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JT Posted - 06/21/2007 : 4:22:07 PM
I would just like to say that I am really happy that the Iditarod raised the entry fee this year. I think the timing is great. I think the increased entry fee will really effect the top mushers whose comments the adn etc. profiled. I think this is the right thing to do at the right time to really encourage young ambitious mushers who are aspiring to make their dreams come true. Great work.
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JM Posted - 08/12/2007 : 4:55:34 PM
Originally posted by Eastwinddogyard


I agree that those times we spend around amazing individuals are priceless. I was fortunate enough to run the UNK-Kaltag race with Joe Garnie and learned more about dogs and quite honestly myself in that one trip with Joe than I had learned in countless other experiences.


Did an overnight with Joe, Mary, and the kids in Teller last spring while up on a long snow machine camping trip. Arrived cold and hungry, left warm and well fed. He has a yard full of powerful prime
dogs. If he races this season he should do well. The increasing cost of racing (entry fees, etc.) hurt the subsistance guys most of the point of making it almost impossible for them to compete.
Sad. That some of what's been lost...Joe
Lee Harvey Posted - 08/10/2007 : 2:23:34 PM
Although as I read further, Joe's post from 8/4 is a close second.
Lee Harvey Posted - 08/10/2007 : 2:19:31 PM
Your post was excellent. One of the best I've ever read on this site.
Eastwinddogyard Posted - 08/10/2007 : 12:18:43 PM

Thanks so much for the story about Clarence. Clarence or Juney was, my next door neighbor in Unalakleet for 4 years. We ran dogs with him and his two sons while we lived there. I knew Juney to be a kind and very gentle man with an enormous amount of knowledge but your story has taken me to a new level of appreciation for time that I was able to run dogs with him. I left UNK about a year ago but plan on returning this spring, with any luck the second Tuesday in March, and look forward to visiting with him.

I agree that those times we spend around amazing individuals are priceless. I was fortunate enough to run the UNK-Kaltag race with Joe Garnie and learned more about dogs and quite honestly myself in that one trip with Joe than I had learned in countless other experiences.

Thanks you for helping stop and appreciate those times.
JM Posted - 08/04/2007 : 11:41:57 PM

Quote: {I bet in 1976 all of Joe May’s friends thought that he was nuts to spend “just” $1500 on a sled dog race}
Most of the dog mushers of that era (pre-pipeline) had little disposable income. The race was so new and different it wasn't a very salable product to potential sponsors. Sleds were home made and equipment was basic and unsophisticated. The native drivers had the best dogs but paradoxically the least resources.The teams were mostly trapline, water/firewood haulers, or recreation. The sprint guys openly ridiculed the notion of it even being called a "race". I'd guess $2500 was the median cost. Some had a little more, some had a litttle less. I trapped most of my own dog food and owned the dogs and gear so I was in the "little less" catagory. It was a very different world. The native guys fed mostly fish, I fed beaver, and others fed everything and anything, and we all ate KFC, frozen pizza, or worse. Raine Hall was the total administive department. She worked out of a broom closet sized cubicle at the back of the old Wasilla Museum. A box on the table was receipts in and disbursments out. Shoestring was the rule for both the organization and the mushers. Not only myself.

Here's some 1976 flavor: At Skwentna a musher parked beside me was down in the snow chopping on a frozen pig. When I commented on his "unique dog food" he explained that he was a farmer and his feeding scheme was predicated on two pigs split in halves and shipped to selected checkpoints (via the one plane Iditarod airforce). Half a pig was in his sled to start, half a pig was in McGrath, a half in Ruby, and the last half was in Unalakleet. He figured the idea was so original it would give him a jump in the strategy game. His only problem, he confided, was that he hadn't had time before the the race to shoe his sled. He tipped it up for me to see bare wooden runner bottoms where the plastic should have been. Somewhere up the trail, when he had time he explained, he planned to screw the plastic on...this was in Skwentna. Herbie was parked on the other side. He introduced himself and asked if I had any wolverine fur on the sled that I might sell (he knew me to be a trapper) and declared that in addition to being a musher he was a 24/7 business man...or if I preferred. he had some really nice ivory to trade. The early races were rife with that kind of humour that could only have occured "in the beginning". Those and other memories are especially treasured now when so much of the race seems to speak to expensive technology, sneaky strategies, and drop dead seriousness. I certainly don't suggest going backward but some of the "good stuff" that made the race so much fun for some of us has sadly been lost. We struggled then in an environent in which success and survival demanded a vertical learning curve. About driving dogs long distances we knew next to nothing, and lived the adventure of all that was yet to be learned.

