By Joseph Robertia
As the 28th running of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race prepares to get under way this weekend, it is shaping up to be a race of champions, with five past T200 champs signed up to run. But with the race taking an entirely new trail this year, not even past winners have an experience advantage.
“I think we’re on track for a great race,” said Tami Murray, T200 executive director.
Signed up so far are numerous past victors of the T200, including the defending champion Dee Dee Jonrowe, of Willow, 2005 and 2006 champion Jessica Hendricks, of Two Rivers, 2000, 2001 and 2010 champion Jeff King, of Denali Park, 2004 and 2009 winner Cim Smyth, of Big Lake, and hometown favorite Paul Gebhardt, of Kasilof, who won in 1996 and 1997.
“I’m really happy with the field so far,” Murray said “It’s a really strong field with so many having already won it, but there’s some other really talented mushers signed up, too.”
In addition to all the past T200 champions, there are also several winners of other mid-distance races around the state, including Colleen Robertia, of Kasilof, the 2010 winner of the Gin Gin 200, Dan Kaduce, of Chatanika, who won the Solstice 100 near Fairbanks earlier this season, and Jodi Bailey, of Chatanika, who won the Gin Gin 200 in 2007 and 2008.
“It’s a race we have not done, but have always heard good things about, so we wanted to come down and check it out,” Bailey said.
Living north of Fairbanks, Bailey has been training in temperatures that hovered at minus 40 for months, so she said she is looking forward to the milder weather of the Kenai Peninsula.
“We made the decision to go down long before the cold snap in the Interior, so weather was not really a factor then. Now, it is appealing to be running somewhere that should be a little warmer than our current temps,” Bailey said.
The T200 has the moniker of being “the toughest 200 miles in the state.” Bailey said her team is no stranger to hills but, that being said, she plans on using the T200 as training for a bigger race in March. Continue reading