Team Minard pulls plug on 2003 Iditarod
Lack of Alaskan snow main concern
Friday, February 7, 2003By ANDY KLEVORN
Daily News Staff Writer
Lack of snow along Alaska’s Iditarod Trail has caused Rick Minard to pull out of the 2003 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, scheduled to start March 1 in Anchorage.
Minard has been training Al Hardman’s dogs for the past two years, living in Hardman’s Upper Peninsula cabin near McMillan.
Minard spent Friday digging out the dog’s houses. While working, he spent a little time grumbling about his misfortune.
“I had a hard time talking to the dogs today, I’ve asked a lot of them (in training), they deserve something,” he said.
“I think it’s the right decision for the team,” Minard said.
The decision was tough for Minard. He and his circle of supporters have spent two years and thousands of dollars to get to this point.
But shipping the drop bags, driving the team to Alaska and having his family and friends fly up would cost much more, and if the race was shortened or canceled, the financial burden would have been even greater.
Minard laughed about his 1,000 “Team Minard Iditarod 2003” pencils.
“They’ll make great kindling,” he said.
Minard said he was very disappointed but decided it was better to pull the plug early and cut his losses. Running the race in poor trail conditions and taking the risk of scratching would have made him feel worse.
Minard suffered nerve damage to his legs as a result of battling leukemia early in his life. Doctors said side effects of radiation treatments, or the cancer itself, caused atrophy of muscle groups that support his ankles.
“I would have had a tough time with the race even if there was snow all the way,” he said.
The possibility of running 20, 50 or 100 miles is out of the question for him.
Al Hardman played a factor in the decision to pull out. Minard and Hardman spent Thursday on the phone with friends in Alaska as well as Iditarod officials.
“We checked with everyone we knew in Alaska and decided to scrap it,” Hardman said.
Hardman said he thinks Iditarod officials have a tough decision to make in the upcoming weeks.
“There would be a lot of repercussions in running the race in these conditions,” he said.
Hardman feels the Iditarod will be shortened, postponed or canceled outright due to the poor trail conditions.
Alaska has been plagued with warm temperatures and rain instead of snow this winter.
The Anchorage Daily News featured stories of a dozen golfers that showed up at an Anchorage-area course this past week. Citizens of Fairbanks were walking around in shorts as the temperature swung from 30 below to 30 above in a few days.
Craig Medred, outdoor writer for the ADN, said in an email on Friday, “we’ve still got a month until the race, and temperatures now are unbelievably spring-like — into the 40s — all through this part of the country.”
Several events have been canceled this year because of the lack of snow in the 49th state. The Iron Dog, a snowmobile race run on portions of the Iditarod Trail, was canceled in January because there was literally no snow on sections of the course. Officials didn’t want the machines tearing up the tundra. Shorter dogsled races have also been canceled, causing several rookie mushers to drop out of the Iditarod because they couldn’t qualify for the event. A rookie must have two races totaling 500 miles to qualify for the Iditarod.
Hardman and Minard were excited about Rick’s race this year. Team Minard spent the early part of this week packing the checkpoint drop bags at Hardman Construction in Ludington.
Hardman said that during the Seney 300, a training race that Hardman runs for mushers who want to learn about distance mushing, his dogs really started to shine after 200 miles.
Minard had put nearly 2,000 miles of training on the team in preparation for the Iditarod.
Minard is already looking towards the future. Hardman had planned to run a major race in 2004, either the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest.
“But I’m going to take a couple of days and think about it,” Minard said. “Al said there is nothing he can’t put off a year so I can run the Iditarod.”
Minard said he wanted to thank Al and Carol for all their support, as well as his own family and friends that have helped him get this far.