Iditarod Rookie

I ran my first Iditarod in 1993 at the tender age of 21 years–I certainly didn’t feel “tender”. Full of youthful optimism and arrogance, I strode onto 4th Ave in downtown Anchorage all those long days ago feeling like I was ten feet tall and bulletproof, as if the length and girth of my manhood could cast a shadow so deep that a crowd of lesser mortals could hide within shivering in awe and fear.

I was the son of John Barron, the student of Lavon Barve, Jerry Austin and Martin Buser. I was close friends with Joe Garnie, and had once even lived in an igloo with him! I had mushed dogs in the backcountry of the wild Alaskan Bush since I was a boy too small to see over the handlebars, and had been racing huskies for longer than I could remember. Striding onto the field in ’93, I didn’t just feel as if I belonged, I was certain that I was there to kick ass and chew bubblegum…and I was all out of bubblegum.

To make a long story short, both the Iditarod Trail and the body of competition started kicking my rear-end about 30 seconds after the timer screamed “GO!”. Not only did I not redefine the mushing canon as I’d assumed going into the event, I screwed up my team by the first night driving up the Yentna River and ended up barely crawling into Nome 14 days later, grateful that I’d finished and glad that it was finally over. Essentially, my race was one long hellish string of misadventures completely brought on by my own hand, and almost all attributable to my lack of knowledge combined with ego.

In short, it was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.

Early Jason

I went into the Iditarod with a spring in my step and a shining face turned to the sun, completely confident in my pedigree, skill, and righteousness of mission, and was quickly busted down under the crushing weight of reality.

But I persisted. I put my head down and focused on putting one foot in front of the other until I got to where I was going, no matter how painful, depressing, or humiliating. I reached Nome in the middle of the pack, I bounced back from the Iditarod and went right back to the gym intent on turning myself into an unstoppable force in the years that would follow.

Sometimes all you can do is take the beating that life hands you, spit out the blood, and just keep on going.

I write these words in acknowledgment of the achievements  of the middle/back of the pack–especially the rookies–I’ve been there, and I know full well how hard you’re all working or worked to just to make it to where you’d originally set your compass heading.

As painful as the journey may have been, please keep this bit of wisdom in mind from a man who’s been there and more than once–you all learned more than you now know.

Thanks for tuning in–,more to follow…

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8 Responses to “Iditarod Rookie”

  1. You are truly an inspiration! Glad you are back!

  2. We’ve all been rookies at one thing or another at one time or another when the weight of reality sets in but you’ve put into words well what we have been unable to say especially publicly.

  3. Marlene Phillips-Daniels Reply March 20, 2011 at 13:25

    To be able to write about your first Iditarod and see that you were not the invincible musher you assumed you were, really shows, Jason, that you had the ability to see the real world and your place in it AND LEARN from it. Now that’s growing and maturing into a real contributing adult.

  4. great story as always

  5. Thanks for acknowledging the middle and back of the pack dogs and drivers. Everybody is on the trail doing their best. No passes are handed out on that 1000+ mile journey.

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