Scdoris set her sights on Iditarod when she was little PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Saturday, 11 May 2013 08:22
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Rachael Scdoris speaks about her experiences as a blind dog-sled racer at the Perrysburg Hilton Garden Inn. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - Against scoffers. Against naysayers. Against frostbite. Against setbacks.
And most importantly, against blindness - Rachael Scdoris has always done one thing: persevere.
Scdoris, the only legally-blind individual to finish the grueling Iditarod Sled Dog Race, told her story last week at the "EyEvent," presented by the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio.
"I was being obsessed, and loving what I was doing," she said of her pursuit of the goal, one she had harbored since she was a little girl.
From the state of Oregon, Scdoris was born with a rare genetic disorder, not discovered until she was about 7 years old, leaving her vision with "a lack of general detail and color and depth perception."
She fell in love with sled dog racing at an early age, and little wonder - her father trained sled dog teams, but did not race himself.
"I was always obsessed with the dogs," she said.
The idea of running the Iditarod - more than 975 miles in Alaska over mountains and tundra, and through forbidding temperatures - entered her mind at the age of 8, thanks to one of her dad's friends.
"For some crazy reason, that's what I wanted to do."
Her parents, Scdoris said, never wanted to tell her she couldn't do something, but just asked her how she'd accomplish them logistically.
"You have to be able to see more than one dog ahead of you," she explained.
Her folks insisted that she condition herself, and so she became an avid runner, competing in track and cross country, activities she hated.
"It sucked," she said. "But it was for the dogs."
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Rachael Scdoris speaks about her experiences as a blind dog-sled racer.
In her teens she began to enter in smaller sled races, and soon started winning junior-class events. It wasn't until she started racing in adult events that she encountered controversy, as other racers raised objections about her safety, or that her impairments might slow them up as well.
During one such race, Scdoris was dragged for a half mile by her dogs after an incident at the starting gate.
"I got my first case of frostbite," she said.
She soon moved on to "stage" races, similar to the Tour De France, where only a certain part of a route is covered during a day, before eventually competing in qualifying events for the Iditarod.
She ran her first Iditarod in 2006, accompanied by an assistant.
Despite achieving her goal in competing in this most grueling of endurance challenges, the route was not easy for Scdoris, who at times lost her way and encountered desperately cold temperatures, sinking below -40 degrees.
"I did have an encounter with a tree," she joked. "Turns out trees always win."
"I got my second round of frostbite during that race," she said.
While she didn't win the race, Scdoris finished in 12 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes.
Another notable Iditarod run for her was in 2009, which featured the worst weather in the race's history. She broke two sleds and had issues with her dogs, but still finished a respectable 45th after 14 days.
While Scdoris hasn't run the Iditarod since - though she plans to - she's begun to participate in other pursuits, including tandem bike racing. Her team won the national championship in 2012 and were planning a trip to a race in Belgium.
"I cannot wait to see what we can do this year."
Scdoris is also training the next generation of female sled racers - she is working with seven girls to teach them the ropes of the sport.
 

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