Marine Gastard and her team had home-trail advantage over the weekend and it served them well.
The 31-year-old won the sled division in the Granger Grind on Feb. 26. The course of the race went from Mount Lorne to Fish Lake and back. Gastard runs her Into The Wild Adventures dog sledding business in the Fish Lake area, so both she and her dogs spend plenty of time on those trails.
“I’m really happy I won this race because it’s like my backyard,” said Gastard.
“(My dogs have) never done this before. They do 40 or 50 miles training … but have never had five hours of rest before going again. They were a little bit surprised they had to go. But once they started running it was good, they were all very excited.”
Gastard completed the roughly 129-kilometre round trip in eight hours and one minute for her first win in a mid-distance race.
She was the fastest on Leg 1 — from Mount Lorne to Fish Lake — with a time of 4:02 on Feb. 25. She was the second fastest on the way back at 3:39.
“It was a bit slow because of the warmth and the trail was very punchy going to Fish Lake, and it was very windy too,” said Gastard. “On the way back it was much better.
“I really enjoy this trail. I train my dogs all the time on this trail — it’s my favourite trail.”
The Granger Grind was the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon’s annual mid-distance race. Gastard placed third in 2015 when it was called the Cinnamon Bun Run.
Gastard’s win was the closest since the race was started in 2010. She finished just two minutes ahead of Fox Lake’s Martine LeLevier in second. LeLevier was second fastest on Leg 1 at 4:07 and fastest on Leg 2 at 3:56.
Shallow Bay’s Gerry Willomitzer placed third at 8:30. Willomitzer, a Yukon Quest and Iditarod veteran, won the Mount Lorne Christmas Classic in December.
Golden Horn’s Cynthia Corriveau was the only skijorer to enter the race this year. She finished with a time of 10:54, beating three sled teams.
The Granger Grind was originally going to be a 110-mile (177-kilomete) race but was shortened the day before the start due to warm weather spoiling trail conditions.
“The trail runs around Mount Granger, more or less, and it’s a bit of a harder trail than normal, so it was a bit of a grind,” said race day coordinator Adam Robinson, explaining the race’s new name.
“The first part of it up to Alligator Lake, everybody knows. We run Carbon Hill race there, the Christmas Classic runs on that one. Once we cut over towards Granger, for most people that was a new trail. And that was the idea: to show people new trails in their area so they can come out and enjoy different trails.”
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1st Marine Gastard — 8:01
2nd Martine LeLevier — 8:03
3rd Gerry Willomitzer — 8:30
4th Nathaniel Hamlyn — 8:44
5th J.F. Bisson — 9:00
6th Kristina Disney — 9:07
7th Magnus Kaltenborn — 9:14
8th Steve Gibbons — 9:58
9th Amelie Janin — 11:52
10th Krys March — 13:17
Jean-Marc Champeval (scratched)
1st Cynthia Corriveau — 10:54