Sled dogs pull Rail Trail 200 to successful close

Stefaan De Marie takes off with his dogs at the start of the Rail Trail 200 international dog sled race on Friday morning – he took second place.

On Sunday, the Rail Trail 200 sled dog race came to an end; the winner was Clearwater resident Steve Mullen and his team of Alaskan Racing Huskies.

Mullen says the trail was tough at some points and there were times where he had to take it slowly, but after the race, there was one overwhelming feeling, other than the fatigue from the lack of sleep.

“It’s satisfaction, because it’s a lot of hard work,” Mullen says.

“The money’s one thing, it’s a decent pay cheque, but that doesn’t really cover too much of the expenses that occur for mushing.”

Mullen says he’s been running dogs for 27 years and has won a few races.

“Here you see the glory, you don’t see the time and work that goes into it, because it’s year-round,” he says. “You can’t turn your dogs off when the snow melts, you’re still out there feeding and caring for them.”

Mullen says that you do get tired.

“You don’t have much sleep and you’re running up hills, working hard,” he says.

The race was slowed down by a lot of snow.

“It makes the dogs more tired when they have to pull through the deep snow,” he says.

Mullen says there were also minor delays

because they would lose the trail at some points and with the difficulty of being up so long, you can start to second-guess decisions.

At one point he says the snow was coming down so hard he couldn’t see the dogs pulling him. Mullen says he’ll most likely be back next year, either racing or volunteering.

Richard Todd, who ran one of the second teams of younger and older dogs and finished fourth, says he had a great time.

“I thought it was fantastic.”

Todd, who comes from Lincoln, England, has been working the past two years at the vet during the winter.

“The trail system is just amazing, every time you come around a corner, fantastic views,” he says. “The thing that’s most impressed me is just the community spirit of everybody here and how everybody’s pulled together and really got behind it. “

He jokes that he will be back as long as somebody wants to pay his airfare from England.

“I don’t know, it depends what I’m doing,” he says. “But if I had the opportunity I would certainly come back and do it and recommend anybody to.”

Todd, along with Stefaan De Marie, was the only two of the teams who ran the race as a qualifier for the Yukon Quest sled dog race, which requires the teams to have run a 200 and 300-mile race in the year prior to enter.

Ruth Sims, who helped organize the event, sums up this race with one word:

“Successful.”

Last year the race had to be cancelled due to the weather..

“Well last year we had basically the same infrastructure in place as we did this year, but we had to make a decision that we were not going to run the race… because we had way too much rain,” says Sims, who is also the official vet for the race. “And you couldn’t really have asked the mushers to attempt the trail basically. That’s why we cancelled it.”

Sims was confident it was going to go this year, though there were some things to learn for next year.

“The mushers finished, things worked out, the trail was there, everybody had a good time, and everybody is walking away with a positive impression and experience for what’s here and want to do it again.”

Sims says she feels tired after putting in a lot of hours but is happy with the fact that they did it. Most important for her is what those that participated will do for the future of the race.

“The fact that the mushers are going to walk away from here telling other mushers that this race is worth trying to run, and that they want to come back,” Sims says.

The total purse for the race was $10,000 with the winner getting $3,000, second $2,000, third $1,500, and forth $1000.