Changes afoot for sled dog race

Posted: Monday, October 02, 2000

While the race will still wind its way through the Kenai Peninsula's wilderness, there are some changes afoot for the next Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, according to race vice-president and co-coordinator Nema Arndt.

"We've reconfigured how we are going to pay out the purse," she said. "Rather than a fixed amount, we will pay a percentage."

The winner will get 40 percent of the total purse, with second receiving 20 and third receiving 10 percent. The remaining 30 percent of the purse will be split proportionally by mushers four through 10.

Arndt said the purse for the Jan. 27 race hasn't been set yet, but it will be at least equal to this year's $25,000.

The race committee also is looking at modifying its ceremonial start.

"Running from the Kenai City Dock to Kenai Supply was a great idea, but was a logistical nightmare," she said. "This year we're looking at starting in front of Kenai Chrysler, one of our major sponsors."

She said the ceremonial start, which provides handicapped and underprivileged children a chance to ride with the mushers, will run from Kenai Chrysler Center in Kenai, up Marathon Road and back.

"But that's not set in concrete," she added.

She said the change is being brought about for several reasons, including reducing the amount of work that needs to be done at the last minute, keeping dogs off Bridge Access Road and away from traffic, and increasing the chance for spectators to see the event.

"Parking is very limited at the dock once all the trucks for the mushers are there," she said.

Race organizers also are considering a second mandatory layover. Currently, racers are required to spend six hours at the race's halfway point, the Clam Shell Lodge. A second, four-hour layover is being considered for Fifth Trail Lodge on the return leg of the race. Fifth Trail Lodge is about 35 miles from the Clam Shell Lodge.

"Some mushers think it's great, but some would like to see a musher-determined layover," Arndt said.

With the extra four hours added to the race, top mushers should be crossing the finish line around 5 or 6 a.m. Monday, rather than in the wee hours after midnight, Arndt said.

No new trail markers are planned for next year, despite the six-day search for lost Fairbanks musher Rod Boyce this year.

"In talking to mushers that went through that area, the major contributor to that situation was the weather," Arndt said. "(Boyce) was at the back of the pack and a blizzard was in progress when he left Caribou Lake.

"I think it was just inexperienced dogs and really nasty weather -- a combination that I guess it was our turn to have."

Registration forms for the race will be in the mail by Oct. 18, according to Nancy Kitchen, who is handling registration.

"I fully expect to have some (registration forms) back by November, because of the interest in them," she said.

Arndt said the next race committee meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 in the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof, and new volunteers are always welcome.

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