Steves is ready for 2nd Iditarod

Only 1,000 miles to go Jan. Good luck!
By Pat Ratliff | Feb 28, 2013
Steves is wearing what she calls “Iditarows” for the race. “Otherwise, your hair turns almost to dreadlocks before the race is over,” she said.

Jan Steves is just days away from starting her second Iditarod; the 1,000-mile plus dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

Steves won the “Red Lantern” award last year, which signifies the last finisher to cross the line in Nome.

But last place is no small fete. Anyone who finishes has accomplished something that most of us could only dream about.

This year, Steves has experience on her side; she’s run the race once and knows what to expect. But what you expect isn’t necessarily what will happen.

“I know what happened last year,” Steves said. “I’m prepared. But everything changes.”

Steves doesn’t mean changing from year to year, but day to day on the trail.

“The trail can be different one day to the next,” Steves said. “Good conditions to those in the front of a race could be a blizzard to those further back. You never know what to expect.”

Take snow levels, for instance.

Last year had around 14 feet of snow on the ground. This year there’s about 3 feet. But the conditions should be good.

A nice, mild temperature (for Alaska... mid 20s or 30s) can be disaster to those in the race.

As of Wednesday morning, the weather looked good for the 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2, start in Anchorage and the 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, restart in Willow.

“It’s about 15 right now,” Steves said. “That’s a good sign.”

Training for the race has brought Steves significant experiences this year.

“I just had my first moose encounter,” she said. “He wouldn’t leave the trail. I had a 16-dog team and they were all barking and jumping.”

But Steves found a way to get the large animal away from her and her team.

“I used blood curdling screams,” she said. “I just kept screaming and screaming.

“Thankfully, I had to turn onto another trail, and he didn’t go onto the same trail we did.

“You just hope and pray you don’t see the head go down and the ears go back.”

But Steves doesn’t want to focus on trail conditions and animal stories.

She said there is talk about low snow and no snow on parts of the trail, but until she gets there it doesn’t really matter.

“I just need to focus on what’s ahead of me,” she said. “I got through everything last year, so I just can’t worry about it. It just adds more stress.”

Steves has the experience from last year, but the race follows the southern route this year, so a large part of it will be new to her.

“I’ll have familiarity on my side,” Steves said.

She’s familiar with the dogs and the equipment and the stress of the race – but everything else will be different.

Another new stress this year is recovering from a knee injury, but Steves has had a lot of help getting back in shape.

“It’s doing remarkably well,” she said. “I’ve been looked over by ‘Rapid Recovery’ in Anchorage and got a special knee brace made up from ‘Bledsoe’ from Texas.

“They both ended up being sponsors.”

Steves said she’s also been seeing “First Choice Physical Therapy” in Wasilla.

“They gave it all they had,” Steves said. They went above and beyond.”

The physical therapy practice, owned by Jeff and Deana LePage, also became sponsors.

So it’s back to the trail for Steves and her dogs. She’s fit and ready. Only 1,000 miles to go Jan. Good luck!

Go to for daily updates on Steves’ progress during the race.



Comments (1)
Posted by: Margery Glickman | Feb 28, 2013 12:32

Iditarod dogs suffer horrendous cruelty every day of their lives. Mushers have drowned, shot, bludgeoned and dragged many dogs to death. For example, Iditarod musher Dave Olesen drowned a litter of newborn puppies. Another musher got rid of unwanted puppies by tying them in a bag and tossing the bag in a creek. Mushers even have a saying about not breeding dogs unless they can drown them: “Those who cannot drown should not breed.”

Terrible things happen to dogs during the Iditarod. This includes: death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. In the 2012 race, one of Lance Mackey's male dogs ripped out all of his 16 toenails trying to get to a female who was in heat. This type of broken toenail is extremely painful. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he was too stubborn to leave this dog at a checkpoint and veterinarians allowed Mackey to continue to race him. Imagine the agony the dog was forced to endure.

Here's another example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. To make matters worse, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

Iditarod dogs endure brutal training. Jeanne Olson, who has been a veterinarian in Alaska since 1988, confirmed the brutality used by mushers training dogs for the Iditarod. She talked about dogs having cracked ribs, broken jaws or skulls from mushers using two-by-fours for punishment. In an article published by the University of Alaska, Dr. Olson said, "There are mushers out there whose philosophy is...that if that dog acts up I will hit that dog to the point where it would rather die than do what it did, 'cause the next time it is gonna die.'"

Jane Stevens, a former Iditarod dog handler, describes a dog beating in her letter published by the Whitehorse Star (Feb. 23, 2011). She wrote: "I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry's most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an 'acceptable range' of 'discipline'. Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked. After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact. He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground. He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly."

During the 2007 race, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jon Saraceno wrote in his column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death."

Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." He also said, "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..." Former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford wrote in Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper: "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses....."

FOR MORE FACTS: Sled Dog Action Coalition,

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