5 minutes with dog sled racer Kim Franklin
PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 July 2016
Chris Burton www.lizard-king.com
The Cottered 50-year old who took on the Last Great Race on Earth, driven solo by huskies 1,000 miles across the wilds of Alaska
You were the only British woman in the 2016 Iditarod Great Sled Race, what was your motivation to take part?
It was mainly my love of huskies and working with them. I bought my first husky in 1988 and have had Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies at home ever since. Racing them in the UK led to my interest in long distance races in Alaska. After my second visit to Alaska to follow the Iditarod in 2006, I knew I wanted to give it a try and ran my first mid-distance race in January 2007. I was absolutely hooked. I loved the thrill, the skill of the dogs, and the scenery. I also knew it would be a huge personal challenge.
How did you train for 12 days and nights of polar racing?
I spent two winters based in Alaska training with Dean Osmar, a former Iditarod champion and trained with the dogs on a daily basis. I also completed in several qualifying races. It gave me an opportunity to learn which dogs would work well and could build a bond. In 2015 I completed various races including the Gin Gin 200; they were a great experience to prepare me for the big race.
What were the greatest challenges?
The environment and getting acclimatized to the weather was a challenge. Then there was the race itself and the variety of terrain; this varies from mountains to stretches racing on frozen rivers and windblown sections of open trail. Lack of sleep was also a huge challenge, with periods of long concentration and looking after the dogs as a priority takes its toll. The weather can also be a huge challenge, although this year it was relatively kind to us, it can easily drop down to -50F.
What was the lowest point?
The worst part by far was when I lost my dog team. We hit a stump and I was thrown from the sled and the dogs carried on. Shaken, I went in search. It was cold, dark and in the complete wilderness and we ended up apart overnight. As frightening as it was for me, I feared for the dogs out in the wild. It was an awful night. The relief when we were reunited was immense. I couldn’t believe that none of them were injured. I was so pleased I could carry on and finish the challenge.
Most memorable moments?
There are so many memorable moments that will live with me. We received so much kindness from the volunteers and villagers. When I arrived at the Galena checkpoint with a broken sled an amazing local man fixed it for me. He did such a great job that although I could have changed my sled, I decided it was robust enough to take me all the way to the finish. Memorable moments included beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The climb over Little McKinley Mountain was stunning and dropping down on to the coast outside Nome as the sun came up will also stay with me forever.
Do you have any more adventures planned?
I would like to try some low-level eventing with my ex-racehorse Nulato. Then again, there is always the Yukon Quest!