Joanna placed 2nd in the Gunflint Mail Run this last weekend near Grand Marais, MN. Her team did quite well and she was very happy with the results. She moved up one position from last year when she placed third in the same race. The trail was in excellent condition as it had been groomed the whole way, making it much easier and safer to pass other teams.
Chad Schouweiler placed first this year which he definitely earned. Last year he was ahead most of the race and in the end lost by just seconds due to an unexpected tangle in the team. His excellent training skills have produced the desired results. It was his time to win. His mother handled for him at this race, but she has also run their team and won many times as well in past years.
I'd have to say the directors of the race have done a fantastic job upgrading every facet of the race so that now it is one of our favorites. The volunteers who help run the race are spectacular. Imagine standing out in the extreme cold for hours on end to make sure road crossings are safe for the teams coming through. Ham radio operators staying in place at different points along the trail to inform the folks back at headquarters the time each musher comes through a certain road crossing. Sarah and her gracious staff of waitresses, waiters and cooks at Trail Center Lodge where all us handlers hung out waiting for our mushers to come back, waited on us hand and foot and provided the most delicious meals all during the race.
The purse for the race went up a great deal which is a big plus for attracting mushers to register for the race. I also liked the fact that everyone who entered got a piece of the prize money to take home because everyone has worked hard to prepare their teams. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.
One of the greatest facets of these mid distance races is spending time with a lot of the same mushers throughout the winter season. You get to know them personally the more often you are together and there is a great family feeling that that has grown through the years.
The winner of the 12 dog race, Ryan Redington, is from Alaska and is the grandson of Joe Redington who help start the Iditarod Race. When receiving his prize, he commented on the great sportsman like conduct of the racers. Once when he had to stop his team because of a problem, another team stopped to check on him and see if he needed help. He really liked that. And it is true. Each racer wants to win and have their team perform well, but there is also a camaraderie among the mushers and handlers that makes the whole experience a lot more fun.