GREENVILLE, Maine — The teams of racing dogs strained, tugged and jumped in their harnesses Saturday, impatiently waiting for their handlers to mush in the annual 30-Mile Wilderness Sled Dog Race.
The yips and whining from the dogs that sounded at times like human speech cut through the crisp, cold Moosehead Lake region air as their handlers from Quebec and New England waited for the countdown.
Winning this year’s race was Andrew Longchamps of Pont Rouge, Quebec, with a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 44 seconds. Lev Shuarts of Winchendon, Mass., came in second at 2 hours, 12 minutes, 21 seconds, and James Wheeler of South Portland finished third at 2 hours, 12 minutes, 36 seconds.
This year, the organizers had to scrap the traditional 100-mile race that usually accompanies the 30-mile race because of the conditions, and had to change the location of the smaller race. The start of the race was moved to a gravel pit off Lily Bay Road owned by Mark Muzzy, and the race used the local B52 and Blue Ridge snowmobile trails.
Amy Dugan, who along with John Osmond, both of Shirley, chaired the event, said the move was made because 9 miles of the race is on Moosehead Lake and the lake was glare ice this year, making it too treacherous for the dogs. Organizers quickly had to find an alternative route so they moved about four miles up the road.
“I’m blown away with the community I live in and the people who helped put this one on; we just had a week [to do that],” Dugan said Saturday. “I’m just thrilled with it; it went off very well, and that makes my day.”
Dugan said if a race is to be held, it needs to be safe and to have a good trail. No one was injured, none of the teams dropped out, and mushers found the trail in great condition, she said.
The 18 mushers who participated in the race remarked about the friendliness of the people in the Moosehead Lake region.
Some had heard other mushers in other races talk about the region and its friendly people, so they came to find out for themselves.
“I heard that the people were so nice and it was a nice trail [from other mushers],” Kelly Berg of Ashland, N.H., said Saturday. She said she found both were true on her first trip to Greenville. An added bonus, she said, was that the area still had snow, which New Hampshire has little of right now.
Lidia Dale-Mesaros of Campton, N.H., originally from England, said she had been running sled dog teams for 16 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. She fell on an icy patch a few minutes before Saturday’s race and hurt her shoulder, but not enough to prevent her from racing. It was her second time competing in the Greenville event and she said she “loved the people.”
So did Shannon Herbert of New Brunswick. “The people are fantastic, we feel so welcome,” she said. This was her first time in Greenville, and she looked forward to returning to next year’s 100-mile race, which organizers hope to resume, weather permitting.
“I’m not planning on doing very well because my dogs are long-distance dogs” trained to run in longer endurance races, Herbert said of her Alaskan huskies. She just planned to use the trail for practice and absorb the beauty of the region.
Ashley Simpson of Shirley was all business as she rubbed ointment into the pads of her Alaskan huskies to protect them from the cold and ice. She was a handler for Osmond for years but decided to branch out with her own team. Her dogs are bred for the longer-distance races but she wanted to compete in Saturday’s race for the training.
Maryann Herbert of Beaver Cove, a race coordinator, praised the approximately 25 volunteers who helped with the race, including Greenville town officials, the Maine Warden Service, the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club. She also thanked the sponsors that included Bangor Savings Bank and Plum Creek.
“It was excellent,” she said. “It was a really good success,” even though the committee had to revamp the entire race at the last minute. “It just went off beautiful.”
30-Mile Wilderness Race results
Place Name Run time
1. Andre Longchamps, Quebec 2:04:44
2. Lev Shuarts, Winchendon, Mass. 2:12:21
3. James Wheeler, South Portland 2:12:36
4. Dave Punch, Kingsbury 2:14:36
5. Ashley Simpson, Shirley 2:28:21
6. Kim Berg, Ashland, N.H. 2:30:32
7. Elizabeth Rankin, Starksboro, Vt. 2:31:36
8. Caroline Blair Smith, Albany Twp. 2:34:45
9. Becki Tucker, Voluntown, Conn. 2:35:23
10. Kelly Berg, Ashland, N.H. 2:38:15
11. Scott Alexander, Sanbornton, N.H. 2:39:53
12. Rob Cooke, Saint Jacques, N.B. 2:43:01
13. Kim Darst, Blairstown, N.J. 2:44:47
14. Kasey McCarty, New Portland 2:46:22
15. Corinna Alexander, Sanbornton, N.H. 2:47:15
16. Shannon Herbert, Knowlesville, N.B. 2:50:01
17. Lidia Dale-Mesaros, Campton, N.H. 2:55:46
18. Paul Meyer, Farmington 3:08:49