Updated: Mar 22, 2022
I (Lisbet) am back on the grid! The dogs and I have come off the trail and are back home in Fairbanks.
First off, THANK YOU for all the support and well wishes on our Iditarod journey. Although our race ended in Unalakleet, this was by far the BEST Iditarod I have experienced yet.
I was determined to have fun, and I did! I was humbled by my dogs, amazed by the beauty of the Iditarod trail, and blown away by the support and good cheer of the Iditarod volunteer community. Ultimately, my dogs needed more rest than the context of the race could provide. It was an easy decision to make Unalakleet our finish line.
Some big wins from our 2022 Iditarod:
❤️ Oscar ran in single lead for nearly 700 MILES.
Damn boy. I am so proud of this dog. Despite not having the speed needed to keep us with the rest of the field, his heart and drive is the epitome of an Iditarod lead dog. Always happy, never discouraged, curious about each new bend and vista. We wouldn’t have made it even to the first checkpoint without Oscar.
It was immensely satisfying to see Oscar evolve from not knowing what a checkpoint was and fleeing from the volunteers who came to help park the team to, by Galena, taking commands and flawlessly following volunteers through a checkpoint maze to our parking spot. He has hardly run in lead before this, mostly because the pace he sets is pretty slow. Well, we went all the way to the Coast at Oscar pace, and it was great.
💃🏼 Having fun.
I enjoyed every. single. run. I worked hard to have a positive mindset for the entirety of the race, and it made all the difference. It's easy to get caught up in expectations, pace, worry about dogs, weather, all heightened by the stresses of sleep deprivation.
Despite being off the pace from the first run, I took each run as it came and felt we did the best we could regardless of our circumstances. It wasn't always easy. Temperatures, slow running speeds, dogs in heat, timing mistakes that led us to running in the heat of the day, all contributed to some challenging runs. Overall though, we relished our time spent on the trail and enjoyed and appreciated the people we shared it with.
🏆 Just making it to the start line.
I run a winter tour business and March is peak season. Signing up for Iditarod this year gave me the impetus to set up the systems needed to allow me to step away to run the race. It was a huge learning year for me. I hired a guide team as well as kennel and business operations support. As Nils pointed out early in the season, if everything works out perfectly, it should be fine.
Well, naturally, nothing worked out perfectly. Our handler ghosted, our operations manager left for another opportunity, and two of our four guides quit in the middle of a fully booked winter tour schedule. Properly training an Iditarod race team demands more time than I was able to commit while simultaneously keeping my business running. But nevertheless, we persisted.
My remaining team and I put in a lot of hard work to introduce new products to the Fairbanks winter tourism market (Hello Aurora Camp!) as well as continued to offer overnight and multi-day dog sledding trips at the high standards we have set for ourselves. My online business manager, Katie Broadhurst, helped us level up in so many ways with backend organization & software upgrades. Pato Geron, a very experienced musher, joined the team in January as my kennel manager and was able to help me get miles and camping trips on my dogs in January and February.
At the start of Iditarod, my dogs had a similar amount of miles on them as other years I've competed. I hoped it would be enough. Ultimately, it was not, but I enjoyed my time on the trail and I am SO proud and thankful to my guides Abbey & Ryan for successfully running two trips in my absence! This is a HUGE win.
🌅 Having confidence in my decisions and my dogs.
Dogs are honest, and when mine communicated to me how they were feeling, I listened. Scratching in Unalakleet was an easy decision. My dogs were ready to be done, and they certainly weren’t mentally prepared for the challenges of the coast. My dogs (with the exception of Oscar) were more mentally than physically tired. We had a series of long runs with minimal rest from Ophir to Cripple, as well as on the river.
The dogs were flat coming off their 8 in Kaltag, and I could tell they were over the long runs with little rest, (ie. Iditarod). So, we took a long break at Tripod Flats Cabin, I had a nap and made the decision there to end our race in Unalakleet. The decision felt right.
My goal adjusted from Nome to Unalakleet, and to remind my dogs that mushing doesn't have to be a grind! The trail sweeps were also at Tripod Flats Cabin, so I was able to update them on my schedule (they, in turn, updated the Race Marshall), and we had an absolutely lovely last run of our 2022 Iditarod, with a planned nap in the sun at Old Woman Cabin.
With the full moon glowing behind us, a brilliant red sunset over the ocean guided us into Unalakleet, where several community members, one of my favorite race judges Donna, her impromptu assistant Josh McNeal, as well as several volunteers and vets, were there to welcome us to our finish line.
🐺 Reconnecting with the Iditarod Community.
You guys are crazy! I am still blown away at how many people travel from their home communities to volunteer for Iditarod. It’s not all kissing fuzzy pups and epic photo ops. It’s hard work.
The return dog volunteers in Unalkeet hand-built wind blocks out of chunks of snow they hacked out of plowed up frozen snow berms.
Vets checked over hundreds of dogs at all hours, temperatures and weather events.
Volunteers loaded and unloaded thousands of pounds of pallets of gear.
Cooks came up with creative and delicious meals from canned and dry goods for 40+ volunteers at a time.
Pilots flew long days in their own planes transporting race volunteers and returned dogs.
Parking areas were stomped out, community centers given up, signs were made, and folks generally worked long and unusual hours to provide around the clock support for the mushers.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with the volunteers in Unalakleet after I scratched. Iditarod is a really special event. It’s a celebration of working dogs in Alaska, of grit, perseverance, and adventure. It was fun to unplug from the race while it was still going on, and be reminded it is the support and good will of amazing volunteers whose belief in what the race represents makes an event of this standing even possible.
High five's to all the racers, dogs, volunteers and spectators who support this event! Thank you and we hope to see you again soon!