Tennessean To Compete In Alaska Iditarod

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Alaska’s Iditarod has been billed as “The World’s Last Great Race,” and Rodney Whaley, a 24-year veteran of the Guard from Tennesse, was one of 102 people in the world to qualify for the great race.

Husky NewsFifty-two people from Alaska, 14 from other states and 15 from foreign countries will compete in the 1,159 mile race.

Whaley, the 56-year-old National Guardsman from Franklin will run 16 sled dogs on March 1, 2008, the first day of the Iditarod. The Iditarod starts in Anchorage, and the mushers will be on the trail from 10-17 days with only their dogs.

The Iditarod is considered by many to be the most grueling and demanding individual sporting event in the world today. Musher battle the fierce elements along the dangerous route with only their dogs by their side.

Husky NewsDuring the two-week race, Whaley will cross over frozen rivers, jagged mountain ranges, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast. Whaley will also battle temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs on side hills.

Whaley, who lived his childhood in Alaska, has been sponsored by the Army National Guard. As a boy, Whaley raced in junior sled dog competitions, but he always remained passionate about the sport.

In recent years, Whaley raced in British Columbia, Canada, Washington state and northern Michigan.

Husky News“The Iditarod is the ultimate experience and my life-long dream,” Whaley said. “Now, utilizing what I’ve learned in the Guard and with their sponsorship, it’s a reality.”

In order to qualify for the Iditarod, Whaley was required to successfully complete two sanctioned races, one of 300 miles and the other of 200 miles. He began full-time training in October 2007 in Michigan and Minnesota, but he’s been a familiar site in his Franklin neighborhood during the cold months as he ran his team using a “dogsled-on-wheels.”

With the rules of the Iditarod there are certain regulations by which each musher must abide. There are also certain pieces of required equipment: an arctic parka, an ax, a heavy sleeping bag, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog‘s feet to protect against cutting ice and hard-packed snow injuries.

Husky NewsOn the trail every musher has a different tactic. Each one has a special diet for feeding and snacking the dogs. Each one also has a different strategy. Some run in the daylight; some run at night. Each has a different training schedule geared to the dogs‘ stamina and the musher‘s own personal stamina.

The Iditarod Trail had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from coastal towns to the interior mining camps. Men and supplies went in; gold came out, all via dog sled. Heroes were made and legends were born.

In 1925, part of the Trail became a life-saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened the populace and serum had to be rushed in, again by intrepid mushers and their faithful, hard-driving dogs. The Iditarod is a commemoration of those early years, a not-so-distant past of which the Alaskans are particularly proud.

Source: NewsChannel5

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