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And they're off: 66 mushers begin trip to Nome

Beth Bragg
Volunteers maintain the snow coverage at Cordova Street and 15th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News DeeDee Jonrowe rests her head on her father's shoulder before the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 in downtown Anchorage, AK. DeeDee's dad, Ken Stout, has cancer and his prognosis was not to live past this February. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Lindwood Fiedler of Willow dives his team down Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Martin Buser prepares for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Ramey Smyth's dogs are eager to run before the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 in downtown Anchorage, AK. Smyth is from Willow, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
The driver of a tag sled behind musher Jake Berkowitz of Big Lake overreached while giving high fives and rolled the sled on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Scott Janssen gets a hug prior to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Alan Moore, from Two Rivers, AK, with his lead dogs at the start line at the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. Alan Moore won the 2013 Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
The dog team of Mike Ellis of Two Rivers round the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Four-time champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks checks his dog team prior to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Victoria Tenney, from Seattle, WA, collects an autograph from musher Aliy Zirkle at the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. Zirkle is married to Alan Moore who won the 2013 Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race. This is Tenney's first time viewing the Iditarod and hopes to some day fulfill her life long dream of running the Iditarod. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Matt Giblin (64) of Sterling, leads Mikhail Telpin (63) of Russia, as they near the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Newtown Marshal of St. Ann, Jamaica gets a last minute kiss during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
The dog team driven by Brent Sass makes its way down the Chester Creek Greenbelt during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Michael Williams, Jr., of Akiak, reaches out to high five fans along Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
1978 Iditarod champion Dick Mackey, left, speaks to his son Jason Mackey as he prepares to leave the start line during the ceremonial of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Former champion John Baker gets ready to leave the ceremonial start line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Newton Marshall of St. Ann, Jamaica greets fans at the mile four muffin checkpoint on the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Nancy Livingstone prepares for her 13th time as an Iditarider. For the most recent years, she's been running with the Norwegian teams. This year it is Joar Leifseth Ulsom. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race got underway in Anchorage with the ceremonial start, Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
Four-time champion Jeff King of Denali drives his dog team down the crowd-lined 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Roros, Norway, take to the trail during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Michelle Phillips of Tagish, Yukon Territory smiles as she is serenaded with "O Canada" at the mile four muffin checkpoint on the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Team dogs of four-time champion Lance Mackey are led to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Brent Sass of Manley Hot Springs drives his dog team down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Allen Moore of Two Rivers during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Race fans greet mushers with baked goods at the mile four muffin checkpoint on the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Honey is not happy about being left in the dog truck at the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. Honey did not run in the ceremonial start but will be in Kristy Berington's team when they hit the trial for the start in Willow on Sunday. Berington is from Kasilof, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Four-time champion Martin Buser of Big Lake was the first musher to hit the trail during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cameron Pete, 8, of Sebbins reaches out to musher Louie Ambrose of St. Michael during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
David Sawatzky of Healy crosses Chester Creek during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 along the Chester Creek Greenbelt in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Cim Smyth, of Two Rivers, AK, drives his dog team down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Fans catch the action along Fourth Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cameron Pete, 8, top, Monet Navarrette, 4, center, and Jenae Dukes, 5, of Stebbins lean out to greet mushers during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Iditarider Brittany Savercool of Pennsylvania receives an airborne snack at the mile four muffin checkpoint on the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage. Savercool was riding in the sled of Jodi Bailey of Chatanika.
Erik Hill
Matt Giblin of Sterling greets fans during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 along the Chester Creek Greenbelt in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Message on the dog truck of Sonny Lindner of Two Rivers during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers waves to the crowd along Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Sonny Lindner of Two Rivers drives a height sled during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Pirate fan Jodi Bailey of Chatanika responds as fans greet her with a rousing chorus of "A Pirate's Life for Me" at the mile four muffin checkpoint on the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Evan King, 10, hangs out in one of his uncle Linwood Fiedler's dog boxes before the musher left for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow negotiates the corner at 4th Avenue and Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Honey is not happy about being left in the dog truck at the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. Honey did not run in the ceremonial start but will be in Kristy Berington's team when they hit the trial for the start in Willow on Sunday. Berington is from Kasilof, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Jeff King's dogs move down the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Fans take in the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Race in Anchorage, Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
Ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
Justin Savidis of Willow drives his dog team down a foggy 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A pair of Michelle Phillips' team dogs get a little testy before the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. Phillips is from from Tagish, Yukon Territory, Canda. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Fans flock to the trail adjacent to Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday March 2, 2013 in east Anchorage.
Erik Hill
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Rudy Demoski Sr. drives his team down 4th Ave. during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in Anchorage, Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
Angie Taggart of Ketchikan greets fans during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Grace Michaelson, from Wisconsin, visits with Karin Hendrickson's sled dog Luna during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 in downtown Anchorage, AK. Michaelson's dream is to be a dog musher. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race got underway in Anchorage with the ceremonial start, Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
Ray Redington, Jr., heads south on Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Calisa Kastning and her daughter Sylvie Kastning have their photo made with Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Gerald Sousa, of Talkeetna and his team mush down Cordova Street during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in Anchorage Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup
Brent Sass of Manley Hot Springs drives his dog team down the Cordova Stree hill during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Kristy Berington, from Kasilof, AK, stands bare foot in the snow as she changes pants and puts on her bunny boots at the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Mushers get ready and head down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 2013 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 2, 2013 on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, AK. 130302
Bob Hallinen
Matt Failor hams for a spectator's camera during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race in Anchorage, Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Anne Raup

