Category Archives: Iditarod

Cancer Survivors follow Diesel and Guinness in to Nome and end of Iditarod

Youngest ever Iditarod Winner

Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday evening, becoming the youngest musher to win the nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska.

And the two cancer survivor mushers, DeeDee Jonrowe and Lance Mackey, are safely home – ahead of half the pack still waiting to finish this gruelling race.

Known as the Last Great Race on Earth, DeeDee came in the first 10 in this race – something that is every musher’s dream.  This year the race was shortened, due to bad weather, but DeeDee and the rest still had to race nearly a thousand miles in temperatures way below freezing.

The temperature wouldn’t have helped Lance either, recovering from Mouth cancer.  He has to keep his throat constantly moistened, but liquid freezes at these low temperatures – so not easy to keep liquids liquid.  Since contracting cancer, Lance won the Iditarod four times – but this wasn’t his year;  possibly not helped by the fact that he had a young and untried team.

Mushers love their dogs, and to make sure that they enjoy the run, they drop off any team members who have the slightest injury, or don’t seem to be enjoying themselves.   According to Rob Cooke, the rules state that the minimum amounty of dogs you can have in your team at the finish is 6 – and some racers retired when down to 7 or 8.  Incidentally, don’t feel sorry for the dropped dogs – a team of Vets pampers them, and they are flown out to relax in comfort at a drop-off point where their musher can retrieve them at the end of the race.

To give you some idea of the difficulties, almost half the field of 66 that set out last Sunday (4th) have still to complete the course, including noted mushers such as Trent Herbst and Karen Ramsted.

Another Record

Three generations of Seaveys were competing – Dallas, son and winner;  Father and previous winner Mitch, and Iditarod Veteran Grandfather Dan, who helped set up race.

Seavey turned 25 on March 4, the day the race officially started north of Anchorage. He was the first musher to reach Nome, his nine dogs led by his Leaders Diesel (on left) and Guinness (right) trotting under the famous burled-arch finish line in the Bering Sea coastal community at 7:29 p.m. Tuesday.  In the photo they get to wear garlands of roses, as dogs as the most important element in the Iditarod.

His dogs are supremely important to Dallas:  “They mean the world to me.  I could not be prouder of these guys. It’s hard to not come to tears when they finally crossed under this arch in first place.”

Bad Weather

But the going had been tough.  The course was shortened to under the ‘magic’ 1,004 miles, because of heavy snowfalls.  Dallas finished the shortened course in nine days, four hours and 29 minutes.  Course record is held by last year’s winner, local John Baker, in 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.  This year he is still running out in the field.

“When you put your mind on something … good things will happen,” Dallas told the crowd as he sat with an arm around Diesel and Guinness. “Dream big! Go for it! Why not?”

The previous youngest winner was the race’s only five-time champion, Rick Swenson, who won his first Iditarod at age 26 in 1977. Swenson, now 61, is in this year’s race, and is running in the middle of the chasing pack.

Asked about his record-breaking victory, Seavey said it’s been a goal since he started racing competitively.  His race strategy was to build position carefully, and heading into the Ruby checkpoint, Seavey thought his team “had a real possibility of winning.” Still, while he felt confident, “it’s not over till you’re sitting on the podium,” he said.

Of the race’s latter stages, when mushers are notoriously sleep-deprived, Seavey said, “every light that I thought I saw, I thought it was the headlights of a musher about to pass me.”

“When you have Ramey Smyth and Aliy Zirkle behind you, it doesn’t matter if they’re a half day behind you. You’d better be looking over your shoulder,” he added.

And to prove his point, Aliy Zirkle finished second, exactly an hour behind Dallas;  Ramey  Smyth was third.

Who wins what

Dallas will get over $50,000 plus a huge Dodge Truck.  And everyone who comes in the first 30 finishers gets a share of the $500,000 purse, so it’s worth while pressing on.

It’s a family thing

Dallas comes from a family with a long line of Iditarod finishers, including his father, Mitch, who won in 2004. Dallas was a third generation Seavey to be running in the 2012 Iditarod along with his father Mitch Seavey and grandfather, Dan Seavey – both still making their way to Nome.

Other mushers expected to arrive into Nome, Alaska today are Aaron Burmeister  and Peter Kaiser (Bib# 28), with several more shortly after midnight, including Dallas’s father, Mitch.

This year, Dallas’ 74-year-old grandfather, Dan, is running in his fifth Iditarod to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. His trip to Nome is being sponsored by the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance to highlight the rich history of the trail.

“It’s kind of what we do,” Dallas Seavey said when asked about that legacy

Read more:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Iditarod nearing Finish – Mushers hard on each others' heels – No. 5

Post 5.  Nearing End


The Burled Arch in Nome, Alaska, the finish li...

Image via Wikipedia








This photo shows the Burled Arch at Nome.

All the Iditarod racers are aiming for this arch spanning the finish – and only a few hours separate the top six contenders.

In the lead is youngest Seavey in the race – Dallas,

closely followed 2.5 hours behind by Aliy Zirkle

Ramey Smyth is 9 hours behind her

But Aaron Burmeister is only 30 mins behind Ramey

Peter Kaiser is another 4 hrs behind Aaron

Following him is Ray Redington (another famous Iditarod racing family member).

Cancer Survivors DeeDee Jonrowe has slipped down to 10th, and Lance Mackey is at No. 27, although old-timers say that is because he has a very young team.

If you want to catch up with the cat-and-mouse game being played out on the shores of the frozen Bering Straight, go to

And anyone interested in strategy for athletics event should read veteran Joe Runyan’s blog about how Dallas got to where he is in the race.  It’s a fascinating explanation of the way thinking can win races:



Post 4.  Aliy slips past men




Aliy Zirkle's team on Anchorage's Fourth Avenu...

Image via Wikipedia







Aliy Zirkle slipped past the two Seaveys and Aaron Burmeister to end up with a pocketful of gold nuggets and the Wells Fargo Award for coming in First at the halfway point.


However, her lead hasn’t lasted long;  latest from the trail is that Dallas Seavey set off before her on next stage, and is now 2 hrs 45 mins. ahead.


