14 days later, Dent comes to end of trail

Baltimore musher finishes race in 63rd place, gets to Nome with 14 of 16 dogs


March 20, 2000|By Michele Vasquez | Michele Vasquez,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NOME, Alaska -- Yesterday at 3: 07 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, Baltimore musher Dan Dent drove his dog team under the Iditarod Trail race finish line arch, placing him in 63rd position with a finishing time of 14 days, 5 hours, 7 minutes, 28 seconds.

The Iditarod 2000 is Dent's first completion of "The Last Great Race." He was forced to scratch in 1999 after suffering deep bite wounds while attempting to break up a fight between members of his dog team.

Looking relatively rested after the 1,131-mile journey from Anchorage, Dent was full of smiles and kind words for those who came out to greet him at the finish line. Mushers Martin Buser and Max Hall were among those who met him and welcomed him to Nome.

Dent's wife, Mary, and daughter, Melissa, were on hand to greet him as well.

Early in the race, things were going well for Dent until he got about five miles from the checkpoint at Rainy Pass.

"My team hit some tree branches," Dent said, "and the gang line broke." Dent was able to hang on to two of his dogs, but the rest of the team scattered.

"I was very lucky to be so close to a checkpoint," Dent said, "because had I been in the middle of nowhere, it could have been serious trouble for me."

Dent made it to the Rainy Pass checkpoint with his sled and two dogs by pushing it most of the way. The rest of his dog team wandered in to the checkpoint before he arrived.

Dent considered this turn of events to be good luck compared with what happened last year. The accident caused Dent to fall far behind in the race because he was so exhausted by the time he reached Rainy Pass that he had to take a long rest.

Dent said his dog team was extremely strong this year. Two members of the team once belonged to this year's Iditarod champion, Doug Swingley, and another two were formerly owned by past Iditarod champion Buser.

According to Dent, one of the Swingley dogs, Maggie, recognized the terrain outside of Unalakleet, the checkpoint on the Bering Sea coastline.

"When we reached Unalakleet," Dent said, "Maggie got very excited and took off like crazy."

From the checkpoint at Shaktoolik, Dent said, his team got stronger and he became more coordinated.

"My main objective was to finish the race this year," Dent said, "so I gave my dogs plenty of rest and fed them really well."

Dent's second objective was to get to Nome with all 16 of his dogs, but he had to drop two of them along the trail.

"I had to drop the first one because of arthritis," Dent said, "and the second one, Drew, came into the Cripple checkpoint with an elevated heart rate, so I decided not to put him at risk."

Dent did get to Nome with 14 members of his team, which is an unusually high number of dogs to make the finish. Dent attributes the good condition of his dogs to the training expertise of the Daniels family in Alaska.

"Even the vets along the trail commented on how healthy and strong they looked," Dent said.

Asked what kept him going this year, especially after the crash, Dent said he kept repeating to himself -- in the fashion of Winston Churchill -- "Never, never, never, never give up."

"The one thing I told my family before the race is that many people have described running the Iditarod as a dream come true," Dent said, "but it is not a dream.

"It is stark reality, and I consider it a special privilege to spend two weeks with these absolutely marvelous dogs and be part of their mind, heart and soul."

Dent -- who doesn't plan to compete in the Iditarod next year -- also thanked his wife for being so supportive over the past six years.

"She has allowed me to become the person I wanted to be by running this race," he said.

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