A Woman - A Race - An Alaska
-ONE WOMAN’S RACE ACROSS ALASKA –
Although Susan Butcher was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, her love of the outdoors and dogs took her to Alaska in 1975. After three years of training a team of dogs, she entered the Iditarod – a 1,000-mile dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome.
She finished nineteenth, then ninth in 1979, and fifth in 1980 and 1981. In 1982, she was determined to win. This is what she wrote in her diary during the race: Tekla, my most experienced dog, is limping, too tired to go on. I know he has reached his limit. Tears roll down my cheeks.
This dog, who led my team all the way in my first three Iditarods, who has saved my life more than once, now has to be left behind. A wrong turn in a heavy snowstorm the first day of the race has taken me 20 miles out of my way. The four hours lost in getting back on the trail (route) have put me far behind the front-runners: With only 11 of my original 15 dogs left, I start out again for Nome, still 938 miles away.
In these first two days on the trail, I have had only four hours of sleep. After a 24-hour rest at Rohn and four hot meals, my determination to stay in the race is stronger than ever. The falling snow grows heavier, completely covering the trail, but I keep going. I catch up with the leaders, who have lost their way and are waiting for daylight.
For four and a half days and 353 miles, we take turns in finding the way through the deep snow. At the village of Ruby, the weather improves, but only temporarily. The sky is clear, but the temperature drops to 45 degrees below zero as I start out alone down the frozen Yukon River. If I stay too long on the sled, I risk serious frostbite. Jogging too long behind it can damage my lungs. So I alternate between running and riding the sled. A raging storm moves in, burying the trail.
Those of us in the lead must work together again to break the trail. After 50 miles, we find shelter for the night. Another day’s travel brings us to Unalakleet. The weather worsens. Winds rise to 60 miles an hour. Visibility drops to near zero. My eyelashes freeze shut and so do the eyelashes of my dogs.
I stop often to clear their eyes and check their feet. I reach Shaktoolik late that night with a frostbitten face. When I wake up the next morning, the winds are gusting up to 80 miles an hour, and the snowdrifts are 30 feet high. I wait for four days in the village before the storm ends. Only 231 miles to go, but all of them difficult.
We push through the continuing storm. Seven lead teams are travelling close together. Another dog on my team must drop out, and I have just nine dogs left. Thirty miles to go. I am in fifth place behind Rick Swenson, Jerry Austin, Emmitt Peters, and Ernie Baumgartner. The final push is on. I pass Ernie and pull away. I pass Emmitt, but he stays right behind me.
Only 22 miles now. “Go! Go! Go!” I shout to my dogs. I soon outdistance Emmitt and pass Jerry. My hopes brighten. But there’s still Rick, barely visible in the distance. He beats us into Nome by 3 minutes and 43 seconds. The race has lasted 16 days.
Now I have only one dream to go: to be Number One.
A. Below, there is a list of the events in this article. Study the list and mark the choice that gives the correct order of the events.
a) The weather worsened with higher winds and poor visibility.
b) Susan arrived in Nome.
c) Susan had eleven dogs left to continue the race.
d) Susan was in fifth place.
e) The leaders took turns in finding the way through the deep snow.
f) Susan left behind her most experienced dog. g) Susan waited for several days in a village.
i) f, e, e, a, g, b, d
ii) c, e, a, g, f, d, b
iii) f, c, e, a, g, d, b
iv) e, f, a. g. d, b, e
B. Fill in the blanks.
1. When Susan got lost on the first day of the race, it took her four hours to
2. During the race, Susan sometimes ran and sometimes rode the sled to avoid and .
3. When there were twenty-two miles left to finish the race, there were ahead of Susan.
C. Mark the best choice.
1. Tekla was special for Susan because .
a) he couldn’t go on with the race and had to be left behind
b) he had taken part in all Susan’s previous Iditarods
c) Susan had once saved the animal’s life
d) he had reached his limit although he was the most experienced dog on the team
2. At the village of Rohn,
a) the leaders of the race lost their way
b) the race was interrupted because of the heavy snow fall
c) the leaders were waiting for daylight to continue the race
d) Susan had a chance to regain her strength
3. Which of the following is not true? .
a) Susan first raced in the Iditarod in 1978.
b) Susan’s dream of winning the race came true.
c) Susan spent several days in Shaktoolik until the weather improved.
d) Six of Susan’s dogs dropped out along the way.