All good things

Before I say anything else, I feel I should point out that I haven’t had much sleep in the past 24 hours; last night I stayed up until 5:15 a.m. to watch the live finish of the Iditarod and I had to be at work by 8:30 a.m. so today was one of those surreal hazy days when you’re just a little bit slow and never quite certain what’s going on.

I’m sort of grateful for the exhaustion though, because I suspect that it’s keeping other feelings at bay. Feelings like depression that the race is now over and the athletes I have been living vicariously through for the past couple of weeks will now sink contentedly into anonymity (to the lower 48, anyway, as I suspect they’re heroes year-round in Alaska). Then there’s my discontent over the way it all played out at the end. Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King in the lead and me muttering to myself that he doesn’t need another win, so why not just let Aliy Zirkle finally have one? A lot of people seemed to feel that way, apparently, judging by the Iditarod Trail Committee Facebook page. Then, just before the final checkpoint in Safety, when Jeff all but had the race in the bag, a giant storm bowls his team over like so many insignificant little bowling pins, leaving him unable to move forward. Aliy managed though. She made it to Safety first, to much madness and joy on 1 a.m. Internet comment boards.

“This is the year! This is finally her year!” We all crowed, thrilled that the know-it-alls who had essentially declared King’s victory were wrong.

But it was too windy in Safety and Aliy decided to try to wait it out rather than push forward in what she called “life and death mushing” conditions. That’s when Dallas Seavey crept up, made up mile after mile, passing her by in Safety. She chased him all the way into Nome, finishing just a minute or so after his own team ran down the chute with Dallas Seavey completely oblivious to the fact that he had won. His second Iditarod win. Aliy finished second behind him two years earlier. And she finished second behind his dad Mitch Seavey last year. This is her third year coming in second, and though she smiled for her many fans who chanted quite ferociously–much more loudly than they had for Dallas–well, it was hard to watch. It was hard to watch Quito, who had worked as hard for a Golden Harness Award as any other dog–having run and won the Yukon Quest just a month ago, and fought heroically through a windstorm that so many other dogs sat through, unwilling to move forward. In fact, at one point a little earlier on the trail, frustrated by tailing after King, Quito snapped her lead an went tearing after him, determined to catch him. Aliy had to haul her back.

So I’m sad for Aliy and I’m sad for Quito. And I guess I’m a little sad for myself because I’m still sitting here in California fantasizing about snow and sleds and dogs all of which are, if not impossible, certainly an unlikely vision for me. While I was waiting for the finish last night, willing Aliy and Quito forward, I made a list of all the reasons I will probably never run an Iditarod, or even have my own dog mushing team.

1. Money. It would cost a lot to move to Alaska, and though I might be able to finance the move, I certainly could not afford my own dog team. And once I was there, I would need to find a job. If jobs are half as scarce as they are in California, that might be a problem.

2. Survival skills. Essentially, I have none. I don’t know how to survive in the cold and snow, how to make my own campfire, what to do if a windstorm kicks up in the middle of nowhere, how to respond to a charging moose. I’ve never even driven in snow, and don’t have the faintest idea how to care for a car in such conditions. Nothing in my background indicates I’m qualified for the hardships and challenges of dog mushing.

3. Age. I’m 30 now, which hardly qualifies as retirement age, but Dallas Seavey who just won his second Iditarod is 27 years old. He’s been mushing since he was a child. I don’t even know how to light a campfire in the snow. And these are skills that take time and patience to acquire. I can’t move to Alaska and charge out into the wilderness expecting to find a team waiting for me.

4. Comfort. I was born and raised in a mild climate. My feet get cold when it dips below 50. I’ve been working at the paper for more than eight years now, and I know everyone in town and like where I live. I’m comfortable where I am, which is a reason against going but also something of a reason to go. I’m not yet ready to settle for comfortable.

This list might look short, but when you really pause to consider it, it’s kind of everything. Nothing about my present circumstances suggests that moving to Alaska and attempting to take up dog mushing is a wise decision.

Taking a look at the day I had–excluding the exhaustion and just how raw and difficult the end of the race felt for me–it was actually pretty entertaining. Colin began a sort of playful Post-it war in the kitchen of the office, with just about everyone making contributions; I art directed a nerds vs jocks food fight photo shoot at a restaurant in SLO called Stolly’s on the Ally; there’s a bird knocking at the window nearest my front door; I’ve made only a little headway on If on a winter’s night a traveler; there’s a cat insistently curled on my lap. This is a very good life. I guess I’m just beginning to wonder whether it’s my best shot at being stupendously, stupidly happy. And challenged.

To counterbalance my self-indulgent gloom, here are some photos from today:

1948110_758821844129195_1785981869_nThis is how it started.


While I doubt it’s completely over, this is where it stands.


And this is a behind-the-scenes sneak peek from today’s jocks vs nerds photo shoot.


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