Warm weather ushers mushers, canines onto Iditarod Trail

Beth Bragg
Yvonne Dabakk of Oslo, Norway, descends Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Siberian huskies Fritz, left, and Ruby lead the rookie team of Lisbet Norris across a bridge over Tudor Road during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Scott Janssen keeps control of his sled rounding the corner near Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42. It was warm and sunny for mushers, dogs and spectators on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Allen Moore of Two Rivers, AK crosses over Northern Lights Boulevard during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof, AK takes a couple of hotdogs as he approaches the Tudor Road bridge. The ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 was warm and sunny on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Karen Hendrickson, of Wasilla, AK reaches out for a hotdog during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42.It was warm and sunny on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Jim Lanier passes through the party near the Native hospital during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42. It was a warm and sunny day Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News The second sled with JoarLeifseth Ulsom, of Norway, cruises by festive pink flamingos on the trail just east of University Lake. The ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 was warm and sunny on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Ramey Smith of Willow, AK approaches the muffin checkpoint near Wesleyan Drive during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42. The day was warm and sunny Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Karen Ramstead drives her team past the muffin checkpoint and under the many flags. The ceremonial start for Iditarod 42 was warm and sunny on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Anne Raup
Anne Raup / Anchorage Daily News Stuffed dogs sit in a chair alongside the trail during the ceremonial start for Iditarod 42.The day was warm and sunny Saturday, March 1, 2014 for humans and dogs alike.
Anne Raup
The dogs of Peter Kaiser of Bethel cross a bridge on the Chester Creek Trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Richie Diehl of Aniak descends Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Rookie Nathan Schroeder of Chisholm, Minnesota, greets fans after descending Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Fans greet four-time champion Martin Buser of Big Lake on the Chester Creek Trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Cindy Gallea of Wykoff, Minnesota, is greeted along the Chester Creek Trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
John Dixon of Fairbanks is chased along the Chester Creek trail by Cindy Abbott of Irvine, Ca., during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway waves to fans along the Chester Creek trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Travis Beals of Seward cheers for a trailside videographer along Chester Creek during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The dogs of Marcelle Fressineau of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, trot down the Chester Creek trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
A dog in the team of Anna Berington of Kasilof is sprayed by slush kicked up by another dog during warm temperatures along Chester Creek during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Two-time and defending Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey, right, and his wife Janine prepare to leave 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Idita-Rider John Radtke is in the sled.
Bill Roth
Volunteer Russ Wilmot directs a dog team towards the starting line during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod veteran Jessie Royer of Darby, MT, tends to one of her dogs as mushers prepared to leave 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Jason Mackey of Wasilla eats a hot dog while crossing a bridge over Tudor Road during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod rookie Charlie Bejna drives his team towards the starting line for the first time during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sled dogs in the team of Iditarod veteran John Dixon near the bridge over Tudor Road during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
2012 Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey interacts with fans gather at Campbell Airstrip during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod veteran Newton Marshall of St. Anne, Jamaica, has his picture taken with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Aliy Zirkle who finished second in the past two Iditarod's jogs up to the starting line for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod veteran Kelly Maixner of Big Lake holds his 8-month-old son Vendelin during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Veteran musher Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, gets his gangline ready prior to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Christian Turner of Australia prepares to leave 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Christian Turner of Australia drives his dog team down 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Two-time Iditarod champion Robert Sorlie of Norway hits the trail during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
2013 Iditarod Rookie of the Year Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway prepares to cross Tudor Road during the Ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod rookie Tommy Jordbrudal of Norway prepares to leave 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Veteran DeeDee Jonrowe prepares to leave 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Veteran Iditarod musher Hugh Neff at the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod veteran DeeDee Jonrowe at Campbell Airstrip during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Iditarod veteran Scott Janssen crosses Campbell Airstrip during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bill Roth
Jeff King greets visiting fan Amanda White of Dexter, Maine during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Musher Gus Guenther of Clam Gulch responds to fans as he crosses East 15th Avenue at the top of Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
An old freight sled is pulled down the trail prior to the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Gus Guenther of Clam Gulch heads down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Lev Shvarts of Willow emerges from the Chester Creek Trail tunnel beneath the Seward Highway during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof emerges from the Chester Creek Trail tunnel beneath the Seward Highway during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Jake Berkowitz of Big Lake cruises the Chester Creek Trail tunnel beneath the Seward Highway during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Danny Seavey of Seward negotiates a turn at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Katherine Keith of Kotzebue makes the turn at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Crowds watch mushers on 4th Avenue. Sixty-nine mushers and their dog teams celebrated the start of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race by greeting fans and taking a ceremonial ride across Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Marc Lester
The dog team of Dan Kaduce of Chatanika heads down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Two-time champion Mitch Seavey of Seward heads down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Michael Williams, Jr. descends the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The dogs of musher Yvonne Dabakk of Oslo, Norway peek over the lip of the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Newton Marshall of St. Anne, Jamaica acknowledges fans while descending the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Fans greet Jamaican musher Newton Marshall at the bottom of the Cordova Street hill near East 16th Avenue during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers greets fans at the top of Cordova Street Hill at East 15th Avenue during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
DeeDee Jonrowe drives her team down the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Four-time winner Jeff King greets fans as he descends Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Scott Janssen of Anchorage, top, catches up to Allen Moore of Two Rivers on the Cordova Street hill during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Chris and Sabra Sturgis of Palmer prepare a sign for sons Samuel 9, and Sawyer, 5, as they watch the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, next to Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Rookie musher Christian Turner of Karratha, Western Australia, greets fans near Mulcahy Stadium during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Two-time champion Robert Sorlie of Hurdal, Norway greets fans near Mulcahy Stadium during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Matt Failor of Willow crosses the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Hugh Neff of Tok crosses the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The brightly-shod dogs of Alex Buetow of Fairbanks cross the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The dogs of Canadian musher Karen Ramstead are decked out in appropriate colors as they cross the bridge to Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage. Ramstead hails from Perryvale, Alberta.
Erik Hill
The lead dogs of Ken Anderson of Fairbanks round a corner at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The dogs of Mike Ellis of Two Rivers trot the trail during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Wade Marrs of Wasilla winds up with a handful of snow while greeting fans at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Tongues lolling, the dogs of Abbie West of Two Rivers belie the effects of warm weather during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Abbie West of Two Rivers leans over to greet fans at Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The dogs of Sonny Lindner of Two Rivers enter the stretch of trail along Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Fans greet the end of the show as final musher Sonny Lindner of Two Rivers passes through Goose Lake during the ceremonial start for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Anchorage.
Erik Hill
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen
The ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Bob Hallinen

