Posted at: 01/29/2014 1:32 PM
Updated at: 01/29/2014 6:05 PM
By: Alan Hoglund & Maarja Anderson
Defending champion Nathan Schroeder has won the 30th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Chisholm-native Schroeder crossed the finish line just before 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, four days after setting off on the nearly 400 mile race.
Keith Aili, of Ray, crossed the finish line just before 4:30 p.m., coming in second. Five teams remain on the trail.
This is Schroeder's second-straight win and his third overall.
"It feels good, but it was a long ride in," said Schroeder at the finish line.
A large crowd welcomed Schroeder cross the finish line, including some special greeters: the great-grandchildren of John Beargrease, Marcia Eynck and Mike Keyport.
But it's Schroeder's wife and three young children that grabbed his attention.
"He's been gone quite a bit...just out training so [it's been] a lot of time with the kids," explained Carey Schroeder.
Schroeder said Mother Nature got in the way this year, making for his hardest win yet. The last few legs he really had to push.
"It was cold! And windy. It just didn't stop. It was almost an 80-mile push [at the end] and it was about 9 and a half hours," said Schroeder.
He may have made it through the freezing and windy conditions to win the Beagrease, but Schroeder won't be resting for long. Up next is Alaska.
He said these race conditions are comparable to what his team could see at the Iditarod in March. To win in this weather, said Schroeder, gives him confidence to take on Alaska.
"I think it will help. Those guys up there will know what I did down here," he said.
Next, Schroeder said they'll head home, unpack the team, then repack and head north to Alaska next week.