In just about 12 hours, nine of my best friends - the Diamond Dogs - and I will pack up and depart for the Upper Peninsula for one last hurray. And what a hurray it will be: the Midnight Run sled dog race, a 90-mile wintry trek from Marquette to Munising, Michigan. This will be my first checkpoint race. I have been building toward this for the last six years.
I am excited and nervous as I corral all of my gear in the corner of my kitchen and make the checklist. Booties: check. Axe: check. Headlamp: check. The list is long and involved and would bore any non-musher.
My slightly ADD mind wanders and I think "I'm probably the only woman in northeast Ohio with an axe in her kitchen..."
No. Must focus.
My point is, there's so much that goes into this, and this - a 90 mile race - is nothing compared to 200-mile, 300-mile or longer races.
But this is a start. This is my start. Kinda.
My start was long ago, when I first set foot on the grounds of Jackson Hole Iditarod and met those crazy mutts for the first time. They had the same effect on me then as they do now: they ground me, and make it all better.
It started with the purchase of my first sled dogs, Foxie and Mandy.
It started the first time I took a silent ride through a beautiful forest of white on the runners, the dogs' breath like tiny clouds of vapor chugging out of a small locomotive, chugga-chugga-chugga, as their collars move in a rhythmic jingle.
It started with my very first race, the Tahquamenon 28 mile six dog race.
It's started, and my appetite and love for this sport only grows deeper.
I think it's safe to say, I'm hooked.
My friend and fellow musher/writer, Michelle Hogan and I were talking just the other day about what it is that makes us love this so. It's kinda ...um, an odd thing for a 30-something mother to fall in love with.
"Do you ever go out on a run and wonder what a strange fricking thing it is to run dogs?" Michelle asks me. "I mean - how did I get so addicted to such a thing? It's rather odd. Not like a normal mom/40 year old thing to do."
Indeed. And really, sometimes it's rather surreal. We put hundreds of miles on a bunch of dogs over a few months, spend oodles of money and time devoting ourselves to this, only to drive said dogs to a place likely hours away just to put them on the ground and see whose dogs can run the fastest.
Kinda weird, init?
I’m doomed to love you, I’ve been rolling through stormy weather
I’m thinking of you and all the places we could roam together -- Bob Dylan "Can't Wait"
Nonetheless, here we go!
I will try to post updates as much as possible. Until then, as always...