Lance Mackey is going to try to re-write the record books next March on the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race by becoming the first person to win the race 5 times in a row.
Mackey has made this event peculiarly his own despite much personal sacrifice: he’s lost a finger and a tooth and is down to just one good arm. The skin on half his face is scarred and stretched to the limit. He can’t produce an ounce of spit. Thanks to racing in subzero temperatures for days on end, his ears, toes and remaining fingers are permanently frostbitten. His back is tender, his right hip clicks, his right leg cramps.
And don’t forget – he’s also conquered throat cancer.
The Iditarod dog sled race is not for the fainthearted. It subjects its competitors to a fairly unimaginable cocktail of bitter cold and sleep deprivation. Mushers race at all hours, in the prolonged darkness of March. There are parts of the course where the snow obstructs the trail, and others where there is no snow at all, like windswept Farewell Burn, a stretch of barren tundra. They race over frozen patches of the Bering Sea and pray that the ice doesn’t crack. They hallucinate, hear things, begin to smell like a mix of dogs and sweat. The best mushers finish in nine or 10 days.
This brief Discovery video (DiscoveryNetworks) gives you a quick flavour of the event:
And the other great Iditarod Race?
This one’s the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a race with two distances. Either 350 miles to McGrath or 1,100 miles to Nome. This year the trail will follow the southern route to Nome. This is certainly the world’s longest winter ultra-marathon race. A race across the frozen expanse of Alaska. A race that can be done on foot, on bike or on skis.
February/March 2011 is expecting a good field of competitors which will include a tough group of trail hardened veterans and a strong field of rookies. The field is always limited to 50 entrants.
The Nome race is a very serious undertaking and to qualify for it you must have completed the 350 mile race to McGrath.
Racers will be responsible for sending their own drops of provisions to the villages beyond McGrath, however race organisers will provide an airdrop of food, fuel and batteries in Iditarod between Ophir and Shageluk. Racers are responsible for calling in from villages beyond McGrath so that the organisers can keep the website updated with each individuals progress.
There are very long stretches of uninhabited trail on the way to Nome and it has taken top veteran racers several days in bad conditions to cover these long stretches between re-supply points. It is absolutely imperative that racers are able to be self sufficient for several days when they leave McGrath for Nome. Rookies are advised to contact the organisers or other veteran racers to get some idea of how much food and fuel it is wise to carry on these long stretches.
Since the inaugural year of 2000 only 33 individuals have finished the 1,100 mile race to Nome, only three of those have been women.
The course record is held by Mike Curiak from Colorado, USA in a staggering 15 days 1 h 15 min, but it can take up to 40 days to complete…
Definitely NOT for the fainthearted.
The following video gives you a glimpse of what this race is all about (akusport)…
Two ultra extreme races to keep your eye on.