by Angie Marcos of The Orange County Register

Katmai Lodge and Markall Inc. Foundation for Disease and Disability Awareness, (KLAMF) has supported Cindy Abbott in her seemingly impossible quest to accomplish the unreachable. Congratulations Cindy on your admirable achievements, and thank you for inspiring us all to rise above our circumstance.

Start 1 by Todd Leslie

Pictured above, Katmai Lodge Owner Robert Follman rides in the front of Cindy Abbott’s sled at the start of the 2015 Iditarod. (Photo by Todd Leslie)

Out in the Alaskan wilderness, Cal State Fullerton alumna Cindy Abbott had only her sled-racing team of 16 dogs to keep her company for nearly two weeks during the approximate 1,000-mile Iditarod. With temperatures at one point dropping to minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit with windchill, Abbott, 56, said it was difficult to discern when it was day or night. “Days disappear and you are just going on run/rest cycles,” she said. “Day and night – it doesn’t matter.” Known as “the last great race,” the Iditarod is a sled dog race that this year began in Anchorage and ended in Nome.More than 80 mushers, or dog sled racers, participated in this year’s race, which kicked off on March 7. Abbott completed the race after 13 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes and 51 seconds.

Abbott is a health science lecturer at Cal State Fullerton and earned CSUF degrees in the 1990s in physical education and kinesiology. She wasn’t new to Iditarod this year; she “scratched” – musher talk for “withdrew” – in 2013 and 2014. Less than 10 years ago, Abbott was diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Due to this, Abbott is functionally blind in her left eye and has compromised vision in her right eye. Last year, she had four eye surgeries. “It is really difficult seeing depth perception. I can’t see far and I can’t see clearly,” she said. Upon crossing the finish line on March 22, Abbott became the first woman to complete the Iditarod and summit Mount Everest; she climbed Mount Everest in 2010.

The race

Wearing six layers of clothing on top and five layers on the bottom, Abbott said the cold was at times unbearable. She suffered from frostbitten toes and fingers. “You just deal with it,” Abbott said. “This is a no-assist sport.” Items in Abbot’s sled included: a high-powered headlamp, a cooker to heat up food for her and her dogs, necessities for her dogs, a change of clothes for herself, her medications, a sleeping bag, an ax, smaller headlamps and lots of batteries.

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