Iditarod Goes High-Tech
The 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will begin on Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska.
The race will have 62 mushers and their dogs, and the leading contenders are professionals who work year-round to prepare for the race.
The mushers are equipped with high-tech outdoors equipment, including custom-made sleds with adjustable runners for varying snow conditions and global-positioning-satellite (GPS) devices to check on their progress.
There are cell phones and blogs, as well as live-streamed updates that will help keep the world informed about the event.
However, despite the modern advances, the race still pays homage to its historic roots.
The trail traveled through the wilderness is the same route traveled during the gold rushes 100 years ago.
"It looks like we’ve got as good a trail as I’ve seen in a long time," Race Marshal Mark Nordman said at a media briefing this week.
The winner is expected to reach the Bering Sea town of Nome in nine days, which is 1,150 miles from their starting point.
Experts say that the team to watch will be led by Lance Mackey, who has won in each of the last four years.
The 40-year-old is a cancer survivor and known for his toughness.Â He is the son and brother of past Iditarod champions. Â
The average age of the musher in the race is 42.
"That’s one of the things that I love about mushing, is wisdom and judgment play as big a role as physical strength," DeeDee Jonrowe, a 57-year-old perennial contender, told Anchorage public radio station KSKA earlier this week.
"It’s not like I’m dealing with the same body I entered with in 1980. But I have judgment. I have wisdom on my side. I have patience. And the youth are not necessarily known for patience."
The race was organized to commemorate the 1925 sled-dog relay that delivered life-saving diphtheria serum to a stricken and isolated Nome.
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