Montana town honors Iditarod winner

Posted: Tuesday, May 01, 2001

LINCOLN, Mont. -- Lincoln residents celebrated Doug Swingley's fourth Iditarod title Saturday with a community gathering.

After signing autographs and talking with fans, Swingley rode through town aboard a bright yellow volunteer firetruck, waving at residents.

"This is becoming a normal thing," said Swingley, who has won the last three 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog races.

The event, called Doug Swingley Iditarod Day, was organized by the Race to the Sky committee and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

Swingley said only promotional appearances for his sponsors, including a recent trip to Boston for Excel dog food, keep him from training and breeding sled dogs.

"The secret to winning the Iditarod is dog power," Swingley said. "We've got 40 to 50 puppies out there and they need miles and miles of training."

He runs two to three teams a day.

The older dogs help train the puppies, whose workouts consist of two-mile runs, and a lot of breaks while Swingley untangles their lines.

"I don't know what drives them sometimes," he said. "It's remarkable to see them after 700 or 800 miles, barking to go."

Swingley, the only non-Alaskan ever to win the Iditarod, said his next goal is to win the race in less than nine days. He holds the record of nine days, 58 minutes.

"One of the reasons I go so fast is because I want to get to the other end," he said. He estimates he slept 25 to 30 hours total during this year's race, with no shower and hardly a break to change his socks or brush his teeth.

Although competitors suspect Swingley's team keeps winning because they train at high altitude, the Lincoln champ said his dogs run better because they're Montanans.

"I think my dogs are happier because it's a nicer place to be," he said.

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