Although the old timers will say that isn’t a long lead, they are also saying that Dallas’s team ‘are looking good’.  And at this stage of the race having a team that are set into a routine, and will run and run – can make all the difference.


Because the going is tough.  Team after team has been forced to scratch – many because they have run out of dog, as you must have a minimum to finish the race.  Don’t worry about dogs that have been dropped;  they are well looked after by a team of Veterinarians.  Fed, watered and flown off to the finish at Nome, there to live in luxury kennels whilst waiting for their musher.




One notable musher out of race is Jeff King, previous big-time winner, who has scratched.  For a tough musher like King, this must mean the weather is throwing everything at the racers.




Post 3.  Father and Son battle










The Seaveys are a veteran Iditarod family, and now there is Mitch, the father (53)




battling out race leadership with son Dallas, (25),




with Grandfather Dan, (74) bringing up the rear.




For Dan, it is a nostalgic trip, and he is taking it easy.  He ran the first Iditarod, coming in 3rd, and now he says he is enjoying himself along the trail.




With Mitch first into the Ruby checkpoint, it wasn’t more than an hour before he was joined by Dallas.  According to old-timers, both dog teams “look good”, but feeling is that Dallas might just pull it off.




This video shows the finish of last year’s Yukon Quest, where Rookie (first time racer) Dallas Seavey (above) won the 1,000-mile race, which many consider tougher than the Iditarod.




It may seem strange that the video doesn’t show celebrations, but first and foremost these races teach safety in the wild, and care of the dog teams.  So Dallas could’t be declared winner until all his safety equipment was checked – you can hear him pointint out to where his Axe is stowed, and the dogs examined.











Meanwhile the cancer survivors are doing well, although perhaps not as well as they might hope.  DeeDee Jonrowe, still running with her pink-booted team, is up in first ten, but Lance has pulled back.















Musher Jim Lanier from Chugiak, Alaska who is running his 15th Iditarod, was the first to arrive at the Cripple Checkpoint at 13:55 Alaska Time with 13 dogs.  The Cripple Checkpoint signifies the halfway point of the 40th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.




April Browning, ITG Project Manager for GCI was on hand at the Cripple Checkpoint to present the GCI Dorothy Page Halfway Award to Lanier:  a trophy plus $3,000 in placer gold nuggets, courtesy of Iditarod Principle Partner GCI.




However, presentations on the track are always very hurried affairs.  No Musher wants to spend a second more than necessary at a Checkpoint, before they head off again up the Trail.  So The GCI Dorothy Page Halfway Award will be presented again to Jim Lanier in Nome on Sunday, March 18th during the Iditarod Awards Banquet at the Nome Recreation Center.




This video shows Jim running in a previous Iditarod, with a single ‘wheeler’ at the rear.  I am no expert but usually there are two wheeler dogs – but each musher has reasons for the way they run their dogs.  Remember, the sled dogs are all individuals, and sometimes they don’t get on with each other – unlike humans, they don’t bother to keep their feelings under wraps!











Currently the going is tough, with very deep snow which is powdery at low minus temperatures.  The race has been shortened due to conditions, and is now just under the usual 1,049 miles – the 49 was there for historical reasons as Alaska is the 49th US State.








Veteran Iditarod musher Ryan Redington  scratched in Takotna at 09:30 Alaska Time.  Ryan Redington from Wasilla made the decision to scratch due to personal reasons.  Redington’s grandfather was Joe Redington, Sr., Father of the Iditarod.  Ryan Redington had 10 dogs on his team when he made the decision.  Redington’s older brother, Ray Redington, Jr.  is still in the race.




Redington is one of several mushers who have already scratched, with weather proving a serious problem.  However Ryan says he made his decision for personal reasons.












Musher Aliy Zirkle was first to arrive into McGrath along the banks of the Kuskokwim River at 20:32 Alaska Time, with all her 16 dogs.




The prestigious PENAIR SPIRIT OF ALASKA AWARD was presented to Zirkle at a very brief award ceremony at the McGrath Checkpoint.




Last year Aliy finished 11th in the Iditarod last year, and was followed 22 minutes later into the checkpoint by defending champion John Baker.




Closely on her heels is four-time consecutive winner Lance Mackey, whose streak was ended by Baker last year, pulled in three minutes later. Meanwhile, Dan Seavey, 74, is running in his fifth Iditarod to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. He is also one of three generations of Seaveys in the race, joining son Mitch Seavey, 52, and grandson Dallas, 25, who in 2005 was the youngest musher ever to run the Iditarod. Mitch, the 2004 champ, is in his 19th Iditarod. Dallas is in his sixth and finished in the top five last year.




Spirit of Alaska Award




The award is a beautiful original “spirit mask” especially created for this event by Bristol Bay artist Orville Lind.  But what s sometimes more important to these professional mushers, Aliy also  received a $500 credit toward travel or freight shipment.




At the end of the trail is over $50,000 to the winner – but even more important is a Dodge truck and many, many sponsorship opportunities.




Cancer survivors




Apart from Lance Mackey, DeeDee Jonrowe is still going strong with her pink-booted dog team, albeit they must have already gone through a fair amount of the 4,000 boots DeeDee’s team made for them.




Weather Conditions increase dangers




Near record snowfalls have made Iditarod officials announce the trail’s course was being altered due to worsening weather conditions.




This year, Anchorage has already doubled its usual snowfall with approximately 120 inches – 10 feet of snow – and is approaching the near 133-inch record set in 1954. The deep snow could be a major factor in the Iditarod, as weather conditions affect the dogs’ physical performance and increase the threat of dangerous moose encounters on the trail.  Several Iditarod mushers have already reported run-ins with winter-weary moose during training runs through interior Alaska.




Hours after Saturday morning’s ceremonial start, race director Mark Nordman announced trail breakers had become more concerned over a previously planned reroute in a critical part of the 2012 trail. Citing high wind and new snow totals, Nordman broke last-minute news of the change to mushers and fans.




So this year the trail may be under the ‘magic’ 1,000 miles – but may cause the mushers to take longer over the course.




Enhanced by Zemanta

Pink bootees race across Alaska in the Iditarod

Four thousand pink bootees in Iditarod


The old-timers who run sled dogs in Alaska couldn’t believe their eyes, when a sixteen-dog team thundered past all sporting pink bootees.

