(03/04/13) - The Iditarod dogsled race officially got underway in Alaska Tuesday. One of those who is daring the extreme cold, snow and long hours is from Mid-Michigan.
"We're very happy for him. We're excited. It's quite an adventure," said Lee Doll, James Volek's aunt.
It seems Volek was born for the Iditarod, the 1,000 mile race that pits people and dogs against the elements. He's a 2006 graduate of Birch Run High School and loved tromping through the woods of Mid-Michigan.
"He just really enjoys the outdoors and that's what he's meant to do, is be in that kind of weather I think," Doll said.
His aunt believes his athleticism will carry him far during the race.
"He learned a lot of his focus and discipline from the wrestling coaches and football coaches here. They really instilled that. That's what it's going to take to get through this race," Doll said.
The competition is expected to last 10-12 days and it's grueling for the mushers.
"They'll be facing a lot of sleep depravation. The dogs come first. They have to be taken care of," Doll said.
Volek moved to Alaska after graduating from Northern Michigan University in 2010. Several businesses and Birch Run North Elementary School have posted signs wishing Volek good luck.
This will be Volek's first appearance in the Iditarod. The dogs he's using are less than two years old, so it will be a good training experience for him and those 16 canines.
Those dogs want to run. It takes three and four people to hold the line before they go through the chute because they're kicking, hollering and crying," Doll said.
North Elementary School is using Volek's prestige to motivate students. Top readers in each class will receive a picture from Volek and a bootie the dogs wore in the race. The school is also hosting a book drive.
"We're going to ship those books to the village schools on the trail," Doll said.
To follow Volek's status in the Iditarod, click here.