Better T200 trails ahead

Jeff King’s team powers up a hill in the 2012 running of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race.

File photo. Jeff King’s team powers up a hill in the 2012 running of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race.

By Joseph Robertia Redoubt Reporter Now all they need is snow. That’s what organizers of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race are thinking as the event got a full roster of 40 mushers on the first day of sign-ups, and many others still on a waiting list. Come February the Tustumena 200 will celebrate its 30th anniversary, said Tami Murray, T200 president and race director. That’s part of the reason so many signed up so fast, she said. The other part is the $50,000 purse being offered to this year’s competitors. The 2014 T200 registration was set to open at 8 a.m. Oct. 15. “With the increase of the purse (double from last year), we expected the roster to fill up fairly quick,” Murray said. “At three seconds past 8 a.m. on the 15th, the first musher was entered. Ten seconds later the next two had their spots. This went on for almost exactly an hour until the roster was full with a waiting list underway.” The sign-up list is diverse. There are past T200 champions, such as Ramey Smyth and Jessica Hendricks, and rookies looking for their first 200-mile adventure. There are Kenai Peninsula locals, such as Paul Gebhardt and Mitch Seavey, and travelers from as far as the Yukon and Norway. “It’s great to see the new people and foreign people coming in,” said Dean Osmar, of Kasilof, who started the race 30 years ago. He said that it was impressive to see the race grow and thrive for so many years. “We never thought much about it making it 30 years when we started that first one,” he said. “We hoped it would keep going, but I never envisioned it getting this huge, with this much money and so many good mushers.” Osmar attributed a lot of the success to the growth of the volunteer base, which not only has helped put in better trails but helped raise money for the purse. He said there were other races here on the peninsula, such as one that ran from Soldotna to Hope, that disappeared as people to plan the race dwindled. “I’m happy to see the T200 didn’t fall to the wayside,” he said. “I mean, I have mixed feelings too. Those early races, it was just friends and no pressure, no big names. But it was tough then, too. The third year 80 percent of the field dropped out, and only three people finished.” In recent years, the success rate has increased considerably as some of the most dangerous sections of trail have been removed, and there is much more grooming done by the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers, Homer Snowmads and various individuals, such as Kevin Fulton, of Kasilof, who puts in long hours pulling a groomer behind a snowmachine and placing thousands of markers before race day. “The T200 trail has seen some changes,” Murray said. “Five years ago all major road crossings were taken out, and today the route takes the mushers from Kasilof through the Caribou Hills to Homer and back. The organizers of the race are very proud of the recent changes that have been made. The removal of road crossings, the addition of Freddie’s Roadhouse as a checkpoint, mandatory rests, available dog drops at the expense of the T200, and multiple vets at each checkpoint.” She said that all of these changes took hard work, but were worth it since they’ve made the race safer for people and their dogs. She said that the big purse this year also didn’t come without lots of year-round fundraising effort, and corporate sponsorship, too. “Over the past few years we have received some wonderful support from Apache Alaska, they are huge fans of the T200. We recently completed the second annual Apache Rainbow Challenge, a fishing challenge hosted by Apache, where they invited 18 of their contractors to participate in a day of rainbow fishing on the Kenai River. The fishing was preceded by a dinner/auction that raised over $45,000,” Murray said. This year’s T200 is scheduled to begin Feb 1. To learn more about the race, or to see the full sign-up list, visit its soon-to-be updated website at http://www.tustumena200.com, or current Facebook page.

1 Comment

Filed under mushing, outdoors, Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race

One response to “Better T200 trails ahead

  1. Thanks Joseph, we are really looking forward to a fantastic race!
    Tami

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