On Friday, February 16th, I will step onto the sled runners and begin the UP200 – a 240-mile race across Michigan’s upper peninsula. The dogs that will be with me at the starting line have pulled us over 1,000 miles in training since September.
I know they’re ready to race down the winding trail.
Standing on the runners of a dog sled for hours on end and for hundreds of miles may not seem ideal to some folks. But to some, it’s a lifestyle and a passion.
Why do I run sled dogs?
This is a question I ask myself in the moments when my toes and fingers are numb just halfway through a 40-miler with the dogs and my headlamp batteries are quickly losing power in the -30 degree night.
It’s the relationship with the dogs.
The passion they share with me for the trail.
Pushing my boundaries and my comfort zone.
Building confidence in myself and the dogs.
The challenge of working through the many different scenarios that present themselves.
It’s being the only team on the trail and listening to the stillness of winter, when all I hear is the shhhh of my runners and drag pad and the pat-pat-pat of bootied dog feet in the sugary snow. It’s identifying fresh moose, lynx, fox and wolf tracks on the same trails that we all frequent.
Running under Orion or directly toward the handle of the Big Dipper. Feeling as if we could run off the trail and into the night sky itself. Watching the moon rising like a bright pumpkin between silhouetted birch trees.
We are ready for the UP200. It will be the longest race I have entered, twice as long as the mid-distance Beargrease I ran in 2016.
The goal: Finish the race with happy and healthy dogs. This race is as much for them as it is for me. If they’re not having fun, then there’s no point in being there. I wouldn’t be able to run this race without the help and support of so many. Thanks to Jen and Blake Freking of Manitou Crossing Kennels for letting me run with their dogs and providing me with all the equipment. Sue Schurke (owner of Wintergreen Northern Wear), Dave (under whose hand every Wintergreen garment passes in the fabric cutting room), and all of the Wintergreen staff for their support and the clothing I need to stay warm on the trail.
And, of course, many thanks to the dogs.
Kalyn is an integral member of our crew at Wintergreen Northern Wear, and has been splitting her time between Wintergreen and Manitou Crossing Kennels all winter. Here at the store, she works in production, cutting fabric and overseeing the beginning phases of every Wintergreen garment that passes under the sewing needle. At home, she cares for 62 sled dogs and trains for races, like the upcoming The UP200. Be sure to wish her and the dogs happy trails and all the luck in the world!