Going downhill is not always easy, because you don’t want to run over the person in front of you, and you don’t want the one behind you to run over you; so you’ve got to keep your distance.
Here I am coming into the third check station. What a glorious experience and feeling it was. When I was in the second check station, I found out that four other mushers had quit because of the conditions and how harsh and hard it was. And they were seasoned mushers.
Sometimes, a very knowledgeable person might come along and say, “You’re crazy. I’ve done this. I’ve been down this trail before, and it isn’t a good place to go. I’ve had a business in a multilevel company, and I would never do it again.”
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to listen to those things; but never, never, never listen to them! Those people are dream stealers. That’s exactly why I made your oil blend Dream Catcher—to remind us to hold tight to our dreams. You want to be grabbing dreams instead of letting somebody steal your dreams, right?
Here again is my third accomplishment. Wow, I felt like I could conquer the world. You can’t imagine what that feeling did to this old heart that was all busted up. The best part, that I didn’t expect, and the reason I had my hands in the air, cheering, is because my two sons and my sweetheart were waiting at that check station for me. Yes. When my sweetheart knew that I was committed to do this, she didn’t push back anymore. She said, “Honey, if this is what you want to do, then let’s do it”; and she jumped in and gave me the support. It was such a wonderful feeling!
So now it’s back on the trail again. And folks, running through the night had a whole different feeling to it. What I could see, all that I could see, was what was in that headlight; and it was nice if it reached the front dogs.
As we were going along, I learned a little secret: when the dogs would come to a hill and the ears of the first dog would disappear just like that, I called that a one-ear hill. When two dogs’ ears were showing before they disappeared, that was a two-ear hill. If three dogs’ ears were showing before they disappeared, that was a three-ear hill. I learned very quickly that when I came to a one-ear hill, I got on that brake and hung on for life!
You might as well just close your eyes because it isn’t going to matter. You’re going to either wind up upside down, wrapped around a tree, or crashed at the bottom of the hill. When those dogs went over that hill, they’d look back at me, stick their tongues out, and laugh: “Hang on, dude, we’re going for a ride!” And we sure did!
This is pulling into the next check station. Did I get tired? Oh, yes! And when you’re building a business, there may be times that you’ll get tired too, and you’ll want to rest. No, I had not slept well; why do you ask?
Well, the next morning, I was getting my dogs up, getting ready to go. And just as quickly as I got to my sled and got the things out to give my dogs their breakfast and get them off the stake line into the gang line, a storm moved in and it started to snow. Before I could get everything ready and get my gear on to run, we had four inches of snow on the ground. And it was chilly. A lot of reasons to quit.
I arrived at Freddy’s check station, 52 miles into the race, on Saturday afternoon, January 28. It was amazing! As I pulled into the check station, the officials who were there to check my time and my dogs and make sure that I made it okay were making a big fuss about my arriving there. And I thought, “Well, this is really strange. But boy, what wonderful people. How cool is it that they’re so excited about my coming in second-to-last!” I didn’t know that some of them had been placing bets that I wouldn’t make it!
So, now it was time to put the dogs down, feed them, get ready for the night, and enjoy the three or four hours of downtime I had or however long it might be. It takes about an hour and a half to get the dogs down, get their booties off, get them on the stake line, cook the food for them, get them fed; and then I had maybe two hours left.
I had to keep in mind that I had to get up and re-harness, re-bootie, get them off the stake line, get them hitched to the sled, and get ready to go; and that was going take 45 minutes to an hour. So how much downtime did I have? Oh, I had an hour. Well, this was exciting; I had an hour to sleep.
So, I grabbed my bedroll and went over to the check station to find out if there was a place for me to sleep. I walked into the building and there was a great big, huge generator running. No sleep!
Now comes the time. I’m out here on my own, all alone, going through the Alaska wilderness. I don’t know where I am; I don’t know how far I’ve gone. But I’ve been mushing for hours and hours and hours. I look down at my GPS; and I scrub the frost off it, so I can see—and it says 5.9. I thought, “Holy criminy, I’ve gone only 5.9 miles? I’ve been out here all day.” And I had only 50 miles to go. So I’m going and going and going for another hour or so. I brush off the frost and look at my GPS: 6.1. I’m never going to get to that check station. I started feeling so down, so deflated, that I had been out there for hours.
I didn’t have a watch on. I wasn’t paying attention to the time. I just saw the sun move around and head down. I’m still out in the middle of Alaska, nowhere, and I’ve gone only 6.1 miles! I was thinking, “This is impossible. I can’t do this. No one told me it was going to be this difficult.” I had to get off the sled and run with the dogs up the hill, because it was a little too much for this young team of pups. They were 2-year-olds, and it was perhaps their first race.
I started up over this hill, and as I came over the hill, the sun was just going down; and at this moment, I saw a man standing there with a camera. It was John Whetten! I thought, “There’s only one way John could be here. The check station has got to be around the corner.” Oh, my goodness, I felt so excited! I was just on a high. I came around the corner into the check station.
And folks, here’s another secret for you. Achieving your first goal, if it’s a Star, Executive, Silver, or whatever it is, when you achieve that goal, it gives you a certain amount of excitement inside. It charges your adrenaline. Success is giving you that shot of excitement for the next goal. And here’s the key: Always make your next goal bigger than the one you just accomplished. Please do that.
Once you start, just keep looking forward. On January 28, 11:40 a.m., I was out of the chute. The people didn’t even know me, and they were cheering and clapping and yelling. It was an exhilarating feeling. And those dogs, well—they knew they had a greenhorn on the back of that sled, and they were heck-bent for election to get rid of me before they got a mile down the trail.
It’s intimidating to start something new, not knowing what to expect. How many of you members have felt that? Of course! Who cares? If you want something bad enough, you go for it. You don’t worry about anything else. You don’t worry about how it’s intimidating to you. You just grab onto those bars, stay clenched into your purpose, and just go for it!
I went through this chute, as I call it, and around an S turn. There was a road we had to go up and over, and it was frozen. I was on the brake trying to slow down the dogs. They were so pumped up, they were so excited, they had this greenhorn on the back, and they knew they were going to get rid of him.
So they were bookin’ it. I saw down the road where there was a berm [a narrow ledge or shoulder]. I saw it coming fast and was trying to get on that brake and slow down the sled. When the dogs hit that berm, it felt like we were going 100 miles an hour. And the sled with Gary went airborne for 30 feet! Oh, wow, you think that old heart got a workout that time? You’d better believe it!