March 1 marks the first day of the Iditarod. Well, kind of.
It's the first day the dogs run, but there's no clock ticking; as per tradition, the day opens with an exhibition route through the streets of Anchorage. Nobody has to hurry or anything, and the dog teams go off every two minutes, so it's more of a parade than a race. Teams go out starting at 10 a.m. local time—or 2 p.m. ET. But Anchorage ain't the east.
If you can get to Anchorage in the next few hours -- why wouldn't you be able to? -- make sure to set up along one of these hot spots for watching the dogs, provided by the Anchorage Daily News:
And if you're some sort of caveman who can't get to Anchorage by late morning, good news! Iditarod.com is streaming the ceremonial start live. We don't know what you're doing with your Saturday, but "streaming dogs over the Internet" seems like it's probably a better idea than whatever you've got planned.
Or we guess you can just add the ADN's Iditarod Twitter account and follow along there over the next couple weeks:
And then, of course, there's Hobo Jim providing entertainment. pic.twitter.com/epAS474YH5— ADN Iditarod (@IditarodLive) February 28, 2014
One down side to this all, and it's pretty major: the high today in Anchorage is 40 degrees. Couple that with an unseasonably-warm winter up along the coast, and you've got trail conditions that have deteriorated significantly. Per the ADN:
Ice, open water, soft snow and no snow await dog teams as they begin the race to Nome this weekend. High temperatures -- which in early February threatened to move the start of the race north to Fairbanks -- returned with a vengeance Thursday and could compromise several weeks' worth of volunteer labor on the trail.
Conditions are hard, fast and icy south of the Alaska Range -- or at least they were before the latest heat wave. Joe Runyan, a champion-turned-race analyst, described it like this on iditarod.com: "The trail is an Olympic luge run, interrupted by inconvenient and terrifying descents into creek bottoms and natural detours around white spruce or boulders guarding crossings down the Dalzell Gorge."
Conditions should improve on the back half of the race, but even still, only incrementally. The real racing begins Sunday, so be sure to check back then for updates and more. Mush!