Saturday, March 5, 2011

March Means Iditarod, Basketball and Girl Scout Cookies~

Today is the first Saturday of March.  On Fourth Street in Anchorage Iditarod mushers and their teams are starting their trips to Nome.  They have already made their food drops along the trail, talked kindly to the weather gods and packed their bags for that 1000+ mile trek.  By this time next week we will have flights full of people coming to Nome.  Most of the media will leave as soon as they can after the first few teams come in, but while everyone is waiting Nome's population will swell by hundreds of people.

The first Iditarod finish I saw was in 1985.  It was our first winter in Alaska so every day gave us a new "First"!  Libby Riddles was the winner that year, the first woman ever to win!!  She has written a book about her experience, and countless others have written about her incredible feat.

When other teams turned around and returned to the past checkpoint, Libby and her dogs continued forward.  After they spent a frigid night alone curled up in the sled on the ice in a life-threatening storm, they had a huge lead that no other team could close.  To her dogs' advantage they were headed to home territory and were familiar with the coastal weather.

Her whole team looked so small, when they crossed under the arches, including her leaders Dugan and Axel.  I was so amazed those little dogs could have accomplished what they did.  I thought surely they would be big, burly beasts with huge shoulders!  And they looked so happy and energetic when they were done.

Libby Riddles almost to the Finish Arches on Front Street, Nome, Alaska
In '85 the Finisher's Banquet was held in the National Guard Armory.  It was packed with rows and rows of tables about 8" apart--or that is how it seemed to my eight months pregnant body!  (In later years they moved the banquet to the Rec Center after complaints from the Fire Marshall so it was really packed!)              

When I first saw Libby without her signature beaver-skinned hat covering her long blonde hair and her fair-skin showing, I thought how much her and her dogs had in common.  She looked so delicate and small at the banquet in her crisp, white blouse.  Like her dogs, the size was a contradiction to her strength!

Since then we have seen many finishes, each one is an incredible story of its own....

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