Tustumena 200 Ready To Run
After three years of having to cancel due to lack of snow and too-warm weather, the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race is up and running this weekend.
“This’ll be the fourth attempt at our 30th anniversary,” said Tami Murray, executive director of the T200.
The race begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mile 112 of the Kenai Spur Highway in Kasilof. The sled dog teams will trek 100 miles through the Caribou Hills to Homer and back.
“Conditions are great. (I’m a) little anxious about this warm-up here, but it’s supposed to freeze up a little more towards the latter part of the week, Saturday. And I think we’ll be OK," Murray said.
Temperatures on Thursday edged into the 40s but are expected to drop below freezing over the weekend.
Twenty-four mushers are signed up for the race, including Cim Smyth and Ray Redington, Jr. And several big names from the Kenai Peninsula will be defending their home turf, including Mitch Seavey, Paul Gebhardt, Dean and Tim Osmar and Monica Zappa.
Murray says the race can accommodate 50 mushers but many have dropped out, due to an inability to log enough training time, the cost of travel or participation in last weekend’s Kuskokwim 300.
“It was a pretty hard race. They had 50 below temperatures during the whole race. But several of them signed back up. They withdrew from our race and signed back up when they got back and realized that they were fine, their teams were good. So they’re still coming down, so we’re excited about that,” Murray said.
There is no shortage of volunteers, though.
“More than I’ve ever seen and I know it’s because we haven’t had a race in a while," Murray said. "There’s a lot of new people, a lot of people that haven’t seen the race. They may have moved up here in the last few years and haven’t seen it. So I’m super excited about the enthusiasm we’re seeing from our volunteers.”
The purse for this year’s race is $30,000, lowered from $50,000 to make the race more sustainable into the future. Thanks to sponsors, Murray says, the race is doing well financially. All that’s needed for it to continue is winter.
“I am making good on my promise from three years ago this weekend,” Murray said.
Race updates will be posted at www.tustumena200.com. Both mid-race checkpoints are road accessible and open to spectators — Freddie's Roadhouse out Oilwell Road in Ninilchik and McNeil Elementary School on East End Road in Homer. The winner is expected to finish Sunday afternoon. The public also is welcome at vet checks from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and the awards banquet starting at 5 p.m. Monday, both at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.