Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nearing the finish line

Well, after over a week of mushing through almost 1,000 miles of the Alaskan wilderness with a dozen dogs or more, the front runner is nearing the finish line. This race always carries its share of drama, and the finish can be watched in still frame through the eyes of the Nome, Alaska, webcam. We haven't had a whole lot of luck in years past actually catching the musher coming in. You see the crowds build, see the finish line, catch the head of a dog in the bottom corner, and then see crowds of people congratulating the musher. Maybe this year we will actually see some action.

Either way, all of the stories of both man and animal are covered on the Iditarod website. Amazing what these teams go through. It's not too late to jump on the eiditarod yahoo group and check out the great resources there. The Iditarod is just one of many great sled dog races that are also great learning experiences for us, safe in the warmth of our own homes and beds. Scholastic shares some great activity ideas as well. Alaska's newspaper also has more articles and information.

Right now, two mushers have reached the White Mountain checkpoint where mushers must take an eight hour rest before the last push to Nome. The end is definitely in sight and these two will keep pushing until the end. They just happen to be the champions from last year and the year before, so they know what it takes to win this race, and so do their teams. Should make for an interesting finish.

One thing that I enjoy in the Iditarod is the tradition of the Red Lantern. Although the first team in wins, the race isn't over until the last musher, the Red Lantern arrives in Nome. This race is about more than speed, it is about endurance and perseverance. Every finisher earns a share of the prize money, even if it is barely enough to fly him and his dogs home.

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