Here is the best way to follow it: Iditarod 2016
A few facts about the dogs:
How many dogs are on a team?
At the start of the race, a musher must have a minimum of 12 dogs and a maximum of 16.
At the finish line, a musher must have a minimum of five dogs in harness — that is, pulling the sled. A musher who finishes with fewer than five dogs in harness will be disqualified.
What do Iditarod dogs eat during the race?
Their main diet is dry dog food — kibble — and various frozen proteins: salmon, beef, chicken, pork fat, even beaver.
Mushers thaw the food in their cook stoves and usually serve it in the form of a broth.
No canned dog food for these dogs — and few can openers along the trail.
What kind of dogs run the Iditarod?
The most widely used sled dog is the Alaskan husky or mixed-breed dogs that include Alaskan husky bloodlines.
Among the breeds used for crossbreeding are German shorthaired pointers, Siberian huskies and Alaska malamutes, although retrievers, hounds, German shepherds, sheep dogs and Irish setters also have been bred in at one time or another.
In 1991 the Iditarod adopted a rule that limits the race to northern-breed dogs. The rule was a response to one musher’s use of standard poodles during a couple of races during the 1980s. Some of the poodles finished, but their thin coats didn’t provide much warmth.
Why do Iditarod dogs wear socks?
Those socks are called booties, and they are used to protect the pads of a dog’s feet.
Mushers may use them when the team is traveling a long distance, or if the snow is granular or the trail has jagged ice.
Iditarod rules require mushers to carry eight booties for each dog while on the trail. Many mushers pack extra booties in drop bags that are flown to checkpoints in advance of the race.
What positions are there on an Iditarod team?
Like a football team, certain dogs play certain positions.
The leaders, or lead dogs, run at the front of the pack. They’re the stars. They set the pace and help steer the team. Sometimes a musher will run one dog in lead, sometimes two. Two is more common.
Swing dogs are the one or two dogs hitched right behind the leaders. They help swing the entire team when there’s a change in direction.
Wheel dogs are the dogs closest to the sled.
Team dogs are all of the dogs between the wheel dogs and the swing dogs.
What makes a good sled dog?
Near the top of the list: A willingness to pull, something usually demonstrated when the dog is still a puppy.
The best sled dogs keep the tugline tight when the team is moving. That means the dog is actively pulling and sharing the workload.
Endurance is important. So are attitude, temperament and trainability.
During a race, performance is usually better when dogs eat and drink well — particularly if they show energy at the end of a run. Mushers like it when they reach a checkpoint and their dogs want to keep pulling.
How fast does an Iditarod team travel?
8 mph is a good rule of thumb, though in flat, short stretches the best can exceed 12 mph.
The Iditarod posts average speeds between checkpoints for every musher, and those averages can vary drastically. In his 2014 win, Dallas Seavey’s fastest per-mile average was 10.89 between Nulato and Kaltag. His slowest was 4.63 between Skwentna and Finger Lake.
One thing to keep in mind: Sometimes a musher stops between checkpoints to rest the team. Those rests — sometimes called camping — can potentially last hours, and that time is figured into the musher’s per-mile pace.
When will the Iditarod end?
It depends on trail conditions and weather, but based on recent Iditarods, the winner should reach Nome sometime on Tuesday, March 15, or possibly early morning on Wednesday, March 16.