WASILLA - Veterans and rookie mushers signed up Saturday for the 2005 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The field is expected to reach record numbers and includes last year's Iditarod winner Mitch Seavey of Seward and five-time former champion Rick Swenson of Two Rivers, race organizers said.
Seavey and Swenson were among several dozen who signed up. Others decided to wait and strive for a later starting time in response to the change in the restart time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said executive director Stan Hooley.
All 43 race contenders who signed up Saturday in person and paid their race fee are included in the first batch of mushers to draw the earliest starting day line-up positions. The second batch is reserved for the 23 mushers who signed up and paid up by Saturday, but did not show up at Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla All other entries who register by Dec. 1 will choose their starting positions from a third drawing.
"Conventional wisdom has always been to draw a low number," Hooley said. "That means better trail, less traffic from other dog teams, less congestion and less of an opportunity for teams to pick up bugs or viruses. But now we have this time change and some people are thinking 'I can avoid the heat of the day by going out at the tail end of the race,'" Hooley said.
The new restart time "will be interesting," said Martin Buser of Big Lake, a four-time Iditarod champion who showed up for the sign-up and annual Iditarod volunteer picnic, but did not sign up. "I don't want to start at two in the afternoon," Buser said. He prefers to leave later in the day, "when it starts cooling off."
Race marshal Mark Nordman, who also heads the Iditarod rules committee, said board members voted for the change earlier this month.
"The board felt it was a good way to start, running into the coolness instead of the heat, that it was better for the dogs," he said.
"Whether it is a benefit to start first or not is debatable," said Iditarod veteran and Yukon Quest champion Aliy Zirkle. "I started 38th last year and passed 15 teams in two hours. It all depends on the temperature," said Zirkle, who signed up.
Also signed up, but not present, were former champions Robert Sorlie of Norway and Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont. Former runner-up Linwood Fiedler of Willow, who runs dogs on the Juneau Icefield during the summer, also registered, as did two-time Yukon Quest champion Hans Gatt of Atlin, British Columbia.
Among the rookies signing up was Dallas Seavey of Seward, son of the 2004 winner. Others signing up were Ray Redington Jr. of Two Rivers, grandson of the late-Joe Redington Sr., father of the Iditarod; and perennial favorite Dee Dee Jonrowe of Willow.
Also among the rookies was Rachael Scdoris, a legally blind musher from Bend, Ore., who was accompanied by her father. Scdoris was granted special permission from the Iditarod Trail Committee to have a visual interpreter on the trail with her, another musher who will not be officially entered into the race.
Scdoris, who suffers from a retinal condition that severely impairs her central visual acuity, said she would be accompanied on the trail by Mark Stamm, a veteran of the Yukon Quest sled dog race.
Scdoris said her biggest concerns were moose on the trail and sleep deprivation.