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272 pages, Paperback
First published March 1, 1994
It is almost impossible to articulate the [Iditarod] as a whole. It can be broken down into sections, days, hours, horrors, joys, checkpoints, winds, nights, cold, waters, ice, deaths, tragedies, small and large courage. But as a whole, to say generally what the race is like, there are no exact words.
Outrageous, perhaps. Staggering. Insane. Altering. All of them, and more. No one word works.
I was starting to growl more and more at [my dogs] and talk less. Speaking in grunts. ...
It was still too soon in my dog career for me to begin to go mad while running them. That would come later.
We had spoken of the Iditarod a few times. ... I knew nothing of Alaska, crossing mountain ranges, running on sea ice, racing with a team ... 1,180 miles of snow and deep cold, cold like I had never even imagined, winds beyond belief, roaring waters and deadly dreams - a world, a whole world beyond my knowing.
And, finally, there was Alaska - the seductive, wonderfully magnificent deadly beauty of the place.
I thought my whole life had changed, that my basic understanding of values had changed, that I wasn’t sure if I would ever recover, that I had seen god and he was a dog-man and that nothing, ever, would be the same for me again, and it was only the first true checkpoint of the race.
"I'm sorry. I was just running them. Running the dogs." I swallowed more soup and looked at the sky. The cold air was so clear the stars seemed to be falling to the ground. Like you could walk right. . . over . . . there and pick them up just lying on the snow. "I couldn't come back."