Judy Merritt is a lot like other grandmothers. She enjoys gardening, antiques and spending time with her children and grandchildren. There is one exception though. Merritt, 44, also likes the white-knuckle excitement of hitching up a dozen or more huskies to a sled for a fast-paced foray over snow and ice.
The Moose Pass musher has attempted the race twice before, but has yet to make it past the Rohn checkpoint 272 miles into the race. In 2002 she broke her sled, while in 2004 she tore her sternum and was suffering from heart-related ailments that required her to take nitroglycerin pills.
"It's a physical sport, and the body doesn't move as good as it did when I was in my 20s," said Merritt, who also is one of the few mushing grandmothers to ever compete in the race.
Merritt's not one to give up in the face of a challenge, but she did say, for better or worse, this would be her last Iditarod.
"I'm not giving up. The love and the passion is still there, and I'll run dogs as long as I can stand on the runners," she said.
But, between the $25,000 to $30,000 financial cost, as well as the emotional cost to her and her family, Merritt said the price to run is just too high for her to attempt it too many more times.
"I'll just stick with the two-, three- and four-day races. They're easier on the pocket book and easier on the family," she said.
For now, though, Merritt trained harder and under different conditions for this year's race.
She said she believes all of the training will pay off.
"I think we're going to do it this year. I think we'll make it to Nome. We may not win the truck, but I think we'll make it there," she said.
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