gold. You could say it was the Sled Dog Express. Even to this day there are no roads to Nome and unless you fly or take a boat around the coast of Alaska this is how you get there in the winter months.

 The marathon dog sled race is called the Last Great Race on Earth, rightfully so. It is a long haul and the conditions can be horrendous when the weather gets bad with snow storms, high winds and deep sub-zero temperatures that can stretch the race to 3 weeks. This year seemed almost uneventful by comparison to some but nevertheless an intense endurance race. Even in relatively good conditions it is a race that challenges the toughest. Just ask any of the many veterans of the race and rookies still making their way to Nome.

 Very well done to John Baker and his team of sled dogs on their excellent performance as they now join the many legends in the history of the race.


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