Some years ago a rumour was rampant that the race might be cancelled for lack of a purse. I wrote Stan Hooley and told him a group of us would race to Nome if he could guarantee us a bag of Purina and a dead fish at the finish prove the point that the race, to some, meant more than just money (happily the ITC came up with a purse).
Clarence Towarak (of Unalakleet) ran the 76 race without artificial light...he drove in the dark, found firewood and made his camps in the dark, and finished in twenty days with a healthy team....six day's ahead of the red lantern team in a year when the marked and broken trail ended at Su Station. The remaining thousand miles was a hodge podge of often unbroken, mostly unmarked, and usually bottomless village connecting trails. People today wouldn't even train on trail that awful. Both Clarence and his dogs, that trip, lived exclusively on dried salmon and seal oil. The only concession to management in that outfit was that Clarence had blueberries in his seal oil and the dogs didn't. He wanted to travel in the way of his ancestors...and he did, with style. In my world, no one in the race before or since has demonstrated a comparable level of traditional trail skills. I hardly remember who wins from year to year and with but one exception can't name anyone who's ever finished second..but I'll always remember Clarence.

I had tea with Elizabeth and the Nayokpuk family in Shishmaref this spring surrounded by shelves and shelves of Herbie's trophys and prizes. The conversation never touched on what he won or lost but rather how he lived and how he cared for and about his dogs. The operative word there too was respect

What I'm trying to express here, in my convoluted way, in respionse to some implications in this discussion, is that money shouldn't ever be a measure of or an excuse for a musher's ability or inability to provide good dog care. Pots of money, an army of veterinarians, and bales of straw don't necessarily good dog care make. We both know this Ali, and you said as much, but there might be a rookie lurking here who hasn't made the distinction yet. That indeed, the "great separator" is still attention to detail, dedication, and instinct. I see Swenson not oftener than every couple years and the greeting is usually some variation of, "the fundamentals never change". True then, true now. By choice and chance I've made a successful career of avoiding wealth and prosperity. At any given time in my life I've never owned more than twenty five dogs or two pairs of shoes. I do have the first ever Seppala award on my bookcase however, as the gist of what I speak...Joe


Watcher Posted - 08/03/2007 : 7:12:50 PM
First: The Irod is one of the very few races that I know of that spends more supporting a dog team than it gets in entry fees. Many so-called "professional" races here in the lower 48 are little more than pot races with the top teams splitting very little more than entry fees.
If the Iditarod ever approaches having entry fees cover team support expenses then we might have something to complain about.
The Iditarod is our worldwide showcase for our sport. Mushers "investing" in their sport so that more of the sponsor's money can be used for sharing information, promoting our sport as a humane partnership between dog and man is not such a bad idea. PBR started with several Cowboys anteing up for the good of their sport and the results are history.
The ITC is far from a perfect organization but they are far ahead of anyone else in our sport.
Maybe every criticism should be acompanied with an in-dept alternative. I hear a lot of "they shoulds" and very few" I wills".
Doug R. Posted - 08/01/2007 : 4:42:35 PM
I think that is incorrect to assume that just because someone can't afford the fee increase that they are also providing sub-standard care to their dogs. Yes, many mushers are poor, but it's because they put all of their extra resources into their dog team. I see it the opposite; people are putting so much money into their dog care that the extra expense of a fee increase is tough to make. So, rather than cut dog care $$, they opt out of the race. And I'm sure that some are terrible money managers. That isn't just a musher affliction.
I think that you will find that most small kennels are managed very well. In my case, I had one planned litter and bought one dog this year. This was done to improve the quality of my team. I suppose that I could not have done that and had the extra money to run the LAST GREAT RACE, but I would have been giving it an inferior effort.
Joshua A Kooiman Posted - 08/01/2007 : 4:21:06 PM
So the entry fee was $1850 now it is $3000. If you are serious about running THE LAST GREAT RACE shouldn't you be more serious about how you finance your operation. Why can't you come up w/ the additonal $1150 over 12months? It's less than $100 a month. And if you can't budget that are your really providing your dogs the best care in the off season anyway? I mean if a dog eats a stone, do you have an extra $500 for the operation or is it just tough for the dog you put him down and move on. I think most people would be able to find the money for that dog. I don't understand why it is so tough to come up w/ the money to race if you really want to race THE LAST GREAT RACE. Maybe you can't race it every year, so you have to wait an extra year well now you can save up the difference for the entry fee over 24 months, less than $50 a month you have to save and then you can afford the entry fee.
It just seems to me mushers as a group are poor or just terrible money managers. Maybe if you didn't try to raise the 5 or 10 litters of pups every year and didn't buy 2 or more dogs every year you would have some money left to save for racing. Other wise what the heck is all this work for anyways? I know there are rec racers out there. Rec racers wont generally have 30 plus dogs either though. so i asume they can afford whatever number of dogs they have just for fun, other wise what the heck are they doing?
Why should there be another long distance race? Not too many race both of the two there are anyways. Where are you going to fit that into our few months of winter?
Robert Sorlie mortgaged his house to race the Iditarod. He found a way to make it happen. If you are really serious about doing this race you will find a way. Complaining about another $1150 in the grand scheme of things is a pretty pitifull excuse to not fulfill a life long dream.
Ken Anderson Posted - 08/01/2007 : 2:27:56 PM

