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I took seven dogs on a short run this morning to see what I’ve got left for trails. Not much as it turns out…

tundra run

The trail is melting, melting, just about gone

This is the view just about a quarter mile from my house, at a swamp where the trail is about to cut right into the forest. It isn’t all as bad as this. In fact, parts of the trail are still white and firm. I should have a few runs left before I stash the sleds for the spring.

The dogs on this run included four that just got back from running the Iditarod for Sebastian Schnuelle: Solomon, Antelope (alone, one up from wheel) and Solo and Coyote. They settled into an Iditarod trot, real smooth and not too slow. I have a short video…

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I guess I’m saying that to myself as well as the rest. There’s some great, competitive teams here for arguably the most arduous (if not toughest) 200 mile race in distance sled dog racing.

I’ll be running 11 yearlings and three old leaders, so my race will have a personality all its own. It will be a little like my Knik 200, where I ran 10 yearlings and two adults.

Needless to say, I’m packing straw again for this race. I’ll run about 50 miles, pull over and put straw down, heave out my cooler with two gallons of water and a sack of dog food, and feed those youngsters. They’ll nap for about an hour before I put fresh booties on them all, and we take off for another five hours. There’s a mandatory eight-hour break at the halfway point. My aim is to have them run the 100 mile return leg without stopping except for snacks. The point is to teach these young dogs what it is like to race, even though they are not physically capable of keeping up with older dogs.

Yearlings go out with tons of power and gusto, but they don’t have the stamina of older dogs. Hence, I pull over at 50 miles and make them rest.

The five or six teams that are gunning for first place should do 100 miles in nine to 10 hours. If I’m doing well, we’ll make the first 100 miles in 12 hours (which includes my two hour mini campout.)

Trails are excellent to near perfect in the places I’ve been. It’s sunny with highs about 10 to 15 above lows in the zero range. That’s ideal for the dogs and mushers. It’s a hilly race.

The Sheep Mountain 150 lived up to its reputation as an excellent race with some of the most relentless hills you’d care to climb.

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