Iditarod beckons local sledder

MANCHESTER - A Manchester native is attempting to qualify to compete in the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Gwenn Bogart - formerly Wisell - said she first started thinking about running in the Iditarod in 2009 when she was still living in Vermont.

"When I came up [to Alaska] in the winter and watched the Iditarod I was just fascinated and that was when the idea sort of got planted in my brain," said Bogart. "I've been working with the friend of a tour guide on Iditarod trips and the more I saw it the more I thought this was something I really wanted to try."

Bogart said she began training for the Iditarod since the end of March and has been working with Ray Redington Jr. - the grandson of Iditarod founder Joe Redington Sr.

In order to compete in the Iditarod, Bogart said she would first have to race - and finish in good standing - 750 miles and that two of the races she competed in would have to be a minimum of 300 miles long. To accomplish that, Bogart said a team of 12 dogs was needed - each being physically fit and meeting veterinary requirements.

Currently, Bogart said she is training by running about 40 miles at a time using a team of somewhere between six to eight dogs. Bogart said that if she is able to run the team of six to eight dogs for about 40 miles for three days in a row then she would be ready to run in a 200 mile race.

"You can do three or four days in a row, forty miles at a shot, then you're ready to race in a 200 to whatever mile race, depending on the number of dogs that you're using," said Bogart. "So, 40 miles, six dogs, three and a half hours is pretty darn good time. You're averaging speeds of 10 plus miles per hour on a sled that's going over dirt basically."

The first qualifier for the Iditarod is a 150-mile race in Glennallen on Dec. 15. Bogart said the temperatures in Glennallen have been minus-30 degrees Farenheit recently. As a result, Bogart said she has had to learn how to survive in those temperatures as some materials that would normally be used for camping are rendered useless by the weather.

Following her race in Glennallen, she has three more races - two 300 mile races and one 200 mile race to meet her minimum requirement. Bogart said that she has to finish within a certain amount of time of the winner's time. However, exactly what that was she was not certain. In addition, Bogart said the dogs in her team would have to look good and people would be watching her to see how she handled herself.

"You just have to be sort of a good citizen in the mushing, racing world and if you can do all that and not fall off and be within a certain amount of time you can qualify," said Bogart.

Bogart is getting some support from members of the Manchester community in her effort to qualify for the Iditarod in 2014. On Feb. 2, 2013, a fund-raiser is being held at the Manchester Rod & Gun Club to help offset some of the expense - which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000, according to an organizer of the fund-raiser Lynda Corkin.

"What we're trying to do is Feb. 2 do a fund-raiser for her because these dogs have to eat a lot different than the regular dogs do here," Corkin said. "They have to have a lot of protein. It's about $100 a day to feed the dogs. You have to feed them and bed them down. It's like $40 for a bale of straw."

Allan Tschorn from Arlington will be at the fund-raiser with his team of 16 dogs that he raises. Tschorn said that he plans to give dog sled rides to people, but as of press time it was unclear as to how many people he would be able to take out during the course of the fund-raiser.

Tschorn said he was asked to participate in the fund-raiser by Corkin, but once he knew it was for Bogart he said he was more than willing.

"When I learned that Gwenn was moving to Alaska and was going to be training for the Iditarod we've kind of sparked a Facebook friendship in which we compared training notes and distances we're going and records we keep and that kind of thing," Tschorn said. "So, when an opportunity came up to be supportive of a fund-raising effort for Gwenn we by all means said we (he and his wife) were willing to donate our time and our kennel for demonstration and fund-raising for Gwenn."

Other items that are expected to be part of the fund-raiser are a raffle, silent auction, face painting, food sales and more, Corkin said.

The upcoming fund-raiser on Feb. 2 may be the first of two or three, Corkin said.

"There will probably be one in the springtime," said Corkin. "I've been thinking about maybe having a 5K or 10K or something like that maybe. I don't know yet. I know we're going to do another one, but when I don't know. This is going to be at least one of two, possibly three, fund-raisers that we're going to do between now and 2014."

Corkin said she has done some research and has found that Bogart is the first person from southern Vermont to try to qualify to compete in the Iditarod.

Bogart said she is racing for Casting for Recovery - a not-for-profit organization in Manchester that she co-founded in 1996. Casting for Recovery is a fly fishing retreat for women recovering from breast cancer.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race first ran to Nome in 1973. There were two short races of nine miles each using the Iditarod Trail in 1967 and 1969. The concept of having a race over a portion of the Iditarod Trail was conceived by Dorothy Page - the chairman of the Wasilla-Knik Centennial Committee who was trying to come up with ways to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Alaska. Being somewhat of historian, Page was fascinated that dog teams could travel over land not accessible to automobiles. Furthermore, what is today known as the Iditarod Trail was first used by settlers arriving in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Settlers traveled by boat to the coastal towns of Knik and Seward following a gold strike. From Seward and Knik they went by land into the gold fields using the trail that is today known as the Iditarod, according to the Iditarod Trail's Web site.


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