I liked your comments and share some of your concerns (although a full bale of straw and a well-marked trail sure are nice). I too think about the future of the race and what it will be like ten, twenty years down the road. It seems like we're hitting the bottom of a bell curve in the purse, and as much as I'd like to think a raised purse won't change musher's outlook, and that we have adequate safeguards in place to protect the dogs (vet checks, etc.), big money changes things. Look at what it's done to the Tour De France. At the IOFC meeting the topic of drug testing came up and I was really proud to hear Stu Nelson tell us that over the many years he's been head vet there has never been a positive drug test. I'm sure horse racing or greyhound racing can't say that. Although, I think dog mushing is realistically a long ways (financially) away from these other sports. Ken
Doug R. Posted - 08/01/2007 : 2:05:30 PM
First, let me make it clear that I do not think that the ITC is a "bad guy". Nor do I think that it's "poor little mushers" versus "them". I believe that the ITC has every good intention and that they are doing what they think is best for their organization and the race. I just simply disagree with their decision to raise the entry fee. That's all. Every decision ever made has a reason and/or a motive. And I'm simply stating my reasons why I think it's the wrong decision. I do like how things are being run and discussing this and exchanging ideas with others is part of how I get involved. Keep in mind, that if I can afford to run the Iditarod with an $1850 entry fee but cannot with a $3000 or $5000 entry fee, then my contention is correct. Mushers are being and will continue to be priced out of the race. How many good mushers were priced out at $1850? Every decision that is made no matter where it is made or who makes it has its' critics. I am one of the critics of this decision. That's all. That doesn't make it an us versus them scenario.
The ITC is a business and has to be run like a business. When you raise the price of one of your products some of your customers go away. Simple. And that is bad for business.
Woofy Posted - 08/01/2007 : 1:56:05 PM
rhum, what you say about people pushing dogs too far, whether in the front, middle, or back of a race is probably best prevented through better education, some restrictions, etc. Because even if the racers got a lot less money than they do now, there will still be people who want to push just a little harder for the extra cash...or because they aren't noticing what their dogs are telling them for a mulititude of reasons (low experience+not enough food+lack of sleep definately hinders folks' judgement), or even just because, hey, if I go a little faster, I will place a little higher, and maybe I'll finally get that dog food sponsor I've been looking for, or whatever their reasons may be. There'll always be people who run their dogs too hard. I don't think money (whether the promise of more, or the lack of it) is the only cause. I liked what Lance Mackey said at the Reno, Nevada ISDRA Dog Powered Sports Conference. He said that it is his belief that all mushers that want to race should be a good standing member of an organization (such as Mush with PRIDE, I think) that regulates and educates people about the proper care and safety of keeping, raising, and racing sled dogs. That's my two cents, for what it's worth.
rhum Posted - 08/01/2007 : 12:06:14 PM
I think if you have to equate dog care to dollars... i.e "skimping" on money means lower dog care... then probably the real reason for running in the first place is missing.

