Musher Tim Osmar puts himself to the ultimate test

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- Veteran musher Tim Osmar is putting himself to the ultimate test.

Just three weeks before he competes in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trial Sled Dog Race, he will embark on the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, considered by many mushers to be more demanding than the better-known Iditarod.

It is a feat attempted only rarely, and with good reason. While the Iditarod may get most of the attention, the Quest is generally considered a more grueling race because there are fewer checkpoints and the race covers more difficult terrain.

So why is Osmar doing it? Even he's not quite sure.

''I don't know. I'm still kind of questioning it myself,'' he said. ''I don't know if it's such a good plan or not, but every once in a while you've got to do something crazy.''

Pulling it off would put Osmar in some elite company. Among the four who have raced both the Quest and the Iditarod in the same year, three -- Sonny Lindner, Charlie Boulding and Jerry Riley -- have won one of the races.

The Quest begins Feb. 11 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Osmar will be joined in the chute by 33 other mushers. It's expected that the leaders will take about 11 days to run the Quest from Whitehorse to the finish line on the frozen Chena River in downtown Fairbanks.

Osmar sandwiched his first Yukon Quest between 13th-and eighth-place finishes in his first two Iditarods in 1985 and 1987. He placed third in the 1986 race.

''I haven't run the Quest for about 15 years,'' said Osmar, fresh off the trail with his dogs. ''But I think I've got a team pretty well-suited to it. Maybe not quite as fast as the top five, but pretty steady.''

Osmar, 33, is training two different teams.

''I'll use older, veteran dogs in the Quest,'' he said. ''The Iditarod will mainly be a team of 2 to 3 year olds... That way I'll be kind of training them for next year's race.''

He said the combination of seasoned dogs and the pace of the Yukon Quest, which emphasized endurance more than speed, may improve his chances.

''I think I can put in a decent team and finish in the money,'' Osmar said.

How he'll feel after covering 2,100 miles of some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet by dogsled, even he doesn't know.

''When I get to Nome, I'll tell you how it is,'' Osmar said.



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