Well.....HERE WE GO! The Cosmic Canines are in their final week of preparation for the 2012 Yukon Quest. Most of the hard work is done, we are just packing and tying up a few loose ends. We cannot wait for the start this Saturday in downtown Fairbanks!
Let me tell you this has been one of the toughest winters in my whole entire life. If I continue to channel that drive and perseverance that got me through this winter during the Yukon Quest, we will have a great race.
This has been the coldest and snowiest winter Interior Alaska has had in years. November was the 3rd coldest in history, and January was the 2nd coldest. We had 52 below a few times in November, and in January the temperature never got above 0 except one day. We hit a new record low at my house two mornings straight, 62 below. What does that mean for us? When temps are that cold it takes twice as much food to keep a dog team healthy, that means our food budget was wiped out way before we anticipated. Also its hard on all the equipment.. When we drove to our Vet Check the temp was 60 below. Now my truck is in the shop getting the broken exhaust fixed. The race dogs have been living in the house for a few weeks now. That's 14 sled dogs in a 12 by 20 cabin!
We have endured being flat out broke, totalling my truck, losing two race dogs that were hit by a car the week before the race, a 2 week bout with bronchitis, running a race that was cancelled a third of the way (I was counting on some of that purse money), and a relationship on the rocks. But that didn't stop us! When you dream, you dream BIG. And you never give up!
I cannot honestly claim to have endured all of this by myself. First of all. I have to thank my dogs. This is by far the best dog team I have ever driven. Every time I felt like throwing in the towel, I would think about losing the opportunity to drive this team in the Yukon Quest and I just couldn't give that up.
Then there is my family. My parents taught my brother and I how to dream and how to work hard. Goals will not be just handed to you. If you try and fail, try again. I cannot tell you how many times I called my parents in tears this winter. Their support of me in the hard times, and their pride in the good, helped get me through it all.
I also have the best friends in the world. From loaning me dogs to donations to them cheering me on, they were always there. Two Rivers is a great community that stands behind their own. There is always someone who will bail you out when you're in trouble. Who will listen when you need an ear. And will definitely give you advice, whether you want it or not!
Even though its been a tough go, I would like to thank Jay Cadzow. This is his bloodline I am driving. I have tapped every ounce of 40 years of knowledge about driving dogs that I could from him. He has the best eye for dogs I have ever seen. He also knows how to keep dogs at their prime health even when you have nothing. I have tried to absorb all of this and learn. I feel I have grown as a musher more in the last 2 years than I have in 15 years of mushing. I have learned "old school" techniques and ideas that few in the world still remember. Though our cultural and ethical differences has made this relationship a battle, I cannot claim honestly that I did not gain anything out of it.
Lastly and certainly not least I would like to thank our sponsors. Economically this has been a hard year for us. I am just a bartender. I make good money but I am supporting 2 people, 30 dogs, 2 goats, and a mule on my own. I could get another job but that would take time away from training dogs. I am not alone. Individuals, businesses, and race organizations are all suffering. Gas is expensive, dog food costs twice as much as it did a few years ago. If it were not for my sponsors, this Quest would have been impossible. They believe in me and decided to join our team. I would like to recognize my awesome list of supporters.
Wes Madden Real Estate
Peter West and Susan Hyman-West
Two Rivers Lodge
Dew Claw Kennels
Iron Pearl Kennels
My anonymous sponsor superlady! You know who you are!
Lyle and Cindy Kirgan
Irish Jane and Paul Namtvedt
The Two Rivers Community
And everyone else that donated.
I will try to post again before the start. On the trail I won't be able to update, and though I have amazing handlers. They were chosen for their dog savvy and proficiency for logistics not their technological and social media skills. So maybe an update in Dawson and hopefully a recap at the end!