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Cindy Gallea to compete in 12th Iditarod


Fri, Feb 14th, 2014
Posted in Wykoff Features

Cindy Gallea runs a dog sled team near Wykoff, Minn. in preparation for the 2014 Iditarod which begins March 1st. Photo by Barb Jeffers

While some people in this area complain about the cold and the snow of winter, there are others whose passion depends on such conditions.

Cindy Gallea of Wykoff, Minn. has a passion for dog sled racing or “mushing” and the snow we now have in Fillmore County helps her keep her dogs training and preparing for races such as the well-know Iditarod that begins this year on March 1, 2014.

This will be Gallea’s 12th Iditarod and the preparation for such an important and grueling race is constant, difficult, and complicated. Being prepared for the Iditarod does not start shortly before the race. It takes year-round training and planning.

Cindy Gallea graduated with a B.S. in Nursing in 1973 from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. followed by earning her Masters Degree in Nursing from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1990.

In 1990 Gallea moved to Montana where she was able to train her dogs with ease due to favorable conditions. In 2010 she moved back to Minnesota to be closer to her parents who live in Gaylord, Minn. Gallea stated, “I couldn’t leave my dogs behind”, so she and the dogs found their new home near Wykoff where Gallea operates Snowcrest Racing Sled Dogs.

Gallea has been mushing for 27 years and completed her first Iditarod at age 47. The time spent training the dogs is a huge time commitment and the cost can be staggering. Gallea approximates she spends from 18 to 24 hours a week on training runs. This increases to as much as 35 to 40 hours a week at the peak of training. This is in addition to dog care, food preparation, planning trips to races and so much more. It’s easy to say this is not a hobby it is a way of life.

The dogs recently got in some good training from January 12 - 15, 2014 when Gallea competed in an organized training event in the UP of Michigan. She also entered the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in late January 2014 which began in Duluth, Minn.

Gallea balances her time between mushing and her work as a Nurse Practitioner in the Oncology Department at the Mayo Clinic Methodist Campus in Rochester, Minn. She has been a Nurse Practitioner for 24 years and has been employed by Mayo Clinic for over three years.

After working all day, Gallea comes home and takes care of the dogs. On days off from work, she selects a team to run out of her approximately 50 dogs, sometimes running late into the night, having to feed and care for the dogs upon returning home.

Plans for traveling to Alaska for the Iditarod must be made months in advance with so many details to be taken care of. Eighteen hundred pounds of supplies have already been shipped ahead including kibble dog food and food for Cindy. Ody’s Country Meats of Spring Valley, Minn. cuts and packages meat that is also shipped ahead to be fed to the dogs during the Iditarod race along with kibble. Once the food arrives in Alaska, Iditarod volunteers arrange for the supplies to be delivered to the 20 checkpoints throughout the Iditarod route.

Each dog will consume approximately 8,000 - 10,000 calories per day during the Iditarod. Every 12 hours the team of 16 dogs will eat approximately 10 pounds of kibble and 12 pounds of meat with two or three snacks in between meals. The average amount consumed by the team during the race is 50 to 60 pounds per day. When the temperatures are colder, the dogs need to eat even more.

During the 1,100 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, there are certain checkpoints where mushers must stop. At these times officials and veterinarians examine the dogs, sometimes testing the dogs’ urine for per formance enhancing drugs and overall health. Although there are mandatory rests, such as a 24-hour and an 8-hour, the mushers get very little sleep during the Iditarod. At the rest stops, the mushers bed the dogs on straw, prepare dog food—sometimes needing to melt snow to make water, treat injuries or sore muscles, and prepare the sled for the next section of trail. After these things are taken care of, the mushers can take a nap.

Gallea stated that her best time for finishing the Iditarod is 11 days, 7 hours, and 56 minutes. Her goal for the 2014 Iditarod is to beat her own time. She said the winner of the Iditarod finishes in nine days. Being out in the conditions and pushing herself and the dogs for so many days in a row can take a toll that most people cannot imagine, but it is what Gallea lives and works for.

One interesting aspect of dog sled racing is the fact that family, friends, fans, and sponsors can follow Gallea’s progress throughout the Iditarod as GPS trackers are placed on the sleds so people can follow her on the GPS Tracker Map. Go to www.iditirod.com to find a link to the GPS Tracker system.

The combined cost of the endeavor, including the cost of raising and feeding her dogs, training them along with the cost of necessary supplies and equipment as well as the cost of travel to races and race entry fees, is significant. Gallea greatly appreciates any sponsorship or assistance she receives.

Gallea has help from fellow musher Stacy Rader from Denver. Rader and Gallea met in 2007. This will be the fifth time that Rader has helped with Iditarod training and preparation. Gallea stated, “I couldn’t do it without her” and help from others as well.

David Applen of Lanesboro, Minn. has become an invaluable sponsor. He has volunteered many hours of his time performing many different tasks to help including grooming trails, hooking up and running dogs, and ordering and picking up supplies. Gallea purchased David and his wife Laurie’s home which was for sale when Gallea moved to Wykoff and David offered to work for her for an hourly wage but after realizing the costs Gallea incurs he offered to give up his wage and sponsor Gallea instead. Gallea also has help from Katrina Schmidt who periodically helps with dog chores, especially when Cindy is out of town for training and races.

Additional local sponsors include Big Dan’s Trucking in Altura, Minn., Sunshine Foods (use of loading dock), Rochester Feed and Country Store, and Jeff and Joyce Tart. Also, she appreciates the cooperation of the Heartland Snowgoers and local landowners who share their land for snowmobile trails.

If you would like to support or sponsor Cindy Gallea in any way, she can be reached at 21392 County 5, Wykoff, MN 55990. Cindy also enjoys sharing her Iditarod experiences with others and is happy to speak to groups about the wonder of sled dogs and running the Iditarod.

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