Mushers enjoying the fresh snow

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If anyone in Fairbanks was relieved to see the 10 inches of new snow on the ground it was Mike McCowan, race marshal for the Alaska Dog Mushers Association.

Earlier in the week McCowan was threatening bloodshed if he didn’t see any new snow by Sunday. Luckily, the 10 inches decorating the race at the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds on Farmers Loop came just in time for race day.

“Mushers have been chompin’ at the bit to get out there and conditions today were great,” McCowan said at Sunday’s Annamaet Challenge Series race.

He admitted the trail was a little soft with all the new snow, but conditions improved quickly with each race. Last weekend’s temperature drop and limited snow left McCowan with a small field of mushers as most competitors chose to sit out with temperatures hovering about 20 below.

Faith Gregory of Two Rivers found this weekend’s temperatures to be ideal for training her pups.

“We came out today to train two of our yearlings and we did very well,” Gregory said.

“The temperature was a nice change from the near 27 below we fought last weekend,” added Gregory, whose time of 20 minutes, 56 seconds placed her seventh place in the four-dog division.

Evelynn Beeter was making up for lost time, mushing in two races Sunday. Beeter and her grandson had a full day starting with the four-dog event where she finished third in 16:50. After a short break, Beeter turned around and set off with a new team and finished fourth in the eight-dog class in 37:18.

“Typically we’re racing every weekend, but the snow’s been poor and so we’ve had limited racing this year,” she said. “I’m just glad we finally got some decent snow; overall conditions were pretty good and should only get better in the weeks to come.”

Perhaps one of the most exciting races Sunday was in the AARP four-dog class.

“It’s a class for old people and their old dogs,” said Barbara Moore, who began racing in 1976 and has competed in the Iditarod.

“Old dogs are great because they’re already trained and know what to do. When you say ‘whoa!’ and tell them to stop they actually want to stop and rest,” Moore said.

Moore and her four dogs finished the 4.5-mile race in 10th place with a run of 25:16.

Fellow competitor Val Mackler, 82, didn’t need any rest during Sunday’s run. She began racing in 1986 at the age of 61 and is called “the queen of the Iditarod” by longtime friend Moore.

Mackler was happy with her sixth-place finish.

“On race days Barb (Moore) and I typically argue over who’s going to finish last!” Mackler said. “But my dogs were full of vim and vigor today.”

The ADMA uses interval starts for its races, so Mackler began after Moore and Edie Forest. Her elapsed time was nearly 5 minutes ahead of Moore and about 40 seconds faster than Forest.

“I closed in on Edie and thought maybe her dogs were sick or something because they’re always faster than my old dogs,” Mackler said. “Then the next thing I know I’m within spitting distance of another musher.”

Instead of passing her competitor, Mackler strategically chose to draft her dogs up a grueling hill.

“I knew my old dogs would be finished if we sprinted up that darn hill,” she said. “So both of us kicked our way up. It’s never been so hard since I left St. Louis,” Mackler said.

Despite the general appreciation for Sunday’s balmy temperatures, Mackler prefers more extreme settings.

“At 19 below things are just right and my dogs and I never get too hot.”

Jennifer Probert posted a pair of wins on Sunday, claiming the four-dog class in 15:40 and the six-dog event in 18:57. Rob Downey was the eight-dog winner in 35:29 and Arleigh Reynolds captured the Open class in 45:48.

Greg Jurek, Wes Graf and Ted Wu were the skijoring winners.

Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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