Iditarod 2023: Food drops and vet checks complete, next stop is the starting line

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 2:35 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There are many stops on the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome, but some of the most important stops happen before pawing starting line, including the food drops and the veterinary checks.

“I’ve often said that ‘once your food drop is done, you’re halfway to Nome,’” Iditarod Race Marshall Mark Nordman said.

Mushers go through an extensive checklist of what to pack for their athletes while keeping a watching eye on the scales.

“We were ordering things and putting together dog booties and runner plastics and dog food and meat and meat and meat and meat, so just a lot of stuff,” Iditarod veteran Anna Berington said.

“It’s like creating a menu for 14 individuals with different ideas of what sounds good for dinner,” Anna’s twin sister Kristy added in front of their Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing truck at the food drop. “And then factoring in all the different factors of managing a dog team.”

As for the couple dozen youth ministry members from Utah helping load the pallets, they knew a little less about the historic race.

“I know there is a bunch of dogs,” one said.

“I know they race,” another added with a laugh.

As the countdown to Iditarod 51 continues, the food drop represents a big weight lifted off the musher’s shoulders.

”Yeah that’s less to worry about now, I mean, I’ve still got to pack my sled and try not to forget anything too major on race day, but it is like, at least I know that stuff is out there,” Iditarod rookie Hunter Keefe said after completing the food drop for his first 1,000-mile race.

On Wednesday, mushers went through a final vet check lining up for the start, another box check marked on the long list of pre-race preparations.

”Today is the day we can actually sit and say, ‘it’s done,’” said Iditarod rookie Gerhardt Thiart, taking his second crack at The Last Great Race. “Now you can start to relax because there is nothing more that you can do. Draw bags are done. Dogs are checked. EKGs, blood work on the dogs are done, that is the most important. They’ve done their health checks this afternoon. They’ve done their training, you have done your best, I have spent my time out in the cold and now it is just basic formalities, meet and greet fans, and now is the time you can actually say ‘relax’ before the race.”

Mushers will find out the order in which they’ll take off from downtown Anchorage for the Ceremonial Start Saturday at the Musher’s Banquet Thursday night at the Dena’ina Center. The full mushing list for Iditarod 51 can be found here.