Twenty-five mushers, some local, some international – all prepared to race this evening along icy river trails — are in Bethel for the Kuskokwim 300. The race starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. It’s the longest of three races that’ll take place over the weekend.
Last year’s champion, Pete Kaiser is competing again this year. Kaiser was the first local musher in more than 30 years to win the race.
“There’s not a lot of strategy in this race, just because there’s so little rest,” Kaiser said. “So, I think just managing the team’s speed is the probably the only strategy. I’ll be looking to go slower the first part of the race and try to manage their gas tank throughout the whole way.”
Due to icy trails from warmer weather in the past few weeks, this year’s K300 race will start and finish with the first and last 50 miles on tundra trails. Kaiser flew his dogs up to Fairbanks to practice last week, and says he hopes the efforts were worth it. And he’s not the only musher focusing on pace during the start.
Video by Dean Swope/KYUK
Brenda Mackey is a lifelong dog musher and a former Yukon Quest competitor. This is her first year racing the K300.
“Trying to slow the dogs down on the ice is going to be a challenge,” Mackey said. “My goal is to not go too fast to the first checkpoint of Kalskag, and I think that that’s going to be a challenge to do on the ice. So we’ll see.”
Rhon Buser, who finished second last year by 13 minutes and first the year before, says this year’s trail is ideal.
“[The] last year I won, that was the trail we took, so that was kind of exciting,” Buser said. “I know that trail pretty well.”
Race officials say this year’s winner will receive at least $25,000 and the race will run about 280 miles, with checkpoints in Tuluksak, Kalskag, Aniak and back.
And aside from the K300 this weekend, other mushers will compete in the Bogus Creek 150, the shortest race, the Akiak Dash, at roughly 50 miles.