March is not just about the Slice of Life challenge, though that is a HUGE part of my month. It is also about basketball (my nephew's team lost in the state championships by ONE point) and birthdays (I get older soon - and so does my brother) and anniversaries (my brother and sister-in-law just celebrated and tomorrow would have been my parents 29th - figure that one out!) and spring break (Sri Lanka here we come), and then the two big ones: Easter and Iditarod.
Saturday was the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, which is just what it sounds like. My house is twelve hours ahead of Alaska, so my days don't line up. It feels like the start was today, but my calendar says "Sunday". I will try to keep day references accurate to the time on the ground for the teams.
As with many years, snow was trucked into downtown Anchorage in order to prepare a trail for the dogs and sleds and mushers. As with other recent years, the lack of snow has impacted the trail. Last year the start was moved from Anchorage to Fairbanks. That didn't happen this year, but it was shortened significantly - from eleven miles to three. The Saturday start is about pageantry. It has nothing to do with race times, that comes Sunday.
Some of you may remember the Iditarod being covered on TV, and I have vague memories, but it wasn't until I spent time in Alaska that I began to care about the race. I then had dear friends who were involved in mushing. The race and the people came alive to me as I spent time with the people and the dogs that make The Last Great Race.
I started sharing my love for Iditarod in my classroom when I first began teaching. For my students in the Middle East, just the idea of Alaska is exciting and then you add on a 1,000 race and we are all hooked. Every year, as the Yukon Quest kids into gear in February, I take out Iditarod Dream and begin to share the excitement of Iditarod with my students. By the time the race arrives they are rooting for 'their' mushers, learning about life in rural Alaska, using math for temperature conversions and mileage calculations, following weather reports, and learning about human and canine athletes.
Today we spent time sharing things we have learned about this year's race and various mushers. The buzz in the room is strong. I wish I could give over entire days to Iditarod, and perhaps, with better planning I could. Though I would love entire days, my students' excitement might wane and sometimes it is best to leave them wanting more. Fortunately, for the next week and a half there will be a lot more.
(Photo credits: Kristi Lonheim)