And also the idea that having half the straw or markers would be the end of the world for dog care seems silly... why would that lower dog care... isn't the idea that mushers care for their dogs regardless of what environmental conditions are faced. Less straw or markers doesn't mean less dog care... in means more responsibility for the musher... that's all.

So.. ya, if not as much money were spent to put on the race, the tone of the event might change, but responsible mushers- rich or poor- fat or "skimpy"- would still provide quality dog care because that is what mushers do for their dogs... pretty simple.

But it would be foolish to ignore the role money plays in our society. And with ITC raising fees, dreaming of ever bigger purses, what pressures are really being placed on mushers.

Is it to provide better dog care?
or is it to say-
"Wow! I have spent all this money, I could win all this extra money if I just push a little harder. All I have to do is run just a little more than rest!"... oh wait, who is actually running? Oh ya... the dogs... well money sure helped dog care in that case!

Come on we all know this happens... you can see it on the trail all the way into the back of the pack!

And after all that happened with Ramey Brooks last year... who is really just an extreme case, not a rare case, of all the many choices mushers make for their own needs and not their dogs needs on the trail. We need to face up to how we are structuring our sport and who is profiting from it and why... surely money isn't motivating our dog care. Surely we don't need a million dollar purse to provide quality dog care? Surely the size of the purse isn't the motivator for top mushers to race to the best of the skills?

As Jeff King said, Iditarod is entertainment, dead dogs aren't fun. So following a year with a well know dead dog from a team that surely everyone would agree wanted/needed a "bit" more rest (or do we all start races with teams that sit down on us when they are feeling good and happy?)... increasing the financial reason to push just a little harder for top teams (prize money) to tail end teams (expenses) makes little sense... where is the fun in that? What sponsor would like to be branded with that?

Where is the recognition that dog care isn't what it should be, that mushers are pushing dogs not because the dogs want it, but because the mushers want it.

If we don't want to have "outsiders" passing judgment on us, if we want to be proud of what we do- we'd better address this! The ITC seems to have ignored it, hoped it will do away, and actually taken steps that will increase the problem!
intensekarin Posted - 08/01/2007 : 11:53:47 AM
This sort of sounds like 'poor little mushers' against the 'big bad ITC'. Just who do we think ITC is, anyway?

Burmeister, Swenson, Maxwell, Moderow, Seavey, Owens - these guys are all mushers and have all run the Iditarod. I'm not saying I always agree with every decision that is made. I'm not saying that every decision that is made goes in favor of the mushers (obviously not). I just think it is sort of silly to start pointing fingers and talking about ulterior motives.

The board members and staff at ITC are not 'them' - they are people (many of them mushers) who really do care about this race and how to make sure it continues. They have to balance a lot of different issues and try to figure out how to keep this race going. This is a really thankless job and they are bound to piss off someone, no matter what they do.

If you don't like how things are being run, there are always opportunities to get involved... Me, I gotta go train dogs.
swanny Posted - 08/01/2007 : 11:24:13 AM
Let's not forget the Quest as a leg in a "triple-crown". Everyone I know who has run both the Quest and the I'rod tells me the Quest is a more challenging race.

I think a third true long distance (1,000 miles or greater) race would be good for the sport overall. Is there anywhere in the Lower-48 where organizers could lay out 1,000 or more miles of uninterrupted trail?

Maybe on the Canadian side it might be possible to lay out a race following the old North West Company / Hudson's Bay Company winter express from Fort Chipewyan to Fort William? (1629 miles by road according to Rand McNally).
Cliff Maxfield Posted - 08/01/2007 : 06:19:34 AM
Doug- I believe your right about a least one thing.
- "More and more mushers will be watching it from the sidelines" -BUT their field of eighty teams will still be filled to the MAX with many waiting. This is because there are simply a lot of good teams itching to give it a shot and why I maintain the real solution would be at least two more races of Iditarod calibre. We need a triple crown in the sleddog world where the top twenty teams and then sixty new teams from each region would compete. Entry would be based according to where you live and how you place with trades offs from year to years.
It would be one way to reduce costs without comprimising the quality of the race.
IMHO we do way to much complaining but fall short with solutions. ITC will do what they need to do. It is for us to go promote our kennels, sport, and get many sponsors. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.

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