Thursday, March 12, 2015

The irony of Zoya Denure

I will preface this post to say - I am aware that my opinion will not be popular. That I have been called out before on this subject, I'm well aware that Zoya - for whatever reason - is well liked and her fans are fiercely loyal. Good for her. I wish all the mushers had such a great fanbase. However I've been stewing about this subject since this year's Yukon Quest... and I think it needs to be said.

Zoya Denure reacts to the trail conditions during the Ceremonial
Start of Iditarod 43 in Anchorage, Alaska. March 7, 2015
Zoya Denure scratched this morning in Tanana citing personal reasons. That's a pretty vague explanation - but it's the only one we've got. Considering all of her other reasons over the years in the Iditarod and other races, I'll take it. At least it seems more honest than accusing the Iditarod of forcing her to use contaminated straw or the whole nursing issue. This time, it seems, she's at least taking a little responsibility - for now. I expect a blog post from her in a day or so with the "real" excuse that will vilify the race, or another musher, or a muskrat.

The irony is that Denure's husband just wrote an article last month calling Jeff King and other mushers out for scratching in the Yukon Quest. He was immediately called out by fans who began to list the number of scratches his wife had to her name. Zoya came to her own defense saying it was "irrelevant". How this is the case, I'm still scratching my head. A scratch is a scratch. Each musher who John named in his article had LEGIT REASON for scratching. That John is against the best care for these dogs was staggering as he and Zoya are very vocal about how they care for their dogs (and dogs no one else wants). All it did was give fuel to the anti-mushing groups who believe that his mentality in the article is shared by those out on the trail.

But we're not talking about the Quest, we're talking about the Iditarod. One that just went from having a "brutal trail" over the Alaska range to having a "race track like course" on the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. The trail is hard packed. It's fast. The dogs are all said to be doing extremely well...

...and yet Zoya has scratched for personal reasons.

And all I can think is John's article asking the questions:
Isn’t running the Yukon Quest about running dogs? Why do mushers run the Yukon Quest?
Replace "Yukon Quest" with "Iditarod" and ask the questions. Most do it for the adventure - rookies want that belt buckle - to say that they did it. Most want to be out with their dogs on the most exciting 10 day camping trip they will ever experience. The front runners might be running for a title, a little gold, a new pick up truck, but they too are more about sharing that bond with their dogs. They run with sore bodies - the Lance Mackey's look like death warmed over but they LOVE the sport and they LOVE the dogs and you will have to carry them out in a body bag before they give it up.

Very few do it for the money or the glory - there really isn't a lot of money to be made and the glory typically goes to those that win or at least have some awesome human interest story. But Team Zoya is an exception - she markets herself extremely well. She gets a lot of attention for not accomplishing much (yes the belt buckle is a huge accomplishment, one no one can take away from her... but... Oprah chose her over Aliy Zirkle to feature in her magazine). She's able to get a lot of funding from sponsors. She's pretty, she weaves a good tale. She's a promotions dream.

Still, I can't help but feel bad for those that she's buffaloed into supporting her financially. Maybe not the corporate sponsors - though that money could be used better elsewhere on a team that actually has a chance of making it and not just taking the money and going to Hawaii to become a Yogi -  but the individuals who want to support a woman musher who seems to love her dogs and the sport. Honestly, I'm sure she does care for her dogs, but I don't think she loves the sport.

Think about it folks, in all the years she's run - she's only finished once. She cites personal issues for the scratches each time. This suggests she's just not cut out to run the long distance race. She rarely even finishes the shorter races rookies use to qualify for the Quest and Iditarod races. She runs just long enough to keep her sponsors happy. So I guess more power to Team Zoya - but there are far more deserving mushers who will at least finish if at all possible who are just as personable, and dare I say it more trustworthy to use the funding for the dogs and not for a home remodel.

But, I *am* just an armchair musher who is not out there on the trail with her. However, if you're going to talk about the other mushers - either individually or as a team as they do - you better be ready to "put up or shut up". And that's where the irony is.

If ever there was a year that Zoya NEEDED to make it to Nome, this was it.


  1. good grief. it appears my comment was lost because I had not signed in. Now, what was it... "I had some of the same thoughts and when I shared this musher with my son and his thought was maybe she shouldn't race.

  2. Totally agree with your point of view. Nice post

    1. She's now come out to say that she froze her fingers and toes. That she misses her kids. That 1,000 mile races are not for her. Hope she sticks to that.

  3. I realize this is an ancient post, but I found it today when Googling to find out why Zoya was the first to scratch from the 2018 Iditarod today. I am a new fan and had no idea there was a history here. Thanks for the post, albeit 3 years later.

  4. Glad I ain't her sponsors, laughable.