Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Let's hear it for the ladies!

Kristin Bacon is one of 17 ladies running
Iditarod 45.  
Today is International Women's Day, so let's give a little shout out to the ladies of the trail. Since the second running of Iditarod, women have been a focus of fans and media alike. In the early days of marathon mushing, it was thought that the women wouldn't have what it takes to be a champion. In 1985, Libby Riddles squashed that notion when she won the race. Some called it a fluke, but then the very next year Susan Butcher began her dominance of the sport winning the first of four championships. The 80s and early 90s seemed to be the peak of women winners. Once Butcher retired, the men once again had no "worries" of being beaten by a girl.

Until recently when a surge of lady mushers has grown to include at least a dozen up and coming super stars. Aliy Zirkle's lead the charge, winning the Yukon Quest (the only woman to do so) in 2000, she then set her sight on winning the Iditarod. Aliy's only nemesis it seems these days is any musher by the name of Seavey. After last year's ordeal of being attacked by a drunken snowmachiner, she still managed to come in third. One has to wonder if the drunk not only stole her feeling of safety but also her win.

Also kicking butt in mid to long distance races is Michelle Phillips. The Canadian musher has been steadily climbing the ranks in the last few years, and is right in the mix (currently running with Aliy down the Yukon) in this year's race. Michelle won the Yukon Quest 300, beating out Aliy Zirkle. She's a seasoned veteran of racing. I didn't have her in my top 10 teams to watch, but seeing her team this past weekend I'm starting to second guess leaving her off.

Jessie Royer is no slouch on the trail. In 2015 she made a statement with her 4th place finish on the very trail the race is running this year. Royer splits her year between her homes in Alaska and Montana which probably helps condition her team to all types of weather and trail. She's a sweetheart with a competitive edge. She's holding back a bit right now on the trail but we're sure to see a move soon from Royer.

And let's not forget DeeDee Jonrowe - the elder stateswoman in the race these days DeeDee was right in the thick of it with Butcher in the 90s. Coming close but never winning Jonrowe was supposed to be the one that was going to keep the ladies drive alive. She was a runner up several times, and is beloved by race fans everywhere. She's easy to spot in her all pink get up. She's had hardships. She's battled cancer. She watched her mother battle cancer twice. She lost her house in the Sockeye Fire, losing all her cherished memories along with it, and her mother to cancer in the same year. And she's still going.

There are 17 ladies total this year. The represent women mushers everywhere. They're as tough as any guy on the trail - probably tougher (I mean Karin Hendrickson got hit by a car two? years ago and broke her back and she's still out there racing!). Will a woman win this year? Odds have never been more favorable. Instead of one or two that *might* there are at least 3 that can and quite possibly will in the next few years. Watch out boys, the women resurgence is only beginning.

*I'd say more, but I have to get to work. I'm not one of those crazy women on strike.*

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