Thank you for your kind interest and support in my 2012 race. It was truly one of the most significant races in my career. I have now raced the Iditarod 30 times with 15 top 10 finishes. This is 10 years cancer free and after very long and energy draining treatments, I am so thankful to have my health. Every day is a gift and I have strived to live it to the fullest. For the second time in my Iditarod career the 51 veterinarians on the trail awarded me with the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for exemplary care of my team this year. I am very humbled and honored for this recognition. My competitors continue to care for their dogs with the utmost love so to be recognized in such company is amazing to me. Our care is displayed by the fact that for the 3rd year in a row, all the dogs that started the race are healthy and home. Once again no dogs were lost.
My team members were: Dragon, Ominstar, Willow, Explorer, Galaxy, Violet, Volt, Viper, Jolt, Jarvi, Crush, Track, Trig, Jobie, Sparky, and Dickory. Dragon and Oministar did all the main leading with help from Willow. Willow came into season, becoming a distraction so she was sent home from Ruby. Dickory was sent home from the Cripple checkpoint; he had some breathing issues developing and is doing wonderful back at the kennel now. The rest of the team traveled safely up the trail to White Mountain where Galaxy got an early ride to Nome and met us at the finish line there. He had just developed a slight cough. I was so pleased with my team; this was the first Iditarod for Willow, Violet, Volt, Viper, Dickory, and Crush. Dragon and Oministar is such an interesting pair. Dragon likes to test the boundaries and Oministar just wants to please me. I love each of these guys so much it is hard to be off the trail sharing my time with other responsibilities now. It is wonderful to have my “Dog Roadhouse”, where they get to sleep inside in straw stalls since they have been home. Thanks to support from Home Depot, this is a new facility at the kennel this year.
The race started in a snow storm Saturday on the streets of Anchorage consistent with the way the whole winter has been. Every time it warms up this winter it has snowed we have many FEET of snow on the ground here still. The Willow re-start was beautiful and sunny for a change. My dogs were absolutely “off the wall” excited to get going and slowing them down was my main goal for the first third of the race. I decided to rest and feed my team at every checkpoint where I could safely park the team. Deep snow made it very difficult to secure the team between checkpoints. I often did not even go into the checkpoint, but used the straw to help get the dogs to lie down and take a break. Rohn River was one of the first times I went inside after leaving Skweetna. They could not wait to run on the trail in the Farewell burn. The snow had been blown away near the lakes and they loved running on a hard fast surface. In this area with 16 strong dogs, we crashed hard trying to get around a detour around open water breaking the runner on my sled at the upturn. Thanks to the laminations and design of Bernie Willis’s runners the sled was totally able to continue. I was very thankful I have sent my second sled to Nikolai and was waiting for me, thanks to Neil Petruska. I had arranged for Neil to snow machine my sled to Nikolai from McGrath before the race start just in case.
I took my 24 hr mandatory break at Takotna still running 16 dogs. We each enjoyed the hospitality of this wonderful checkpoint. It was the first time I got more than 1 hr of sleep. I had only laid down for an hour prior to Takotna at Rohn River. I practically crawled into the Toyo stove for a warm sleep in the library at Takotna. We had a good trip to Cripple, I might have liked to have broken this run up but once again I could not easily find camping sites with all the deep snow. The Yukon River was a wonderful site, with clear cold nights a beautiful backdrop for the gorgeous northern lights and shooting stars. The skies were the most active I have seen since the early 90’s. God is truly a magnificent creator and His glory was in full display. I found myself continually thanking Him for the privilege of being out with Him and for my beautiful dogs. When I reached Kaltag I felt it would be easy sledding from there, I had just been on that section of the trail in Feb. in the Paul Johnson Race.
That is not actually how things turned out and by the time I got in to Unalakleet I was getting very sick, very fast. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I decided to take a long break there, to re-group, give the dogs 2 big meals, and get antibiotics for myself. That may have been one of the best decisions of my race. Everything turned around in a positive way when I started up the coast. Although the winds picked up and the temperatures were cold all of us were ready for it. I dressed the dogs in all their protective clothing; booties, coats, leggings, and a special fox tail for Oministar, and off we went headed for Nome. Heading out of Koyuk into the sunset a piebald caribou jumped out and ran alongside my team for a bit then out onto the jumbled ice. She pranced into a beautiful sky, exciting the dogs it was amazing.
We finished in 9 days 14 hrs and 43 minutes, greeted by friends, family. My 83-year-old mom was waiting for us after not being able to travel to Nome, since she had been fighting stage 4 breast cancer for several years. As I said in the beginning, I was reminded once again each day is gift. This was truly and amazing year for me. It did not finish when we crossed the under the arches. I was fortunate to have my young dogs traveling the trail with Jaimee Kinzer. It was several more days before Jaimee successfully navigated finishing her rookie race doing a wonderful job and accomplishing a lifelong dream of hers. Congratulations to Jaimee, she worked for 4 years at my kennel towards this goal and I am proud of her and our young dogs.