Midway through the start order of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, you'll find the women's division -- six women starting back to back to back to back to back to back.

It was the luck of the draw that gave Jan Steves, Aliy Zirkle, DeeDee Jonrowe, Karin Hendrickson, Jessie Royer and Anna Berington consecutive bib numbers. Jonrowe, who is making her 31st Iditarod start, can't remember such a thing happening before.

"Every year is something new," she said, "and this is something new. And not only that, there's some talented women in that six. There's three of us -- Aliy, Jessie Royer and me -- who have all been in the top 10, and recently. I think it's cool."

Of course, there is no women's division in the Iditarod. Like auto racing, this is one of those rare sports where men and women compete head-to-head, on a level playing field.

There are no ladies tees on the Iditarod Trail. Even if there were, these ladies wouldn't play from them.

"It's great that women are out here, but I don't want to be the No. 1 woman," said Zirkle, 43, last year's runnerup. "I want to be the winner."

Jonrowe, 59, says the same thing.

"I'm not a woman, I'm a 31-year veteran," she said. "We're all on equal footing. I want to the be the fastest team. I don't want to be the oldest woman or the fastest woman.

"We're not women. We're mushers."

Nearly one out of four of this year's mushers are women -- 16 of the 66.

Jonrowe, Zirkle and Royer are all top-10 contenders. Jonrowe placed 10th last year and 11th the year before; in 28 finishes, she has bagged 15 top-10 finishes. Zirkle's second-place finish was her first top-10 in a dozen races, though she has been in the top 15 five times. Royer, 34, has three top-10 showings, including 10th in 2011 when she last raced.

Hendrickson was 36th last year and has two finishes in four starts; Berington placed 42nd in her rookie run last year; and Steves claimed the Red Lantern last year, finishing 52nd as a rookie.

"The one camaraderie thing with us is we don't have a wife at home organizing, and some of us wish we did have a wife at home organizing," said Zirkle, whose husband, Allen Moore, is also in the race.

 

Adventures in babysitting

James Volek is making his rookie run with a bunch of other rookies. He's driving Martin Buser's yearling team.

Volek, 25, said there's a specific plan for his race.

"My goal is to get all of them in lead at some point," he said. "We'll rest more than we travel. I want to make it fun for the dogs. I don't want them to not enjoy themselves on this trail."

Volek is from Michigan but this is his second year working at Buser's kennel in Big Lake.

"Some of these dogs, I've been with 'em since the day they were born," he said.

He even named some -- the "bird litter," four pups that he named after birds: Thrasher, Swift, Nighthawk and Lark. Thrasher and Swift will be in harness when the team lives Willow on Sunday.

 

This job stinks

The Iditarod Pee Team was out in force Saturday morning.

