This month I had the opportunity to take photos behind the scenes at the ceremonial start of the 2015 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Know as ‘The Last Great Race on Earth’, and most popular sporting event in Alaska, it’s an annual long distance sled dog race that takes place here in Alaska in early March. Originating in the 70’s and linked to the early traditions of the state, normally it would start in Willow and end in Nome, around two weeks and almost a thousand miles later. But (shocking) this year they actually had to move the start about 300 miles north, to Fairbanks. The race actually started on March 7th at 10am, but the Ceremonial Start took place on the 5th. Thousands of people line the streets of downtown Anchorage to see the mushing teams parade by, as they prepare for the big race. The city actually had to bring in over 500 truck loads of snow to fill the streets, so they could even have this event this year! SO, for all my readers down in the Lower 48 who don’t know much about any of this (I didn’t before moving to Alaska), right now there are almost SEVENTY mushers (people guiding sleds) completely powered by up to 16 small sled dogs, mushing their way north thru whatever conditions they come across. Encountering possible blizzards white-outs, frozen water, rough mountain passes, and even subzero temperatures/windchill are all common. Can we say INTENSE!? Every year, my husbands company sponsors the (in my opinion) best possible Musher candidate out there! DeeDee Jonrowe (Yes, a WOMAN). A sixty one year old breast cancer survivor AND sixteen time top ten Iditarod finisher (who has 33 races under her belt)!! I have no words for that. Being behind the scenes to see the dogs and DeeDee getting geared up was such an incredible experience. As you can tell in the photos, it was pure organized chaos. She works so closely and thoroughly with all the dogs on her team, that she knows them all by name, as well as ALL the little intricate details about EACH of their personalities. They may be smaller than I would have thought, but they have huge personalities! That’s A LOT of love to give to all those cute dogs, and it was clear to me that she definitely had more than enough to go around. Plus, each dog on the team has a handler that takes great care of them. These dogs are incredibly high energy working dogs, born and bred to pull sleds. It was crazy to see how chill they were, UNTIL they were connected to the sled towline. Their excitement was BEYOND me. They were SO eager to get to racing. Barking and jumping up and down with crazy intense looks on their faces. The energy is unexplainable, and not easy to put into words. Traveling almost a thousand miles by sled dog, sounds unrealistic, but there are check points located along the route, where the mushers and their dogs stop to eat and sleep. DeeDee is currently in 32nd place, but has crazy determination, and MANY folks all over Alaska routing for her! The current leader is Dallas Seavey, last year’s Iditarod winner, a third generation Musher, and the youngest person to ever compete in and win the Iditarod (at 25!). He also holds the record for fastest time, of 8 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes, and 19 seconds. Unbelievable! I can’t wait to see how The Last Great Race turns out this year!