Iditarod teams complete ceremonial start

Beth Bragg
Travis Cooper, from Big Lake, AK, on Cordova Street as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey, from Fairbanks, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe, from Willow, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Kelly Maixner, from Big Lake, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Chloe Eakin watches Iditarod musher Jodi Bailey, from Chatanika, AK, pass by on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
William Pinkham's lead dogs strut across the bridge to Goose Lakeduring the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fans watch mushers cross the Goose Lake bridge and negotiate the turn during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Kelly Maixner greets fans at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe negotiates the Goose Lake turn with Iditarider Beverley Nelms during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Travis Cooper takes the corner at Goose Lake with Iditarider Anchorage first lady Lynnette Sullivan during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey turns to acknowledge fans during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at Goose Lake.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Isabelle Pope, 11, and Madeline Monzon, 11, offer Girls Scout cookies to mushers during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at the Alaska Native Medical Center campus in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Matt Giblin mushes through the University Lake area during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Aaron Dotomain offers water to passing mushers along University Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Gerald Sousa leads two more teams along University Lake as they approach the Alaska Native Medical Center campus during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lariah Jasek, 7, greets musher Braxton Peterson along University Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Ed Stielstra, from McMillan, MI, mushes down Cordova Street in Anchorage, AK during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
A group of kids and adults from the Valley of the Moon neighborhood race musher Karen Ramstead's team near the bottom of Cordova hill during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Dallas Seavey, from Seward, AK, mushes down Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Matt Giblin, from Juneau, AK, comes over the top of the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012 in Anchorage, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Mike Williams Jr., from Akiak AK, on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lead dogs of Iditarod musher Bob Chlupach, from Willow, AK, on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Anna Berington, from Kasilof, AK, on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Team dogs of Iditarod musher Jake Berkowitz, from Big Lake, AK, on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Hugh Neff, from Tok, AK, on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod race fans on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Kathleen Keusenkothen and Lezlie Murray cheer on mushers on Cordova Street during ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Gebhardt, from Kasilof, AK rounds the Cordova corner during ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Santos whips around the corner coming off the bridge to Goose Lake as Iditarider Fran Lockwood waves during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
A snug Tom Thurston greets fans in a snowstorm as he approaches Goose Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fans greet Hugh Neff as he mushes into the Horizon Lines party during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 on the Alaska Native Medical Center campus.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Mitch Seavey stops to offer his team a bite of hot dog at the Horizon Lines party during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at Alaska Native Medical Center in Midtown. Most dogs turned down the offer, perhaps scared off by mustard, though one took a bite before Seavey resumed his run, eating the rest of the wiener.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Mitch Seavey finishes off a hot dog after stopping to offer his team a bite at the Horizon Lines party during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at Alaska Native Medical Center in Midtown. Most dogs turned down the offer, perhaps scared off by mustard, though one took a bite before Seavey resumed his run, eating the rest of the wiener.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dallas Seavey thanks Horizon Lines for hot dogs as he and Iditarider Ed Ward are offered a bounty of wieners, water and Girl Scout cookies during a 50-yard stretch of trail through the Alaska Native Medical Center campus at the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Gerald Sousa leads two more teams along University Lake as they approach the Alaska Native Medical Center campus during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Colleen Robertia receives hot dogs and bottled water as her team negotiates the crowd generated by a Horizon Lines party and fans from the Alaska Native Medical Center during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at the ANMC campus in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Jim Lanier's dogs cross the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Jodi Bailey chats with pedestrians who give her the right of way on the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Aidan Ogilvie-Fiacco, 6, and sister Emily, 8, offer high fives to musher Michael Williams, Jr. during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 along University Lake.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Dan Seavey crosses Chester Creek during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 near Wesleyan Drive in east Anchorage. Three generations of Seaveys are in the race.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Falling snow, blown off the trees by a sudden gust of wind, obscures Jim Lanier's as it winds its way through the forest on the way to the BLM airstrip and the end of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Mushers had to negotiate through the maze of choices in the woods south of Tudor, but the Iditarod trail was well marked.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Nine month old Lillianna Garcia watches the dogs run through the trees along Campbell Airstrip with her mother Mandy. Mandy said that it was Lillianna's "First Iditarod, out of the womb".
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Aliy Zirkle's team leads her through the twisting trail as they approach the last miles of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in Anchorage. This is the Two Rivers's mushers twelveth Iditarod.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
