Running & Iditarod

I couldn’t contain my excitement in the Las Vegas airport earlier today as I walked back from the Hudson Newsstand.  With a smile on my face I explained to eight of my co-workers that I just bought the newest issue of Runner’s World Magazine and Anna and Kristy Berington were on the cover it.  This issue combined my love of running with the Iditarod, and I couldn’t have been happier.

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Runner’s World magazine with the Berington sisters!

Once I got on the plane I sat down to read the article on the two Wisconsin natives.  It focuses on the twins’ training and their life at the kennel.  The article also highlights the importance Kristy and Anna put on running during the Iditarod—who estimate that they run nearly 100 of the 1,000 mile race.  It helps keep the sled lighter, and Anna points out that it also keeps them warm since standing on the back of a sled can get quite cold.

The article is a fun read and can be used in the classroom to promote fitness, but to also work on non-fiction article analysis.  I have attached a handout that can accompany the article if you want to analyze it with your students. Non Fiction Notes Berington Article

And if you do happen to pick up the Runner’s World issue, be sure to flip to 104 and read a little blurb from my younger sister, Colleen, as she talks about a local women’s race, which happens to take place tonight in Chicago.

It’s a pretty great day when running gets combined with the Berington sisters, Iditarod, and your little sister, so enjoy the read and get out there and run!

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Family and friends picture after tonight’s race in Chicago!

A Husky Point of View

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What does a lead dog see on the trail?

In my class we have been learning about the differences between perspective and point of view in our writing and in the stories we read, and how they help us understand someone’s experiences in a different and unique way.  We wanted to write about the point of view of the different participants in the Iditarod: dedicated mushers, excited spectators, and Iditarod lead dogs.

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What a fan sees on the Iditarod Trail

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What a musher sees on the Iditarod Trail

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What a husky sees on the Iditarod Trail

For help with this lesson, I turned to rookie musher Patrick Beall.  Patrick was born and raised in Oklahoma, and he has trained with Mitch and Dallas Seavey.  He created a fantastic video showing a day in the life of a musher wearing a GoPro camera and was gracious and shared it with me to use in this lesson. 

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Patrick Bealls – photo – Iditarod

It was a unique perspective that helped us “see” the world from a musher’s viewpoint.  We thought about other perspectives in this race, and what could be seen and felt on the trail by the huskies and the humans. 

A lead dog in front of a sled is low to the ground, so what landscape do they see?  A musher is riding the sled and can see the whole team in front traveling along, or maybe looks up to see the Iditarod Air Force overhead. 

A spectator at a checkpoint sees the entire team travel by, stretched out along the towline, perhaps at night with the northern lights above.  This activity really helped us think about the race and what special events make it unique.

 

We used a little plastic bowl to draw an eyeball, and then illustrated it from a particular perspective: a lead dog, a musher, or a spectator.  We thought carefully about the landscape and events that make the Last Great Race on Earth® as we illustrated our perspectives.

When we finished our perspective masterpieces, we thought about how we could incorporate this into a writing piece about point of view.

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Eyes on the Trail

 

Purpose, Point of View and Perspective *Link unavailable at this time.

PIE_Download_Aug_2015 *Link unavailable at this time.

We created an anchor chart to help us understand point of view, the perspective from which a piece of text is written.  This can be a bit complicated for young students, but starting with the “eye on the trail” art project made it much simpler to understand. 

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The Point of View anchor chart

 

We learned about first, second and third person point of view, and then put a photo of an Iditarod team at the starting line in the middle of a piece of construction paper.  We sectioned off the paper, and in each section the students had to write about the Iditarod picture from  the different perspectives: 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person limited, 3rd person omniscient, and 3rd person objective.

This activity helped us understand point of view, and it helped us bring the Iditarod into our Writer’s Workshop. 

 

Thank you Patrick for sharing a little of your life in Alaska with us!

 

Hot Cocoa With a Side of Poetry

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Hot Poems on a Cold Day

 

I have spent a great deal of time getting to know our 2016 Iditarod mushers this year.  My special focus has been to share the stories of the rookie mushers, and their personal journey to the starting line.  Like many teachers we have a poetry unit each year, but I wanted to find an Iditarod musher who also loved poetry that could share with us.  That was no easy task, but I found the perfect person for the job.

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Photo courtesy of Iditarod

Elliot Anderson is a 2016 Iditarod rookie musher who hails from Wisconsin.  He loves the great outdoors, and has had many adventures, from working on a horse ranch in Wyoming, to being a tour guide on the Mendenhall Glacier running dogs.  

