the serum run

so we joined the thousands of other well-wishers, gawkers and even the proselytizing scientologists (another post, please) to see the start of the thirty-fifth annual iditarod- also known as the last great race on earth.

the day was picture perfect with blue skies and sunshine. not a lick of that terrorizing wind was present, although its back today.

the iditarod trail had its beginnings as a supply route from the coast to the interior of the state. in 1925 the tiny northwest village of nome was stricken with an epidemic of diphtheria and thus the name the "serum run" began. dog sled teams made the journey 1150 miles to nome to deliver the vaccine.

this years race has 82 active teams, 55 veteran racers, and 27 rookies. there are 70 male mushers and 12 female. although we only stayed to watch several of the 82 teams depart, here are some of the teams i will be tracking via the link posted over there on the right:

#27 deedee jonrowe- deedee is a veteran competitor and at 53 years young she is an inspiration. she is a 4 year breast cancer survivor and has had 13 top 10 finishes! in 1998 she finished second overall and her time was the 5th fastest finish in history. go deedee!! check out her pretty in pink team.

#23 bruce linton is a rookie from the east coast, most recently from vermont. his goal is to finish the race (truly a reasonable goal to me) and learn what he can from the veterans. he is a 3 time iron man contender and a type 1 diabetic. when interviewed, he stated that his goal was to show people with diabetes that living and thriving with the disease can be accomplished. you go bruce!

#45 cindy gallea is from seeley lake montana and she has been a nurse practitioner for 16 years- how could i not be excited about that?? i dont have a picture of cindy or her team but will be tracking her progress.

#19 is a favored musher from big lake, alaska. (not far from here). his name is martin buser and he moved to alaska from switzerland in 1979. he's got one mean lookin' team!! you can click on this photo below to check out his lead dogs, they mean business! its no wonder this team is in the lead this morning.

#20 is mitch seavey. he is 46 years young and won the race in 2004. he resides in my favorite town, seward. this is his 12th running of this race. he has a strong looking bunch of dogs.

so i will admit that the reality of how this race affects these dogs is troubling to me.
a month or so ago we had dinner with a former competitor and now handler at the race and i learned that the care of the dogs during the race has evolved over the years and has reached a level of professionalism that ensures the physical well being of the animals throughout the race.

each team may begin the race with 16 dogs. if at any point along the route a veterinarian feels there is a problem with a dog, that dog is then out. the musher may not add or replace that dog on his or her team. i was told that the dogs are checked at each checkpoint. it is pretty obvious that the dog team is the reason the race is run. every musher seems to look at these animals as incredible athletes and as family. they appear well loved and highly respected.

i did ask and was told that yes, every year dogs do die. wow. this is pretty hard to hear. it was pointed out that anytime you get 1500 dogs together there is the opportunity for injury.

so i guess my point here is that my family and i are experiencing an alaskan tradition. i am not trying to promote or defend the running of the race, instead i am remaining open to all that alaska has to offer.
this magnificent bald eagle was spotted on our ride home.

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