One of Matt Gilbin's dogs grabs a quick snow snack as they wait for a slower musher to move into the finish shoot on the BLM airstrip along Campbell Creek. The Juneau musher is running his third Iditarod.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Pat Moon heads down 4th Avenue, which is lined with fans for the ceremonial start of Iditarod. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Young Iditarod fans get high five's from the handler for musher Bob Chlupach, from Willow, AK, at the bottom of Cordova hill during the start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ed Stielstra, from McMillan, MI, stops on Cordova Street to untangle a dog during the start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Martin Buser and his wife Kathy Chapoton ride the sled with Iditarider Eileen Stein, from Maryland, in the basket as the round the Cordova corner during the start of the 2012 Iditarod on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Tail gaiters watch the start of the 2012 Iditarod on Cordova Street on Saturday, March 3, 2012 as Curt Perano's team passes by.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
2 year old Skylar Dupuis, from Eagle River watches the start of the 2012 Iditarod on Cordova Street on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
John Baker, Iditarod champ of 2011, drives down 4th Avenue. Fans line the street and watch from a parking garage. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Jake Berkowitz talks with others before starting his run through Anchorage. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey shows his official package of mail that each musher carries to Nome. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Jeff King drives down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of Iditarod. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Wade Marrs gives a high-five on 4th Avenue. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Fans watch the start of the race from a parking garage downtown. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Fans line the streets of downtown Anchorage to see Iditarod teams run. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe and her team drive down crowded 4th Avenue. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Four-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey drives through a crowded intersection in downtown Anchorage. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Santos gives a fan a high-five. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Scott Janssen and his team head to the start line with help from handlers. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod rookie Jaimee Kinzer smiles as she heads to the start line. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod rookie Ryne Olson leads her team to the start line. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Rookie racer Silvia Furtwangler smiles as she waits for her turn to start the ceremonial run. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Josh Kadzow of Fort Yukon guides his team to the start line. The ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey, of Fairbanks, AK, leans into the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Skylar Dupuis and her dad Derek Dupuis stick out their tongues to catch snow during Saturday's race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe, of Willow, AK makes the curve at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start Saturday.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod race fan, Joanna Matos, of Seal Beach, CA, watches the ceremonial start Saturday morning. It's her third time to visit Anchorage during the Iditarod.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Aliy Zirkle, of Two Rivers, Alaska drives her dogs around the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
2011 Iditarod champion John Baker and his Iditarider wave during Saturday's start on 4th Avenue.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Cim Smyth rounds the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Tom Thurston, of Oak Creek, CO, smiles after rounding the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington, Jr.'s dogs round the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during Saturday's race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Pat Moon, of Park Ridge, IL rounds the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the race start.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod fans keep an eye on the action on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday morning.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Jody Bailey of Chatanika, Alaska starts her race during steady snowfall Saturday morning.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Fans take in the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in downtown Anchorage, AK Saturday morning.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Jim Lanier of Chugiak, Alaska begins his race in Anchorage Saturday morning.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Jeff King talks with his Iditarider before the ceremonial start run through Anchorage.The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington, Jr. leaves the start line of the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Redington, Jr. of Wasilla mushes his team during the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, Saturday March 3, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Ray Redington, Jr. gets ready to leave the start line of the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Tom Thurston. of Oak Creek, CO mushes his team during the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ceremonial start, Saturday March 3, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Travis Cooper, from Big Lake, AK, on Cordova Street as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey, from Fairbanks, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe, from Willow, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
The 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Kelly Maixner, from Big Lake, AK, rounds Cordova corner as the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, March 3, 2012.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Chloe Eakin watches Iditarod musher Jodi Bailey, from Chatanika, AK, pass by on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod sled dog race on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
William Pinkham's lead dogs strut across the bridge to Goose Lakeduring the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fans watch mushers cross the Goose Lake bridge and negotiate the turn during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Kelly Maixner greets fans at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
DeeDee Jonrowe negotiates the Goose Lake turn with Iditarider Beverley Nelms during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Travis Cooper takes the corner at Goose Lake with Iditarider Anchorage first lady Lynnette Sullivan during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Lance Mackey turns to acknowledge fans during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at Goose Lake.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Isabelle Pope, 11, and Madeline Monzon, 11, offer Girls Scout cookies to mushers during the ceremonial start of the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 3, 2012 at the Alaska Native Medical Center campus in Midtown.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

