UNITED STATES: STEVE'S BIG CHALLENGE / DOGSLED RACER PREPARES FOR ALASKAN ADVENTURE. [BIPAZ,SUNTEL] (3271)
By SARAH STUART.
THE two lives of adventurer Steven Carrick couldn't be more polar.
For six months of the year he lives in Castle Hill, works as an engineer at the Sydney Harbour Casino and saves every cent he earns.
His "real life" is spent in the wilds of Alaskan south of Anchorage in a hut without running water, power or a phone, and with only four hours of daylight. His only company is one neighbour (champion racer Tim Osmara) and 105 Alaskan huskies.
Carrick, 29, lives in the woods from October to March, training for what he calls the race of his life.
His aim is to be the second Australian to complete the gruelling Iditarod dogsled competition, an historic 11-day race through the mountains of Alaska where the organisers count themselves lucky if everyone survives.
"This time I'm going to do it," says Carrick, who gave up caving and rock climbing to pursue mushing in Alaska.
"It's a spiritual experience out there in the snow - you and the dogs working together, struggling, not sleeping, exhausted.
"I cried at the end of my last race (a five-day contest). "
It's also punishing work. Next month Carrick will go back to Osmara's mountain property to spend six months preparing for the Iditarod.
The two men train together each day. They rise early, light a fire in their huts, melt ice for water, feed and groom the dogs, then spend hours sledding through the hills.
They eat moose, elk and deer, and make only monthly trips into Anchorage for other supplies.
Last year, Carrick worked as a volunteer official on the 1688km route to Nome, which traverses remote paths forged during the Alaskan gold rush.
But in March, his racing sled will join 60 others, each pulled by 16 Alaskan huskies. Carrick must provide 2000 pairs of booties for the dogs' paws and more than 400kg of dog food for the journey.
In minus 40 deg., he will wear up to eight layers of thermal clothing snatching a few minutes sleep each hour on the sled. Carrick became interested in the sport four years ago when his sister bought a husky and joined Sydneysiders in dog races with sleds on wheels.
"I thought, great, this is a 15-minute experience, imagine what it would be like in snow over several days."
He journeyed to Alaska, met with Osmara, and was soon competing in his first three-day event.
The isolation was difficult at first, but now it's an enjoyable part of the race.
"You learn everything about your dogs - their personalities and their idiosyncrasies - and they learn yours," he says.
"The scenery is unbelievably beautiful."
More than $400,000 is up for grabs in Iditarod. But Carrick, who is still raising the $30,000 he needs for his training period and race entry, says he will be thrilled just to finish the race.
(c) Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd, 1997.
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (AUSTRALIA) 24/08/97 P53