The decision to run the 1000-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race is not one I take lightly. When I started running dogs in 2011, it was with the understanding that I would get one shot at the Last Great Race – period! It was very difficult juggling training and racing in Alaska with living, working, and a family in California. And not completing the 2013 race, due to a broken pelvis, was heart breaking. My husband, Larry, saw how hard I had worked and how much it meant to me. As a result, my two subsequent runs, 2014 and 2015, were gifts from him.

Aside from the time and travel, there is the tremendous cost, not only of running the race itself, but the costs associated with the months of training, preparation, and other expenses. It is quite stunning.

The next factor to consider is me, the weakest link in the team. I would be 58 years old when I run the 2017 Iditarod. While I am in good physical shape, I am no spring chicken. Also, I must always be mindful of my disease issues, which can be life-threatening. I do not have a death wish and I am very responsible about monitoring my health.

Now consider the race itself. Last year I did not run, and as I stood on Willow Lake watching the 2016 Iditarod mushers go by, it looked so easy, so glamorous, but I can tell you there is nothing easy or glamorous about it. I cannot even begin to explain how difficult it is to run a team across 1000 miles of Alaskan wilderness; the weather, the physical work, the lack of sleep, and the hundreds of other things that must be manage, both the expected and the unexpected.

A labor of love: We have sold our California home and are building a new home in Willow near Dream a Dream Dog Farm so I can be close to the dogs year round. I will never have my own kennel but I think of Vern and Susan’s kennel as my own, and love each and every dog as my own. As in the past, training and racing this coming season will be tricky as I have to get the house completed and livable while working at the kennel and with the dogs. I will have to fly back and forth to California to get our household belonging, my cats, and my husband up to Alaska and settled in so I can be gone training and racing.

What a transformation: To go from having only one chance to complete the Iditarod to moving to Alaska and getting a 4th chance! It has not been an easy road, and this is not something we do without a great deal of thought and soul searching. I love the sport, I love the dogs, I love Alaska and being out there with the team, and I also love my husband. He is 1000% supportive of what we are doing, he also loves the dogs and Alaska.

The unspoken heroes: I believe most people do not understand how much the significant others of long distance mushers sacrifice. For me, my husband, Larry, is a true hero, and I am so glad that we are traveling down the road of life together. Life is a gift and we are living it.