Bootees – yes.  These dogs hate wearing them, but when running across trails that are iced-in at minus 40 – 50º, dogs’ paws would be cut to ribbons without protection.  As it is, mushers reckon they will need around 4,000 per 16-dog team during the 1,000 mile race, as they constantly replace those cut to ribbons.

But normally these are black.

However, feisty female musher  DeeDee Jonrowe decided she wanted to celebrate recovering from cancer (double breast mastectomy), so not only does she wear a think pink parka (pink is regarded as ‘breast cancer colour’), but decided her beloved dogs would help her celebrate too – hence the bring pink bootees thundering along the Iditarod trail.

Who is she?

DeeDee Jonrowe is the foremost female dog musher competing in the world today. She has both the fastest time of any woman in the history of the Iditarod, but she finished in the top ten in this race thirteen times. Her second place finish in 1998 was the fifth fastest Iditarod time ever recorded at that point. In addition to the Iditarod, DeeDee has competed and won most major dog sledding races throughout her career, including the Copper Basin 300, Klondike 300 and the John Bear grease sled dog marathon.

DeeDee ran her first Iditarod in 1980 and soon undertook the building of her own sled, a comprehensive breeding and training programme for her dogs, and a rigorous physical fitness programme for herself. The result is that by the time DeeDee and her team undertake the Iditarod in March of each year, they have logged almost 2000 miles of training together.

Best animal Care

Believe it or not, whatever activists say to the contrary, mushers regard their dogs very highly, and race rules say ‘look after dogs first’.  DeeDee has won numerous awards for the care of her dogs throughout her career, including the best-cared for team, the best dog care award (given by staff veterinarians), and the dog’s best friend award. As her dogs are her top priority, she became a founding member of Mush with PRIDE, which provides responsible information of a dog’s environment, exhibiting her commitment to set the standards for all aspects of sled dog care.


Her highly publicized battle with breast cancer that she began in 2002 has seen her become a tireless fundraiser. In 2003 she became any honorary chairperson for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, assisting the organisation is its fundraising efforts as well.

DeeDee won the YWCA’s “Alaska Woman of Achievement of Award“, the most inspirational musher award, and even as the spokesperson for the National Girl Scouts Council and Winter Special Olympics.

Currently she is lying at No. 22 in the 66-man Iditarod entry – but it’s early days yet.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Cancer survivors race in world's toughest race

Heading across Alaska





Led by Ray Redington Jr. (a famous family name in the Iditarod) the contestants are on their way in the 1,000 mile plus race across the snows.

The 16-dog teams will encounter temperatures many degrees below freezing;  will have to boot  up (see picture above) which dogs dislike, but it protects their paws from sharp icy conditions;  and will go almost without sleep for at least the next week-and-a-bit.

As the contestants set off, the temperature was a mild 25°, which has already caused a change of route, but conditions are expected to get colder.  This will please the dogs, however;  the colder it is, the more they like running.

This year there are 66 entrants, including many famous family names, and of course 4-times winner and cancer survivor Lance Mackey.  Closely followed by DeeDee Jonrowe, double mastectomy survivor who makes sure her team is booted up in pink bootees.

Amongst those to look out for are:
Jim  Lanier from  Chugiak,  Alaska;   John  Baker (last year’s winner);     Aliy  Zirkle – noted women musher:  Iditarod is  only major international race where men and women are equal;   another woman:  DeeDee  Jonrowe;  Lance  Mackey (record consecutive four-times winner);   Sigrid  Ekran from  Norway; Dallas  Seavey (another one from noted family);  Mitch Seavey (same family);   Martin  Buser: another Norwegian  Silvia  Furtwängler; Rick  Swenson;  Curt  Perano from New Zealand; and  Dan  Seavey and Ryan Redington from famous Iditarod families.

Follow the race on

Enhanced by Zemanta

Yukon Quest

Cancer survivors love to prove themselves in this race


and mouth cancer survivor Lance Mackey ended up on the podium in third place – not bad after 1,000 miles of gruelling racing.

Winner was veteran musher Hugh Neff, who produced the closest finish ever;  just 26 seconds separated him and Allen Moore, who must have thought he had the race in the bag as he had led almost the whole way.

Lance was a four-times winner of this race, but this time he settled for third place;  still proving that cancer survivors are a pretty tough bunch.

(Scroll down for latest video)

I took these photos on 8 March 2009 at the cer...

Lance Mackey

Some people survive cancer – then celebrate by doing something extraordinary:

like enter one of the world’s toughest dog sled races.

Next to the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the Yukon Quest is THE biggie everyone wants to win.  Run every February, it is a forerunner for the Iditarod, and pointer to which teams to watch.

Head and neck cancer survivor Lance Mackey has won this 1,000 mile race four times.

In the video (below) of the start of the Quest, you catch a glimpse of sled dogs ‘booted up’ in bright pink bootees:  they belong to double mastectomy survivor DeeDee Jonrowe, who always dresses her team in this neon pink colour (the dogs wear bootees – much to their disgust – to protect their paws from the icy cold trail that could cut them to ribbons).

Watching this video might give you a tiny idea of just what these mad mushers go for; and how easy it is to get hooked.


Britain is latest country to fall for the exhilerating sport of dog sledding, and Penny Evans, stalwart of sledding in UK, has sent me this report – which tells of an epic race for one British musher when he and his wife emigrated to Canada, and ends up with him competing in qualifying race for the Yukon Quest.

What Penny is too modest to mention is that her Penkhala kennel huskies form the backbone of Rob’s team.  Talk about taking coals to Newcastle ……

To live the dream?

Photos of Rob and Louise :  Tracey Ackerson and Tracy Green

Competitor Rob Cooke certainly is living his dream. And for thousands of British dog lovers, he is the one they watch.

Given the opportunity of secondment to the Canadian Forces on an exchange with Britain’s Royal Navy, Rob and his wife Louise jumped at the chance and took their British bred Siberian Huskies back to their roots. It didn’t take either of them long to realise this was their dream, and soon with very careful selection their Shaytaan kennels had swelled ranks with US and Canadian stock and Rob was competing in middle distance races with his pedigree dogs – many of whom had been shown at the world’s most famous dog show, Crufts.


