Iditarod ride just the latest adventure for FL couple

Mike and Nancy Rosman go behind scenes of famous race

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

Mike and Nancy Rosman like adventure. They might even be called thrill-seekers. From riding a zipline in Belize to skydiving for their 25th anniversary, the Forest Lake couple has fulfilled much of its bucket list.

Mike Rosman (seated) of Forest Lake enjoys a sled ride through Anchorage, AK courtesy of Ken Anderson’s dog team. Anderson is a former Forest Lake resident himself. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley)

Now, the Rosmans can cross off another line. Last month, they rode in dog sleds through the streets of Anchorage, AK during the send-off for the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

“It was fun. It really was,” says Nancy. “…I’m always up for an adventure, and my husband’s willing to tag along.”

For a couple big on traveling and excitement, the Iditarod is a natural fit. The world-famous race, which covers nearly 1,000 miles across Alaska each March, pits man versus nature in all of its glory.

“I think it’s the adventure part of it that drew me in,” Nancy says. “I do wilderness canoeing, so it’s that kind of solitary wilderness kind of thing.”

While researching this year’s race, Nancy stumbled upon the “Iditarider” program, which allows fans to bid for the right to sit on a sled as each team makes its way 11 miles from Anchorage to the official starting point of Willow, AK.

The Rosmans had visited Alaska for the first time three summers ago, and the decision to return was simple.

“We always said we’d go back in the winter, so this was the opportunity,” Nancy says. “We’ll go back many more times, I’m sure.”

Bound and determined to go, the Rosmans won the auction for veteran musher Ken Anderson, who grew up in Forest Lake. With one seat secured, it was decision time.

“When we tell our grandchildren this story, are we going to say grandma did it but grandpa didn’t?” Nancy recalls saying. “So we went for two and it was well worth it.”

The Rosmans check out a mural showing the course of the thousand-mile race. (Photo submitted)

They ponied up a smaller price so Nancy could ride along with three-time Iditarod musher Karin Hendrickson.

Upon arriving in Anchorage, the Rosmans were treated to a champagne toast and dinner with the mushers on the Thursday leading up to the race. Orientation took place Friday and the real fun took place on Saturday. The Iditariders had VIP access on the streets downtown during the final preparations, then joined the sled teams for the two-hour procession out of town.

They got a kick out of the varying levels of experience and equipment the field of 66 displayed.

“Ken has a beautiful sled with interchangeable runners for cold snow and hot snow,” Nancy says. “My musher comes in with her beat-up pickup and homemade [gear]…But I got to do harnessing and all that, which Mike didn’t get to do, because she didn’t have a crew.”

The crowd packed the sidewalks and cheered the teams out of town, then the riders were treated to a dash through the scenic countryside. Nancy was struck by how serene she felt listening to the whooshing of the sled and the pitter-patter of the dogs pulling through the snow.

“It’s very contemplative, very nice,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I could get used to this.’ And she was like ‘This is why I mush.’”

The experience was not without its fair share of adventure, though. A race official had warned the mushers of a moose in the area. The great mammals are among the biggest dangers to Iditarod teams and were in a particularly foul mood this year due to huge snow totals which limited their access to food. Hendrickson simply warned Nancy to lean forward if they came across a moose so she could “bop him on the head” with an axe.

Fortunately, no such meetings took place. The Rosmans also lucked out as the temperature hovered in the mid-20s. The balmy conditions made it comfortable for the humans, if not for their naturally insulated canine companions.

The Rosmans did not fare so well in their other quest on their nine-day trip. They hoped to see the Northern Lights. Aurora activity was forecasted to be the highest it had been in years, so trekked 450 miles across the state to Fairbanks. However, they were greeted with clouds and snow, while friends at their point of origin reported beautiful viewing conditions.

All was not lost, though. While in Fairbanks, the Rosmans checked out the world’s largest ice-sculpting competition.

Between that and the yarns they heard from the famously enthralling crew of mushers, the Rosmans should be able to keep their grandkids’ interest for many storytimes to come.

“There’s just such great stories,” Nancy says. “The tales are just hilarious.”

  • Ann Rogers

    The Iditarod is a once-a-year race for a group of egoist mushers to win money and bragging rights. The whole scheme of year-round training of the dogs and tethering (when not training or racing) each dog to his/her own small enclosure is no way to treat loyal companions. Tethering is considered inhumane and illegal in many communities. These magnificent dogs are treated like objects,–little machines that are only used for the sole purpose of mushers winning a brutal race.

    I know the dogs love to run, most likely anxious to get off their confining chains, but the fact is that they’re pushed beyond their limits which is cruel and serves no responsible purpose. Six dogs died in 2009, bringing the total known to 142. None of the mushers finished with all 16 of their dogs, some with only half or less, and 13 mushers scratched, most due to the fact that “the dogs weren’t enjoying the trip”. They are the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their year-round training, yet hundreds of dogs were dropped at check points due to injury, illness, exhaustion, just not wanting to run, and two collapsed.

    The distance is too long, and the conditions and rough terrain too grueling. There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them.

    Animal welfare organizations including The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, Sled Dog Action Coalition, and Sled Dog Watchdog want this race to end. As long as people and the media continue to promote this infamous race it will continue, and the dogs will continue to suffer.