Update, 1:30 p.m.: See you in Willow.

Eighteen-time Iditarod finisher Sonny Lindner left downtown Anchorage around 1 p.m. Saturday, the final musher to hit the trail in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Lindner will be last to go again Sunday when the race restarts in Willow at 2 p.m. Saturday's start was ceremonial; Sunday's start is when the clock starts ticking for the 69 mushers in the 1,000-mile race to Nome.

Both of Alaska's U.S. Senators were among the hundreds wishing the mushers godspeed. "I love them all," said Lisa Murkowski, who stayed near the start line giving hugs to as many racers as she could. 

Update, 10 a.m.: A musher from New Zealand kicked off an Alaska tradition Saturday when Curt Perano led a field of 69 mushers onto the trail for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Howling dogs and photo-snapping fans filled downtown Anchorage streets for the event, the precursor for Sunday's real start in Willow -- some 50 miles from Anchorage.

The ceremonial start is all for show, so that fans and sponsors can get their Iditarod fix and renew acquaintances after a long winter.

"This is my whole social life in the winter, these two days," said Libby Riddles, the 1985 Iditarod champion.

Riddles isn't in the 1,000-mile race, but plenty of other past champs are. Defending champion Mitch Seavey and his son, 2012 champion Dallas Seavey, were among the first mushers to leave downtown Anchorage.

Other past champs in the field include Jeff King, Martin Buser, John Baker and Robert Sorlie.

Hundreds of fans lined 4th Avenue to cheer the mushers, listen to the barking of the sled dogs and enjoy the sunshine and blue skies. 

Original story:

We have 69 mushers ready to race to Nome.

We have a loaded field that includes the top 10 finishers from last year's race.

We have the usual supply of Seaveys. We have intrigue in the return of Robert Sorlie, the two-time champ from Norway back for the first time since 2007. We have a two-time runner-up in Aliy Zirkle, who is trying to once again make Alaska the place where women win the Iditarod.

We have everything you need for the perfect Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Except the perfect trail.

Ice, open water, soft snow and no snow await dog teams as they begin the race to Nome this weekend. High temperatures -- which in early February threatened to move the start of the race north to Fairbanks -- returned with a vengeance Thursday and could compromise several weeks' worth of volunteer labor on the trail.

