Vern’s Beargrease Blog:

1/25 – 10:45 AM
9204_447564542107972_4539570443771985454_nBeargrease is just around the corner. This looks to be a highly competitive race. Nathan’s team with one exception, is healthy and ready to race. Ryan Anderson returns as the defending champion and after a year hiatus, Keith Aili is back and will definitely be amongst the favorites. Colleen Wallin looks to be driving a strong team which just came off a win at the Mail Run. 4 time champion Jamie Nelson is back on the runners looking for title number 5. Jason Campeau placed 17th in last year’s Iditarod could factor in the top placings also. Jen Freking and Erin Altimus have also placed high in previous races.The winner of this year’s race cannot make any mistakes. Consistent runs, impeccable dog care and a little luck will play a major factor in winning. Ryan is probably a slight pre-race favorite, but Nathan is ready and hungry for his 4th win. Time will tell!
1/28 – 9:46 PM
Beargrease is getting close now. Nathan has made his final choice of team members. Fillmore was a bit of a question mark earlier, but looks to be 100%. Look for him and Bandit to be out front leading the team. We unfortunately will be without our #1 handler Bridgette Kelleher this year. She’s been a huge part of our team for years. We will miss her! Along with myself, Carmen Erickson,Jake Hway, Kerry Kulju Nelson, Brett Pugsley and Toni Pugsley will be behind the scenes taking care of the team and musher at the check points. With 28 hours of mandatory rest and the way the checkpoints and mileage are set up, there won’t be any surprise moves by anyone. Some teams will rest early, while some may go out fast and take more rest further into the race. If you run too hard too early you will deplete your team of all its reserves. No amount of rest will bring them back if that happens. The “”hills” will definitely be a factor to the mushers who have never run this race. The hills are steep, daunting and plentiful. Starts playing with your head and body after awhile. It will be an exciting four days up and down the North Shore.
I will post updates when and if the Internet is available. Who do you think will be in the top 5??
1/31 – 8:04 AM
In a little over 3 hours, the teams will hitting the trail. The pre-race jitters will all be gone and the dogs and mushers will be in their comfort zone,running the Beargrease trail. Do the dogs know it’s race time? They certainly are a little more amped up because of the other teams, but I think to them it’s another training run with a few more perks. A lot of snacks,massages and the excitement of chasing other teams. Although the field of mushers is small, the quality is huge. A top 5 finish in this race will be a major accomplishment. Stay tuned for more updates after the start.
1/31 – 5:25 PM
Beargrease update…. bib#2 Jason C.,turned and burned at Finland, heading on to Sawbill. Nathan stayed just under 2 hours and is now on his way to Sawbill. The team drank, ate and rested pretty well. His run to Finland was very fast. Too fast??? Time will tell. 350 miles to go. Keith, Ryan, Julie left shortly behind. We won’t see him again until tomorrow when he gets to Trail Center, somewhere around 5am. The trail from Finland to about 15 miles beyond Sawbill gets tough. The Sawtooth Mountain range is a series of steep, steep hills. Some seem like you will never make it to the top. I think Ryan and Keith, along with myself were surprised Nathan ran the first leg so fast. He knows what his team is capable of.
2/1 – 8:39 AM
The next 2 runs will start shaking things out a little bit. Everyone teams look pretty good.
2/1 – 11:19 AM
Trail Center update: Nathan was out at 10:22 after resting 5 hours. Trail time he has a 21 minute lead over Jason. He pulled Bandit out of lead because he couldn’t get him to slow down to the pace he wants to travel. He put Metro and Bambi in lead. These next two legs of the race will tell a lot as far as who has the stronger dog teams. Nathan still has all of his dogs. Musher is in great spirits which in turn shows in the great attitude of the dogs..Erin, Ryan, Keith and Colleen are out also. All the teams are still looking great! Becki took a nasty spill and injured her left shoulder. Hopefully she can finish the race using her good arm. This is an Iditarod qualifier for her. Jamie has dropped 3 dogs, I’m not sure what the issues are. Julie Albert is having fun and running a very nice run also.
2/1 – 9:11 PM
