By Pat Ratliff
Dunn County Herald editor
Some of you may remember Kelly Maixner. As a child he grew up near New England and attended New England grade school until fifth grade, then Trinity School. He graduated from Beach High School.
Published January 24, 2014
After graduating from Montana State University he went to dental school at Nova Southeastern in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. where he received his dental degree.
But he now lives in Alaska and is a Pediatric Dentist; many know him as owner of “Wee Care Pediatric Dentistry.” He is married to wife Margaret and a daughter Rosemary, 2, and son Vendolin, 6 months. Vendolin is named after Maixner’s great-grandfather who homesteaded in the area.
Maixner has also been to Haiti where he provided dental care for the children of Kobonal Mission.
And people in Phoenix know him as a former physical therapy assistant for the Phoenix Suns.
He’s also been a farmer, a snowboard instructor, a soldier in the National Guard, a bartender, a doughnut-maker, a state champion boxer, and a semi-professional football player for the Bozeman Kodiaks.
Maixner has also completed multiple marathons and triathlons, including the Silverman competition.
But even more people may know him as a three-time Iditarod finisher, and Maixner is now preparing for his fourth Iditarod.
The 2014 Iditarod will start March 1. The 1,000-mile race is described as “The Last Great Race on Earth” and is “unlike any other competitive event anywhere.”
One person and up to 16 dogs racing for around 1,000 miles is a staggering amount of travel anywhere, let alone in competition, in the north of Alaska, in snow and sub-zero temperatures. To put that distance into perspective, the distance from Dickinson to Los Angeles is listed as 1,198 miles (as the crow flies.)
After moving to Alaska in 2007 for a pediatric dental residency, and being the sort of person who seeks out challenges, Maixner set his sights on running the Iditarod.
He also started Mad Stork Kennel, LLC with two pregnant females and the kennel has grown to around 60 dogs. From the kennel he gets his sled dogs.
“I’ve been raising my dogs for five years now,” Maixner said. “They’re just coming into their prime.”
Maixner said his dogs look really well this year.
“We’re doing well,” he said. “We’ve trained harder this year. I’m excited to see how we do.”
Maixner has run into extremely challenging conditions on the Iditarod trail, from blizzard conditions to -50 degree temperatures. Each year is different, each Iditarod is different.
There are two different courses, run alternatively each year. This year the race follows the “northern” course.
As to which is the toughest, no one knows.
“It all depends on what Mother Nature wants to throw at us,” Maixner said. “The northern course is about 60 miles shorter, but steeper and higher mountains to cross.”
In 2012, Maixner had a major breakdown on his sled about a quarter of the way through the race. No help is allowed during the race except from other mushers. The musher must fix anything broken without outside help, as well as feed and care for his animals and himself (or herself.)
But the sled was eventually fixed and he finished the race.
“Actually, the sled breaks every year,” Maixner laughed. “Something is always breaking.
“I’ve got that ‘farmer mentality’ though. I feel like I can fix everything out there.”
As for a race strategy, Maixner has one, but he’s not saying much about it.
“We’ve trained super hard this year,” he said. “We’ve already put about 2,000 miles in this year.
“There are a couple of other things I’m planning, but mostly it’s race conditioning.”
To follow the race, which begins March 1, go to www.facebook.com/KellyMaixner.
Maixner wants to say “Hi” to everyone back home (North Dakota) and “Thanks for all the support.”