Girdwood-based musher Nic Petit won the Tustumena 200 Sunday with a time of 26 hours, 26 minutes.
Aside from a missed turn early in the race by veteran musher Lance Mackey, the race went off without a hitch, and even the teams that scratched got at least 100 miles in.
“Thank you to Cim for not coming.”
There’s the post race reaction from Nic Petit, of course, talking about Cim Smyth, who won his fourthT-200 last year.
This was Petit’s first T-200 victory, and though he gives credit to Smyth’s absence, a bigger factor may have simply been good weather, a good trail and a good team.
“It was windy at the end. And at the beginning. The (trail crew) did a good job with what they had to work with. The (dogs) all have the same mom, so they were born a team.”
And as there was a first time winner, there were also a couple first time mushers. I ran into Chris Snoyer during the overnight break and checkpoint at Freddie’s Roadhouse, which served as race start and finish, headquarters, commissary, locker room, bunk house.
“My friend Brad (Farquhar) is training for the Iditarod. He invited me out here. I figured it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to come out and do something like this with someone who knows what they’re doing and can show me around a little bit. Why the heck not? I’ve owned some dogs. My roommate in Toronto has a dog, but in Toronto, you can’t have any dogs like this, that’s for sure.”
Snoyer and fellow Nova Scotia native Brad Farquhar made it to the halfway point before having to scratch. The borrowed team of dogs had trouble staying focused on the course instead of each other, but Snoyer says he’s game for another run someday.
“It was awesome. The middle of the night was cool, the stars were unbelievable. Even when we were having trouble with the dogs, we got so frustrated we just laid down on our backs and watched the stars for a bit. Then we took one more shot, made it a couple miles and it just wasn’t happening, so we doubled back. But it’s amazing out there, the wilderness is beautiful. That was a lot of fun. I’d like to do that again.”
As the teams were trickling in Sunday afternoon, I caught up with race director Tami Murray. She says the big challenge this year was simply finding enough suitable trail to make up 200 miles. In snowier winters, the race starts in Kasilof with a check point at Freddie’s Roadhouse outside Ninilchik, the turn at McNeil Canyon Elementary in Homer and then back. This year’s course took mushers through a tight route of just 50 miles of total trail.
Murray: “Our trail crew worked so hard on this trail. Weeks and weeks trying to find the 50 miles we needed and then making it great. And then Mother Nature helped us, brought some snow, covered up some of the ice...Lance (Mackey) did make one wrong turn, which was in his deficit because he went further than he needed to go. So we didn’t need to penalize him for that. He made it back here safely. No one else made that turn, so we couldn’t really do much about it. But it was a really good race.”