I was so pleased to see she finished. A rookie in name only, this is her 3rd Iditarod start, having suffered a broken pelvis on last year's treacherous trail but pressing on before calling it quits. She was also diagnosed with a rare and serious illness that makes this race even more challenging (check out her profile on the Iditarod website to learn more). Although she pulled in right as the final banquet was taking place, her fellow mushers were able to make the dash to the finish line and give her a proper welcome.
Well done, Cindy. If that isn't a testament to "if at first you don't succeed…", I don't know what is.
In other news, I have spoken to Anna although not Kristy. Between frostbite treatments for her cheeks (which were "nipped" but would heal), she lobbed a call in on Sunday afternoon. It was nearly +20F in Nome, a welcome reprieve from what she saw out on the trail. Her dogs caught an early flight back to the kennel, where handler and Dropped Dog Correspondent Aaron waits to welcome them home. The banquet is that evening. She got a preview on the food, and it sounds promising. As of this writing Monday afternoon, she's finally heading back to the kennel.
Of course I asked her about the race. She talked a lot about the dogs, as well she should. We already mentioned that Lincoln and Lou were dropped during the race for shoulder issues. Prada was dropped as well, basically cuz she's a 1st timer and a bit of a spaz. Dollar also bowed out, just not pulling his weight. He has a fair amount of hound in him, though, and even with a dog jacket those temps must have been challenging for him. None of their ailments are serious, though, and I suspect we'll see some repeat appearances from at least some of these dogs.
Anna had great things to say about the 12 dogs that made it the full 980ish race miles. Muskrat was a pleasant surprise, turns out he's older than Anna thought (a leased dog)… maybe even 9! But he did great. Kelsey, one of Anna's own dogs, made it (having been dropped in prior years). Spaying her earlier in the year helped her appetite and performance. Venom was a great leader, at least for 50 miles at a clip. And was a dog not afraid of leading into a little Alaska windstorm. Rooster, a real sweetie, also made it, despite being once deemed by another musher (who shall remain nameless…) that he was a 'dumpster dog' not fit for a team. Hah. Take that! Precious also make the trek, despite a bit of a wrist handicap that required a lot of extra attention from Anna.
The weather was of course a focal point. She wished the forecast has been a bit better (or more clearly communicated) prior to the race, but admitted that even at the coldest, she still had a spare jacket she didn't put on. Pilots she talked to said they saw -63F coming into checkpoints, and we've already commented on their trail thermometer. She laughed when she was talking to me… "Think about it. We had +40F, give or take, in Anchorage for the Ceremonial start, and then had -60F (and likely lower) out on the trail? That's a 100 degree swing!!"
You might find it inconceivable to camp in those conditions, but they did it just the same. Anna said that was 'good,' kind of Yukon Quest-like given the distance between checkpoints. So while it was fun, it was too cold to be too much fun! At one point on the way to Manley they didn't get a great camping spot, and she described bedding the dogs down, and then laying down herself, shivering to sleep in her parka. It was about 15 minutes before she bounced up and said, "gotta go. now." She chatted with Dallas Seavey at one point, and he described making a nest of straw for all the dogs to pile into, with him on the outside in his bivy sack. Anna sounded intrigued, and given how I've seen puppies and other dogs cuddle and nest, I can understand why.
Of course I asked about the Northern Lights, and Anna said at times they were amazing. Don't get your hopes up, it was just too bloody cold to pull the camera out much. But she painted a great description… the best were going into Ruby. They were green and vibrant, brightly dancing around. At one point, the lights looked like pulsing waves and the clouds like fish. This was a moment she wished the cold and quality (or lack thereof) of her camera had allowed her to capture and share with us. Alas, you'll have to bust out the old imagination.
And given other repots, inquiring minds want to know, how are Anna's hands? The tips are sore, and they were swollen from the cold at various points during the race. Generally, though, ok. Her cheeks are frostbitten, as previously reported, but will also recover. Much like Kristy, Anna is tired of wind. Please, just no more wind.
There wasn't too much else of note by way of Iditarod randoms. They think they saw a wolverine. A black blob crossed the trail ahead of them…. bears are hibernating. Wasn't a moose. Not leggy enough to be a wolf. Then another musher reported sightings, and they were convinced.
And with that, they're back to the kennel to harness break puppies. When asked if she would have done much different this year, Anna basically said no. She might have dropped one dog earlier than she did.
And what does she think it takes to be in the top 10? Dogs. She had a great team, but a winning team has a depth of experience, a drive, a way of meshing that you have to be a musher to understand. And then there's the experience of the musher and the musher with the dogs in question. Confidence and experience and an instinct honed by the former. How much can you ask of your dogs, knowing they'll give you everything they've got? How much can you ask of yourself?
Mark Twain is quoted as having said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
I think if you've finished the Iditarod, you have a better idea of why than most.
There will be some Twin's Eye View pics on Flickr at some point, as well as an update on the EVENT House Production documentary.
Thanks again for following us along the trail.
Keep on mushin'
Anna & Kristy
… and of course your mad blogger.