Day 13: “I definitely learned more in the first seven days of this race than I learned in the last seven years of running dogs.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The extra rest Alex Buetow gave his dogs in Braeburn proved to be a wise choice. Despite leaving Braeburn four hours after him, the rookie Alaskan caught up to and passed Luc Tweddell just three miles from the finish line to take eighth place. His scorching burn in from Braeburn took just over 13 hours, second only to Allen Moore, who had six more dogs on his team. Buetow crossed the finish line at 8am for a total time of 11 days, 18 hours, 51 minutes.

Buetow was quick to give credit for his satisfying placement to three of his dogs in particular: two-year old brothers Swenson, Riley and Karl, who ran the entire 1,000 miles. “They’re the ones that I trusted the most and performed the best.” A 2014 Iditarod finisher, Buetow was asked how the Quest compares. “This is way harder, hands down,” he said. In terms of strategies for withstanding the cold weather, Buetow said he received some helpful guidance. “One of the best pieces of advice that I got before this race was from [Quest] veteran Kristin Pace, and she said ‘Don’t bring a thermometer,’ and so I didn’t, and so I never knew what the temperature actually was, and if you don’t know how cold it is then you can deal with it a little bit better.” But he went on to say that the warmer weather was a mixed blessing. “You want it to warm up so bad when it’s 50 below and then it does, and it snows, and you’re crawling, so pick your poison, I guess.”

Known to have a friendly rivalry with musher-in-arms Tim Pappas, Buetow joked, “If I had another couple hundred miles I was about to catch up to him.” Buetow’s father, Eric, is also a Quest finisher (1985), so Alex said he’s also looking forward to swapping stories from the trail past and present.

fourteen minutes later came Luc Tweddell, greeted by wife and daughters, who plan to be YQ300 competitors in 2019. Completing his second Quest ninth overall in a total time of 11 days, 18 hours, 59 minutes, Tweddell, too, gave most of the credit to his dogs. “Every day they’re doing something pretty amazing… they just do what they do for 10, 12 days in a row, that’s enough for me.” Standouts from the team were five-year olds Maple and the aptly named Quest, who were also on the line for his rookie run in 2016. Tweddell had some advice for his daughters for next year’s YQ300: “Just don’t do stupid things.”

After the warmer weather resulted in a troubling section of trail outside of Braeburn, the remaining mushers were rerouted approximately 650 meters.

Claudia Wickert was the first musher to test the reroute, but returned to the checkpoint shortly after and scratched, citing issues with her leaders as the reason for her decision.

Dave Dalton was next out of Braeburn at 1:28am, making it across the finish line at 6:05pm with a team of 10. The veteran musher completed his 22nd Quest in 10th place with a total time of 12 days, 5 hours, 17 minutes. “It was a long tired race, but the dogs did well,” said Dalton, singling out Doc, Spinner and Happy as his standout performers. After suffering a pinched nerve in his neck, Dalton said his 2018 highlight was some trail chiropractic help at the Clinton Creek hospitality stop. Indicating he will be back to race the 2019 Quest, Dalton described what keeps him coming back, year after year. “Every year it’s a different challenge, and I raise my own dogs, raise ’em as pups, and I like to see how they mature each year, and come together as a unit on the team.”

Next in at 6:37pm was rookie Riley Dyche, who left Braeburn an hour after Rob Cooke and four hours later had passed him. Dyche finished with a total time of 12 days, 5 hours, 55 minutes, taking 11th place. Dyche praised his leaders Fuse and Yam, the former running in lead for all but 120 miles of the race. The Fairbanks musher said he’s eying a 2020 Quest run with what he feels will be a bigger and more complete team. Asked about the insights he’s gained on his rookie run, Dyche replied, “I definitely learned more in the first seven days of this race than I learned in the last seven years of running dogs. It was a pretty sharp learning curve.”

Twelfth place went to Yukoner Rob Cooke, crossing the finish line at 7:36pm for a total time of 12 days, 7 hours, 24 minutes. Cooke was overcome with gratitude for his dog Maddie, who led for 700 miles. “She’s such a phenomenal lead dog and I’m just indebted to her.” A five-time Quest finisher, Cooke said this one stands out. “Out of all the 1,000-mile races I’ve done, that’s the toughest.” His high point? “Finishing. It means a lot to me to be finishing at home in Whitehorse.”

In 13th place was rookie Nathaniel Hamlyn, crossing the Whitehorse finish line with seven dogs at 11:46pm, for a total race time of 12 days, 11 hours, 13 minutes. Hamlyn started the race with his entire kennel of 12 dogs, but was forced to drop four after the arduous ascent and steep descent of Rosebud Summit, and ran the remaining 800 miles with a team of only eight (and finally seven). Although Hamlyn said he is used to running smaller teams, two of the dropped dogs were his “cheerleaders,” so this year’s Red Lantern recipient acknowledged that it did affect his team’s morale from time to time. His solution, he said, was simply to slow down his race plan, resting his team longer and more frequently. Asked about his overall experience, the Whitehorse musher said “It lived up to all expectations. It was definitely a really, really tough race. Amazing scenery, amazing people, and all in all a good experience.”

Standings as of 11:59pm:

  1. Allen Moore - FINAL
  2. Matt Hall - FINAL
  3. Laura Neese - FINAL
  4. Vebjorn Aishana Reitan - FINAL
  5. Ed Hopkins - FINAL
  6. Tim Pappas - FINAL
  7. Bernhard Schuchert – FINAL
  8. Alex Buetow - FINAL
  9. Luc Tweddell - FINAL
  10. Dave Dalton - FINAL
  11. Riley Dyche - FINAL
  12. Rob Cooke - FINAL
  13. Nathaniel Hamlyn - FINAL
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