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Many years now. Its were hearty people have chased adventure. An often deceptive deceptive path that can lead to elation or to destruction life changing events seem to in the wind.
Here like fortunes on a high stakes poker. Table. Its a race a competition against one.
Another. But its also a race of attrition where effectiveness can wane because of a sustained attack or pressure for most sports. The attack is waged by a competitor in the iditarod that means a team of dogs and a driver.
But unlike any other sport theres a trump card a competitor that views attrition as unimaginative this competitor is here one minute and gone the next unpredictable and unforgiving and cares none about a finish line or even life. The iditarod can only trail here to the unknown. The unforeseen.
The ultimate playing field. Its what this race is dogs that are engrained and sewn into this landscape and mushers who know that beating their competition may be the easy part for mother nature ultimately crowns the champion welcome to the 43rd. I did a run its hard to talk about the forty third identidad without closing the door and writing the epilogue for the 42nd race.
One that will grow in legend. And for mushers twenty years from now. It will offer one of those remember when moments and for those who survived it its already one of those moments.
They wish they could forget ive heard a lot of mushers say in a lot of different ways. But the reason we keep coming back to the iditarod is because we have a terrible memory. No it was a bad storm 40 45.
Not wind will knock you off your feet. No matter. What so they have two good feet or one and a half good feet.
I did a barrel roll. Literally you know the dogs the whole teams blowing and then my sled rolled and i just saw my cook pot blowing it crossed like four feet above the ground in a like a rocket. So has it left me scarred.
Its its left me with a lot to think about i liken it to ptsd if you dont talk about it or dont write about it youre internalizing it too much and itll itll hurt you the terrible beginning. An insane race all through the middle of the event and then just bookended by another horrific storm that made it some of the worst days and washing. Ive ever had i say two of the worst or most memorable mushing experiences were on the 2014 race going through the gorge and the burn.
And then topped off with a storm at the end where we had i dont know how fast to win. But i couldnt stand up jeff king appeared to be on his way to a fifth title. Tying rick swenson for the most ever when 25 miles from the finish line.
A bright sunny day would become a devil with teeth with a hunger to rekt dreams and a stomp its competition. This is coming in pulses and im gonna wait for the pulse to go down give them a breather and all it did was blow the same or harder. I need to stay alive and fit.
So that i can have a chance of getting these dogs going when the wind stops. Im gonna walk a safety cant be more than three miles i can be warm. If it blows.
All night who knows what happens i can walk back three miles that was my intention when i left because i was getting cold. It was really really windy combined with i was exhausted all of a sudden your your meter is on a different scale have a snow machine show up just in this whiteout this far away from me and have a expression of terror on their face. Like what are you doing here.
Im on my way to safety and he said do you want to ride. And i said yes i really did have a sick feeling in my stomach. When i realized in the first minute riding the snow machine like im done it never crossed my mind till this far away you know its one of my lego.
Theres no machine alys urkel would get to the checkpoint of safety first hardly safe. But in the lead and for the first time in her career. She led this race with just 22 miles to go.
But it may as well been another thousand miles me. As well as jeff king and dallas and mitch and martin and everyone has spent the last 355 days. Thinking about what we did right and what we did wrong and i will say yes.
Ive certainly been thinking about it incredible accomplishment to be able to literally weather that storm and make it to safety because that was the most important thing to me was to make it to safety. Winning. The iditarod left my left my thought right then that wasnt priority.
I dont know this is a safety stop i mean. This is i dont know where ive been i dont know where jeff is and through the blowing snow and the crushed dreams of a king or its first woman champion since 1990. Dallas seavey emerged as the champion his second win in three years only he didnt know it just won the iditarod 2014.
I dont know that its fully sunk in just yet. I mean looking back its like our names at the top of the list. But i felt like we ran the best race.
The team was capable of considering the condition then we came in and fully expected to be third and very happy with that truth be told happy to be alive and off the trail and got the good news. So i dont know ive got the new truck and its names on the list. The trophies in the shop.
But its still hard to believe that we actually pulled that one off theres theres a lot to it thats not just about winning. You know i dont sit at home and get all irritated that i didnt leave safety sooner. I mean.
Theres no thats thats not ending. Its being tough for eight days and i but this afternoon was the toughest mushing. Ive ever known it was uh.
