No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Friday, June 10, 2011

Iconic Photo: Photo 12

Susan Butcher with sled dog Granite

You have to be very selfless in your dedication to your dogs. When you come into a checkpoint, although there may be a wood stove to warm your feet by, you stay outside; you take care of your dogs, get them bedded down and fed. It may take three hours. Then you can go and have your 15 minutes inside, and then it's time to go and check your dogs, massage them down and get ready to go again. I might get a catnap.

The first person ever to win three consecutive Iditarod races, the first to win four Iditarod Sled Dog races within five sequential Iditarod runs, and the first person to take a sled dog team to the top of Denali, the tallest peak on North America, Susan Butcher is one of the greatest athletes of the last century.

Butcher was born in Boston, Massachusetts with a fascination for the wilderness. She traveled to Alaska at the age of 20 and stayed for the rest of her life. After her arrival she quickly discovered dog mushing and began dedicating her winters to training dogs, working odd jobs in the summer to fund her winter sport. Her and her team would train 8 to 9 hour days outside of the racing season. When asked about the reality of riding the dog sled she explained that there are short periods when the musher can have a relaxing ride but in reality most of those 8 or 9 hours the musher is either pumping one leg to help the sled along or running along with it. In addition dog mushing includes steering 150 to 200 pound sled only with the weight of your own body and the momentum from the running dogs.

Incredibly, Butcher's first Iditarod was in 1978 and by 1980 she was consistently finishing with the top 5. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is an 1152 mile run from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska including climbs over mountain passes more than 1000 feet in elevation change, temperatures reaching 70 below zero, and winds around 100 miles per hour. At a time when men dominated the race, Butcher became one of the most beloved and dedicated athletes to compete.

To read more about Susan Butcher check out her wikipedia page.
More on the Iditarod can be found here.

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