Rob's Blog Archive

December 15, 2013











I thought it was a quote from General Schwarzkopf, “Amateurs focus on tactics, professionals focus on logistics.”  In Googling it, it seems that everybody has said something like this.  The number of variations of this statement may be as large as those of the “Golden Rule.”  It may be as old, too---one is from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

In total agreement with this, the last and most difficult problems I had to solve when I drove up to do the Iditarod in 2009 were logistical.  I had two house dogs.  Dawn was both demented and had monthly episodes of epileptic seizures.  Tenaya was a pretty normal Siberian Husky pain in the butt.  I hired a house sitter to take care of these two. 

I brought the remaining 21 dogs up to Alaska with me.  With sixteen dogs on the team as I exited the start chute, I left five behind.  Additionally, I did figure I’d be dropping dogs and sending them home---I did this with Jake and Lolo.  Rick Outwin could and did take care of a couple of dogs, but I still needed a place for the rest.  I stressed this until less than a week before I started my drive up---Janet Sweeney took care of Sybil, Vixen, and Murphy while I was on the trail.  Rick had Mink and Sonny.  And when I dropped Jake then Lolo, Rick brought them up to Janet’s. 

Even without those issues, staying at Rick’s before and after the race had its difficulties.  Some of Rick’s neighbors didn’t like active dogtrucks---drops, feedings, etc---and so we did many of those a mile or so down the road at a friend of Rick and Jane’s.  I have to add that in all of this, Rick and Jane went way above and beyond the call of duty in supporting my run.  All of which gets back to the nightmares logistical problems can present. 

With this in mind, I started looking during the middle of September for lodging and care for my dogs while I’m on the trail.  Actually, I had preliminary discussions with several friends over the summer trying to figure out who might be able to show up and help.  Unfortunately, logistics are hard, and my effort wasn’t as thorough as it might have been.  It was the middle of November and I had nothing. 

And so, I was shocked when, in the span of a few days, I had settled where I was going to live, the set-up I was going to have (I’m not going to have to build anything on arrival J ), and who will take care of my dogs while I’m on the trail.  The logistical issues I looked at as being far and away the hardest, not to mention most onerous, had been settled.

While I’m in Alaska, I’ll be living with another musher.  He’s gotten rid of most of his dogs and has a room to rent over the winter.  His location, Willow, Ak. is ideal.  Even the set-up---unlike most Alaskans, he has fenced yards similar to mine---sounds great.  When I started Iditarod, I said I’m scared and excited.  With the set-up I’ll have when I arrive in Willow, I’m relieved and excited.  My finding it has increased the odds of my completing the trail a lot.  I’ll be able to focus on training and shake-down runs rather than worrying about what’s going to happen with my dogs. 

Which doesn’t mean I have no unsolved logistical issues.  I still have to contact somebody in each of the villages and a couple of lodges and make sure I can ship food and other consumable items like booties and handwarmers to them.  Others have said that this won’t be a problem, but until I’ve finished it I won’t know.  I’d add that I expect making contact with people in the villages will be fun.  I’ll probably be talking to school principals, asking if they or their teachers can handle my supplies, and that in return I’d be delighted to talk to kids about what I was doing, being a scientist, or both.  Everything indicates that folks in remote villages will be as excited at my coming in and doing this as I will be visiting them and learning from that---one of the big advantages of doing the trail the way I plan to is that I will have time to meet people along the way, something that’s impossible for real racers.

I’m going through the final weeks of preparation before driving the Alcan to Alaska.  Once again, logistics----what do I need to bring, what do I need to finish down here before I leave, etc.  But, I control all of these.  There’s no fate or luck involved---that’s where housing for me and my dogs was different.  And with that being solved, my nightmares are gone.  Well, not gone, just about all the things that can go wrong while I’m actually on the trail.  Proper nightmares.

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