Traverse City couple is off to the races

MARQUETTE – Claudia and Lee Nowack have made a lot of friends in the world of sled dog racing as they spend their golden years following a sport they both love.

Though, even Lee will admit, Claudia is the driving force behind the couple’s sled dog fervor.

“She’s the passionate one. I’m the enabler,” Lee said Friday evening as the two waited for the U.P. 200 to begin. “By the sink in the kitchen, she has a picture of me that’s two inches by three inches. By her bed, she has two eight-by-ten glossies of sled dogs. That ought to tell you something.”

The two made their way from Traverse City up to Marquette to volunteer during this weekend of sled dog racing. Friday, they helped out at the vet check all mushers are required to complete.

They’ve been coming to Marquette to volunteer for the annual sled dog race every year for the past decade and they’ve also gone to the biggest race in the sled dog world – the Iditarod – for a decade as well.

The couple – Claudia a retired school teacher and Lee a retired physical therapist – spend a lot of their time these days around sled dogs and mushers.

“We go to any big dog race and somebody will see her and want to introduce us. They’ll say, ‘This is Claudia Nowack and this is her husband,'” Lee said with a laugh. “I’m known as ‘the husband.'”

Claudia even began a charity for the sport called Buy a Round of Kibble, which allows fans to buy kibble for any musher who is signed up for the program.

“Food is the single greatest expense mushers have,” Claudia said, adding that she saw the charity as a way to help out.

“Some of the mushers you’ll see here tonight are signed up for that program and are getting free dog food through it,” Lee said Friday evening.

But what makes the couple unique among the hundreds of spectators that lined the streets of downtown Marquette isn’t just their intense love of the sport.

“(Claudia) has MS, she’s legally blind and she’s done all this (charity work) on her own,” Lee said. “She’s just a huge fan and I just do my best to support her.”

For more information on the B.A.R.K. program, visit

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is