With the Iditarod and Yukon Quest coming up, many mushers and their teams are running in mid-distance races to prepare. The next mid-distance race is the Northern Lights 300. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:
The Northern Lights 300 sled dog race begins Friday at noon in Big Lake. Last year’s race was canceled due to poor trail conditions. The race is a loop and runs north and east as far as the Yentna River. This year, Race Manager Sue Allen says conditions are better.
“The river’s pretty good. If we don’t get any snow, it’s just going to be way hard and fast for the first twenty, thirty miles. That’s one reason we reduced the dog limit to twelve.”
Musher Maliko Ubl says a little additional snow before the race start would be a good thing for the dogs.
“If we do get some snowfall, it will actually be a lot nicer for the dogs. It’ll be easier to control the speed. It’s softer on their joints; it’s like running on pavement as opposed to running on grass.”
The Northern Lights 300 will be Maliko Ubl’s first mid-distance race. She has spent this winter working for Iditarod veteran Karin Hendrickson, who was injured when a vehicle hit her sled late last year. Ubl will be running a team of twelve of Hendrickson’s dogs, most of which are yearlings. She says the pre-Iditarod training for her and the team should prove useful in the Northern Lights 300.
“It really won’t be that much different from the training we’ve already been doing. Basically, we’ll just be adding a couple of legs to our campouts. We’re not going to be trying to get into the top ten or anything like that. I have a lot of young dogs that I’m taking with me so that they have some race experience before they hit the Iditarod Trail.”
One thing that makes the Northern Lights 300 different from many other mid-distance races, like the Kuskokwim 300, is that there is no prize purse. Sue Allen says she would rather focus on spending money on the race itself.
“I’ve managed this race–this will be the sixth year. I love to do it, but the fundraising is hard, so in lieu of promising a purse, I promise to put on the best race we can.”
Sue Allen says that, because all of the checkpoints in the Northern Lights 300 are remote, it gets very expensive to put the race on.
“We have to fly staff out. We have to freight all the food drops out, all the straw out, all the heat out, and…the race is paying to fly the dogs back.”
The lack of a purse doesn’t seem to have deterred many mushers, however. More than thirty mushers have signed up for the race, and twenty of them are hoping to use it as a qualifier for the Iditarod. After the race begins on Friday, Sue Allen says updates will be posted to the Northern Lights 300 Facebook page.