Thursday, October 02, 2008

Goals and the Iditarod

SUMMARY: A former Bay Teamer completes the 2008 Iditarod.

In my earlier days of agility, there were three Jakes competing in the same jump height and the same level of competition: My Jake, Bill Cuthbertson's Border Collie Jake, and Liz Parrish's Aussie Jake. About 10 years ago, Liz and Jake and the rest of their crew moved to southern Oregon to run a dog-friendly bed and breakfast with acres and acres of land on Klamath Lake. (I've mentioned Crystalwood Lodge before, in August and in 2003 and my photos here.)

While there, she traded agility and flyball and all that for dogsled racing, and has been pursing the singular goal of running the Iditarod for her 50th birthday. She succeeded, running and finishing the 2008 Iditarod. She gave a talk here Tuesday night about her training, her determination to reach the goal, her dogs, the Iditarod itself, and her first lead dog, Briar, after whom her kennel (Briar's Patch) is named.

Of the roughly 98 teams who started the race, 78 finished, and she was among them. It is interesting to note that, in 2008, 290 people summited on Mount Everest, but only 78 finished the Iditarod. It's a grueling, extremely challenging experience through harsh wilderness. And she's not a big burly gal whom one could imagine wrestling a moose; she's more than petite and had to overcome tremendous physical challenges to achieve this goal.

But she trained and conditioned her dogs well for this, knew what they could handle, and monitored every one of them carefully for signs of problems. In a sport that is sometimes criticized for how hard it is on dogs, she has won awards for best-cared-for teams in some of her races, and she finished the Iditarod with 14 of her original 16 dogs, one of only two competitors to do so well. And the only dogs whom she sent back simply had sore muscles--and she knew that the same way that we agility people know immediately if something's wrong with our dogs: They don't leap to their feet immediately, they start out a little slowly, they might be completely willing to work and go all out once they've loosened up, but you know that there's something going on under that fur.

My post on the world's most expensive polo shirt makes it seem like a complete bargain compared to what she called "the world's most expensive belt buckle" and the 6 solid months a year she spent training for years, and driving to and from Minnesota and Alaska and everywhere else they needed to go. Just the equipment and gear and fees and travel for the Iditarod alone she estimated at $50,000. She did find some sponsors, but still-- Wow.

She printed a ton of really nice t-shirts with a picture of her team running around Crater Lake
and I bought myself one on a green background, although it was hard to pass up the purple one, which also looked great. If you're in the mood for a mushing t-shirt, short- or long-sleeved, I'll bet that you can still order one.

And then go back to being glad that agility is such an inexpensive sport that requires only one dog!

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