Mike Williams Sr. talks about the Iditarod and the challenges of having two teams in the race

by Angela Denning-Barnes on March 7, 2013

Mike Williams Sr. with wife Maggie at the musher's drawing Feb. 28. Photo by John Wallace, courtesy of kaiserracing.com

Mike Williams Sr. with wife Maggie at the musher’s drawing Feb. 28. Photo by John Wallace, courtesy of kaiserracing.com

This is Mike Williams Sr.’s 15th Iditarod but it’s the first time the 62-year-old is running it with his son, Michael Williams Jr. Neither musher is running an A or B team. Neither one has just veterans or just pups. Williams Sr. says they are each racing dogs that they’ve trained separately throughout the season. He says they are both solid teams.
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He says that Jr. has younger veterans who are a bit faster and he has the older ones.

“I got most of the oldies but goodies,” Williams said. “These dogs have at least five Iditarods under their belt. They know what they’re getting into. The main thing is maintaining them and to keep them healthy and hopefully we’ll pull something off here.”

As for managing to get two teams from their Akiak kennel into the race this year, Williams Sr. says it hasn’t been easy.

“You know, I thought about it a lot,” Williams said. “And putting in two teams is a little bit taxing on my time, on our time, and it’s more stress and more. . .you know you have to work double everything.”

He says just to get two teams started down the race trail it is $25,000 each. Sponsorships have helped a lot but things like transportation bills are out of their own pockets. That comes from moving a core of 35 dogs back and forth from the Bush.

“Coming from Akiak it costs $10,000 more dollars than if you’re starting from Anchorage,” Williams said. “We have to fly our dogs into Anchorage from Bethel and we have to fly our dogs back to Bethel and it gets very expensive.”

But he says all of the money, all the time, and all the work, has been worth it. He says after the race, he plans to write a book about his experiences running the Iditarod 15 times and how he’s taken care of dogs his whole life through a subsistence lifestyle.

Williams Sr. says he is running his own schedule in the Iditarod.

“I think a lot of them hurry up too much,” Williams said. “And I’m more of a steady pace and trying to take care of the dogs very well.”

Thursday morning, while taking his 24-hour layover in Takotna, Williams told KUAC reporter, Emily Schwing, that he is happy with where he is at. But he hopes to improve if the weather cools down for his dogs.

“You know, I’ve been running so far, but I’m going to start racing from here,” Williams said. “So, you know I think some ways if the dogs are healthy I’m going to start leap-frogging somewhere, and make up that time.”

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