"I heard it's pretty sketchy," said Dean Osmar, a veteran musher from Clam Gulch who has a number of dogs running the race, but isn't driving a team himself. "Warm weather we don't need. There's patchy snow from Rainy Pass to Nikolai. It's gonna be pretty treacherous."

Osmar said he told rookie Monica Zappa of Kasilof that if she can make it to Nikolai, the checkpoint at the end of the bumpy and possibly bare Farewell Burn, she can make it to Nome.

Conditions are hard, fast and icy south of the Alaska Range -- or at least they were before the latest heat wave. Joe Runyan, a champion-turned-race analyst, described it like this on iditarod.com: "The trail is an Olympic luge run, interrupted by inconvenient and terrifying descents into creek bottoms and natural detours around white spruce or boulders guarding crossings down the Dalzell Gorge."

The ceremonial start begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Anchorage. Mushers and their Idita-riders -- people who bid for a ride with the musher of their choice -- leave every two minutes and will travel 11 miles from downtown to Campbell Airstrip in the ultimate dog show. The clock isn't ticking for this part of the race -- it's all about pleasing fans and sponsors.

"We know how important the ceremonial start is for the fans and how important it is for the success and growth of the race," said Eureka musher Brent Sass, who pulled out of this year's race after suffering a head injury in the Yukon Quest. "I really enjoy it. I think the dogs like to get in the harness and pull whether it's seven miles or 1,000."

On Sunday in Willow, mushers and dogs will go through it all again, only this time the clock will be ticking and their destination is about 900 miles away. The first team heads out at 2 p.m.

Here are some things to know before they go:

 

WHO'S GOING TO WIN?

Osmar and Runyan teamed up to predict the top 10, but when asked who is on the list, Osmar rattled off about a dozen names.

"Sorlie, of course. The two Seaveys, Aliy, Ray Redington, Jake (Berkowitz), Joar (Leifseth Ulsom), Ralph (Johannessen), Aaron (Burmeister), (Sonny) Lindner, DeeDee. I've got about 15 in my top 10."

He paused to think about who he forgot.

"Jeff King! He's top five," Osmar said. "I know I'm gonna have some people mad at me, because there's about five more who are in my top 10."

 

WHO'S RALPH JOHANNESSEN?

He's the guy you might wish you drew in your office pool.

Johannessen is one of five mushers from Norway in this year's race. Sorlie, the champion in 2003 and 2005, is the one best known to Alaskans, but keep an eye on Johannessen. He's been mushing since 1973 and he's won all of Norway's major races.

"He's the real deal," Osmar said. "He's been beating Sorlie half the time."

 

WHO IS ON TEAM SEAVEY?

For the second time in three years, there's a hat trick of Seaveys in the Iditarod:

• 2013 champion Mitch Seavey, whose win at age 53 made him the oldest champ in history.

• 2012 champion Dallas Seavey, whose win at age 24 made him the youngest champ in history.

• Pinch-hitter Danny Seavey, Mitch's son and Dallas' brother, who was in Florida three weeks ago when the family called and told him to come home -- they needed him to drive a sled to Nome.

Danny, 31, was needed when Matt Giblin, who was planning to drive a team of young Seavey dogs, broke his ankle. It's been a couple of years since Danny has raced, but Mitch said his son is an accomplished musher and he'll do fine.

"It's like riding a bike," Mitch said. "Plus he harnessed and broke a lot of these dogs as yearlings."

In 2012, the Seavey contingent included family patriach Dan Seavey, then 74.

A four-Seavey race isn't entirely out of the question. Conway Seavey, 17, just won his second Junior Iditarod and will be eligible for the full race next year when he's 18. But Mitch doesn't see that happening. Danny isn't likely to return to full-time racing, and Conway is a pop singer and songwriter preparing for his first release, he said.

Asked to handicap the family's race within the race, Mitch didn't hedge.

"Dallas and I will be very competitive, and Danny will be semi-competitive," he said. "Of course, I think I'm the best."

 

WHERE'S LANCE?

For the first time since 2003, Lance Mackey is not running the race.

The four-time champion is skipping the race for health reasons. Mackey won four straight titles while battling cancer and its aftermath, which in his case has been ravaging.

Mackey will be missed by fans, who like how real and humble he is, and by members of the media, who like how quotable he is. And so we asked him what he likes about the ceremonial start.

"It is a must-do for the state and the sport," Mackey said. "The only mushers who don't enjoy it are also the ones without many fans."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

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By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com