Being a musher in Alaska is not an easy life.  I asked him what his inspiration was to come here, live in the wilderness, and run dogs. Elliot loves the poetry of Robert Service, the British-Canadian writer who has often been called “the bard of the Yukon”, and told me a story from his childhood that inspired him to one day give up many modern amenities and move to Big Lake to live out his dream.  He shared with me a personal story from his childhood:

My favorite poem that means the most to me is “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.  My second favorite is ” The Spell of the Yukon”. My third favorite is ” The Men Who Don’t Fit In”.   The “Cremation of Sam McGee” inspired me to come to Alaska because my dad would say the poem while next to a campfire in the summer nights.  He memorized the poem and would say it very dramatic like.  My dad went to Alaska in the 70’s and worked as a gold miner for a company.  He fell in love with the lifestyle.  He showed me bits of that lifestyle when I grew up in Wisconsin.  He has an old rough looking Robert service book that I would look at.

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David Anderson, Elliot’s father

 

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

That inspiration was just what we needed.  We imagined ourselves around the campfire, drinking hot cocoa and reading our favorite poems to each other.  In our classroom we wrote haiku, free verse, alliteration, rhymes, cinquains, and shape poems.  We wrote haiku about the northern lights, rhymes about huskies on the trail, diamante about snow falling, and shape poems about sleds.  I’m sure every teacher has their own special Iditarod-themed poems they can use in this project.  We wrote and illustrated our final drafts on a paper hot chocolate cup that eventually were placed into a paper sleeve from local coffee shops.  The results were “good to the last drop!”

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Hot cocoa with a side of poems

 

As we worked on our “cocoa cup” poems, I placed them into a hanging shoe rack so they were out of the way but could showcase their beautiful work.  It took us several weeks to work through and illustrate all of our poems, but this is a wonderful project to work on all year long, and add to your cocoa cup collection hanging on the wall. 

 

Iditarod mushers are such interesting people, with many passions and hobbies in life.  To find a musher who loves poetry as much as we do was a real treat.  Elliot told me that this father will be waiting for him when he crosses the finish line in Nome.  What a remarkable journey.  My students and I will be cheering him on as well!

 

 

Coffee Sleeve Template

Hot Cocoa Template

 

 

Enjoy a slideshow of my students in our “northern lights nook” showing off their favorite cocoa cup poem:

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Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

Painter and Ugly: Friendship at the Jr. Iditarod

 

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Friendship is…

One of the special benefits of the Jr. Iditarod is that the young mushers bond with each other in a unique and lasting way.  In the woods at Yentna Station, after taking great care of their dogs for the night, they bonded over a campfire and shared trail stories.  It was remarkable to see, and I am sure these memories will last a lifetime for them.

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Photo courtesy of Iditarod.com

What is friendship like in the Jr. Iditarod for these young people?  Can your sled dog be your friend?  For help, I turned to former Jr. Iditarod champion, and 2016 rookie Iditarod musher Noah Pereira.  

Noah, born in Brookport, New York,  became the first non-Alaskan to win the Jr. Iditarod in 2013.  This week, I met up with him at the Jr. Iditarod start where he was offering support and help to the young mushers before his 1,000 mile adventure next week.

My class wanted to know more about this very special Iditarod event, so we sent Noah one of my favorite books about the Jr. Iditarod, called Painter and Ugly, by Robert J. Blake.  The book is from the perspective of two Jr. Iditarod lead dogs who are good friends and finish the 150 mile race together.  

I asked Noah about his friendship with his sled dogs and he said, “My dogs are my friends because I really truly trust them, and they truly trust me.  No matter what happens I know I can depend on them.  With that bond we can do some incredible things.”

 

Noah was so gracious and recorded himself reading the book aloud with his sled dog, Rainy!  How often does an Iditarod musher read a children’s story to classrooms around the world?  As a bonus, Allison Perry’s wonderful second grade class from my school in Austin, Texas, created sled team friendship books after listening to the story.  The book inspired them to think about friendship for themselves and what qualities they look for in a friend.

They pretended to be mushers in the Jr. Iditarod and colored their own sled dog scene. When they were finished, they added their faces to the musher and put their lovely writing in a special book about friendship.

 

Noah shared his inspirational experiences from his champion Jr. Iditarod year and what his friendship with his dogs meant to him:

  The Jr Iditarod is a 150 mile race meant to prepare young mushers for future dog sled races. Mushers from ages 14 to 17 can take up to 10 dogs and compete.  For many, Jr Iditarod is just way to have fun with dogs, but for myself it was so much more. 
         In 2012 I was a sophomore going to a high school in upstate New York.  I had dreamed about Jr. Iditarod since my first sled dog encounter during 5th grade.  When I heard of an opportunity to race it I could not pass it up. In December of 2012, my father and I left New York headed for Alaska and the Jr Iditarod.  That February I would be a rookie in the race.
         There was little hope for me to win the race, but I had some very talented dogs to get me to that point.  The first 75 miles was simple and we made it to the halfway point with ease.  During the mandatory 10 hour layover I fed my dogs, took care of their feet, and gave them all straw to sleep on.  After all that was finished I finally was able to eat something myself.  Morning came and it was time for me to take off.  I was the second musher to leave the checkpoint.  We eventually caught the first place musher about 40 miles from the finish.  We mushed together and neither one of us could take the lead for long.  About 10 miles from the finish I was able to take the lead.  I kicked and I pushed as hard as I could for the whole way to the finish constantly looking over my shoulder to see if he was catching up.  I made it to the finish line in first place.  If there’s one thing I learned throughout my experience it’s that where you come from doesn’t dictate what you can become.

