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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 Tustumena 200 exceeded my expectations. I just about finished without dropping a dog, had no injuries and finished third. Wow. In other words, the risk of racing 200 miles less than two weeks before the Yukon Quest may have paid off. It was a gamble. But right now, at least, I can’t see a down side.
Mushers like myself participating in the Tustumena 200 this weekend should get to know the trail real well. At least we get about 4 inches of fresh snow to soften it up and make it sane.