Michigan’s Premier Sled Dog Marathon – UP200
Jo and I had plans to see this dog sled race, having seen and found fun similar races in Bayfield (Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race) and along the Minnesota North Shore (John Beargrease Marathon). We arrived in Munising a day before the race to do some snowshoeing in the Pictured Rocks area before chasing the racers from Marquette to Grand Marais. (See the ValleySpur trails about 6 miles SW of Munising and the Munising Pictured Rocks Trails) After doing some snowshoeing and before the race started we began having wheel noise that sounded like our wheel bearing was going out in our Dodge Ram. At Jo’s insistence we headed home because she feared the consequences of breaking down in a remote forest road somewhere in the UP, which would only be the start of a nightmare of problems. So my report here is second hand.
Jack McConaha of Quartz Mountain Inn, near Marquette, sent me a few clippings from the race that helped. Plus the UP200 website has more photos and information on the 2012 race. A Minnesota musher, Ryan Anderson, took first place in the main marathon – the 240 mile UP200. A lady musher, Joanna Oberg, all the way from Ignace, Ontario won the 90 mile Midnight Run. The Midnight Run traditionally starts at midnight in Marquette and finishes the next morning in Munising. This was Joanna’s first competitive race so the win was quite an accomplishment. She also won the Rookie of the Year award. A Wisconsin gal, Ailena Baum, won the 30 mile Jack Pine 30, which is a shorter daytime race for 6 dog teams that starts in Gwinn, MI and ends in Marquette.
This YouTube Video (see right) will give you entertaining insight into pre-race activities and the start of the race in downtown Marquette.
All three races had to be re-routed because of poor snow conditions on the parts of the trail nearest Marquette. In fact the two races that traditionally start in Marquette had a ceremonial start with the main drag in Marquette filled with trucked in snow. But then the actual start was in little Chatham, 35 miles SE of Marquette. Portions of the main race routes were used, with new loops laid out to help bring the total miles close to the original race plan.
Light snowfall Friday and Saturday helped add a nice dusting of snow on the race course. And the temperatures were in the teens to the 20’s which approximated the kind of temperatures most of the mushers had been training in the past several weeks. Generally the dogs and the mushers like the temps on the cool side. Especially on the longer races it is important for the weather to be cool because the dogs can get fooled into running too fast, too early in the race and then not have the endurance to finish.
For information on this fun winter festival and race, go the UP200 Website.
Next year we hope conditions allow us to actually see the race.