Sled dog race planned for Denali Highway

Posted: Friday, January 05, 2001

SEWARD (AP) -- What started out as a conversation in a bar has become a reality.

The Denali 300 sled dog race will be run March 27 on the Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson.

The race is the brainchild of Seward-area resident Mark Lindstrom.

Lindstrom and Dimitri Gianakopoules of Cantwell were discussing the ''what ifs'' of such a race in the Lazy J Bar. Their conversation attracted the interest of the establishment's owners, who agreed to host the race and serve as home base.

The focus of the race will be on amateur racers. Competitors must finish with six dogs, but will be allowed to be coached on all aspects of the race along the way, Lindstrom said. As of Dec. 15, 13 teams had paid the $200 early entry fee.

The Denali Highway, closed to vehicle traffic during the winter months, is a good choice for a race trail, Lindstrom told the Seward Phoenix Log. Heavy snowmachine use eliminates having to maintain the trail all season and it's virtually impossible for rookie mushers to get lost, Lindstrom said.

Rather than being concerned with direction and markers, Lindstrom said, the set trail enables racers to focus on proper care of their team, a skill he said is crucial to cultivating a competitive and healthy mushing technique.

The extra 100 miles in a race makes all the difference in the mind of Lindstrom. In shorter races, it's tough to get the experience in caring for a dog team's feet or proper nutrition because many racers just push straight through, Lindstrom said.

Then there's the human factor.

''When you're running a 300-mile race on a round-the-clock schedule, you're going to also have to deal with sleep deprivation,'' said Lindstrom.

Many rookie mushers get frustrated competing with established, expert racers who are racing for a purse, he said.

''Once someone finishes the race, the people in the back of the pack are pushed and pressure sets in. Some people are put off because they're not treated like those in front of the pack,'' said Lindstrom.

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