Beargrease basics: Five things to know
Who was John Beargrease? John Beargrease was an Ojibwe mail carrier who delivered along the North Shore during the late 19th century. His weekly deliveries were a lifeline to the isolated communities of the North Shore. Beargrease was born in Gra...
Who was John Beargrease?
John Beargrease was an Ojibwe mail carrier who delivered along the North Shore during the late 19th century. His weekly deliveries were a lifeline to the isolated communities of the North Shore. Beargrease was born in Grand Portage and is buried in Beaver Bay.
Where does the race go?
The 2008 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon starts at 1 p.m. today at Ordean Middle School. Mushers will race up to the Gunflint Trail, north of Grand Marais, and turn around, making the total trip almost 400 miles. Racers are expected to finish by Wednesday at the latest.
What do mushers do on the trail, and is there much free time?
"There's very little down time," said John Stetson, a musher from Duluth. "Most of your time you're either on the runners between checkpoints, or, if you're not, you're spending time with your dogs."
The dogs need to be fed and watered, have their protective dog booties tended to and need attention for minor ailments like sore muscles -- an important aspect of racing because mushers aren't allowed replace dogs dropped because of an injury.
Stetson said mushers don't get much time to rest.
"In any 24-hour period, you have approximately four hours to lay down," he said. "Sleep deprivation is the norm."
What do sled dogs eat?
Most mushers start out with high-quality processed dog food.
"Within that, you have to have meat, so every musher has his or her particular blend of meats that they use," said Stetson, who uses a mixture of beef and pork.
Each dog needs between 6,000 and 10,000 calories each day. Mushers typically carry one feeding with them on the sled, and stash the rest at checkpoints.
Race coordinator Pat Olson said many mushers also give their dogs protein, fat and energy supplements during the race.
Are Beargrease mushers professional, or are they hobbyists?
"I think there's a little bit of both," Olson said. "More of them, I think, do this as a hobby."
Olson said dogsledding is too expensive for most people to pursue at an elite level.
"In order to be competitive, you have to pay a lot to breed good dogs. The vet care is costly, and feeding -- just imagine feeding one dog and multiply that by 70," she said.