Beargrease Marathon teams surpass 100-mile mark amid frigid wind chills
All 17 teams were still in the race Monday morning at the Sawbill Checkpoint with about 193 miles to go.
TOFTE — Six of the 17 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon mushers had left the Sawbill Checkpoint off Sawbill Trail near Tofte by 8 a.m. Monday, about 107 miles into the race. With about 193 miles to go, no teams had scratched.
Defending champion Ryan Anderson, of Cushing, Wisconsin, was the first to leave the checkpoint Monday morning. At the Sawbill Checkpoint, dogs were bedded down on straw and under blankets catching some sleep during the mandatory 4-hour stop.
The mushers and their teams were facing wind chill advisories of up to 33 degrees below zero overnight. Just before 6 a.m., temperatures hovered near 14 degrees below zero. But musher Nick Vigilante, of Ely, said that was good for his dogs. They prefer the cold. "It's nowhere near cold for them," Vigilante said.
This is the first Beargrease for musher Dan Klein, of Eagle, Wisconsin. He's quick to call himself a 63-year-old rookie. Klein has run the Boston Marathon, completed full Ironman triathlons and raced the American Birkebeiner Nordic ski race. Now he wants to race the Iditarod.
Early Monday morning, Between the Finland and Sawbill checkpoints, Klein's sled caught an edge, tipped over and his team kept running. "By golly, it all happened so fast," Klein said.
He ran after them and found them a quarter-mile down the trail, stopped because the sled got caught on a root. "It was like they were waiting for me," Klein said.
He's running some of Ryan Redington's dogs. The former Beargrease champion is mentoring him.
Jennifer Freking, of Finland, is running a team of Siberian huskies, a breed that performs particularly well in the cold.
Freking described the trail conditions as "nice and cold and fast." She's been keeping her foot on the sled's brake to make sure the dogs pace themselves and don't run too fast this early in the race. Freking said if her team runs the next stretch to Trail Center well, it's a good sign for the rest of the race.
"I can't help but be nervous because conditions are so fast,"Freking said. "The next run will tell us a lot."
She's down to 10 dogs after one had a sore wrist and was pulled and another was pulled as she left the Sawbill Checkpoint around 8:15 a.m.
According to GPS data from the Beargrease Marathon at 8 a.m. Monday, the mushers were in the following positions in the race:
- Ryan Anderson, Cushing, Wis.
- Keith Aili, Ray, Minn.
- Nick Vigilante, Ely
- Matthew-Karl Schmidt, Grand Marais
- Peter McClelland, Ely
- Martin Massicotte, Saint-Tite, Quebec
- Katherine Langlais, Glenwood, New Brunswick
- Sarah Keefer, Burnsville, Minn.
- Jesse Terry, Sioux Lookout, Ontario
- Jennifer Freking, Finland
- Ero Wallin, Two Harbors
- Colleen Wallin, Two Harbors
- Laura Neese, Newberry, Mich.
- Mary Manning, Hovland
- Kristen McCarty, Babbitt
- Andy Heerschap, Nolalu, Ontario
- Daniel Klein, Eagle, Wis.
This story was last updated at 12:53 p.m. Jan. 30 with video and additional photos from the Sawbill Checkpoint. It was originally posted at 8:49 a.m. Jan. 30.