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At close to 1,200 miles, the Iditarod is something altogether different and Aaron has done it three times.

At each of the mandatory rest stops along the way, a veterinarian determines if each animal is fit enough to continue.

Due to the effects of a stroke, Norman is unable to leave his Vernonville Road farm in Alnwick Haldimand Township for Anchorage in south central Alaska with his wife, Sharon, to see Aaron and his 16 dog sled team off on Sunday. Finishing at Nome on the Bering Sea, the international race draws participants from all over the world.

The last time Aaron raced, he started out strong and near the front of the pack, Norman says, but he didn't win. Prada Phone Price

However, the conditions are gruelling, Norman says.

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This year could be different and the musher's family is pulling strongly for just that.

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´╗┐Man and dog face the elements

"No one else touches them."

It was this former "horse man" who got his son into the sport when Aaron was about 10 years old. He bought a dog team that a man was looking to "get rid of," Norman recalls. Aaron's first "sprint" races were about five miles long and he frequently earned the "red lantern award" for last place, his dad says with a laugh.

dad wishes he could be there, too. Instead, Norman will wait for calls from the family and news reports about how the commemorative race is going.

Between race checkpoints it's just Aaron and the dogs, all alone, often facing darkness and storms during a trek that can last more than two weeks, depending on conditions. The fastest progress is made along frozen rivers where a dog sled team can exceed 15 miles per hour, Norman says.

As former Grafton resident Aaron Peck, 29, readies himself and his dogs for the 1,150 mile Iditarod race across life threatening terrain in Alaska, his father Prada Luggage Bag Norman talks with concern and admiration about what the next week holds for his son.

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Norman says his son always had a way with dogs and he has been smitten with racing.

zero temperatures and blinding snow, narrow ledges from which a racing sled and dogs can easily fall, and cantankerous moose and bear coming out of hibernation, are among the hazards "mushers" like his son face, Norman says.

"If you've got the right dogs" you can win, he stresses. "You've got to feel good about your team, otherwise it would be no good . . . It's a long and gruelling race . . . Mushers throw everything they have into it."

Understanding that a dog might be a strong starter but needs to be taken out of harness sometime during the race, crated and sent back, is an important part of the overall strategy of winning, Norman explains. The rules require mushers start with 16 dogs but finish the race with no fewer than six.

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Dogs have to be both physically and mentally up for the race. A former sled dog, Cod, just decided she didn't want to race anymore and at 17, is now a house pet at his own home, Norman says.

"There is no communication with a driver once they leave Anchorage, only once they get to the checkpoints," Norman says. He adds that Aaron's mother will fly to Nome to be with him when he arrives at the finish line.

The musher is responsible for his dogs, Norman adds.

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His own musher web profile states: "As always, Aaron wishes to give a sincere thank you to his parents, Norman and Sharon Peck, for their never ending support."

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