Michaela “Misha” Wiljes recently completed the race of a lifetime.
The Willow, AK, retail associate was one of 72 mushers who competed in Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
This year’s grueling, 1,000-mile course stretched from Fairbanks to Nome. At times, the temperature dropped to 46 degrees below zero.
“I was perfectly fine with my warm parka and snow pants,” Wiljes said. “The dogs wear coats and are protected by their double layer of fur.”
During the race, each musher is pulled on sleds by a team of 16 dogs, although Wiljes started the race with 15 dogs due to a last-minute injury.
“They did very well. I’m proud of them,” she said.
All mushers carry a piece of mail to honor postal employees who made deliveries by dog sled from 1890-1963.
Competing in the Iditarod culminated Wiljes’ long-held dream. She’d been preparing for the race since 2000 by competing in shorter races to hone her mushing skills.
Born in the Czech Republic, Wiljes, an avid backpacker, settled in Alaska in 2003. She became a U.S. citizen six years later.
Wiljes runs a kennel in Willow with her husband Gerhard. She’s worked at the local Post Office for two years.
“Misha’s connection to her team is evident by the care and commitment that she gives her dogs. She knows the true spirit of teamwork,” said Postmaster Beth Rogers.