It was life or death watching 2014 as a year that will be remembered for a trail that pushed teams to the brink a storm that changed the outcome of a race and a reminder to all that signed up that its never really over until that lead dog sniffs that burled arch and reaching that arch is about a relationship. A galvanized bond that has been tested and tried over and over its greatest test may come somewhere over these 1000. Miles.
But beetle the the golden hardest winning lead dog last year a man i feel like he deserves it if any dog ever has but weve been through a lot. Hes won the cusco wit or the quest with me. Hes won the iditarod with me in 2012.
The iditarod this year and we intentionally put the team in situations. That it will question their trust of the mushroom and every time. We pull through and we reinforce the fact that yes i am worthy of your trust.
When i say we can make it lo and behold. We will make it and that shows in the team it takes a lot of weight off the athletes when theyre not having to worry if they know that im on the back of that sled everythings gonna be okay then they can completely forget about the storm and all they do is focus on running. But i think a lot of mushers have that i dont want to say that thats something thats not certainly in an allys urkels team.
I know she has a strong bond with their dogs. Its time for another chapter of the greatest adventure race in the world featuring dogs and mushers and landscapes that are as breathtaking as they are perilous. But for these thrill seekers a game of poker high stakes and going for broke.
Oh. Its hard to say. But i think i think i have a good dog team so well see maybe i can do better in last year.
Where alis pretty darn strong again it to do my dogs justice to do the kennel of decades justice to do my sponsors justice. I sure would like to have them all in the winners circle. Yeah.
Ive been driven to women since i started you know running dogs whether this is the year it happens or not im focused to tell you the truth. You know the quest is my main focus this year. And it irad is something i want to i want to be in the top 10 like thats my goal this year is to be in the top 10 and be competitive to win the race winning is what its all about i am trying to win.
I am. I have i have laid it all on the line trying to win sitting here in my in my kennel. Asking me do you feel the burn to win yes.
I really want to win. But its not an overpowering thing that takes up my entire life. And that brings us to 2015.
Over 70 teams. 21. Rookies and seven countries.
Represented and for many. Its a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream once i once i met the dogs i just fell in love with the sled dogs with the lifestyle. The adventure.
I was really drawn into the sport of dog mushing because of those things and and i knew i had to had to get more and theres nothing to compare running the iditarod to everybody i think knows i climbed mount everest and that took fifty fifty four days of living on the mountain high up and stuff and i one thing i do know is im pretty mentally tough. Im not just as strong as all these young people theres a lot of young people in the race this year. I mean its thats great im really looking forward to this year for a lot of reasons.
My dog team the littlest trail improvements. They i did a ride made and then get into the finish line and get in that belt buckle and i have that third times the charm. Yeah.
Im a third generation mushroom and we have a kennel of siberian huskies. My grandparents started the kennel in anchorage in the 40s and so just kind of maintaining the family heritage this year. Its a lot more intimidating and last year.
I had no idea what i was getting into and now i have a much better idea of of what we of whats ahead of us. And its a lot more intimidating this year. I just didnt know any better as a rookie and now a new trail for the second time in the races history.
The restart will take place in fairbanks and much of the first several days will be run on frozen rivers. A lack of snow in the alaska range has eliminated that portion of a trail. When you have a new course.
Its like running a race for the first time of course. Weve done quite a few events that take you down the trail. But its still the checkpoint distances are somewhat questionable you just have to be a good a good racer in order to deal with the new course.
The new layout. Itll change the dynamics of all the competition. Because its a totally different race because youre on the river.
Youre on different territory yep. I can almost guarantee you that the dog teams. Im not running not raced on that race so that its new to all the dog teams no matter whos running them were gonna take the best dogs we we feel however if they run on flats.
More often im sure a longer legged dog would be better. Unless the dog loads. More and then that will make up for being a little bit slower.
I think it sounds fun. Whatever is safe last year was a pretty rough ride. I think for everybody so im whatever safe for us and the dogs im for starting in fair meetings.
I think itd be fun to see a different part of alaska that way. Ive done the quests and started and fairbanks before and gone towards can also be fun to go the other way i dont think it would actually be that big of a changer in some ways it almost would feel more normal. If we went to fairbanks.
Because that means the trail would be the same as we weve been running on all year. Everybodys been training on four wheelers training on trucks running on pretty much ice. It would almost be more of a game changer.
