Northland musher eyes 2014 Iditarod
Every time he and his team compete in sled dog races, Northland musher Nathan Schroeder says, spectators ask him one question more than any other: "Have you done the Iditarod?" For years, Schroeder always has had to answer no. He plans to change ...
Every time he and his team compete in sled dog races, Northland musher Nathan Schroeder says, spectators ask him one question more than any other:
"Have you done the Iditarod?"
For years, Schroeder always has had to answer no. He plans to change that next winter.
Schroeder, winner of this year's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, announced Friday that he plans to take his team to the next level and fulfill a longtime goal by entering the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
"I've always thought about it," said Schroeder, 35, of Chisholm. "Now is the best time for it. ... I better get up there now before time slips away and I can't."
The world-renowned Iditarod, held in March, crosses 1,150 miles of Alaskan wilderness from Anchorage to Nome. Schroeder has won the 375-mile Beargrease twice -- in 2010 and 2013 -- and finished second in 2011.
Over the years the Beargrease has attracted Iditarod veterans -- Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley, Jason Barron, DeeDee Jonrowe and others -- to its challenging, hilly course up the North Shore. A number of Northland mushers -- John Stetson, Blake and Jennifer Freking, Matt Rossi, Jamie Nelson and Keith Aili among them -- have made the jump from the Beargrease to the Iditarod.
And now, Schroeder said, he's ready to head north. The married father of three, a journeyman millwright with Local 1348 out of Virginia, said he's confident in his and his dogs' ability to finish the long race. It's raising the estimated $50,000 needed for transportation and other race costs that's the most daunting task.
"It's the logistics," he said, "trying to raise enough money and sponsors to get up there. Everything else I know I can do."
Schroeder first became interested in sled dogs at age 12, when a teacher brought a malamute puppy to class. With his father, Vern, he acquired dogs and learned about the sport, started racing and started winning.
"He's worked long and hard," Vern Schroeder said. "Always doing things better, more efficiently."
After Nathan married his wife, Carey, in 2008, they went on a honeymoon to Alaska. He vowed to return to the Last Frontier with his dog team.
The Schroeders' kennel is called Horses-N-Huskies. While Nathan raises and trains his sled dogs, Carey keeps quarter horses and competes in barrel racing.
"She does the horses in the summer and I tend to her; I do the dogs in the winter and she tends to me," Nathan said.
Schroeder has spent a lot of time talking to and learning from other mushers, including Nelson, Iditarod veteran Aaron Burmeister and Aili, who completed the Iditarod in 2002.
Aili said making the jump from the Beargrease to the longer race can be harder on the musher than on the dogs. But he said Schroeder is well-prepared for the challenges of the Iditarod.
"He's got the right personality," Aili said. "A little laid-back, but that helps in long-distance racing. He has the patience, and he's really built up his dog team."
Schroeder plans to compete in the 2014 Beargrease next January, and then almost immediately head to Alaska with his team. He said he's looking forward to "something different, a change in the scenery. I'm excited to train my dogs a different way to accomplish a finish in the Iditarod."