As I write this, 78 days remain until the next Iditarod. That’s the 1,049-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
The 2017 contenders already have their photos on http://iditarod.com/race/2017/mushers/. I scan the women’s pictures and note that most have plenty of wrinkles. No photographer is going to photoshop away those hard-won lines.
Amidst these photos is a woman wearing pink. She’s DeeDee Jonrowe. My kind of gal.
Jonrowe has been in 34 Iditarods. She’s never placed first, but so what? She’s fought incredible battles simply be in the race.
In the fall of 1996, she was in a car accident that killed her grandmother. Despite her own life-threatening injuries, that spring she crossed the Iditarod finish line in fourth place.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2002. After surgery, she had her last chemotherapy in January 2003, just weeks before the next Iditarod. She arrived in Nome in eighteenth place, and her fellow competitors voted her the Most Inspirational Musher Award.
In June of 2015, fire wiped out her home of 30 years, and burned supplies, vehicles, and mushing equipment. Jonrowe’s mission during the fire? To save everything “with a heartbeat.” She saved all 52 of her sled dogs except one, that was 15 years old, deaf, and couldn’t hear her calling.
Jonrowe told February 14, 2016 Alaska Dispatch News:
“I’ve cried a lot. I’ve cried really a lot. And people say, ‘Why do you even try to run the Iditarod?’ Like when the handlers quit. So they quit, so they just made it that much harder. Well, I know hard. I can do hard. It hurt me, but it made me that much more determined.”
She knows hard and she didn’t quit. She went ahead and raced in the 2016 Iditarod.
She’ll be racing in the 2017 Iditarod. I’ll be cheering for her.
Photo by Frank Kovalchek from USA