Iditarod 2010- Alaska Girls Kick Ass!

     The Iditarod truly is amazing. To line up on fourth avenue in Anchorage for the symbolic start, to watch the stoic mushers and eager dogs head out into the midwinter Alaska dark and cold…everyone should experience it once. Eleven hundred miles through unforgiving weather and terrain featured in movies and stories like Krakauer’s “Into the Wild“, or even London’s “Call of the Wild.” This is geography that is…well…wild. It kills.  Sometimes  a dog that dies. Even though every single observer will tell you that the dogs live to run, this has cost the sport in the lower forty-eight, both in viewers and sponsorships. So much so that one four-time winner, Jeff King, put up fifty-thousand of his own money as part of the purse. How many other sports do you see such selflessness just for love of the competition?

     But it’s far ahead of any other world sporting event in one other significant, dramatic aspect: It’s the only major race that has always featured men and women in the same race, mano a mano, may the best sex win. And women often do. There are the pioneers like Libby Riddles, and the triumph and tragedy of multiple winner Susan Butcher. This year though features someone, a woman, who just might get the race the attention it deserves.

     Her name? Zoya DeNure…a former international runway model from Wisconsin who saw a sled dog demonstration, fell in love, and settled in the small town of Paxson, Alaska to follow a dream. Like most mushers, Zoya raises her own dogs with her husband, John Schandelmeier. Currently she is in the top three going into Willow. Would it be fair for the beautiful thirty-three year old to get attention for the race because of her looks? Probably not…but if she can stay in the top three, Make it a race to Nome, possibly win by pure grit, maybe some of the big sponsors will reappear or hitch up for the first time.

     It’s ironic: television shows “Outside” always feature Alaskan bachelors as quirky, ideal mates. Maybe with a Zoya win, the rest of the lower forty-eight will discover a huge secret, let out only sometimes, but which you’ll often see on bumper stickers and t-shirts from Juneau to Fairbanks…Alaska Girls Kick Ass!