Then came the life-changing decision when Rob’s leisure sport became his vocation. On retirement from the UK Services, Rob and Louise moved from their house in downtown Halifax Nova Scotia to a dis-used zoo in New Brunswick.  “So handy said Louise, all those cages are perfect for the dogs, though perhaps taking on the remaining incumbent llamas came as a slight shock!

With trails spreading for miles from the backyard, Rob and Louise started training in earnest.  Whatever the weather they soon began to learn the needs and techniques of long-distance mushing and Rob never does things by halves, his research is never-ending and his knowledge is put into practice with his beloved dogs.  Typical Brit … and indeed for most mushers, “dogs-come-first” is the motto of their lifestyle.

But there was a bigger horizon … last Autumn Rob packed his best dogs into their van and travelled West across the American continent all the way to Alaska to train and compete with the big names in the sport. Staying with Lev Shvarts in his kennels Rob and his team quietly took on the Alaskans at their national sport.  Training was slow to start, snow was scarce, but then the White-Stuff arrived and races began.  Despite jibes about Slow-berians (most competitive teams run Alaskan cross-breed dogs rather than pedigree dogs) with a couple of finishes under his sled Rob was beginning to get noticed and he and his homebred pups, were making their mark.

As much as The Iditarod (the 1,000 mile race held every March to commemorate the famous Anchorage to Nome serum run in 1925) is known worldwide, the Yukon Quest is “the professionals’ choice” – a gruelling sled race between White Horse and Fairbanks taking in some of the most difficult terrain and weather conditions in the world.  The Quest 300 is the “starter-kit” run over the same trails but making a 300 ml loop rather than the full distance trail.  This race was to be Rob’s best shot at qualifying for the full Quest, hopefully next year.  Seven teams of Alaskan Huskies and Rob’s one pedigree Siberian team (somehow indiscernibly the “slow” had over past months been dropped from quotes) set out last Saturday.  The rest is history …. Rob’s faithful UK and worldwide fan-base watched results from each checkpoint.  Fourth position as he left Two Rivers – could he hold on to that slot for the remainder of the race?  Everything crossed…  unbelievably by Mile 101 he had gained a place and was up to third.  Snow was falling over the Southern Counties of GB and Rob’s dogs’ relations were enjoying a rare opportunity to run on sleds round Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, but four miles of running requires nothing like the endurance and stamina the Shaytaan Gang were needing for their task in paw.  They held position through Central Checkpoint, this was beginning to get serious now for the arm-chair followers.  Then the unbelievable happened … Rob arrived at Circle City in second position … which he held to the finish amidst huge accolade from both sides of The Pond …. by now the word SLOWberians was only heard in whispers.  Here is the quote from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

“Rob Cooke of Edmundston, New Brunswick, was looking for experience and a qualifier for the 1,000 mile Quest.  ‘I just came here to finish. To finish in second place is just amazing,’ Cooke, 45, said. ‘Everybody has said to me you’re absolutely mad trying to do this as a qualifier, but it was everything I expected it to be. I just had such a fantastic time. I’ve been dragged across glare ice, I smacked my hip and rolled my sled going down Eagle Summit.’

Cooke was awarded the Vet’s Choice Award for exemplary dog care of his team of Siberian huskies.”

Louise from their home in New Brunswick where she continues to care for and train the second teams had a slightly different view sent to me by e-mail:

“Thank you! Still can’t believe what they did! … His idea of a fantastic time isn’t the same as mine lol!”

Oh and Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree with congratulations.  Rob may never be BBC Sportsman of the year, but he is living his dream which if you ask him he is not even halfway through yet ….

Yes, Brits have competed abroad and run the Iditarod and even The Quest, but never with anything other than local teams and certainly not pedigree dogs.  To all us Siberian Husky enthusiasts worldwide, he and Louise are certainly our Local Heroes (Penny doesn’t mention some of stock were bred by her – Ed).  And you know what ?  more importantly than his second place finish, beating teams from hugely famous Alaskan Kennels such as Lance Mackey and Sonny Lindner and running his own bred pedigree dogs, the most important award to us all will always be the Vet’s Choice Award.  Respect is never achieved at the cost of co-members of a team and never more true when they have four feet not two.   Long may Rob, Louise and their dogs continue to carry the flags of the UK and Siberian Huskies ….

This is latest interview on the trail.  Notice Lance is drinking water to keep his throat moistened because of cancer.

For more information:




Enhanced by Zemanta

World's toughest race and cancer connections

Iditarod beaten by cancer survivors


English: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Alexie of the A...

Four times winner Lance Mackey beat cancer

If there is one thing cancer survivors learn – you have to be tough to beat the disease.

And this stands them in good stead if it comes to taking part – and winning – the Iditarod dog sled race, run across a thousand miles of frozen Alaskan wastes every March.

One of the most famous racers taking part is Lance Mackey

  • four times winner
  • throat cancer survivor
  • In 1978 his father, Dave, beat previous winner Rick Swenson by one second to win that year’s Iditarod

In 2001 Mackey was diagnosed with throat cancer, but doesn’t let this bother him, even though he needs to keep his mouth constantly moist;  a very difficult thing when temperatures are way below what freezes water.

To read more put his name into the search bar, and read a friend’s account of meeting the great man with a big sense of humour.


Another with Iditarod musher with a big sense of humour is DeeDee Jonrowe.

A double mastectomy survivor, DeeDee decided to have fun, and some years ago started to equip her 16-strong dog sled team with pink bootees.  To see pics of the incredible sight of DeeDee dressed in her pink mushing gear, driving her pink-booted team, put DeeDee into search window.


Susan Butcher

Susan was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a lover of dogs and the outdoors. When she was young her brother died of leukemia at a young age. She studied at Colorado State University and ultimately became a veterinary technician.

To pursue her love of dogsled racing and breeding huskies, she moved to the Wrangell Mountains area of Alaska.

There Susan began training to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which tests the endurance of both mushers and dogs over the course of one to two weeks. After placing in several Iditarods, Butcher was forced to withdraw early in the 1985 when two of her dogs were killed by a pregnant moose, despite Butcher’s attempts to ward the animal off, and six others were severely injured. Libby Riddles, a relative newcomer, braved a blizzard and became the first woman to win the Iditarod that year.

