45 mushers and over 400 dogs got off to a fast start yesterday morning with the 33 running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
The unseasonable warmth of a week or so ago turned the Alger Grade Gravel Pit north of Two Harbors into a skating rink for spectators, but neither snow nor cold nor ice stayed spectators from seeing off the mushers as they started the swift completion of their almost 400 mile race.
It was also colder than it's been in recent years at the race start; the sun and clouds played hide and seek, alternating between a little blue sky ... and thick snow flurries.
Many think the ones to watch this year are Ryan Anderson, Ryan Redington, and Nathan Schroeder.
Schroeder has tied Jamie Nelson's record of four Beargrease marathon wins and is going for his 5th. And Ryan Redington, new to the Beargrease this year, is the grandson of Joe Redington Sr., who co-founded the Iditarod.
Redington had a less-than-smooth departure from the starting chute on Sunday; first a squabble broke out between two of his dogs, then another ended up on the wrong side of the gangline. But all was soon put right and he was on the trail.
Another big change to the race this year will be the eight-hour layover in Grand Portage.. Jason Rice talked to us about that change in this morning's Beargrease Report.