Monday, March 9, 1998
Copyright 1998 Anchorage Daily News
And they're off - again
Brother, sister to give each other room on trail
By DANNY MARTIN
Daily News reporter
WILLOW - The restart of the 26th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race here Sunday morning featured 63 mushers, more than 1,000 dogs and a range of emotions - including, for the first time in 26 Iditarods, a touch of sibling rivalry.
Matt and Maria Hayashida are the first brother-sister duo to race in the same Iditarod. While there's not exactly a family feud under way, there won't be many Hallmark moments on the trail, either.
They've seldom spoken in the days leading up to the race.
"I think we both know in the back of our heads there is a potential for a typical brother-sister blowout," said Maria, 29, of Jackson, Wyo. "I think we're being overly sensitive to each other. We're giving each other lots of space because we know we have the power within both of us to push the wrong buttons of the other.
"Little things could start an argument, and out on the trail you don't want to get the dogs involved in something like that."
Matt Hayashida said that while there's a rivalry between them, he's glad there's another rookie with a familiar face in the same Iditarod.
"I think it's pretty cool," he said. "I think it would be nice to have somebody you can ultimately trust out there, no matter what."
Matt, 25, moved from Wyoming to Alaska two years ago. At first he thought the Iditarod was a crazy race.
"Then I got to know it and realized it was more like the Super Bowl of the dog mushing," he said. So he starting collecting and watching Iditarod videotapes, immersing himself in the race.
"I used to be an Iditarod nerd," he admitted.
Despite the hoopla of the Willow restart with hundreds of fans lining the start chute, Maria Hayashida, wasn't nervous.
"It's unusual," said Maria, who was as cool as the ice on Willow Lake, where the restart took place. "The sunshine ... I think that has something to do with how I feel. It's good weather to be going out in."
Even her dog team was laid back.
"Maybe they're shell shocked and they're just trying to figure out where they are right now," Maria said. "I'm sure they're breathing better at this lower altitude."
Maria Hayashida drove nearly 3,000 miles last week - from Jackson, where the altitude is about 7,000 feet above sea level, to Anchorage.
The winner of the 500-mile Race to the Sky in Montana in 1995, Hayashida said she's looking forward to mushing through the Alaska Range, across frozen rivers and along the wind-battered Bering Sea coast.
"We were told that a lot of the smaller creeks are open," she said.
Matt, of Big Lake, was parked next to his sister's dog truck.
Unlike her, Matt was nervous. His longest race was this year's Klondike 300, in which he placed 12th.
"I'm nervous over the fact that we'll be gone for a couple of weeks and I want everything to be smooth," he said. "But I think a lot of the other competitive mushers will be a lot more nervous than I am, because I really have nothing to prove. It's just a camping trip."
Matt is mushing a group of Martin Buser's young dogs.
For plenty of top racers, though, the Iditarod was far more than a camping trip.
"I just want to get out there and get started and get all the hoopla behind me and concentrate on running the race," said Kasilof musher Tim Osmar shortly before beginning his 13th trip on the 1,100-mile trail to Nome.
Osmar wasn't alone, but the fans from Alaska's population center - and beyond - were glad to get one last chance to see the mushers.
"It's great what these people undertake," said 72-year-old Faye Williams from Memphis, Tenn., who watched the restart with her 77-year-old husband, Joe. "I can't imagine anybody undertaking a trip like that."
Larry Michaelson of Wasilla gave his mother, Rosalie of Boise, Idaho, a Christmas gift of a trip to Alaska to see the race start.
"I would like Christmas to go on this long every year," she said. "I think this is the most exciting, truly fantastic (race). ... I've seen dog (track) racing in Arizona, and I've seen horse racing. But this is the ultimate."
Rosalie, Larry and his wife, Cindy, planted themselves on snow berms near the starting line to get a good view of departing mushers.
Video cameras whirred and still-camera flashes went off as David Lindquist, a rookie from Moose Pass, headed down the chute, the first musher officially on the trail.
When he asked if he was nervous about breaking trail for 62 other drivers, he replied with a smile and a confident, "No."
The crowd gave the biggest cheers to five-time champion Rick Swenson of Two Rivers and three-time winner Martin Buser of nearby Big Lake. By nightfall, race officials expected the first mushers into Skwentna, about 75 miles down the trail.
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