The more experienced Butcher won the next race in 1986, and then proceeded to win again in 1987, 1988, and 1990. She joins fellow four-time winners Martin Buser, Jeff King, Lance Mackey and Doug Swingley, and Rick Swenson who won five. Butcher married fellow dog racer David Monson on September 2, 1985; they successfully competed in almost every major sled-dog race in numerous countries around the world.

Her accomplishments gained her substantial media attention in the late 1980s and earned her many awards, including the “National Women’s Sports Foundation Amateur Athlete of The Year Award” and the “Tanqueray Athlete of the Year.” She also won the “U.S. Victor Award” for “Female Athlete of the Year” two years in a row. In 2007 Susan was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as one of the five charter members in the inaugural class.

In 2005 Butcher was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, underwent chemotherapy  and received a bone marrow transplant on May 17, 2006 after the cancer went into remission. According to her husband David Monson, “someone said this might be a tough disease, but this leukemia hasn’t met Susan Butcher yet.”

Butcher died on August 5, 2006 after learning that the cancer had returned. She is survived by her two daughters, Tekla and Chisana, and her husband, attorney and musher David Monson.

On March 1, 2008, Susan Butcher was honored by the State of Alaska when, just prior to the start of the 2008 Iditarod, Gov. Sarah Palin signed a bill establishing the first Saturday of every March as Susan Butcher Day. The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.”

And true to Iditarod mushers’ and cancer survivors’ feelings, Susan said “I do not know the word ‘quit.’ Either I never did, or I have abolished it.”

Follow the Race
Starts Saturday, March 3rd, and I will be covering the highlights during the following couple of weeks.  Will also be writing about the dogs on

Fun project for kids with cancer who love dogs

Inspire kids!I took these photos on 6 March 2010 at the cer...


Especially if they are doing projects in a Hospital School, or have adopted a cancer charity for a class project.

And especially, especially if they have cancer, and are wondering if ever they will be able to finish with treatment and do anything extraordinary.

The Iditarod Dog Sled Race takes place every year, run for ten or more gruelling days across Alaska.

It has followers across the world – including millions of kids that love the sight of cuddly husky dogs.

And – it has become a tradition for cancer survivors to take part in the race.  Several well-known competitors have survived cancer.

Cancer Survivor Lancy Mackey has won the race a record number of times – and will probably race again this year.

As will Mastectomy survivor Dee Dee Jonrowe, who kits out her dogs in pink boots.  Dogs have to wear these (much to their dislike) as the trail gets iced up with sharp pathways.

So kids can follow their ‘chosen’ musher (racer) and watch whilst they and their dogs battle across what is known as the Last Great Race on Earth.

And men and women take part – equally.  Some of most famous winners have been women.

Teachers – use the race as classroom resource

The race goes on 24/7.

Once racers set off, depending on weather and condition of dogs, they will race whenever the dogs want, so as the teams spread out there is something happening all the time.  This is ably recorded by race officials and put up on Internet.

It can become addictive to log on and find out just where ‘your’ favourite team is.

Included in race reports are vivid snapshots of what life is like for the locals – both native Alaskans and incomers who live there because of the way of a life well-away from commercialisation.

And, if teachers have the time, a class can take part in the preparations:

Message from Race Organisers

“Once again To My Favorite Teachers and all others willing to make this happen”.

Feb 12th is the last day you can get your School Class/Student/Scout Group
participating in the Iditarod Trail Mail Educational Project in the Mail.
Project site: <>

Time Ticks – But this year I am offering for anyone that can send a
list of those participants that they have gotten to join the fun of the
Iditarod Trail Educational Mail Project as first timers, a

Genuine Used on the Iditarod Trail Dog Bootie”

from an Iditarod Dog Team finishing the Race here in Nome.

We have already received 26 projects in the Mail.

Right Now we have plenty of snow and plenty Cold, Since the 23rd of
December no snow (we already have plenty) and the average temperature
has huddled around -25f with only a one day high of +12f briefly and a
2-day low of -42f.

Hope you’ll have someone, a class/group or more,
participating in the Iditarod Trail Educational Mail Project (ITEMP)?
Remember in the mail by the 12th of February.   LEO


Enhanced by Zemanta

Hooked on dog sled racing? How to get going

Boeing 747-400 displaying the post-1997 Speedm...

Image via Wikipedia

Dog sledding is excellent exercise

Here’s how to get going


Every weekend enthusiasts all over the world get out with their dogs – and if you are like 50% of my readers and live in Britain,  here is info about getting started here.

But Beware! This article should come with a stark WARNING!

Once you have tried it – you will be hooked!

All the photos with dogs here were taken by Alan Bowering, a stalwart of the dog sledding scene in  Britain, and show the wheeled rigs that are generally used in UK because of lack of snow.

His partner is Penny Evans (another stalwart), and it is thanks to her and her ex-partner, John Evans, that Europe’s biggest dog sled rally, Aviemore Dog Sled Rally – takes place with over 200 entrants every year, making it Europe’s biggest.

I have asked Alan and Penny, who are certainly hooked, to help with low-down.  They are keen supporters of dog sledding in Britain, have visited Alaska to see the big races, and are off there again shortly.

Photo shows Penny’s Veteran Crufts Champion Siberian Husky, Penkhala’s Nikarah – Nik for short.

Where can you do this?

Go to for a list of rallies taking place all over Britain.   If you live near East Anglia see below; or ask the local Forestry Commission office, as they lend land for the rallies at most of their properties.

In summer, contact the club to find out if enthusiasts are running – if weather is cold enough they will gather, but dogs don’t like too hot temperatures.  During the summer there are shows, and whilst most of these dogs would curl a lip if asked to ‘show’, some, like Penny, do occasionally enter – then make others jealous by producing dogs like Nik who walk away with the prize.  And asking around at a show will always produce dog sled enthusiasts who can tell you where to find the sport.

Alan’s photos show dogs pulling wheeled rigs on British forest trails.  Teams are smaller in UK, as they don’t have to run so far as they do in the Iditarod.  The object of events in Britain is to give enthusiasts a fun day out – not trek for a thousand miles!