 

Sleds Dogs in Winter PDF

Noah Pereira Kennel

 

Check out more wonderful images from this special lesson for Noah:

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Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

Want to know more about other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

Into the Wild with Musher Monica Zappa

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Iditarod clay diorama – complete with a husky, the northern lights, and paw prints in the snow

What do mushers see on the trail?  In art classes, the Iditarod and the study of Alaska and the Arctic have been a special project this year.  The students at Eanes Elementary School researched the geographic landscape and animals found along the trail and created amazing clay dioramas to represent what they found.   The results are stunning!unnamed-8

The question about certain polar animals always comes up when learning about Alaska.  Many times, students, and even adults, make the mistake of thinking that penguins live at the North Pole.  

Erik Brooks, the artist and illustrator, has written the perfect book to solve this mystery!  Polar Opposites is a lovely children’s picture book about a polar bear and a penguin who are friends and pen pals.  It talks about their respective homes at the North and South Poles and really helps students learn the difference once and for all.  Our dioramas were penguin free, and with a little research, students had the opportunity to learn about other unique Arctic creatures and landforms.

For help and insight into this special project, I turned to Iditarod musher Monica Zappa.  Monica lives in the remote Caribou Hills of Kasilof, Alaska, and her passion for nature and conservation is well known and respected.  Monica shared a video of her morning salmon and turkey snack time at her kennel…but with a special visitor.  A bald eagle flies in each morning hoping for a treat, much to the delight of her beloved dog team.  Will the eagle snatch the treat away from Dweezil, her lead dog?  Watch and find out:

 

 

Although this is a typical morning for Monica, it certainly seems extraordinary to me!  Her video was wonderful inspiration for this unique and thoughtful project.  Our students worked closely with our art teachers, Erin McElroy and Caitlin Maher, to recreate their Alaskan landscape scenes with clay, art tools, paint, and a lot of love.  We learned a lot about what an Iditarod musher sees and experiences along the trail in the remote wilderness.

It is so easy to bring the study of the Iditarod into any classroom.  This is a beautiful project that integrates the Last Great Race on Earth® and the study of wild Alaska into an art and research project.  When we finished, our students displayed their dioramas in a touring gallery display.  The next step is to allow students to tell a story about their dioramas in a narrative form or an expository research project in Writer’s Workshop.  This would also be wonderful for a companion poem with each Arctic scene.  The possibilities are endless!

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Monica Zappa has had a very adventurous life, inspired by her parents who were both mushers.  It was her father’s dream to run the Iditarod, and now she is fulfilling that dream for him with her third Iditarod this year.  Monica has degrees in meteorology and geography, and when she is not mushing, her main occupation is commercial fishing.  She is passionate about protecting Alaska’s wild salmon and the pristine waters of Bristol Bay.  She is truly a conservation advocate for her state!

How’d They Do That?

Check out the steps below to easily create your own Arctic clay dioramas:

 

Find out more about Team Zappa on their website:

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http://teamzappa.com

www.erikbrooks.com

Into the Wild – Arctic Diorama Lesson Plan

Want to know more about Monica Zappa and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

Print

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

Ode to Iditarod

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An Iditarod Valentine’s Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the Iditarod, my students and I worked together to write a special form of poetry called an ode.  An ode is an exaggerated poem that celebrates something ordinary as extraordinary.  They are great fun to write because they use figurative language, vivid verbs, expressive language, personification, and can be over-the-top and a little silly. 

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Ode to a Husky

An ode does not have to rhyme, but some of my students decided to take up the challenge.  We read some mentor text in Writer’s Workshop, and noticed that odes sometimes repeat phrases and have an over-the-top exaggerated voice.  Our first ode was written from the point of view of a devoted musher to a husky.  

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Oh Iditarod!

We wrote another ode from the point of view of a fan of the race.  How would we all feel if there was no Iditarod?  Would huskies lose their joy?  We had many giggles exaggerating our writing for this project.

