In this 35th edition of the great race, four former champions will be competing against each other for the first time, with last year’s winner Jeff King lining up against Doug Swingley, Martin Buser and Robert Sorlie. Last year’s race was won in 9 Days 11 Hours 11 Minutes 36 Seconds, considerably behind the record of 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds held by Martin Buser and his Alaskan husky team of Big Lake, Alaska.
Teams are allowed to position dog food and gear along the trail at twenty some checkpoints and villages before the start of the race but once the race begins no outside help is permitted, except for examination by a team of veterinarians en route. Each team can consist of a maximum of 16 dogs, and it is estimated that each dog will consume as much as 10,000kcal of high fat foods every day of the race. Eagle Pack Ultra Power dry dog food – used by racers like Iditarod record holder Martin Buser – contains four sources of animal protein, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, fiber and vitamin supplements, and a heap of fat.
Normally each team will race for around six hours and then rest for the same time, but some teams will race more slowly for eight hours and then rest for six. Modern sleds are made of ultra lightweight carbon fiber or aircraft-grade aluminum. To handle sharp turns and bumpy terrain, the central frame is typically broken into eight sections, which are then connected by flexible joints. The dogs are outfitted with booties made of tear-resistant 330-denier Cordura nylon. Their harnesses feature neoprene-padded nylon webbing and a pivoting hook-up point, which helps to distribute the pull force evenly, relieving pressure on each dog’s back, hips, and ankles.