The rigs are very much like tricycles, and don’t take long to master.  However, the dogs are just as eager to run as Iditarod veterans, so no need to worry about how fast they go – just how to hang on for dearlife as they get going.

Sledding in East Anglia

Apart from the Siberian Husky Club, I asked another very keen friend if she could tell me where one could go to learn to ‘mush’.  She wrote back to say, “the people I wanted to check with are Forstal Huskies – Sally Leich and Ali Koops – and they are happy for you to put their details up.  Their website is – which seems to say it all really!

Where else?

British Siberian Husky Racing Association                                                                        They organise a championship series of races every season, all over the country, so there should be one or more within easy reach of most parts of UK

And if you are really keen to see what goes on, take a trip to Aviemore in Scotland for last-but-one weekend every January, when the town hosts Europe’s largest dog sled rally: well over 200 teams compete every year.

British Airways flies to Inverness (for Aviemore).  As you fly north take a look out of plane windows and you very often see a procession of ‘white vans’ carrying dogs, heading north.  They’ll have wheeled rigs – and for the optimists a pulka (snow sled) – on the roof.  If you are going for the tourist experience, don’t forget Aviemore is very near Speyside, where the river is lined with whisky distilleries of every kind;  most welcome visitors.

During the rally one of the major distilleries hosts a Malt Whisky tasting at Aviemore.  This is definitely not a booze up, but a serious and enjoyable learning experience.  Dog sledders know their malts, and many of them are partial to Lagavulin – so much so that the town had run out of it during one rally; but I understand this has been rectified!

Tip – if you like eating well, book restaurant reservations EARLY.  Dog sledders may look like the scruffiest people you have ever seen when racing, but they know their food and fine dining, so come evening they are off into the town to eat the gourmet-ish food they can find.

Hotels – once, when Aviemore was booked out, we stayed at Craigellachie Hotel (about an hour away).  And landed in clover.  Any hotel that can provide smiling, helpful staff, a bar with 700 Malts (has anyone ever drunk even half?), gourmet food with a local twist, luxurious bedrooms and yellow ducks to float in your bath (no, you haven’t had too much to drink – they really are there as the Manager considers every bath MUST have a duck floating in it) has got my vote as one of my favourites.  And the prices are reasonable – unlike the over-glitzed tourist traps further south.

What to wear

Very warm boots.  Lots of thermal layers plus old cashmere sweaters (as one does). Warm trousers – not jeans. And warm gloves.  If you are going to be helping/working, wear inner silk glove linings (buy them in sports shops £8);  they are excellent to wear when you need your hands, but want some protection when you have to take off thick gloves.

Then, some tricks of the trade that will give your skin an extra layer of protection. 

Use plenty of skin moisturiser, both on your body, as winds can cut through and give you wind burn even through layers, and on your face.  And keep a spare jar of cream in your pocket, plus plenty of lip balm.  The sun may be shining, but our skins are extremely vulnerable in cold conditions – trust me!

Currently I am using Living Nature products, and they have coped brilliantly with this incredible cold, snowy winter we have had, plus the cold winds that do more damage to skin than anything.  Their Living Nature Lip Balm is a godsend;  a deeply nourish balm, I keep it in my pocket whenever I go outdoors, especially watching sledding, and use it every hour at least. 

Before going out I will put on their leave-on Ultra Nourishing Mask.  My tip is to leave this on – don’t bother to wipe off – after your shower, then before you go out slap on their Rich Day Cream over the top; together the two layers will give you added protection, and  deeply nourish parched dry skin.  Finally, at night put on their Radiance Night Oil underneath your night cream, which gives an extra boost whilst you are sleeping.  This is a delicate blend of rosehips and herbs to help retain and restore a skin’s vitality.  

Incidentally their eco-friendly packaging has flat backs so it doesn’t take up much room in the suitcase.

 Currently I  am using Flexitol on my feet –  they provide creams for Rachel Scidoris (the incredible blind musher) AND her dogs ( sled dogs are really spoilt)  – so what helps Rachel win races is good enough for me. 

So you want to go abroad

All over the Alps and in Scandinavia there are dog sledding kennels that offer rides – either training you to mush or run behind the dogs in charge of a team, or you can sit in a sled (pulka) and be towed behind a team with someone else doing the mushing.

Ask the local tourist board of any ski resort to give you a list of local kennels offering this

Look on and I have written up a few health spa resorts where you can take part.

The big one – going to Alaska

Have already had enquiries from readers – “how do we get there?  and when is best time to go?”

Answer is almost any time.  There is a big tourism trade in the summer, with outdoor enthusiasts going to see the wildlife, go kayaking, etc.

And of course if you want to go dog sledding, the season is right throughout the winter, and you could even take out dogs from kennels that will be competing in the Iditarod.

Throughout the winter there are various dog sled races most weeks, and being a spectator is the friendliest way of meeting the ‘natives’, and as Penny and Alan found, as visitors from Britain you are warmly welcomed, and often get to be introduced to the champion mushers.  As Penny said, they were introduced to Lance Mackey as “your biggests fans from Europe”, which she says wasn’t too difficult as they were the only ones.

But she treasures a boot from one of Lance’s champion sled dogs.  As she says, it may be old and worn out – but one of Lance’s – that was something else.

Alaskans are very hospitable, but being stuck out on the furthest peninsula away from UK, the journey needs planning.

Hotels: There is a huge variety in Anchorage,  quite a lot in Nome – but they can be sparse on the trail in between.

Away from these cities, it might be best to go look for the Iditarod recommended B & Bs.  Advantage is that the owners know the trail, they are involved in the running of the race, so have lots of stories to tell, and can advise you on the best way to get somewhere – by tiny plane, by sea or by 4 x 4.

Friends who have booked in to B & Bs are delighted that most owners also have something to do with the Iditarod – so have become firm friends talking it over.

British Airways offer daily connections from Heathrow to Anchorage, Alaska via Seattle (onwards on Alaska Airlines) and also in the summer via Dallas Fort Worth (from 01May, onwards on American Airlines) and via Chicago (from 09 Jun, onwards on American Airlines).

Each of these options has a connection from Manchester to Heathrow.

In addition, for the Chicago option it would be possible to use the AA-operated codeshare flight direct from Manchester to Chicago to connect onto the onward flight.

