Posted at: 02/05/2013 4:02 PM
Updated at: 02/06/2013 10:51 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
Fifty four teams took off from the starting line this weekend to tackle the trails of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. Bayfield Chamber of Commerce marketing and event manager Erin Johnson says the excitement from the teams radiates into the crowd.
"That whole energy just catches on and you just feel it through the whole area when the dogs are ready to go and get out of the chute and it's just a great camaraderie," Johnson said.
The Apostle Islands race is a popular event for two reasons. It's a good training race for less experienced mushers, and it has a beautiful course.
"It's a mix of forest and some open fields, it's really nice," said Jen Lanzer of Bayfield. "It weaves through lots of little jumps. Sometimes you're flying on the sleds and it's a great course."
Lanzer won the Sportsmen's race with a young team.
"We had a couple younger dogs and this was their first time racing this year and they rocked it," Lanzer said. "They were great."
Lanzer enjoys the 20-mile Sportsmen's course. It's almost like a sprint for her dogs, and they love it even more in this colder weather.
"You don't have to worry about them overheating," Lanzer said. "You still have to pace them in the beginning of course as in any race. But I mean tongues are hardly hanging out. They're not hot, they're just loving it. They can run as fast as they want to and feel great too."
Some mushers have been working with sled dogs their whole life. Jesse Quayle of Champion, Michigan started just a year ago and this was his first competition.
"It was my dad's first race so I figured I might try it," Quayle said.
He admits the nerves set in a bit when he approached the starting line.
"Exciting but scary at the same time because you don't want to fall and lose the team," Quayle said. "I was thinking about taking the right turns and keeping the team going good. The trail was really nice. Good packed trail, so it was pretty easy."
Some of these mushers may be gearing up for the Beargrease next month, while others just enjoyed the ride.