Last Iditarod hurrah for 67-year-old Minnesota musher

Cindy Gallea shown at the start of the 2007 Iditarod. Al Grillo | Associated Press

Cindy Gallea, of Wykoff, Minn., is currently in last place in the Iditarod sleg dog race in Alaska pulling into the Rohn checkpoint on Tuesday. If you’re prone to chuckle about her standing, answer this: “What are you accomplishing today?”

Gallea is 67 years old, and this is her last hurrah, her 15th Iditarod, in which she began competing in 1998, the year she finished in 48th place.

Each year she’s competed — her top finish was 33rd in 2003 — she gets the minimum $1,049 in prize money.

A nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic, she didn’t start dog sledding until she was in her 40s when she lived in Grand Marais and finished her first Iditarod at 47.

Once she finished the first 938-mile race, shorter races lost their appeal, she said in a 2008 interview. She moved to Montana but eventually returned to Minnesota to be closer to her family.

Although she vows that this is her last race, she’s said that before.

“It does get a little harder as you get older,” she told the Rochester Post-Bulletin before the last Iditarod she competed in. Money and time become harder to come by as you get older, she said.

“I love Alaska, I love running dogs,” she said. “Those dogs are really fun. They are amazing athletes. That’s their drive, that’s what they want to do.”

Here lead dog this year is Finn, who comes from a litter of puppies named after Star Wars characters, all a descendant of Pilot, a former lead dog.

“So I keep telling him to just channel his grandpa,” she told the Anchorage Daily News this week. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does.”

(h/t: Mike Edgerly)

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