BA say there are a number of options for lead-in fares, and to give a couple of examples:

Return (including taxes/fees/charges) fares in June from Manchester via Chicago start from £891.20;

Return from Heathrow via Seattle or Dallas in May starts from £881.53.

To book visit or call 0844 4930787

If you have become hooked – don’t forget this sport is excellent exercise post cancer;  you can take it at your own pace, just walking around and helping at the start, or running behind a dog team to give you fantastic fun.  Either way you are in the open air, it is fun (even in pouring rain!) as the dogs spread their enthusiasm around, and mushers are very nice people!

And if you love the sport as much as I do, please click through with a small donation to Breakthrough:


Enhanced by Zemanta

And Finally –

If you have any ideas of getting a husky puppy and starting racing, take a look on the Siberian Husky Club website under ‘Damage’.  These are genuuine photos of what these dogs can do to the inside of a home.  As pack animals, they get bored very easily if they don’t get enough exercise, and much prefer to live outdoors than inside centrally-heated homes.

How to burn 12,000 calories a day

Coast Guard sponsored Iditarod musher Ken Ande...

Image by U.S. Coast Guard via Flickr

Sorry – you have to be a sled dog racing in the Iditarod

To do this run, these elite canine athletes burn up an incredible 12,000 calories a day, whilst they race across Alaska in the annual Iditarod dog sled dog race.

Mind you , their mushers don’t do too badly – they probably burn around 6,000 calories per person per day. 

If you are serious about losing weight, going mushing locally might be an option.
Racing in long distance races in North America, such as the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest, or in Europe on La Grande Oddysée, the dogs’ diet has increased for this year’s racing.  About five years ago it was normal to give dogs around 10,000 calories per day.  But times have got faster, helped by scientifically-planned nutrition, and now, for the Iditarod,  they get an extra 2,000 calories to keep them running around 7 – 9 hours a day, around 14 hours a day, over the 1100 mile course.

Even a sled dog kept in a European kennels, running fewer hours a day taking visitors on rides, can burn up 6,000 miles a day – and humans who go dog sledding can certainly find this sport makes a very effective slimming regime.

So if you want to get fit, enjoy outdoor sport and love dogs – going dog sledding could be a way of shedding the pounds.

And this is easy to do, all over the world.  Even in Britain, without much snow, enthusiasts have adapted sleds to run on wheels, and every weekend during the winter sees events happening up and down the United Kingdom.

What do the dogs eat?

Their bodies require protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre, with fat being the most calorie-dense. To cover their caloric needs, more fat may be temporarily added to their diet, especially when temperatures are most bitter. This is done gradually over several days as too much fat added suddenly can cause diarrhea.  Often these dogs run at night, when the temperature drops to a dog-friendly minus 30 – 60 degrees (yes, the colder the better they like to run), but this increases their calorie consumption – and the musher’s as well.

Each musher calculates his/her own dog food diet but most feed a premium power-packed dog food with added options of lamb trimmings, poultry skins, hamburger, moose or salmon steaks, occasionally corn oil, and for some, seal oil or mink mixture, in addition to vitamin, mineral, and probiotic supplements. The musher aims for a food that is about 2500 calories per pound. Water is important too, and although the food is usually fed frozen and raw, snow may be melted for making a stew.

After their rest and sleep, the musher will mix up their first meal of their day, and this will probably be a sloppy mixture of the packs of food they give normally, plus lots of water or liquid.  This the dogs must take on board, as it helps to keep them dehydrated – you can’t pour water out of bottles for them at minus 30 degrees.

Originally when dog sledding was in its heyday, mushers would carry all the dog food in their sleds, or else expect to pick it up at homesteads along the way.  But now, with 60 – 70 teams of 16 dogs descending on the small villages along the way,the food is ready-packed before the race, and dropped by small planes at each checkpoint.

What do mushers eat?

Everything and anything that keeps out the cold and keeps you going.  They all carry their favourite snacks in little packs that they can grab as they are running along, and these will contain anything they like.  If they run out of human food, it hasn’t been unknown for them to grab a handful of doggie snacks.  Yes, the dogs get snacks along the way too.

But you burn up so many calories that no-one worries too much about calories;  it’s energy you need and your food is providing this – you hope!

So I want to lose weight – how to I start if I live somethere like Britain?

First, go see.  If you go onto the Siberian Husky Club website  (there will be similar ones all over Europe for local clubs), and look for Events, forthcoming races, etc. there will be a list of what’s happening in the next months.  Turn up in warm clothes and boots you can run in, and if you offer to help – stewarding, recording, etc. you will be welcomed with open arms.

Just watching can be fun, but if you are involved with ‘holding’ on to the dogs whilst they are waiting to run – you burn up the calories.  Those dogs are powerful and they don’t want to wait for anyone – just get running.

The picture on the left was taken by noted dog sledder Alan Bowering, and shows just what strength is needed to get these dogs harnessed up.

Then, once you are hooked, ask to go on a run.  Many of those running will offer runs to enthusiasts, for a fee, and you start with a couple of dogs – to see if you like it.

Kennels are all over Britain, mostly from Watford north up to the tip of Scotland, so you are bound to find an enthusiast near you.  Again, if you can’t find anyone go to the club website to find contacts.


If you want to learn more about sled dogs, a book written by an amateur takes you through the history of sled dogs, and gives background information about these incredible hard-working canines.  999 and Other Working Dogs – published by WSN.  Buy it off Amazon or Police Dog Equipment site

Has a long chapter giving basic history, details of different husky breeds, and anecdotes about famous sled dogs and their exploits.

AND IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, go back to HOME page and click on Iditarod for more about the race, its incredible history, and some of the mushers who have overcome cancer to finish this 1100 mile race.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Iditarod – facts behind the story of the Last Great Race on Earth

First native Alaskan to win Iditarod

As he powered towards the famous buried arch finishing line at Nome, John Baker was cheered on by fellow Inupiats.

They were delighted that at last a true native Alaskan had won the race, and their  drums welcomed him in to a deafening beat.

