Experience and Strategy Key as Beargrease Mushers Begin Downbound Trek

Baihly Warfield
Updated: January 30, 2018 05:47 PM

A tight race is shaping up, but Beargrease mushers are hoping a combination of experience and training will put them on top come Wednesday morning. 

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Alaska musher Ryan Redington is running his second John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. He appears to be repeating last year's strategy of getting out in front early. 

“Right now, it’s really tight with me and Keith Ailli. Our run times are within a couple minutes," Redington said just before leaving Grand Portage. "And so just to try to maybe make a move and pull ahead if we can.”

He said knowing what he was getting into this year has been a big help. 

“We put 1,200 more miles on the team this year," he said, "and we’re seeing the benefits now.”

The race's other Ryan, Ryan Anderson, has the benefit of years of experience. This year, his team is experienced too. 

“It’s kind of an odd mix of team this year, a bunch of old dogs with very few young dogs. So there’s kind of a governor on there so we can only go so fast," Anderson said. "But it’s fun anyhow.”

Blake Freking said the trails have been faster than expected, but that could change late in the day Tuesday with predicted snowfall. 

“It’s a very fast pace. The trail’s really fast, the teams are great," Freking said. 

Two out of the 10 mushers were rookies, but Kevin Mathis of Iowa scratched mid-day Monday. Blair Braverman and her team came into the Grand Portage about five hours after the other mushers. Braverman had two goals heading into the race. 

“My goal is to finish. I’m running it as an Iditarod qualifier, so you have to finish in good standing," Braverman said Monday morning. "And my other goal is rookie of the year."

She's likely to get that title with Mathis' scratch. 

Not only is Braverman the newest in the pack, but her dogs are some of the youngest. 

“I have a couple who are only a year old," she said. "Actually, I have a few — this was their first race ever. So the crowds and everything is really new to them, and they seem to thrive off it.”

Anderson is the reigning Beargrease champ, but he said he thinks the end this year will be unpredictable. 

"I think if people showed up down in Duluth at Billy’s on Wednesday morning, you won’t be there for long, and everybody will be in," Anderson said.

The finish is expected Wendesday morning. 


Baihly Warfield

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