Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960

 

By Jason Wicklund
Contributing Writer 

Snohomish County woman competes in Iditarod

 

On Sunday, March 2, the 42nd Iditarod Dog Sled Race got underway in Wasilla, Alaska. "The Last Great Race on Earth" commemorates a serum run made by a group of dog mushers to Nome in order to prevent a catastrophic outbreak of diphtheria in 1927.

This year's Iditarod is significant for Snohomish County native, musher Jan Steves, who was striving to make her third trip across the 1,049 frozen miles of Alaska Terrain.

Steves is one of 17 women this year amidst a sport whose participants historically have been male. Albeit that Steves admits she doesn't have the upper body strength of her male counterparts she makes up for it with hand grip and leg strength.

As a returning Iditarod musher Steves also gives credit to her experience as an advantage on the trail.

Her course tenure will allow her to be more strategic with how long she runs the dogs, takes breaks or otherwise attacks "the gorge, the burn, and the steps" this year.

Over the last three years 24 percent of the mushers in the Iditarod have been women. Women such as DeeDee Jonrowe, Aliy Zirkle and Susan Butcher are synonymous with the sport and as fierce competitors.

During my interactions with Steves I've learned that it takes a selfless person to run this race. That a musher must have the patience to deal with discouraging challenges and ignore their own discomforts while ensuring the essential needs of their sled dogs.

To risk frostbite, snow blindness or broken bones in temperatures that can reach 50F below requires Steves to be prepared both physically and mentally. When wrought with danger Steves likes to say to herself, "How you going to get out of this one Jan?"

Steves is nothing short of enthusiastic and passionate about this sport and her dogs. The costs of raising, training, and participating in the race far exceed any financial rewards. Her passion and energy are so magnetic that you can't resist asking yourself, "Am I living my dream?"

Now that Steves is becoming an "ol' pro" at the Iditarod she has ambitiously undertook another passion of hers; providing inspirational talks to schools in the lower 48. She is currently developing a non-profit called, "Mushing for Literacy."

The trail conditions were horrid this year and too dangerous for the dogs. The warm weather left a lot of areas without snow which meant the dogs and the sleds had to avoid logs, tree trunks and otherwise maneuver on the dirt/brush.

Unfortunately Steves wasn't able to finish because she chose to put her dogs first and decidedly withdrew after a few days on the trail in order to prevent injury. To date about 25 percent of the mushers have "scratched." 

When she finished the race last she completed in 14 days, 11 hours, 57 minutes and 11 seconds.

To learn more about Jan Steves and her adventures please visit http://www.jansteves.com.

 

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