A STONEHAVEN musher has flown out to Alaska to step up training for his second attempt at the “last great race on earth”.
Wattie McDonald flew out to Anchorage on Tuesday morning to start seven weeks of intensive training with his team of dogs, before tackling the Iditarod race itself, which covers over 1000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain the country has to offer, in March.
Mr McDonald will not be racing with his own dogs, as they are not acclimatised to the bitingly cold conditions of the country, but with a top team of Alaskan huskies who are raring to go.
Dean Osmar, 1984 Iditarod champion and Mr McDonald’s mentor, said: “The dogs currently have over 1000 training miles on them and are looking very fast and strong. We are very happy with the training progress for the team.”
Mr McDonald completed the gruelling event in just over 12 days last year, the only racer to make it home with a full team of dogs.
Mr McDonald said: “I’m very pleased that I completed my dream last year but I’m feeling a bit more competitive and it will definitely be game on when the race starts on March 6.
“I’m going to race this time around and fly the flag for Scotland. I still have the nucleus of the 16 dogs that took me under the burled arch last March and a few up and coming stars to choose from so it’s all getting very exciting now.”
He added: “Wendy and I are so lucky to have our kids Kerry, Nicola and Mark and their partners move in to keep the home fires burning and look after the dogs left at home while we are away. There are so many people that we would like to thank for getting us this far as without the help and support of our friends and family this just wouldn’t be possible.”
Mr McDonald has held several fundraising events in the run up to his departure, including a sponsored wax and shave, a sponsored dog walk, a bag pack at Asda Portlethen and his annual husky extravaganza which took place in Baird’s Park in the run-up to Christmas.
He said: “I hope to have a daily update on my facebook page www.facebook.com/wattiemcd during my training and race preparations. When the race starts all the mushers can be tracked by going to www.iditarod.com - just follow the link for Iditarod insider. Each musher’s sled will be fitted with a GPS device where you can get up to the minute information on any one of the 62 racers, including their location current speed and temperatures previous and next checkpoints.”
Mr McDonald added: “I have set myself a top twenty target this time around as after analysing last year’s times - the dogs had top ten run times so I know personally that I have a lot to do yet, but again I’m really looking forward to the challenge.” More information can be found at www.wattiesgreatrace.com.