Snow flies in your face as furry friends pull you across the isolated tundra. You feel the air freeze your breath, but the cold won't stop you. You're facing Mother Nature head on -- with the help of a trusty guide, of course.
The hum of the single-engine Cessna fills your ears as you ascend above the Peruvian high desert. Below you, flat expanses of dry, brown earth extend in every direction, punctuated only by twisting dry riverbeds ... a lifeless landscape. Then the plane banks, and over the intercom the pilot directs you to look at what appear to be just another set of curving, squiggly lines.
Cindy Haynes was 42 when she made her decision. All of her life she had been a wife and a mom. Now her kids were growing up; her divorce was being finalized, and she had just landed her first real job.
The best dog team anyone ever hitched to a sled was the one Susan Butcher stood behind in the 1985 Iditarod, the 1,100-mile race across Alaska from Anchorage to Nome. So says Butcher, who knows a bit about sled dogs. ''Those guys were athletes,'' she recalls with a wistful shake of her head, ''and it all just came together. No one was going to beat them or come close to beating them.''
1. Hush that mushing: I was reading some of the Iditarod coverage Tuesday morning because, well, it was on SI.com's front page when I came to a realization. There is no sporting event that I could even plausibly enter that I would want to avoid more than the Iditarod. (The "plausibility" clause eliminates things like fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world.) I would much rather, for instance, enter an ultramarathon in Death Valley than the Iditarod, and not just because I have run two marathons and have at least an inkling that I might finish. Basically, I really hate the cold, and what sporting event is colder for longer than mushing 12-16 dogs for 1,150 miles across Alaska for 10-17 days? Consider Tuesday's news item that four-time champ Doug Swingley has withdrawn from this year's race after a fall left him with potentially broken ribs and a possibly dislocated thumb. Read further down the story and you'll note that Swingley scratched from the 2004 race because he suffered frostbite on h