Married to Mushing
Husbands and wives often turn into business partners while training for the Iditarod
WILLOW - It takes a lot of teamwork to get a team of dogs a thousand miles across the Alaska wilderness.
"When he told me he wanted to run the Iditarod I made him a promise I would do everything in my power to get him to the starting line, he just needed to get the team to the finish line,” said Rebecca Savidis.
She got her husband Justin—or A.J. as he’s know in the mushing community—into the sport a few years ago. Now he’s training for his third Iditarod.
“I never sleep, not ever. You fill in the gaps with everything you do and you become really efficient,” said Justin.
When it comes to racing, the two are more like business partners.
“He'll tell you he has this idea things just magically happen when he leaves the starting line because he doesn't see the A to Z of what goes on behind the scenes, which is good, because if he was worried then I'm not doing my job,” said Rebecca.
“She's effective with logistics and working with people and she's effective with training and all these little nuances that lend itself well to the Iditarod and work for us,” Justin added.
Rebecca’s even a shuttle service, hauling us around as we followed Justin on his short training run with some of his second string dogs while his stars were running the Tustumena 200.
He’s one of 66 mushers that will race from Anchorage to Nome this weekend.
“I don't worry about A.J., I worry about the dogs; that's our family out there. That time when he's out on the trail, that separation is hard. As long as he's on the trail I'm awake watching that damn flag move across the map. I'm on the trail with him even if I'm not there physically,” said Rebecca.
“What makes the partnership work, and our marriage work really, is no matter what the obstacles happen to be, that's not a roadblock. It's not something you scratch or quit on. You just keep moving forward,” said Justin.
Rebecca also wrote “A Rookie’s Guide to the Iditarod” with tips from a handler’s perspective. She said there were a lot of thing she didn’t know when Justin ran his first Iditarod, like how to get dog kennels to Nome and where to find housing.
“It's not to replace anything the Iditarod sends you but hopefully it will help fill in some of those gaps so people don't go into it blindly. For me it was written from the handler's perspective because going behind the scenes, A.J. should be worried about what's going on on the trail, not [whether] he's going to have dog crates when he gets to Nome,” said Rebecca.
All the work, behind-the-scenes and on the trail, are worth it for the little moments along the way.
“You pull the hook, the voices fade away, the crowds disappear and it's just you and the dogs. And you're gone; you're on your way. You get over the Alaska Range and you're into a whole new world. That's why you do it. I just love that stuff,” said Justin.
To view all of KTVA's 2013 Iditarod stories, click here.