Jessie Royer was a dog musher before she even knew what mushing was.
“I had goats for 4H so I used to hook up my border collie with my billy goat and that was my first dog team when I was ten years old,” Royer said. “I’d never even heard of the Iditarod before.”
Flash forward 30 years and she’s now a top contender in the Last Great Race on Earth. Royer said she didn’t go into the race with a strategy, she just wanted to take the best care of her team.
“We had a few issues but the sore muscles I was able to massage, things like that I was able to work through any of the issues we had on the trail and keep the team going.”
Her team is full of dogs who’ve finished the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.
“I’ve got a litter of six here. The three females there’s Halo, Beret and Sniper and the males are Seal, Stryker and Recon, they’re my military special forces littler,” she listed off a portion of her team.
Royer said a crucial part of her race is having several leaders she can rotate throughout long runs.
“There are other mushers out on the trail who were trying to run a competitive race and something happened to their main lead dogs and it took them out of the competition,” Royer explained. “There are a lot of dogs that will run lead but not a lot of dogs that will run lead at the end of the race when you’re getting tired and pushing for the finish.”
Her game plan paid off. Royer is likely the first top ten musher to ever have a full team run the Iditarod from start to finish.
“It’s kind of a once and a lifetime deal. It may not ever happen again,” Royer said humbly. “The good Lord blessed me with an awesome year and an awesome team of dogs.”
It takes everyone giving their all to reach the Burled Arch in Nome.
“There are 16 dogs, well I’m the 17th dog. We’re a team out there and you’re going to have highs and lows. You have to work through them and the dogs feed off the mushers attitude,” said Royer.
Royer shaved about 12 hours off her time this year, finishing in 8 days, 13 hours, 8 minutes. She said she’s looking forward to having most of her team back next year as she strives for another personal best.