It has been frigid in Alaska this year. In fact, extremely low temperatures have grounded planes, disabled cars, and even canceled several championship cross country ski races.
Many people wonder if this unusally cold weather, even for the state of Alaska, will continue. After all, the extreme weather in Alaska becomes even more important since the days have begun to dwindle and time is beginning to grow short.
The calendar now shows that there are now only fifty two days to the start of the annual competition that is called the Last Great Race on Earth. The 38th Iditarod Dog Sled Race is currently scheduled to begin in Anchorage on March 7, 2009.
The Iditarod is a truly unique competitive event, a race of 1131 miles across Alaska in the frigid month of March through the roughest terrain on Earth. The race navigates terrain across a frozen tundra which includes rivers, windswept coastlines, mountains, and dense forests, all of which are covered with plenty of deep snow and ice.
The weather conditions during the race are often extreme with temperatures and wind chill that are far below zero. Certainly, its not unusual for dog sled teams to race through blizzards without visibility, and in sub-zero weather with gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach -100 °F. Through the years, the length of time to win the race has varied between nine days and twenty days.
This year, seventy two mushers and their dog sled teams will be competing for victory in the 38th Iditarod. The problem for seventy one of these contestants will once again be current Iditarod champion, Lance Mackey. Mackey has won the race in each of the last two years.
Last year, Mackey lost a key lead dog early in the race and another dog ended up with an infected foot that made it difficult for him to continue on. In addition to the problems with the dogs, the race was very competitive throughout. Once Mackey took the lead at Ruby on the Yukon River, just past the halfway mark, he always had the 16-dog team of four-time champ Jeff King lurking close behind.
However, the weather during last years race was unusually warm for Alaska and Mackey used his racing skill and his gritty team of dogs to once again beat the field. So, the question this year is whether Lance Mackey will win again for a third straight time? Many will soon travel north to Alaska for Iditarod 2009 to find out.
Indeed, the competition is scheduled to begin in Anchorage, Alaska, in just fifty two days. Its the next chance to see the Last Great Race On Earth.