A passion that digs deeper | SteamboatToday.com

A passion that digs deeper

— Oak Creek resident Tom Thurston found his perfect match.

Thurston, who owns his own construction business, has always loved dogs. He’s also always enjoyed winter camping.

So two years ago he found a way to put them together: sled dog racing.

“I get to be by myself – just the dogs and I,” he said. “It’s just a blast.”

On Tuesday, Thurston accomplished his biggest feat yet.

Thurston finished third in the 350-mile Race to the Sky sled dog race in Montana, finishing just an hour behind the winner.

Thurston also competed in the race last year, finishing seventh after he got lost just outside the finish line.

“It was the fastest finish in the history of the race,” Thurston said.

For Thurston, sled dog racing hasn’t just become a hobby; it’s become a passion. He said as he’s continued to do it, the goals and expectations he’s put on himself just keep getting bigger.

“I am a competitor,” he said, “and after running this race I realize we don’t suck.”

Training with his Alaskan huskies starts in August with his dogs pulling a 4-wheeler while it’s still in gear.

Then around Thanksgiving, Thurston takes his dogs up to the Columbine Cabins for their first run of the year. After that it’s onto 100-mile camping trips.

When all is said and done, Thurston and his team of 12 dogs have done 2,200 training miles.

“We run a lot in the middle of the night,” Thurston said. “We’ll leave at 6 p.m., get home at 3 a.m., sleep for an hour and then head off to work.”

While the schedule can be tough on his family, he said his wife and two daughters are involved in sled dog racing as much as he is.

With his finish in Montana, Thurston said it confirms he’s on his way to doing the Iditarod in the next couple of years – and possibly as early as 2009.

Thurston has met all of the qualifications for the Iditarod, but said he needs more experience before attempting the 1,150-mile race.

Still, Thurston said he thinks he may have found his calling.

“It’s a passion that digs deep into my sole and I love it,” he said. “If I could express anything to people that would be it. I love it and that’s what drives me.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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