MARQUETTE - A weekend of challenging races wrapped up this morning with the annual U.P. 200 musher's breakfast giving the mushers a chance to relax and celebrate their efforts.
Finishing first for the second year in a row was Ryan Anderson of Ray, Minn. Anderson, who wore bib No. 2, crossed the shortened race's finish line in Wetmore at 9:42 p.m. Saturday.
"The race went well. It was kind of scary out there," Anderson said, referencing the icy trail conditions. "It was a challenge in that you had no control."
It was Anderson's eighth time running the U.P. 200.
"I think everybody went through their runners in the first three hours," he said. Sleds are equipped with replaceable plastic runners that are switched when they wear out. Normally, the runners can be used for a hundred miles before being replaced.
Even with the challenging trail conditions, Anderson said his team ran well and sustained no injuries.
Finishing second at 10 p.m. was Nathan Schroeder of Chisholm, Minn., wearing bib No. 4.
Skandia's David Gill finished third in his first running of the U.P. 200; he crossed the finish line at 10:21 p.m.
"It was awesome. It was amazing," Gill said of the race. "I was in awe of the fact that my team ran so well.
"I'll be back, barring anything unforeseen."
Both Gill and Anderson said they appreciated and supported the judges' decision to cut the race short.
Due to warm weather prior to the race last week and a freeze the day the race began, the 240-mile race was cut short, finishing at the Wetmore checkpoint instead of at the Mattson Lower Harbor Park Sunday. The race covered about 197 miles this year, organizers said.
Race officials reported icy trails and bare patches along the race course between Marquette and Wetmore, making for difficult conditions for the teams and mushers. The portion of the trail between Wetmore and Grand Marais, however, was in better condition.
Of the 19 teams that began the race in Marquette Friday, 14 finished in Wetmore, with five scratching, or dropping out.
"I hope you all know we tried what we could try and did what we could do," said Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association President Pat Torreano to the assembled mushers at the breakfast today. "I want you to know that we want to see you all back here."
A 12-month planning process goes in to putting the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run together, with the board meeting later today to discuss the challenges and issues brought up by this year's race and begin planning for next year.
Although a midwinter thaw often appears during the U.P. 200 timeframe, since the race is part of a circuit of races, changing the date is not a simple matter, Torreano said.
The breakfast is not only a time to hand out the awards for the finishers, but also a chance to hand out special awards for sportsmanship, veterinary care of the dogs and volunteerism.
The Mining Journal Award is given to an individual or persons who have shown exceptional service to the UPSDA, and was given this year to the nearly 600 Northern Michigan University students who help with many aspects of the race weekend. More than 1,000 volunteers worked to make the weekend possible.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.