For the second year, Clearwater, B.C. resident Steve Mullen and his 12-dog Alaskan Husky Adventures team took top honours in the Rail Trail 200 International Sled Dog Race.
Jillian Taylor from Rocky Mountain House, Alta. was the first, and only team in the event’s two-year history, to complete the 100-mile (161 km) race with her eight-dog sled team.
As the only team remaining in Fiva, roughly 53 miles (85 km) from the finish line in Greenwood, Mullen was announced the winner by the race marshal who called for the end of the race.
The event began Friday morning in Grand Forks behind the Station Pub with the 100-mile race concluding in Beaverdell Saturday morning, while the 200-mile (322 km) race concluded at the Fiva checkpoint Saturday night.
Dr. Ruth Sims, an organizer for the event, stated Mullen was basically racing against himself near the end of the route.
“Mullen didn’t pull out of the race, but because he was the only one left it stopped making sense to continue the race,” explained Sims.
Mullen, who has been racing for over 30 years, stated the trail route was particularly difficult.
“This race has the distinction of being the toughest 200-mile race that I’ve ever been in,” he said. “It’s not necessarily that some sections of the trail were difficult, but there’s a lot of elevation changes, and a lot of climbing.”
The trail route was laid throughout the Boundary, following previous railroad tracks and logging routes that are no longer used.
“Some of those logging roads, I don’t know how they got those logging trucks up there, or down for that matter,” chuckled Mullen. “They’re more like skidding trails.”
Bruce Sims, a member of the board and route co-ordinator, noted the route did have some alterations from last year’s route.
“We’re still looking for the perfect trail,” he pointed out.
There will probably be more changes for next year to the route, Bruce, who is Ruth’s husband, pointed out.
Dr. Sims added there was more snow this year than the last year.
“It went well overall, but it was a challenge,” she said. “There was a lot of snow that came during the race which made the course a lot harder. The conditions weren’t ideal but the mushers made it.”
As he gets older, Mullen stated it’s always a good test for himself and his dogs.
“I love seeing what my dogs are capable of doing and I’m really proud of my leader,” Mullen said. “For the second year in a row, she’s really held us together. She found the trail in really difficult spots and I think she only missed a few of my commands the whole race, and there were a lot of commands.”
Mullen isn’t certain he will be returning next year, or if he will still be racing, but he would look to help with the Rail Trail.
“If I’m not (racing), I’d actually like to come back and help set the race, like putting the trail together,” he said. “I’ve been involved with putting races on in the past and I know the hard work put into it.”
Dr. Sims hopes that everyone returns next year, even though it’s uncertain what the weather will be like.
“We’re just going to keep trying to make it better every year,” she said.
Mullen added, “I really think this race can be a real success story with just a little bit of tweaking and fine-tuning.”
There were five participants for 200-mile race: Christina Traverse and Randy MacKenzie from Fort McMurray, Alta.; Gerry Walker from Pierceland, Sask., Rick Wannamaker and Steve Mullen from Clearwater, BC.
In the 100-mile race, participants Jillian Taylor and Steve Taylor arrived from Rocky Mountain House, Alta.
Rail Trail 200 is a pre qualifying race for both the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska and the Iditarod Trail Sled dog Race in Alaska.
For more, visit railtrail200.com.
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