2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins
With both Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the official restart from Willow behind them, the teams will cover a total of 1,131 miles using the Southern Route, as is done in odd-numbered years.
Called the "last great race on Earth," each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the distance in approximately nine to 13 days, with 25 checkpoints, including Anchorage and Nome, along the way.
Current Iditarod champion Lance Mackey is back, hoping to add a fifth victory to his record four consecutive wins. Also in the mix is Rick Swenson, the only competitor to have won the race five times (though over 30 years). Another returning champion is Martin Buser, a four-time winner as well. Buser is currently the musher with the most consecutive Iditarod finishes -- 25 races -- and holds the record for the fastest Iditarod, completing the 2002 race in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds.
Here's wishing all competitors -- both human and canine -- luck on their journey over the days and weeks ahead. Hopefully all will arrive safely in Nome.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo: Defending champion Lance Mackey drives his dog team from the starting line of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Al Grillo /Reuters