WILLOW, Alaska -- Dogs aching to run bolted out of the chute Sunday to launch the 41st running of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Now 65 teams will be making their way through punishing wilderness toward the finish line in Nome on Alaska's western coast 1,000 miles away.

The Iditarod kicked off Saturday with an 11-mile jaunt through Anchorage, 50 miles south of the real starting line in the town of Willow. Sunday's event marked the competitive portion of the race.

Saturday's ceremonial start took place amid a party-like atmosphere. But Sunday's mood was charged with tension as mushers switched to the business of racing - at least among top mushers like defending champion Dallas Seavey and four-time winners Lance Mackey, Jeff King and Martin Buser.

They are among six past Iditarod winners in the running. Mackey, of Fairbanks, is the only musher to win the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod races the same year - accomplishing dual championships not once, but two years in a row. Mackey, a throat cancer survivor, has won both races four times and was hoping for a comeback to his last Iditarod championship in 2010.

Others are in the race for the adventure and never come close to winning, yet there they are, year after year. Among them was Cindy Gallea, of Wykoff, Minn., whose best finish was 33rd among 10 Iditarods so far.

"I love running the dogs, working with the dogs," she said before the start of her 11th race. "I love being in Alaska, being around the beauty."

But even past middle-of-the-packers felt the pull of competition.

Musher and Anchorage funeral director Scott Janssen, known as The Mushing Mortician, said, "Today's game time. Today we're going to rock `n' roll."

To reach the finish line in the old gold rush town of Nome, the teams will encounter mountains to climb, and forests and frozen rivers to cross. They'll possibly do battle with fierce winds and temperatures that can plunge to 50 below.

Along the way, they'll stop at village checkpoints for a hot meal, to drop an ailing dog or to sit out mandatory rest periods. Sometimes they'll blow right through after a hasty check-in.

As always, by the time the first musher reaches Nome, some participants will have dropped out of the race. Even the last place finisher knows that getting to Nome is a feat in itself.

The winner gets a new truck and a cash prize of $50,400. The rest of the $600,000 purse will be split between the next 29 mushers to cross the finish line.

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Follow Rachel D'Oro on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rdoro

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  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner and a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. He sits with his two lead dogs, Tanner, left and Taurus, right. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner and a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. Leaders Tanner, left, and Taurus are photographed with Mitch Seavey after wining the dog race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Aliy Zirkle finished second in the Iditarod for the second consecutive year when her dog team crossed under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey, left, became the oldest winner and a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. He congratulates second place finisher Aliy Zirkle after she arrived in Nome. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Aliy Zirkle finished second in the Iditarod for the second consecutive year when her dog team crossed under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner and a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Dan Seavey waits to see his son Mitch Seavey became a two-time Iditarod champion on Tuesday evening March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner and a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. He congratulates second place finisher Aliy Zirkle after she arrived in Nome. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey's granddaughter Annie Seavey, 2, being held by her mother Jen, cheers under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Lead dog Tanner brings Mitch Seavey's dog team into the finish chute and under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner, a two-time Iditarod champion, when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. Race marshal Mark Nordman is at right. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Mitch Seavey became the oldest winner, a two-time Iditarod champion when he drove his dog team under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday evening, March 12, 2013. He sits with his two lead dogs, Tanner, left and Taurus, right. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey drives his dog team towards Nome, Alaska, after leaving the White Mountain checkpoint, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey puts boots on his dog team before leaving White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team up the Fish River outside White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team towards the burled arch in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Dog teams rest during an 8-hour layover before heading to the finish on the Fish River in White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team towards the burled arch in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle pets her dogs before leaving White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey puts booties on his dogs before leaving White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey drives his dog team towards the burled arch in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle runs next to her sled as she leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle puts booties on her dogs before leaving White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Dallas Seavey, left, and Ray Redington, Jr., tend to their dog teams during the 8-hour layover in White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Sled dogs in Aliy Zirkle's team howl as they get ready to leave White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey signs out of the White Mountain checkpoint in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Children from White Mountain School look at Mitch Seavey's dogs resting in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team up the Fish River outside White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle gets her dogs ready to leave White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey talks to his son Dallas in White Mountain, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey begins the run from White Mountain to the finish in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle uses a ski pole to assist the dogs as they travel along the Fish River north of the checkpoint while they leave White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkel, right, gets a hug before leaving White Mountain, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Mitch Seavey leaves White Mountain in Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Aliy Zirkle begins the run from White Mountain to the finish in Nome, Alaska, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth) LOCAL TV OUT (KTUU-TV, KTVA-TV) LOCAL PRINT OUT (THE ANCHORAGE PRESS, THE ALASKA DISPATCH)

  • Iditarod

    Alan Jones, an orthodontist from Huntsville, Ala., and volunteer at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, updates the musher positioning board in the Nome Convention Center on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in Nome, Alaska. This year's winner is expected late Tuesday night in this Bering Sea coastal community. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

  • Iditarod

    A musher travels across Norton Sound on their way to Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Aliy Zirkle puts booties on her dogs prior to leaving Koyuk on Monday, March 11, 2013, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    A frost covered Sonny Lindner begins his checkpoint routine in Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Aaron Burmeister heads towards Elim in Alaska on Monday, March 11, 2013. Alaska's famous 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has come down to a furiously contested sprint among veterans, with one seasoned musher grabbing the lead from another Monday and several others within striking distance. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Children watch a dog team arrive in Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Aaron Burmeister leaving Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Aliy Zirkle jumps over some overflow to tend to her dog team shortly after leaving Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. Alaska's famous 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has come down to a furiously contested sprint among veterans, with one seasoned musher grabbing the lead from another Monday and several others within striking distance. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    A musher kicks while traveling to Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    A musher travels across Norton Sound on their way to Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. Alaska's famous 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has come down to a furiously contested sprint among veterans, with one seasoned musher grabbing the lead from another Monday and several others within striking distance. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    Ray Redington, Jr. and Aliy Zirkle mush towards Elim after leaving Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. Alaska's famous 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has come down to a furiously contested sprint among veterans, with one seasoned musher grabbing the lead from another Monday and several others within striking distance. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

  • Iditarod

    A musher travels across Norton Sound on their way to Koyuk in Alaska during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)