You know, you don’t just lie down because you accomplish something. You don’t lie down because you’re tired. You keep going. If you want to be successful, you keep going.
Here I am at the mushers meeting for the second race, the Willow 300, February 3; and here are my dogs—we’re getting ready to go. I’m getting my sled packed and ready. The dogs are excited. This is their destiny. They love to run. They love to perform. This is the most exciting thing for these Huskies that they can do in their life. Their passion to run is like your passion to be here at convention, and to take that away from them would be totally wrong.
Here the other mushers are lined up at the starting line at Willow as we’re getting ready to take off. This is also the starting point for the 1,050-mile Iditarod run.
Now I’m back in the wilderness again with my dogs. Standing on those runners; going along at about 8 to 10 miles an hour at 10-20°F below, with the wind blowing on those open areas, across those frozen lakes and tundra, gave me a lot of time to think.
This is coming in—the joy of accomplishment. You’ve all felt this joy, true or false? Yes! Three days and nights out on the trail, when we had temperatures down to 10-14°F below zero. It was chilly. And then there was the wind chill factor that went along with that.
There’s Josef running alongside me. Sharing your success with others is immensely rewarding. There’s Josef, Jacob, and Mary in line; so you see the preferential rewards. And yes, it was a joy. Mitch’s wife Janine was also there to greet me. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.
Then here’s the payday. We went to the banquet that night, and I got a check for $250 for finishing that race. Wow! Man, that was such an exhilarating feeling. There’s Mitch Seavey on the right, our three-time Iditarod champion, and the man who coached me and inspired me to give this a go. It was a wonderful time!
Patrick came in last so he got the red lantern. But I told Jared, “Jared, I’ve got a new career. I make money doing this!” So, yes, it was fun. I was so stoked. The boys wanted to go play the next day, so we went to the ski resort and went skiing.
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!