After 35 years of running sled dog races that are currently known as the Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Races, Ed Atwood is ready to step down.
"This year could be the farewell tour for the Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club volunteers and the only listed sled dog race in Pennsylvania," he said.
Atwood cites a number of things that will be necessary to keep the event running, including a prime sponsor for the Mid-Distance 32-mile competition, a "super assistant" for Atwood who said he will continue to play the role of "half- race marshall"; and volunteers to groom trails, time races and enter musher times in a computer.
Atwood said he was 35 years old when he started, and said, "We're senior citizens now, and we need some young blood."
"It isn't just a three-day event," he cautioned. "We need to communicate with the teams all year long. There are a lot of little headaches along the way."
Some of the headaches, he said, involve racers who are not above cheating, although he said most of them are honest racers who love the sport. There have also been fist-fights when emotions run high, he said.
He also noted that sled dog racing is not like other forms of racing, and some of the races are two-day sprint races with winners' daily times added both days for an overall winner. Some of the racers compete on a one-hundredth of a second basis, and are fiercely competitive.
Teams are released one at a time, with a specific time in between. He related a story about a previous race where a woman racer was the last to leave, but still finished ahead of the first team released. "This year, she will go first," he said.
Other events have been added over the years, including a weight-pull. Junior and senior races are scheduled so everyone can get into the act.