Saturday, March 22, 2008


We all have heroes, some of us have many, some only a few. Some are part of our everyday lives, relatives, if we are lucky, neighbors, teachers, people with whom we have had real life contact. Some of our heroes are examples we probably will never meet. But all of them become our heroes because they inspire us to be better than we might otherwise be, to do more, to push a little bit harder, to overcome the things in life that we perceive as hurdles, to be better people. I have, in the past, mentioned some of my great inspirations, starting with my grandmother who raised me. But today I want to honor a couple of women I have never met, will never meet, but they inspire me to get up off my lazy butt and keep pushing, even when it means pushing the walker to get from point A to point B.
As some of you know, the only “sport” I faithfully follow and can quote the stats for is the Iditarod. It is a grueling dogsled race across some of the world’s most beautiful and awesome terrain from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, and it takes place the first couple of weeks in March. Now the true athletes here are the dogs. The people are just along for the ride… well, and to feed them, rub their little feet, and protect them from angry moose. Over the years I have become friends with one of the mushers and have learned much about the care of the dogs. Anyway, I will share a newspaper article about this year’s last place winner in the Iditarod. Now if that sentence did not make any sense, let me explain – anyone who travels 1,100+ miles across the Alaskan wilderness with a team of dogs, is out in the snow and ice for more than a week (the first place winner usually makes it in 9 ½ days) is a WINNER! You can say what you want… you try it and tell me you are a loser after traveling 1.131 miles by dogsled in 2 weeks. See what I mean? Anyway, this year’s Red Lantern winner was a 62 year old woman, Deborah Bicknell, my newest hero.
“The second time proved to be the charm for Bicknell, who returned to the Iditarod in 2008 after enduring a day-long adventure last year lost in a blizzard and drenched by a slip in the Kuskokwim River in the heart of the Alaska Range. This year, Bicknell helped a couple of other mushers — Liz Parrish and Molly Yazwinski — and wound up getting the honor of being last across the finish line when Yazwinski scratched and Parrish’s stronger team surged ahead.”
Bicknells’ eight-dog team trotted under the burled arch about 8:30 p.m. Monday to an enthusiastic crowd of dignitaries and fans, where she blew out the widow’s lamp, which is left lit while there’s a team still on the trail. It took her 15 days, 5 hours and 36 minutes, almost six days slower than winner Lance Mackey. “I was planning on not being last,” the 62-year-old daughter of a longtime mushing family said. “My dog team is better than that.”
This is an unusual event in that it doesn’t really have losers, whether you are first or 78th, as Bicknell was. Eighteen more teams started the race but couldn’t make it to Nome for one reason or another. It’s true that anyone who finishes the Iditarod has accomplished a feat in itself.” You can find the entire story in the Anchorage Daily News archives or at
Bicknell is right up there with Dee Dee Jonrowe, age 54, who did not do as well this year as she has in the past. She was 15th. A few years ago Dee Dee ran the race just a few weeks after coming off chemo for breast cancer in 2003. Dee Dee is a longtime hero of mine, and I have written about her before.
Here is a picture of Dee Dee with Susan Butcher (1954-2006) who was a 4 time first place winner of the Iditarod who later worked the check points even when her leukemia was making it hard for her to function.
Heroes. Role models. The kind of people that make me get up and keep going even when I am not sure how I can possibly go another foot further. These are the women who will push me (or shame me?) into keeping up the fight. Good thing, too, ‘cause the birds need seed! Gotta make that Wal-Mart run today! Glad I can take the Toyota and don’t have to harness up the cats!
I have borrowed these pictures either from Anchorage Daily or

1 comment:

ancient one said...

Oh girl... I can see you harnessing the cats..LOL