Update, 4 p.m.: All 66 teams in the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race completed their ceremonial 11-mile jaunt from downtown Anchorage through city streets and on to Campbell Airstrip on Saturday. Racers will head to Willow on Sunday for the 2 p.m. official start.

Update, 10 a.m.: With Ray Redington Jr. leading the way down 4th Ave., Iditarod mushers began their 975-mile marathon to Nome with an 11-mile sprint through Anchorage on Saturday morning.

Thousands of fans lined downtown streets to meet, cheer and photograph the mushers, whose destiny today is Campbell Airstrip, about 11 miles from the start line.

We'll be posting updates and photos through the day, so check back.

Things to know about this year's Iditarod sled dog race

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets under way this weekend with 66 teams running through the streets and trails of Anchorage on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. The race to Nome begins for real Sunday afternoon in Willow at 2 p.m.

Some things to know about this year's race:

Wanna be a millionaire?

A purse of $550,000 is at stake, and while that sounds like a lot, it isn't easy getting rich off Iditarod prize money.

Four-time champion Jeff King, 56, is the race's biggest all-time money-winner with $808,720. For him to become the Iditarod's first millionaire, at least based on prize money, King needs to collect another $192,000 -- the equivalent of five more finishes in fifth place or better or eight more finishes in 10th place or better.

This year's Iditarod champion wins a $50,400 check plus a Dodge Ram pickup worth about $43,400.

Each subsequent finisher earns a little less prize money -- $46,500 for second place, $42,900 for third, down to $1,500 for 30th place. Every finisher after that pockets $1,049, a figure based on the notion that the race is 1,049 miles long.

It's not.

The (real) distance

In previous years, the length of the Iditarod was said to vary between 1,000 and 1,100 miles, depending on the route and conditions. Often people split the difference and called it 1,049, an homage to Alaska's status as the 49th state.

This year, following the northern route, the race is 975 miles -- an acknowledgement, race officials say, to changes to the start made in recent years:

• The ceremonial start in Anchorage is just 11 miles, shorter than back in the days when mushers went to Eagle River. Now they stop at Campbell Airstrip.

• The restart is in Willow instead of Wasilla, a change that eliminates a portion of trail around Wasilla and Knik as well as some Yentna River mileage.

So the Iditarod isn't as long as it used to be. It isn't quite as treacherous either.

Goodbye, switchbacks

For the first time, mushers will not have to negotiate the treacherous Happy River Steps out of Finger Lake, a series of steep switchbacks that has left its share of carnage over the years -- broken sleds, broken bones and broken dreams.

The route will bypass the steps in favor of a winter mining road that parallels the Iditarod trail. The road was built by a Vancouver company that's exploring for minerals around the nearby Skwentna River.

Bloodlines of dogs, mushers

Just as you can find teams that share dogs from the same bloodlines, so can you find mushers who share bloodlines:

• The Seaveys will start three generations of mushers for the second time in race history. Patriarch Dan, 74, will share the trail with son Mitch, the 2004 champion, and grandson Dallas, the 2011 Yukon Quest champion.

• The Smyths have the potential for serious sibling rivalry. Ramey, 36, was second last year, and Cim, 35, was fifth in 2009. Their dad, Bud Smyth, was an Iditarod pioneer.

• The Beringtons, Kristy and Anna, are the first identical twins to enter the same Iditarod. Kristy is the veteran of two races, and Anna is an Iditarod rookie.

• The Redingtons will bookend the start and restart, with Ray Redington Jr. wearing the No. 2 bib, and Ryan Redingon drawing the No. 66 bib, making them the first and last mushers who will leave downtown Anchorage on Saturday and the Willow restart on Sunday.

Who's No. 1?

So who's wearing Bib No. 1?

As usual, no one.

The No. 1 bib is given to an honorary musher. This year, that musher is Dave Olson, who cleared trail for the 1973 and 1974 races, repaired numerous snowmachines and sleds and finished four races.

In 1984, Olson was racing in a pack with DeeDee Jonrowe, Rick Mackey and Sue Firmin when the group encountered an open creek -- 12 feet across and about eight feet deep. They needed to build a bridge, said Olson, who got the project started by cutting small trees and brush.

"That's one reason you carry an ax in your sled bag," he told the others, according to the Iditarod media guide.

But it's not the only reason.

Mandatory means mandatory

An ax is one of several items Iditarod racers are required to have at all times.

Other mandatory gear includes a cold-weather sleeping bag, a pair of snowshoes, eight booties for each dog, a cooker and pot capable of holding at least three gallons of water plus adequate fuel to bring the water to a boil; a veterinarian notebook and a cable gangline or cable tieout capable of securing an entire team of dogs.

Gear is checked at the restart and at the spot where a musher takes his 24-hour layover, and it may also be checked at any checkpoint but Safety.

Don't think this stuff doesn't matter.

Hugh Neff jeopardized his Yukon Quest victory last month by accidentally leaving his ax in Dawson. He was penalized 30 minutes and wound up beating Allen Moore by 26 seconds.


By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News