Many thanks to all of you that have taken the time to write and express your relief that I wasn't out on the Quest trail attempting to cross Eagle Summit on Sunday night.
(But, I will say, watching my husband struggle around on crutches and battle to manage his pain - and knowing the long road to complete recovery he has ahead of him - I would have much rather spent a night on a mountain in a blizzard.)
I think this is a good reminder for all about what the sport of long distance racing is all about. Too many equate the sport with only the start and restart images of smiling mushers moving swiftly down the street, waving for the fans and cameras. Many get lured into the sport by those images and then find the reality of distance racing to be something totally different.
The reality is long, cold nights with very few, if any other folks around, as you and your team battle against Mother Nature.
It is tough and it is dangerous. You have not only yourself to think of - but 10 - 16 other lives. You rely on each other to get through it all, but in the end, it is you that must put the dog's care and well being above even your own.
That is why so many of us get concerned when we see 'folks' coming up through the ranks of qualifying races that seem to not grasp this reality. They are stuck on the starts and finishes, when it is the 'guts' of it all that should be what they are focusing on.
Prior to my first Iditarod, I spent time learning CPR (canine and human) and wilderness first aid, I spent hundreds of hours in the bush and thousands of hours behind a dog team. What I was working on was the knowledge and skills that would get my dog team and I, not down the streets of Anchorage, but over the top of a summit in a blizzard. If things go wrong in Anchorage, there are hundreds of people there to help you out - if things go wrong in that blizzard - probably it is just you.
All these smaller races over the years throw little challenges at me that allow me to further hone those skills. I'm not saying I'm a Master of the Wilderness - but I'm strong, capable, and level headed out on the trail.
Certainly, there are those storms out there that are above each of our skill level - I'm not foolish enough to think that I can outwit Mother Nature at every turn - but, the mushers I most respect are the ones that knew their and their dogs abilities and choose to go out and test them - Libby Riddles, Rick Swenson, and Martin Buser to name a few.
I admire each of the mushers that headed out towards Eagle Summit in that storm on Sunday night. They knew it wasn't going to be fun and no TV cameras would be standing on the backside of the summit ready to record their moments of victory, but yet, they went forward. They were willing to test themselves.
The storm they met turned out to be beyond any of their abilities, but it is a testament to their skills and good judgment that all mushers and dogs emerged from it yesterday in good condition.
As for me - well, I am a dyed in the wool dog musher - I can't help but wonder if that storm was beyond my skill level or not. I guess we will never know now.