By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
An Iditarod sled dog racer was in Liberal Wednesday. No, Southwest Kansas was not added as a new leg for the race.
Musher Karen Land was on hand Wednesday afternoon at the Seward County Community College Library and Wednesday evening at Memorial Library to share some of her experiences about the race which encompasses a 1,000-mile route through Alaska.
The Liberal stop was just one of many Land has been and will be making for a few months.
“Right now, I’m on the road from the middle of January to the middle of April,” she said. “(Wednesday), I did three talks. (Today), I do seven. We can end up doing 100 talks in a year.”
Land, who brought one of her dogs, Borage, to the presentations, said she enjoyed her visit to Liberal.
“We ran around and checked out the parks,” she said. “Usually when I go to a town, I judge a town by their parks. We’ve enjoyed being here. Everybody’s been really friendly, took us out to lunch. We like it.”
Land said driving in Tuesday night from Hutchinson gave her the opportunity to see something very memorable.
“For over an hour, we watched the best sunset I have ever seen in my life coming from Hutchinson over to here,” she said. “It was incredible. That will certainly be what I remember about Liberal.”
Land, who competed in the Iditarod in 2002, 2003 and 2004, said one of the most challenging parts of the race is the lack of sleep and cold.
“The lack of sleep just makes it really difficult to think clearly,” she said. “As you get towards the end, you’re kind of walking around, and you have hallucinations. Mushers get really kind of whacky at the end. The hardest thing is staying awake and not falling asleep.”
Land said training for sled dog races is mostly done in the offseason, and it usually involves having dogs pull vehicles, particularly four-wheelers, instead of sleds.
“That is where we spend most of our hours,” she said. “I personally, as far as the musher training for it, I do mostly running. I run with the dogs in the offseason. Just let the dogs loose and take them out and run them in the forest service land. Most of our miles with the dogs come from pulling vehicles.”
Growing up in Indianapolis, the wilderness of Alaska seemed a distant thought to Land, but during a hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, she picked up a book about the Iditarod race. She later read the book, and a dream was born.
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is from the 49th state, and Land believes having Palin in the spotlight has brought attention to Alaska.
“I thought it was kind of cool when I heard Sarah Palin because she actually knew what the Iditarod was,” she said. “A lot of places I go, nobody knows what it is. Her husband has done the Iron Dog, which is snowmobile racing. That’s pretty tough too. I think she’s probably brought more attention to Alaska than the Iditarod has.”