Angie Taggert with two members of her sled dog team at the Alaska Excursions camp above Dyea. - Photo courtesy of Angie Taggert

First time Iditarod musher

Ketchikan’s Angie Taggart worked in Dyea last summer

By ANDREW CREMATA

In less than two weeks, Angie Taggart will breach the starting line of the 39th Iditarod sled dog race in Anchorage. It will be Taggart’s first time running the race and the full-time second grade teacher will not only draw support from her hometown of Ketchikan, but some from Skagway will also be watching with a vested interest.
Taggart spent her first summer season in Skagway last year as a part of Alaska Excursions’ dog mushing tour. She described the experience as “a lot of fun” and said that Dyea was one of her favorite places and one of the most beautiful she’s ever lived.
Since her stint in Skagway, Taggart has been conditioning her dogs for the Iditarod in Willow and said the opportunity to utilize them during the summer months has been a benefit throughout the rest of her dog’s training.
Taggart explained via telephone that wheeled carts are used in place of sleds during the summer months and that 10 miles of training on dry ground is equivalent to 20 miles of sled training on snow.
She added that conditioning the dogs was not unlike the conditioning of a marathon runner and that she has been slowly building their endurance since the fall.
Taggart said her dogs currently can travel 60 miles per run on average. While this falls short of the 100 miles per run other dog teams can mush, Taggart’s goal is to simply run the race to its conclusion and maintain a happy team of dogs.
Weather has made training difficult with extreme temperature fluctuations in Willow, from minus-40 degrees to plus-40 over a span of mere days. The wild weather has caused some slushy conditions, but Taggart feels it has been good preparation for the unpredictable Iditarod trail she is soon about to face.
Taggard said her plan is to run her team six hours on and six hours off, but she plans on making adjustments when necessary to keep the dogs safe and happy.
To qualify for the Iditarod, Taggart had to run 500 miles of qualifying races, which she did in 2009. A musher only has two years to utilize the qualification so Taggart said she chose to run the race this year rather than go through the steps to qualify again.
Taggart said her second grade class in Ketchikan was very excited and that the whole town was “in a frenzy.” She describes the attention as “a little nerve-racking, but I love the support.”
Taggart was unsure if she would return to Skagway next summer.
“I’ll run the Iditarod first and then worry about the rest of my life,” she said.
The Iditarod begins with the ceremonial start in Anchorage at 9:30 a.m. on March 5, and the restart from Willow on March 6 at 1:45 p.m.
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Track Taggart’s team and follow race results at www.iditarod.com, or read her dog mushing blog at: www.mushingadventures.blogspot.com