Beargrease Day Two: Mushers Adjust for Weather, Shorter Race

Baihly Warfield
Updated: January 29, 2019 07:22 AM

As of 10 p.m. Monday, Beargrease mushers are more than halfway through the 300-mile sled dog marathon. 

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After slow runs during the day Monday, mushers will be riding in subzero temperatures Monday night into Tuesday. They were headed from the Trail Center checkpoint, to the Kings Road turnaround, then down to the Skyport checkpoint on Devil Track Lake north on Grand Marais. 

Day two saw mushers begin to adjust strategies from previous years for the shorter 2019 race.

”The run up here today was slow,” Musher Colleen Wallin said at the Trail Center checkpoint. “I expected it to be slow. And I carried a dog. His name is Shy Poke, he's one of the main leaders. So we took it easy today.”

The 100-mile abbreviated race means around equal parts rest and race in 2019. Mushers are required to acquire 24 hours rest total throughout the race. But some mushers seem to miss the grueling up-and-back Beargrease from years past. 

“Mixed emotions. I like the longer one where there's a lot of strategy more involved. I'm a guy that likes the strategy part," Ryan Redington said. "This year, there's a lot of rest. So it kind of takes away the strategy part. But we're having fun. We're glad to be a part of the Beargrease." 

Defending champion Redington hopes the harsh conditions Sunday night with gusts of wind and blowing snow will help him in the future. 

“A little windy. There was times when I couldn't see much," he said. "I loved it because it's great Iditarod training. The dogs handled it very well." 

Wallin may not have Iditarod aspirations this year, but she says there are lots of good reasons to come back to the Beargrease. 

“The trail, the dogs," she said. "Mainly my dogs. They're awesome. They're just so humbling. And it's really also, I think, good to challenge yourself."

With several Beargrease veterans on the trail, the pace is picking up. But as of Monday night, Redington maintains a lead. He took more rest than other teams at the Hwy 2 checkpoint in Two Harbors and has run every leg around 20 minutes faster than the rest. 

“I'm just doing what we've been training for," Redington said. "But the dogs have been running really smooth. It's been uneventful." 

It could very well be Redington’s neon green crossing the finish line first. Organizers expect the winner to arrive at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino sometime Tuesday afternoon. 

Mushers out of the Trail Center checkpoint at 11 p.m. Monday, in order:

  • Ryan Redington
  • Blake Freking
  • Jennifer Freking
  • Colleen Wallin
  • Frank Moe
  • Peter McClelland
  • Jason Rice
  • Erin Altemus

Mushers are required to take four hours of rest plus whatever else they have left of their mandatory 24 hours at Mineral Center, which is the final stop before the finish. 

There were two scratches on Monday. Mary Manning of Hovland, Minn. and Martin Massicotte of Quebec both dropped out. 


Baihly Warfield

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