On our way back from Mineral Center. Nathan stayed 4 1/2 hours. Ryan left first with 12 dogs, followed by Keith with 10, Nathan with 14 and Jason right behind with 13. I look for Ryan and Keith to pick up the pace and try to close the hour gap Nathan has on them. Jason is keeping close tabs on Nathan running pretty close to the same speed the last couple checkpoints. We have a race. Colleen,Erin and Julie have left also and are still in the mix. They should be at Trail Center around midnight. Mandatory 4 hour rest and vet checks will happen there.
2/2 – 1:07 AM
4 teams into Trail Center. Nathans team still trotting strong. I haven’t checked run times but looks like maybe a team or so is fading a little. More to come after the Vet check.
2/2 – 2:26 AM
I hate trying to do math when I am sleep deprived. I had Nathan’s rest time figured an hour off. Had to check 3 times to convince myself I was wrong. We are dropping Fillmore. Sore left wrist and shoulder.
2/2 – 3:01 AM
Nathan has been questioning himself the first part of the race, as to how fast the team is traveling. He has 6 rookie racers on his team and they are all doing phenomenal! Bambi is leading her first race ever, Grizzlie is the new cheerleader, Bernies’gate is smooth as silk, Maple is a Fillmore clone,Jake is steady as can be and Donald is a great dog who can also lead. So far these youngsters are a great fit for his Iditarod veterans,giving a little bit of that youthful exuberance to the team.They still have about 110 miles to go, so we’ll see how the fare when the going gets real tough. Nathans lead is an hour or better over everyone in the field. He knows he needs to be careful and make the right decisions. These youngsters have a bright future ahead of them!
2/2 – 5:43 AM
Nathan left Trail Center for the last time. On his way to Sawbill. He left with 13 dogs and the youngsters were barking to go. Bandit and Bambi in lead. Ryan was out first 12 dogs, Nathan, Keith 10 dogs and Jason 13 dogs followed.
2/2 – 2:09 PM
Nathan left Sawbill at 1:27pm. He was the first one out.Ryan Anderson left next. Jason Campeau had a stellar run to Sawbill closing the gap between he and Nathan to about 40 minutes. Keith will probably leave soon also. Ryan and Keith both have about 2 more hours extra rest to take. Nathan dropped youngsters Maple and Donald as to not stress them as he goes into race mode fending off Jason, who also dropped to his core Iditarod dogs for the final push to the finish.
2/2 – 3:11 PM
Sitting at Finland waiting for Nathan to arrive. Talked a little to Ryan at Sawbill. He’s not having a bad race,but it seems his team is not on their “A” game this race. As in any sport you do your best to prepare for what lies ahead, but, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Colleen, and Erin are duking it out for the top female spot. Julie Albert has a nice team also. Only 2 scratches thus far. A lot of tired mushers, handlers, race officials and volunteers hanging in there. Still smiles everywhere. What a great event!!
2/2 – 7:27 PM
On our way to the last checkpoint. Nathan looks to be a little over half way there maintaining his 40 minute/5 mile lead. We (the handlers) have to really suck it up. We need to pay utmost attention to each individual dogs needs at this mandatory 4 hour stop. The vets will go through the team and with their help and guidance work through any issues they may find. We will give them a good meal, check feet, massage wrists, shoulders etc,If he can maintain this lead and leaves the checkpoints to the finish without any issues he should be fine. The Campeau team is not going to make this easy. Jason, a former pro athlete is very intense and his team is still looking strong.Goinfg to be some excitement at the finish at Billy’s Bar.
2/2 – 10:59 PM
Nathan and team are resting at the final check point. He will be leaving for the finish at 1;31 am, 33 minutes ahead of Jason. In effect that is about a 4 mile headstart. With 38 miles left it would be a tall undertaking to catch Nathan. But as I have always said, it’s a dog race and anything can happen. We won’t breathe easy until we see the final result at Billys. A fourth title would sure be nice though!
2/3 – 3:32 AM
Waiting at Billy’s for the finish. Nathan is about 24 miles out according to the tracker. It showed Jason about 4 miles or so behind.I didn’t watch Jason leave, but,it sounds like his team left looking strong. If Nathan keeps moving forward he should be able to hold him off. Bandit joined Fillmore in the dog truck
His hip is bothering him again. So……Sheriff and Bambi led the team out of Highway 2 checkpoint.
It’s hard to leave with your 2 best in the truck. It is snowing and blowing pretty good outside, with visibility pretty low. We’re keeping our fingers crossed here for a strong finish.
3/3 – 6:37 AM
2016 in the books. Elusive win #4! A super group of canine athletes, hard work and dedication by their musher, equals success! Congrats Nathan, mom and I are proud of your accomplishments!

