Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

READY TO GO – Alex Rochat and her team leave the start line on Saturday at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre as part of 2019 Dog Powered Sports Association of Yukon Granger Grind.

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Photo by John Tonin

ON THE MOVE – Nathanial Hamlyn and his team begin the 100-mile Granger Grind Race on Saturday. The Granger Grind heads towards the Sky High Wilderness Ranch before the mushers return to the Lorne Mountain Community Centre.

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Photo by John Tonin

GAINING SPEED – Martin LeLevier rounds a corner shortly after the leaving the Granger Grind start line at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre on Saturday. LeLevier won the race with a total run time of 7:57:53.

Mushers take on the Granger Grind

The barks from the dogs echoed throughout the forest around the Lorne Mountain Community Centre on Saturday.

By John Tonin on March 11, 2019

The barks from the dogs echoed throughout the forest around the Lorne Mountain Community Centre on Saturday.

The mushers and their handlers prepared the teams to be ready for the 2019 Dog Powered Sports Association of Yukon Mid-Distance Race the Granger Grind.

The race is a 100-mile race beginning and ending at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre. The mushers ran along the Alligator Lake trail before cutting around Mount Granger. The mushers and their teams took a mandatory five-hour break at the Sky High Wilderness Ranch. From there they made their way back to Lorne Mountain.

It was an overcast day on Saturday with temperatures hovering around zero as the mushers took their turn heading towards the start line. One-by-one the 11 mushers registered and their teams made their way onto the trail and off into the distance.

The mushers were allowed to race with a maximum of 10 dogs and a minimum of eight.

Starting at 1:30 p.m in the afternoon Saturday, the mushers arrived back at Lorne Mountain in the early morning Sunday. Lisa Joinson was the eighth-place finisher completing her race with a total run time of 10 hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds.

Joinson said the team she used for the Granger Grind will be racing in the Percy DeWolfe next. The mountains they climbed on the weekend she said will harden them but maybe the course was more technical than needed.

“It was more technical than needed to get them ready for the Percy,” said Joinson. “It was lots of twists, turns, blind corners, dropping straight down a mountain and turning on a 90-degree corner.”

On her way back to the finish line Joinson had some troubles with her team at the top of a mountain.

“Well coming back it’s dark and they love the dark,” said Joinson. “They were speeding up and they are very strong, they now have 3000 miles on them. They went up a huge mountain and over the top and they suddenly gained four-five miles per hour and they wouldn’t let me get my break on.

“I just basically pinballed all over the place and couldn’t get control of the sled. It’s really scary, we don’t sprint race for a reason. We are distance mushers and up there it was sprint racing. You got to think fast on your feet. It was a new experience for sure. Finally, we got to a flat spot got them down to a reasonable speed level and it was great from there.”

Yukon Quest veteran Nathaniel Hamlyn came in fourth. His total run time was 9:26:50. It was his first race since the Quest. He said he used seven dogs her used in the Quest along with three pups.

Hamlyn said he and his dog team enjoy racing on a curvy trail and chose dogs for this specific race.

“This year I have 16 dogs so I had to pick 10 and I just wanted dogs that were a bit faster because this is basically a sprint race,” said Hamlyn. “So just solid dogs that can trot and you need lighter dogs because this course is curvy so the lighter dogs won’t get pulled into the side as much.

“I like it (the trail) it keeps it interesting especially when it is 2 a.m. and you’re a bit sleepy. The dogs like it too because they are picking up speed and going in circles.”

Hamyln was quick to point out his lead dog Tera as having a specifically strong race.

“My leader as always is Tara,” said Hamlyn when asked about which dog or dogs had a particularly strong performance. “The second day I put her in lead and she picked up the speed and it’s pretty cool to see that one dog can do that.”

Tara set the tone for the team on the second day.

“From the get-go, she is faster,” said Hamlyn. “Then because she is in front she is setting the pace for the ones behind. She also gets excited on every corner and sees a headlight she goes nuts. It’s just an attitude.”

Hamlyn said he was happy with his fourth-place finish because he had been training slower most of the year preparing for the Quest, but that he enjoys getting to do a different style of racing.

The winner of the Granger Grind was Martine LeLevier. She and her team of ten dogs finished the 100-miles with the quickest total run time of 7:57:53.

Second place went to Katherine Scheck who arrived back at Mount Lorne at 3:38 a.m. Scheck completed the race with nine dogs. Her total run time was 8:48:30.

Alex Rochat would have had the second position if not for a 30 minute time penalty. Instead, Rochat and her team of nine dogs had to settle for a third-place finish with a total run time of 8:39:53.

Krys March the fourth musher out was forced to scratch.

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