  • Janet Tremer

    What a well written article about a fantastic adventure. I know the thrill they experienced. I’ve ridden 5 times: twice with Lance Mackey (his first two winning years) and once each with Harry Alexie (National Guard), Newton Marshall (Jamaican Dogsled Team), and Cain Carter (Lance’s stepson). This year I convinced my husband, Walt, to do the ride we bid on with Jodi Bailey. This year HE came back with cold teeth from grinning the whole ride. I’m sure we rubbed elbows with Nancy and Mike this year at the toast and the meeting. And YES, you will be back. And when you do go you need to try mushing yourself. “Paws for Adventure” provides a great half day mushing school and if you get hooked you can do the 20 mile mushing/overnight camping experience the next year. If you want info about heading out to some of the checkpoints (great aurora sightings), contact Headquarters and they’ll give you our contact info. I’m sooo glad you had a wonderful time. Most who bash the race have never been to Alaska or seen a race. Look up Mike Davis’s research at Oklohoma State to learn more about what vets and scientists have discovered about sled dogs. Keep supporting this great race and its human and canine athletes. Mush on!

  • Ann Rogers

    If you support the infamous Iditarod, you perpetuate the cruelty the dogs endure. Please THINK about it! First, in this brutal, marathon race the dogs RACE over 100 miles a day for 9 – 14 days, over grueling, rough terrain, in treacherous conditions. Second, as I stated yesterday, when they are not racing or training (which occurs all year) they are tethered to their own small enclosure, in feces and urine, unable to play with their kennel mates. This is inhumane, people, and illegal in many communities. Check out how winner Dallas Seavey STORES his dogs when they’re not training or racing, which is common among mushers:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooKqzHRz3AI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    As for “Paws for Adventure” they are in it for profit, –check out their rates. Also, check out how they store their dogs: http://pawsforadventure.com/thedogs.html

    These magnificent dogs are clearly exploited, and the Iditarod, (as well as the Yukon Quest) marathon race should have ended long ago. For more facts about the cruelty inherent in the Iditarod, check out http://www.helpsleddogs.org

  • Nancy

    Ann-Until you’ve owned and lived with sled dogs, please don’t judge. These dogs live to pull and run. No one makes them. In fact, Jeff King (4 time Iditarod champ) found out this year when the dogs don’t want to, they don’t. A team would be ruin by running them too long or too hard. These dogs are well cared for athletes in the truest sense.

    You need to see the joy and enthusiasm of the dogs. No one is hurting them. Not letting the dogs do what they inherently desire to do would be cruelty. These mushers love their dogs as part of their families. They know the health of every dog. Believe me, there’s lots a talk about dog poop when you’re a musher (the best sign of a dog’s health.)

    As for egos, the mushers we met were some of the most quiet unimposing people around. Karin is a teacher who finds peace on the trail. Ken is so soft spoken and generous with his time and energy with kids and education. Nature does not allow for egos. The Iditarod is a race of strategy and skill. Yes, endurance plays into the picture. but just as humans would not run a marathon without training, so the mushers have spent long days building up to this race.

    As an first hand experience of what happens inside the Iditarod, I can ensure you the dogs are treated royally and it’s the humans that take the beating.

    • http://www.stoplynching.com Sue

      I have heard this all before when I worked at a police department. The K9’s are hanged to unconsciousness, kicked, electro-shocked, helicoptered and slammed to the ground. When not being used, they are isolated in small kennels. What the police tell the public is that the dogs are treated better than your pets at home, they live as members of their families and they are beloved “partners.” Sound familiar? If they can no longer get away with that lie, then they say, “You don’t know what it takes to train a police dog.” Sound familiar?

      How people love their lies! When the sled dogs are not being used to pull a sled, they are kept on short chains or in small kennels, and not allowed to run free. The dogs often are ruined by the race, that is, the ones who don’t outright die. Their illnesses and injuries incurred by the dogs in the race are a matter of public record.

      You can be sure this IS about human ego, when anyone suggests the dogs have it easy and it’s the people who “take the beating.” If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale….

      • Claire Vinet

        Sue – Ditto with the rodeo crowd.

  • Ann Rogers

    I don’t believe that mushers love their dogs the way they are “stored” and exposing them to the possibility of injury, illness, exhaustion, and death.

    We have huskies and spend a lot of time with them camping and hiking many miles, including cold, snow conditions. We would never push them beyond their limits. They play and interact with each other a lot, and have the option of being inside or out, due to our dog door, but they prefer to be with us, wherever we are.

    The Iditarod and Yukon Quest dogs, being stored on chains, cannot play with their kennel mates. Didn’t you check out the above links to the two kennels? It’s no wonder that they’re excited to “pull” run, anything.–they long to be off their darn chains. The vicious cycle of these magnificent dogs alternating between training/racing and being chained, — their whole lives is disgusting.

    Add to this the breeding and disposing of the dogs when they’re no longer an asset, is repulsive. All of this solely for the selfish obsession of a small group of mushers, and serves no practical purpose.

    The “joy and enthusiasm of the dogs” is at the START of the race. I’ve seen video of mushers getting their dogs up and LEADING them to get them going toward the END of the race.

  • Claire Vinet

    Oh, what fun! A great adventure for these people, but what about the animals? Nowhere in this insensitive article is there any mention of the obvious animal exploitation involved and the controversy surrounding this race. I would urge the Rosmans to stick to skydiving and other thrills that don’t come at the expense of animals.

  • sandra bell

    I long for the day when these cruel, exploitive dog races will end. It’s time to stop the breeding. It’s time to stop culling of the ones not deemed up to par. It’s time to stop subjecting beautiful, innocent dogs to danger, illness and death for the sake of obscene human greed and ego. These dogs are too pure in heart to get all puffed up and ecstatic over lavish news coverage, prize money, or being the “winner” — those are unenlightened human vices — so stupid and trivial. If one chooses to brave the elements and risk one’s own life and limb in order to feel superior, I say, “Go for it”. Brave the freezing 1,000 mile Iditarod trail on your own steam. Leave the dogs out of it. They just want to be happy and truly loved, as they deserve to be, not a means to an end like some easily replaced machine for the Idiotarod.

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