Winter Update!

Hi Race Fans!

A quick update on what Nathan and the team are up to now that winter finally seems to have arrived!

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Nathan is continuing to do fifty mile training runs. He has been clearing trails at the same time. The river isn’t quite ready to be safe to run on yet, but he has found a way to get the miles on the dogs without relying on the river. He’s been running two 10-dog teams every other day.

 It has been cold! It’s getting down to 25 below!

The plans for the Iditarod are on track.  We are still looking for sponsors, it is not too late: click here for details! We are getting the drop bags ready, they need to be shipped out next week. Nathan is cutting the dog food and will have it packaged this week and ready to ship.
He is also preparing for the Beargrease!   We need to get the gear packed for the musher and handlers as well as the dogs.  He is looking forward to returning to the Beargrease!  Nathan is not sure what team he is bringing yet – young dogs or veterans?  There is a fund raiserJanuary 29th at the Greenmill in Duluth. Be sure to check it out as a kickoff to Beargrease that start that weekend!

First Snow!

First snow means it’s sled time!  “It was exciting to get on the sled,” Nathan said as he took out eight dogs: Sheriff, Mickey, Grizzly, Yentna, Bella, Maple, Buffy and Rohn.  The river isn’t frozen safely enough and there isn’t enough time in the day to run four 8 dog teams in a day – so these eight were the lucky ones! Hopefully when the river freezes, and has been tested for safety, he can take the bigger teams for longer training runs with the sled. Once the river is thoroughly frozen, Nathan will need to use the snowmobile to test and pack a trail on the river. Once he can run the river, he will not need to cross any roads or go down logging roads. Until Mother Nature cooperates, Nathan and the team will need to continue to train with the truck.

There is a bit of sad news in the kennel,  Diablo has been really sore. He is ten and is needing to retire. Nathan said, “He is such an awesome dog. One of the finest dogs I have ever had.” There are only three dogs in history to run and win three times in the whole Beargrease: Madonna, Jackamo, and Diablo.  All three are from Nathan’s kennel and raced with him. Diablo has earned the treat to walk around the yard, free to eat snacks. He is already wanting to come in the house, so he will be the new house dog soon!

The Iditarod drop bags arrived in Warba from Alaska!!!  Nathan and the whole team are preparing the gear and food to be packed and shipped to Alaska by the middle of January.  Dog booties have been cleaned, sorted, and put together ready to pack. The rest of the gear is getting counted, sorted, washed, dried, cut up, and organized for packing.  Thank you to everyone who is helping.  Jen Reiter and her class are getting the snacks ready and everything else she does! Brett Pugsley, has been a big help in the kennel, and at the parade. Kerry Nelson is the “Den Mother” and is so helpful it is hard to list all that she does. Toni Pugsley has been a great help with the behind the scenes including fund raising and helping at the parade.

Brett was here again this weekend, he was a huge help!! He cleaned the kennel, helped to feed, hook up, and run the dogs, and even switched out hay in the dog houses. He and Nathan took the dogs out for 40 miles on Saturday.  Nathan and the team continue to be on an every other day running schedule. He takes all 32 dogs for 40 mile runs. He has been swapping leaders around and seeing who will work well together. The main leaders have been Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Frozen and Grizzly. They are all doing great! Of course they need to learn, and Metro, Achilles, Fillmore, Bandit, Sheriff, Miss Sally are up there showing them the ropes. Hard work and persistence will lead to winning and a successful kennel.

As far the yearlings, Maple, Buffy, and Nala continue do very well!  Snip and Snag are also doing great and getting more mature.  Nathan think they are going to do amazing in the near future. Really, all the yearlings are doing wonderful.

A big “Thank you” Duluth Trading. The gear has been helping Nathan and the team stay warm. Thank you to Minn-Alaska Transport for the shipping!  Thank you for the continued support from Millwright Local 1348, Millwright Local 548, North Central States Region Council of Carpenters.  Pheasants Plus has been very supportive. Nathan runs dogs on their land, and they are also sponsors!  Of course, thank you to all the fans, checkpoint sponsors, dog sponsors and the “mile” sponsors.

Aside from the dogs, we are getting ready for Christmas! Happy Holidays to all!