Maureen Chrysler and Karen Good were among the volunteers whose race credentials say "Pee Team." Their job was to collect urine from dogs so it can be tested for performance-enhancing drugs.

"Not too many people want to shake my hand," said Good, who was indeed barehanded as she handled the baggies used to collect urine.

The baggies are affixed to garter belts that are worn by dogs like diapers. That's an improvement from previous days, said head veterinarian Stu Nelson, who said before someone came up with the garter-belt idea, volunteers tried to catch urine in small cups attached to the ends of coat hangars.

Samples are sent to a lab in the Lower 48 and tested for a variety of PEDs, including painkillers, anti-inflammatories, stimulants and depressants, Nelson said.

The goal is to test four or five dogs in each team, he said. Random testing also occurs on the trail, and in Nome dogs from the top 20 are tested.

Nelson said it's unusual for a dog to test positive. If there is a confirmed positive team, he said, a committee appointed by the Board of Directors reviews the case and determines what action to take.

Chrysler has been on the Pee Team for more than 20 years and Good is a first-timer recruited by Chrysler. They work together at Providence, where Good is Chrysler's boss. But Chrysler has seniority on the Pee Team, so on Saturday she was her boss's boss.

That's why Good was handling the baggies filled with urine and Chrysler was holding a clipboard while standing guard by the cooler where samples were stored.

 

Seavey's strategy: start slow

Picked defending Iditarod champ in your office pool? Don't panic if he's not leading the pack in these first few days of the Iditarod.

Seavey said he plans to repeat his 2012 winning strategy of running and resting at a conservative pace early in the contest.

He calls this "building a monster" that can outpace rivals at the end of the trail. He doesn't expect to lead until the second half of the race.

"I'm not belittling or taking away from other mushers who have won very successful races by getting out in front and holding that lead, but that's not my style," Seavey said. "My focus on the first half of the race is building that monstrous dog team that has the ability to push and take the lead at the end."

 

A survivor's tale

Ken Stout wasn't supposed to be on 4th Avenue on Saturday.

Stout, the father of musher DeeDee Jonrowe and the former head of the Republican Party in Alaska, was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma a little more than a year ago. The grim prognosis was that he wouldn't live to see his daughter's 31st Iditarod start.

"I went to my doctor and told him, 'I don't think you're a very good doctor. You told me a year ago I wasn't gonna last a year, and here I am,' '' a robust-looking Stout said.

Cancer has been cruel to Jonrowe and her family. Jonrowe, 59, is in her 11th Iditarod since her 2002 breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent double mastectomy. Her mom Peg had the same procedure in 2010, some 30 years after she had been treated for uterine cancer.

Now it's her dad's turn.

While Jonrowe and Stout opted for treatment, Ken Stout eschewed chemotherapy.

"At 84 years old, who wants to get a lot of treatment?" he said. "I'd rather have the best quality of life I can than be drugged up with chemo."

Jonrowe said that although her parents have chosen different responses to the disease, "they're both fighting it with prayer."

 

A proud tradition

Fort Yukon musher Josh Cadzow will celebrate his 26th birthday on the trail, likely somewhere around Grayling or Anvik, on March 9.

One of more than half a dozen racers from Bush Alaska, Cadzow said he was inspired by Kotzebue musher John Baker. Now kids in his village are watching the young Athabascan musher.

"It makes me proud that it makes them proud that I do this," Cadzow said.

The rookie is making his second Iditarod attempt. His team became sick with kennel cough in the 2012 race, forcing him to scratch in Kaltag, said. "As soon as I got to Anchorage, last year, the whole team was coughing."

 

Swenson's out; his dogs aren't

Rick Swenson was an Iditarod no-show, but some of his dogs are racing.

Sonny Lindner said he brought seven or eight of Swenson's dogs with him from Two Rivers. Swenson, the race's only five-time champion, withdrew from the race a couple of weeks ago.

Lindner said he ran most of the Swenson dogs in the 2008 All-Alaska Sweepstakes, so he is familiar with them. That's more important than whether the Swenson dogs are familiar with the Lindner dogs.

"I'd rather they know me than each other," he said.

 

Beth Bragg can be reached at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335. Kyle Hopkins contributed to this report,

 

 

More Iditarod coverage
By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com