Last year’s eighth-place finisher has stopped trying to catch the frontrunners.
“I followed those guys on the trail and you can see puke and dogs shitting blood,” said Jean-Denis Britten.
“They’re pushing too hard.
“If I was running a marathon and I was puking all the time, I would stop,” he said.
“I would not feel good seeing all my dogs throwing up like this.
“I’m not willing to push my dogs to win money.
“But a lot of these guys have sponsors behind them and have to prove something.”
Britten is more interested in racing against himself.
“I’m here to do better than last year,” he said.
Britten raced in 2008 to prove that even with a small kennel of 12 dogs it was possible to run the Quest and finish well.
Lots of veteran mushers told us it was impossible, said Britten’s wife Marie-Claude Dufresme.
“And after we finished we got so may calls thanking us for showing it was possible,” she said.
Britten’s been taking care of Quest veteran Peter Ledwidge’s kennel while he and his family are in Australia. So he has a few more dogs to choose from this year.
“But I will never be able to perform like the others do, because I am not willing to do stuff like this to my dogs,” he said.
“I don’t want to see my dogs unhappy,” said Luc Tweddell.
At the start of the race the Yukon rookie was pushing his team.
“And I started to think about scratching,” he said.
“I was thinking it was impossible, my dogs weren’t trained, or they were too young.”
Then, Tweddell slowed down.
“I started going the speed I did in training,” he said.
“And now everybody is eating and sleeping.”
Now, they’re happy, he said.
“The frontrunners are pushing harder than I thought,” said Michelle Phillips.
They get antsy, she said.
“They think, ‘I should go, I should go.’
“Some people only rested three hours at Braeburn (checkpoint).”
Phillips is taking her time.
“The dogs are happy and I’ve got a nice pace,” she said.
Dave Dalton’s 19th Quest is also little slower than he expected.
On Monday night he arrived in Pelly Crossing in 13th place.
“Right now I’m just getting to Dawson,” he said, gluing up the cracks in his fingers with crazy glue.
“Then we’ll see what we can do in the second half — see who we can catch.”
Last year, Dalton finished in third place.
But there are a lot of good racers this year, and some dark horses, he said.
Dalton is surprised he’s so far back.
The frontrunners aren’t resting their dogs, he said.
“We’ll see what happens with Hugh (Neff) and (Brent) Sass. We’ll see if they can keep up with Martin (Buser) and (Hans) Gatt.”
It’s all about patience, said Dalton.
“There’s a long way to go yet.”
Mike Ellis is also ignoring the frontrunners.
I’ll never be running for first place, said the New Hampshire musher.
His team of Siberians just doesn’t perform the way Alaskan huskies do.
“They never give 100 per cent,” he said. “They’re always holding back — it’s just what I can coax out of them.”
Lots of mushers who start with purebred Siberians and decide to get serious, switch over to Alaskans, he said.
“But I’m happy running the dogs I have.”
Red lantern carrier Becca Moore is “blown away” by the frontrunners.
“I don’t know how they do it,” said the Alaskan rookie. “But they have to be doing something right, because someone has to be pulling.”
Moore would “like to be further up,” but is happy to be running happy dogs.
Contact Genesee Keevil at