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Kelley Griffin: An Iditarod Veteran Musher Organizing for Two Big Races

By Joy Davis, Educational Journalist-IN

KGriffinKelley Griffin of Wasilla, Alaska will be one busy lady this race season.  Besides the Iditarod, she is also entered in the Yukon Quest which is held one month before the Iditarod.  Kelley has previously competed in 2 Iditarods (2005 in 45th place and 2008 in 44th place) and 7 1/2 Yukon Quests (2002 (17th), 2003 (13th), 2004 (11th), 2005 (scratch), 2006 (7th), 2007 (14th), 2008 (6th), 2009 (race judge), and 2010 (15th).  Training for both events requires organization.  Kelley admits that organization is not her strongpoint.  But with a positive attitude, determination, and a little help from her friends, she will be successful.

Her dogs are the inspiration to run the Iditarod again.  Kelley said, “Shortly after signing up, my brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died within the week.  He asked me to run the races for him.  He has always been behind the scenes supporting me for all of my crazy adventures.  I am honored to run for him this year and always.  It would be great if I can help raise awareness for palliative care and hospice also.”

Preparing for the Iditarod is a year round project.  There are so many things that need to be done with making a living and training dogs.  Running a small farm and kennel are her life.  Currently, she is busy making dog snacks for the trail from fatty meat and organs. While racing is costly, Kelley owns her dogs and has most of the necessary gear.  Always observant, she pays attention to other mushers to see what new methods they are using that might benefit her team and herself.

In addition to the mandatory items, Kelley will be carrying dog coats, a vet kit to treat her dogs, herself and make necessary sled repairs, food/snacks for the dogs, fruitcake, headlamps, batteries, extra clothes, her leatherman (a multipurpose knife tool), lots of matches, sunglasses and goggles, an MP3 player, and the spirit of  her brother.  She noted that music is important to help her stay focused.  Kelley plans on taking a variety of genres with her.  During one Yukon Quest she had Fast Car stuck in her head for 12 days.  The worse part of that was she could only remember one refrain and not the entire song.

As the Quest and Iditarod are scheduled close together, she has to prepare the food drops simultaneously.  Friends will ensure that the bags are sent on time for the Iditarod as she will be gone on the Quest when the Iditarod drops are due.  Most of her dogs will participate in both races; however, those left at home will continue to be trained for the Iditarod.

The competitive factor involves not just the race, but all of the areas- training, food, health, and planning.  Kelley’s goal for the Iditarod is to place well enough to recoup her costs and hopefully, make some money.  However, finishing with healthy dogs is her priority.  After the Iditarod is completed, Kelley plans to continue running with her dogs as long as there is snow.  Then perhaps she will take time for herself and become a tourist in some unknown location.

Safe trails, Kelley.

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