Like father, like daughter
Levines forge new kind of relationship in tackling Iron Dog 36
By MELISSA DEVAUGHN
IRON DOG’S HISTORY IS NOW LONG ENOUGH that teams comprised of two different generations are not unheard of. In the 2017 race, for instance, there were two teams whose racers were separated by 15 or more years. The year before that, six teams were on opposite ends of the age spectrum.
So it’s only natural that eventually a father-son team would emerge, as happened when father Scott and son Cory Davis paired up for a third-place finish in the 2011 race; or when father-son team Andy and Brad George teamed up in 2014 and 2015 for fourth-place finishes each year. This year, the Barber men, Shane and Cody, are the father/son team to beat.
But as far as Iron Dog records go, this is the first year a father-daughter team has entered the race. Dr. Larry Levine and his 24-year-old daughter, Danielle will toe the line on Feb. 17 at Deshka Landing.
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Larry Levine said of this, his fourth Iron Dog, and his daughter’s rookie run. “We had talked about it a few years back, and I’ve done it now three times, and successfully two. The partnership that you need to get along and do stuff on the trail, in my mind, has changed our father-daughter relationship.”
It is Danielle, though, who was the first racer in the family, her father readily acknowledges. She began competing in short races with Alaska Motor Mushers when she was 14, then entered Arctic Man competing in women’s snowboard and ski. And while Danielle (who goes by Dani), had hoped to race her senior year in high school, she broke her throttle finger playing football and that ended the goal for that year.
Then college intervened. Once Dani went off to Nevada for school, she became too busy to put in the time and training involved to race the “World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race.”
“This year, the timing worked out well, and her class load could handle it,” Larry Levine said. “So here we are.”
Dani, back in Anchorage for the holidays, said she is planning to use the time to get ready to race.
“I’m more getting ready than staying ready,” she said, “because it was a last-minute decision for me to race with my dad. I’ve had a lot less prep than last time, so it’s just been trying to work out and deal with finals. Now that I’m back up here on my break, I’ll be getting up to speed on wrenching and working a quick program to get ready for Iron Dog.”
Larry Levine said the pair will be doing lots of riding, and have already started their gym workouts.
“Getting ready for this race, you get in the best shape you’ve ever been in your life and then you go out there and it becomes a struggle,” he said. “You can’t train for the beating you take, you just minimize the fatigue. You still go out there and put in 14-, 16- hour days so it’s important to be in the best shape as you can.”
Dani Levine said she is eager to finally have her Iron Dog dreams come true, and while she may have had to put the goal off in favor of school, the timing may just have worked out well.
“Now it’s coming full circle,” she said. “When my dad and I talked about (racing Iron Dog) when I was graduating from high school, I was a much better rider than he was at the time. It would’ve been a stretch then just for me, let alone both of us as rookies. Now at least one of us has the experience. My dad’s riding ability has increased dramatically, and that will help us.”
Larry Levine said his goal is to have a safe, clean race – and also keep his wife’s fears for her husband’s and daughter’s safety at bay, he joked. He knows it’s going to be a new dynamic working together as race partners rather than the father-daughter relationship they already have.
“We are starting to come up with plans B, C and D so we can be as prepared as possible,” he said. “Absolutely stuff is going to go wrong, but we are expecting it and we are trying to stop and make one small fi x at a time so we can be as ready as possible.”
Dani wholeheartedly agrees.
“There’s going to be conflicts and there’s going to be times when we’re not happy with each other, but we have different roles and need to keep a calm head, hopefully a little preemptive thinking about that will help us deal with situations as they arise.”
As for how they place in this year’s Iron Dog? The first goal is to finish the race because the Iron Dog has proven to elude even the most experienced of riders, she said.
“And the secondary goal would be a Top-10 finish,” she added. “I think if we could eke out that Top 10 that would be huge.”