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Iditarod mushers blast out of Willow

Jeremy Peters
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
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
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race got underway in Anchorage with the ceremonial start, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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

WILLOW -- Dog handlers smiled and laughed while Martin Buser's dogs jumped and yelped, straining to make the official start of the 41st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on a slightly overcast day at Willow Lake on Sunday.

When his lead dog Flash finally got the green light, Buser, a four-time Iditarod champion making his 30th start, was also smiling. He was the first musher to cruise down the snowy runway between a parted sea of onlookers and begin the 1,000-mile trek to Nome.

"It never gets old," said Buser, who last won in 2002. "This year feels really special. I'm probably more prepared this year than in many many years, so I'm excited about that."

Buser is one of 53 veterans in a race with 65 mushers and said starting first isn't necessarily an advantage, but it certainly isn't a disadvantage. Getting first crack at the trail is usually a plus, he said.

Mushers will be using the "Southern Route" this season, which includes a pass through the abandoned mining town of Iditarod. Buser heard positives about the trail from participants in last week's Iditarod Invitational.

"So far, so good," he said. "I met some of the bikers and some of the runners who just ran and biked to McGrath and they said it was a fantastic trip for them, so hopefully the trail stays about the same and we should have about the same trip."

Among the other veterans to draw early starts was Lance Mackey, another four-time champion. He was fourth to take off Sunday and dished out enthusiastic high fives to fans on his right as his dog team trotted easily.

"It's pretty laid back," said Paul Gebhardt, who is racing in his 17th Iditarod and was 10th to hit the trail. "One thing about this year's competitors, from what I've seen there's not an outstanding team. There's probably 15 to 20 teams that can win this race, but there's not a team that's been dominant all season long."

All the teams usually reach Skwentna by nightfall of the first day, and some will often make camp there. Those continuing on might encounter some of the toughest spots on the trail.

"There's a little scary section right outside of Skwentna, then it's supposed to be be really good after that," Gebhardt said. "You just gotta get by it and then you're good."

Defending champion Dallas Seavey, who became the youngest to win last year at 25, was 18th to embark. He took off right behind four-time champion Jeff King, who last won in 2006. John Baker, the 2011 champion, was 12th to sail down the starting chute.

If the mushers don't begin their journey at a blistering pace, it could be due to warm weather. The temperature at Willow Lake was approaching 30 degrees by the time Buser left at 2 p.m.

"Anything above 10 degrees is pretty warm for the dogs," Gebhardt said. "When it cools down tonight, we'll do some more running at better speed."

There is a little trick for keeping the dogs cool during the day. Gebhardt planned to make a stop or two to let his team roll around in the snow.

The snow blanketing Willow Lake was thick and heavy and the overall scene surrounding the mushers was relatively quiet but festive. Various aromas drifted through the air, the product of several cooking stations run by mushers, fans and vendors alike. Snowmachines buzzed about the outskirts and a helicopter hovered above the starting chute for a bit.

There were also a few colorful costumes and they weren't limited to humans. A dog named Rin Tin Tin sat near the start line, sporting a hat with gold and blue stripes.

Reach Jeremy Peters at jpeters@adn.com or 257-4335.

 

 

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By JEREMY PETERS
jpeters@adn.com