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March 9, 2009 4:55 PM

Who Let The Dogs Out?! (Iditarod 37 Begins)

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I've received criticism before for writing about rather "trivial" matters here at RCS (see: Iditarod 36, Puppy Bowl V, Brett Favre announcing his retirement, etc.). So why stop now?

While Selection Sunday is still six days away, for some, March Madness has already begun, and it features sleds, teams of dogs and frostbitten fingers.

Yes, that's right, the Iditarod is underway, having begun with its ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday. Our 6th Craziest Competition You'd Have to Be Crazy to Enter, the Iditarod, known as "The Last Great Race on Earth," is a 1,110-mile sprint through the middle of Alaska's winter, where they face "jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast."

The mushers are already pulling into the race's fourth checkpoint, Rainy Pass, and the leader is a familiar face: Lance Mackey, winner of the past two Iditarods. That means that somewhere during the Alaskan night, Mackey overtook the previous leader, Sebastian Schnuelle, who had been the first into Finger Lake.

With 30 minutes to go before he started down the trail from Willow on Sunday afternoon, Mackey was still mulling which dogs to put in his team. One who made the cut is the leader who delivered him first to Nome last year, 9-year-old Larry.

"The last two (victories) boosted my confidence really good," he said. "I have as good a shot as anybody."


Next up is Rohn, which used to serve as a roadhouse stop for dogs carrying mail on the original Iditarod trail but is now essentially just a checkpoint in the woods, and a popular place for mushers to take their single, mandatory 24-hour stop.

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Current Leader: Lance Mackey
Current Leg: Finger Lake to Rainy Pass, 30 miles
Next Leg: Rainy Pass to Rohn, 48 miles
Current Temperature: 16

Top photo by Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News; second photo REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder

For even more pictures, check out The Big Picture's latest project, "Dog Sledding."

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