And there was another cause for pride:  John and ‘ Team Baker’  as he calls his dogs, (see picture right – looks like Velvet and Snickers leading) had done this in the fastest time ever:  8 days 18 hrs. 46mins.39 secs, beating previous record time set by Martin Buser in 2002 of 8 days 22 hrs. 46 mins 2 secs.

Second in was Ramey Smyth, who also beat the record with a run of 8 days 19 hrs 50 mins 59 secs.  As well as running so well, Ramey had been spreading the message to help cancer patients – don’t smoke – and don’t drink – all the way along the trail.

The 39th Iditarod was the fastest for overall time taken by leaders, and there will be double celebrating along the Alaska coastline and interior tonight  one of their own has at last bought the Iditarod trophy home.  Incidentally, there are always two trails, that alternate each year, to give every tiny Alaskan community along the way the chance to be part of this race.  This year it was the turn of the Southern route, which is generally regarded as taking longer, as it is slightly more miles.

Current finishers

3rd  Hans Gatt

4th Dallas Seavey  (having won the Yukon Quest earlier last month, this youngster from a famous mushing family is      going to have to wait for the ultimate prize

5th  Hugh Neff

6th German-born Sebastian Schnuelle

7th Ray Redington

8th Peter Kaiser

9th Ken Anderson

then came three women,

10th Jessie Royer

11th Allie Zirkle

12th – feisty DeeDee Jonrowe, the battling mastectomy survivor with pink-booted team

and Lance Mackey, fellow cancer survivor, has made it to Nome in 16th place.  Followed by previous winner Martin Buser.

Conditions must have altered somewhere on the trail, as veterans are still to appear in Nome.  No doubt it will come out, but Lance, being Lance, isn’t blaming anyone for his lower placing than he hoped after his last four Iditarods when he came in first.  That’s life!

Scotsman Wattie McDonald, strong supporter of children’s cancer charities, arrived in in 36th position, up on his placing in the 40s last year.  But this time he only had 12 dogs, and for someone who carefully nurses his dogs, rather than pushing on and dropping those that don’t keep up – this shows that conditions must have been tough this year.

The rest of the field of 48 teams (originally there were 61 starters) are still strung out behind, and it will probably be another 2 days before the last one in gains the Red Lantern prize.

But the first Rookie (first time runner) has made it in, at a very creditable 28th position.  French-born Nicolas Petit got into the race by a fluke, when the kennel owner for whom he worked, Jim Lanier, had to scratch as he needed an urgent hip operation.  So Nicolas stepped in, and Jim must be delighted at how well he did with his team.

Dream come true

Baker, seen here at the bib number draw before the race)  had his dream come true at last.

He has been in Top Ten finishers 12 times since he first raced in the Iditarod in 1996; and this race win must be even sweeter, when he reflects back that he so nearly won it before.

He had been leading, when the trail became obliterated;  he thought he had gone off course and wasted precious time getting back – when he was on the right trail all the time.  But sadly this cost him his lead that year.



Three of Baker’s dogs

Left:  Lead dogs Velvet and Snickers

Very fast, mixed types

 Right:  Rambo

Typical husky type – with plenty of power


Size of teams – 16 seems a lot of dog to handle, particularly when running through forests and across rough, cut-up terrain, but in the old days when dog sleds provided the transport across Northern America, it was not unusual to have teams of up to 60 dogs to haul freight – and these freight ‘trains’ would have been using Malamutes, the largest of the huskies.

Some people today, particularly in Britain where the traditions of dog sledding, rather than going flat out to win, still prevail, there are some teams that will use Greenlands.  They are slightly smaller than Malamutes, but still big dogs.  Raol Amudsen loved them, and probably won over Scott in the race to the South Pole because Scott relied on mechanical transport or ponies – Amundsen put his faith in his dogs.

Dogs here are Greenlands, belonging in musher Jim Ryder’s team.  As you see they are powerful and very attractive dogs – real powerhouses in a team.

After Amundsen’s South Pole triumph, the Swiss company building the Jungfrau mountain railway ran in to snags.  The terrain was too steep for mules to transport the building materials, so they asked Amudsen for help, and he bought in a team of Greenlands.  These endeared themselves to the workmen and the locals, so that when the railway was finished, and the Directors made murmurs about what should they do with the dogs (with possible solution copying Inuit tradition and destroying them), there was an outcry.  So the Greenlands stayed, had superb kennels built half way up the mountain, and every day go to work on the Jungfrau train in their own carriage, either up to the top in summer, or down to the valley in winter, giving dog sled rides to tourists.


999 and Other Working Dogs – published by WSN.  Buy it off Amazon or Police Dog Equipment site

Has a long chapter giving basic history, details of different husky breeds, and anecdotes about famous sled dogs and their exploits.

If you are hooked

Have already have had enquiries from readers – “how do we get there?  and when is best time to go?” 

Alaskans are very hospitable, but being stuck out on the furthest peninsula away from UK, the journey needs planning.

When you get there, the Iditarod office or tourist board are people to contact as there aren’t many hotels outside the cities.  But local Alaskans are very hospitable, and friends who have booked in to B & Bs are delighted that most owners also have something to do with the Iditarod – so have become firm friends talking it over.

British Airways offer daily connections from Heathrow to Anchorage, Alaska via Seattle (onwards on Alaska Airlines) and also in the summer via Dallas Fort Worth (from 01May, onwards on American Airlines) and via Chicago (from 09 Jun, onwards on American Airlines).

Each of these options has a connection from Manchester to Heathrow.
In addition, for the Chicago option it would be possible to use the AA-operated codeshare flight direct from Manchester to Chicago to connect onto the onward flight.

To surmise, this gives a number of options for ‘lead-in’ fares.
To give a couple of examples (return including taxes/fees/charges) fares in June from Manchester via Chicago start from £891.20;
from Heathrow via Seattle or Dallas in May starts from £881.53.

 To book visit or call 0844 4930787

If you have become hooked – and love the sport as much as I do, please click through with a small donation to Breakthrough:


Don’t forget Ramey Smyth is running with a powerful message, one ably supported

by Breakthrough – DON’T SMOKE.  He feels passionately about this, with having

experienced cancer in the family.

For latest finishers and other info:

John Baker

Ramey Smyth

Hans Gatt

Dallas Seavey

Hugh Neff

Lance Mackey  www.mackeyscomebackkennel.