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Ode to Iditarod

We were inspired by our odes of gratitude for the Last Great Race on Earth®, so we decided to make our own compliment booklets to each other in honor of Valentine’s Day.  Peter Cameron, an innovative educator in Ontario, Canada and fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, has a wonderful blog called Mr. C’s SharesEase that is a great resource for teachers.  He shared his friendship booklet idea, and I knew that would be a wonderful way to end our day.

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A friendship compliment booklet

Christine Hinkle, my friend and 4th grade teammate, created a blank 11 X 14 page of strips for each of our students to fill in with a compliment for someone else.  This activity could be turned into an Iditarod-themed booklet very easily.  Students could use Iditarod facts to write a compliment or a thank you note from a different point of view as a short formative assessment.  How would a musher compliment his team?  How would a husky dog compliment a dog bootie?  The possibilities are endless!

Each year, Eanes Elementary School students bring in a decorated “mailbox” for our Valentine’s Day parties in the classroom.  Boxes are lovingly decorated with creatively engineered openings for students to deliver cards.  Many students save them and reuse them from kindergarten through 5th grade.  It is a lovely tradition.  Several of my students chose an Iditarod theme for their cards and treats this year!

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Blank Compliment Booklet Sheet – 11X14

Oh Iditarod!

Ode to the Great Race

Ode to a Husky

Ode to Iditarod Lesson Plan

Ode to Iditarod Checklist

And now…take a moment to see the Valentine’s Day fun in the 2016 Iditarod classroom this year as we delivered our notes and treats to our friend’s mailboxes:

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The perfect Valentine’s Day card for me!

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

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20 Lucky Huskies

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We love our kennel name!

The Iditarod Summer Camp for Teachers is a remarkable opportunity to meet mushers at the volunteer picnic as they sign the dotted line and enter the Last Great Race on Earth®.  

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Photo courtesy Iditarod

I had the pleasure of meeting rookie musher Mary Helwig that day.  I remember Mary casually mentioning to me that she had lost her home and belongings in the Sockeye fire that affected so many mushers last summer, and I could not believe her amazing attitude.  Her team and dog sled survived the wildfire.  To lose almost all you own, and yet still be dedicated to bringing your beloved dog team nearly 1,000 miles to the burled arch in Nome…was simply inspiring.  

In my last post about puppies, we learned about newborn huskies, made our own, and named each one, lovingly, using a Texas theme.  We followed a special and time-honored tradition within the musher community to name puppy litters.  Now it was time to create one kennel name to bring us all together as a class.  For help, I turned to Mary and I asked her how her kennel, “Bravo Kennel”, came about.  She was so gracious and created a video for all of us to see, answering our question while very busy in the middle of training.  We were surprised by her answer!

We loved meeting Bravo, Mary’s special sled dog, and learning that his attitude and hard work inspired her to name her kennel after him.  A vote was in order!  My students had many ideas for our kennel name, but we needed to find one that was personal for us and our journey this year.  A great way to narrow down votes in a classroom is to use Tap Roulette, a fun, game-formatted app that helps a group make decisions through the process of elimination.  We decided to use Poll Everywhere on the web to give everyone a chance to express their passionate view of what our kennel name should be.  I added every name choice from my class, created a QR code for my students to find my poll online easily, and then we voted together online.  

After our initial vote, I edited and narrowed down the choices to our top 4, and we voted again.  Poll Everywhere allows you to change your choices easily, without having students enter a new poll all over again.  The results of our vote were in real time:

Our new kennel and class name became “20 Lucky Huskies”, and we celebrated.  What a perfect designation for our amazing journey this year.  We certainly are fortunate to have this unique opportunity to share our learning with the world, and sometimes we feel just like huskies on a team… working hard together for a common goal.  It is perfect for us!  

Now, it was time for some math activities to bring the lesson all together.  I created a kennel fraction activity for my students based upon what we learned in my post about dog house design.  Students had to color and decorate a kennel following fraction rules.

In our whole group lesson, I created a kennel glyph.  Glyphs are a fun way to gather and create data using pictures.  First, I created a form with Iditarod-themed questions for my students to answer, and their responses told them how to color and create their individual husky dog house picture.  Put all together, we had one, big, kennel bulletin board that represented all of our answers from the glyph.  We then looked at our pictorial data, analyzed it, and created fractional representations from it on a chart.  We also challenged ourselves to reduce the fractions to their simplest form.

 

Below is video of Mary, taken by her father, as she took her team out for a 50 mile practice run over the Christmas holiday.

Fraction Dog House

Fraction Dog Yard Student Sheet

Fraction Dog Yard Glyph

Fraction Dog Yard Directions

Dog House Glyph Lesson Plan

Dog Yard Fraction Lesson Plan

 

 

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

Print

Want to know more about Mary Helwig and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts
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Get to know Mary Helwig with her Insider video – http://www.iditarod.com