Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fur Rondy and The Last Great Race

It has been an exciting couple of weeks in Anchorage.  We spent the last two weekends celebrating the start of the Iditarod and Fur Rendezvous.

Fur Rendezvous, known as Fur Rondy to the locals, is a winter festival that captivates the city of Anchorage.  It started in the mid 1930s as a way to unite the community in celebration when the miners and trappers cane to town with their collections.  There are all kinds of events during the two weekends of Fur Rondy - everything from a fur auction to blanket tosses. Several streets of downtown are taken over by hoards of people and vendors and all of the various events. There's even a carnival midway.  I loved how even with thousands of people it felt like a very hometown kind of event. We kept running into people we knew which was even more impressive considering our circle here is pretty small.

Here were some of my favorite parts of Fur Rondy:

Outhouse Races

This event was just as entertaining as it sounds. Teams built outhouses on top of skies and raced them down the streets of downtown Anchorage.  Our favorite heat was when "The Splatters" raced "The Duck Farts."

The Food

Street vendors were everywhere. You haven't lived until you've tried a Reindeer hot dog.  It was delicious.  And I only felt a little anti-Christmas eating it.

The VIP Experience

Nathanial's company was the corporate sponsor of the Iditarod Dog Race that was the capstone of Fur Rondy. Both weekends they rented out the Hard Rock Cafe for employee families.  It was so nice to be able to take a break from the cold. It was also fun to see his company name everywhere.

The first weekend they had some of the dog mushers stop by.  We got to take a picture with Aliy Zirkle who has come in second in the Iditarod the last three years; last year she lost by less than 2 minutes. We're hoping she'll pull out a win this year!

The Iditarod

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race is Alaska's biggest claim to fame (maybe aside from Sarah Palin :) ).  Mushers and a team of 16 dogs cover over 1,000 miles of tundra to go from Anchorage to Nome.  The race usually takes between 10 and 14 days.   It's heralded as "The Last Great Race."  This year wasn't the best because of the unusually high temperatures we've been having.  The race start was actually moved to another town for only the second time in the race's 80 year history. Luckily for us, they still did a ceremonial start.  Snow actually had to be freighted in by railroad for the ceremonial start. It took more than 100 frontloaders to spread it out.  It was gone by Monday.

It was really cool to see the teams take off. The dogs are so excited before they get to run and once they start you can see how much joy it brings them.  They all seemed to be smiling.

Here's a quick video of Aliy's crew getting ready to take off.  You can see how pumped the dogs are.  We learned the dogs were actually bred to be vocal  so the mushers can tell if they are injured. 


We were also surprised  at how small the dogs are.  Alaskan Huskies run the Iditarod not the Siberian breed most people picture.  These dogs are smaller and can run faster and further distances. 

Running of the Reindeer

By far my favorite event of Fur Rondy was the Running of the Reindeer.  Nathanial and I got to run alongside a herd of 12 reindeer and lots of crazy costumed people. It was a blast!

I was really impressed with people's dedication to wearing costumes as it was in the teens that afternoon.   We dressed in lots of layers and were still a little cold.

Talk about state pride!
The reindeer moved so much more gracefully than I expected.  They weaved in and out of people, so even though they ran alongside us, we were never at risk for getting rammed by their antlers.

Alaska: Where even the reindeer have sponsors

I'm currently thinking of marathon ideas with a wildlife release. It was exhilarating and definitely increased my pace to know an animal was behind me.

Races are my favorite part of running.  Nothing beats the community  and excitement that surrounds an organized run.

I'm doing a Shamrock Shuffle 5K this weekend.  The temperature is supposed to be sub zero.  Eek.  When I signed up for the race, I thought it would be warmer.  I plan on it being my last race until we get some warmer weather this summer.

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