Posted at: 01/29/2014 4:35 PM
Updated at: 01/29/2014 11:03 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
About 20 hours after starting the race in Duluth, the first mushers arrived at the mid distance finish in Tofte around nine o'clock Monday morning.
"We had three thin air dogs on the team and they had jackets boots and a couple belly bands on them to keep the core warm," said Ross Fraboni, the Beargrease mid-distance winner. "The other guys were fuzzy and they didn't have a problem."
"It's pretty miserable, I mean my eyelashes froze shut a couple times," said Joshua Compton, mid-distance second place finisher. "But other than that it's always a good time."
Meanwhile, the first marathon mushers checked in at Sawbill around the same time.
"It wasn't too cold last night but the wind was terrible," said Nathan Schroeder, two-time Beargrease champion. "I'm gonna have to rethink it I guess right here. Gonna regroup and try to go out smiling."
After battling the wind and cold all day, Mushers finally made it to Trail Center on Monday night.
"If something is bothering them, the cold, something with the booty on their foot and stuff, we can tell and they let us know right away and we just take care of it right away," said Keith Aili, former Beargrease champion.
After a grueling night in around 50 below windchill, mushers crossed a frozen lake to arrive at the Devil Track checkpoint on Tuesday morning, a little later than expected.
"Going across Devil's track the visibility was pretty good, but it was still gusty," Schroeder said. "Yeah, it was bad. The dogs didn't really care for it, jumping drifts and trying to find the trail."
Late Tuesday afternoon, mushers made a stop at Sawbill before that final push toward the finish line.
"Dog mushers and sled dog race volunteers are some of the toughest folks you'll find," said Josh Capps, Sawbill Checkpoint coordinator. "There's no such thing as cold weather, only bad clothes."
Just after one o'clock on Wednesday, Nathan Schroeder crossed the finish line in Duluth to become a three-time champion. Out of all the Beargrease races he's finished, he said this one was the toughest.
"The other ones were a breeze compared to this one," Schroeder said. "Mother Nature really disrupted this race. But you know, I signed up for it knowing this could happen and it did, so I wasn't gonna back off."
One benefit of those frigid conditions, Schroeder says it was good training for the Iditarod in March.