If we did get 10 feet of snow between now and the start and we did do the steps and the gorgs and we did do rainey pass in deep snow. Thats gonna be the real test. Because teams have not trained on that teams have not been prepared in deep snow for many of these teams.
Another tough training season ice and dirt and a lack of snow miles were hard to stack up unless you were prepared to do many of them on a four wheeler. Weve been just beep up and around on ice on stumps on stops on what used to be called horrible trail. Now we say.
This is the new normal lets go 18 19 dogs beep up and down. And i shoot maybe. Its made me a better dog trainer.
You know the dogs are listening maybe a little better because they have to in order to survive. I have to instill a little better even better cooperation into maier sled riding ability has been tested just in the races this year training has been the most difficult winter. Ive had ive got the miles on the dogs.
I dont know if there is quality of miles as i wish they were but most of them the only sled riding. Ive done is during the races so that kind of tells you what trainings like and my backs telling. Me that ive been riding a snowmobile and four wheeler way too much the rookies.
These will quite possibly be some of the worst days in their lives. Just ahead of them and yet they pursue the prize with vigor and great anticipation. I really am up for the challenge and to be out there alone for that amount of time just a whole new chapter of my mind.
And my soul. I guess you know to go across the last on a dogsled. Wow.
I mean thats just an incredible adventure that im so lucky to to be a part of in in the household and a smith family you know lollies run it but is run its and rainy. Its just in the family and so its just talked about hi on this pedestal with these grand places. And these grand people on the trail.
And i definitely want see that and be a part of it you feel that history. Its an event that will very quickly expose those who are not all in completely invested time energy and spirit when you do it you think just doing itll be enough. But it isnt you finish that first one and youre just as high as you could be and that was incredible and i just did that and you dont even realize it.
But youre already looking to next year. Youre already looking to like and next year. Its gonna be better i think ive learned that im more competitive than id like to had or i might have admitted to myself.
When i started when i started i thought just doing it would be enough and its not id actually like to do well the experience by diderot yet its romantic. Its um. Its personal its intense its epic.
Its just everything and its its everything is enhanced by your sleep. Deprivation and just your deep love for the dogs and just the extreme that alaskan wilderness that it has us. Its its everything hard to describe in pictures.
And tell people because you could visualize it like i did when i was following it but actually being out there on the trail and seeing it in person is just its just amazing feeling. And especially. When i know other lights are out and everything like that im a musher for the dogs i love love having the dogs around love taking care of them love traveling with them.
I mean i just everything about it is its fun all the time i mean we work a ton. But but just being out on the trail with the dogs and seeing new places. Its just the most amazing thing that we could experience the field will include six former champions.
Many of which will sport some of the worlds greatest kennels others are trying to get it back. There you know it is about the love the sport. We love the dogs and the lifestyle that i that i want to live and you know again.
I dont know what else to do that i feel that i would be okay. This is what i do but im not gonna be out there with uh you know a booty booty. Hook.
Oh. Or a booty horn on one hand and a hook on the other and im gonna quit before that happen soon i have some really special animals that just fill huge voids that would create huge voids in my life. Emotionally.
If i didnt have them you know i took one year off in 30 years of 35 years of mushing and it was lonely the coming days will see these teams dogs and drivers explore some of the most breathtaking and captivating landscapes on this planet. The trail will be the heart of a wind tunnel for hundreds of miles on the yukon river and then that wind will really compete on the bering sea coast where arctic storm seem to dance and revel in their misery. Causing ways.
This is not a trail for the faint of heart. A new trail with new unknowns and the same old dream wrecking adversary mother nature get ready here comes the iditarod. Ive said it many times that the musher who wins this side in irad is not the one who did the same thing as they did to win last years race.
Its whoever develops the most since the past year. This is a changing game. Its a changing sport.
Were living in some very exciting times in mushing. Were gonna keep seeing more innovations and you cant become stagnant thats why we run it to see the trail and to experience. This dog human relationship and thats still what it all comes back to for me.
Do i want to win. Heck yeah. I want to win and i want to win.
Because i want to prove that these dogs are the best dogs in the world and alan and i are some of the best dog trainers and we have some of the best people working with us and thats thats why i want to win. But do it would i keep traveling down the iditarod trail. When my dogs are 13 years old and im jim lanier is aged.
Heck yeah ill still be out there so the iditarod ism is an awesome event. And it always will be you .
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