Cor Guimond’s dogs are stuck at half throttle.
And it’s frustrating, he said.
The Dawson musher was walking toward his dog camp on Sunday afternoon pulling his six-year-old granddaughter Emily behind him on a sled.
He’d gotten into Dawson at 9:32 p.m. on Saturday, more than two days after frontrunner Lance Mackey.
“I figured I’d be placing in the top five with this team,” he said.
“I’ve never been in last place before.
“I guess it goes to show, anything can happen.”
Guimond’s dogs are “traumatized by the whole thing,” he said.
“They’re tough, but not tough-minded.”
The jumble ice and the wind on Eagle Summit took a lot out of them mentally.
And he had to drop his two main leaders.
“I have some young leaders, but they’ve never run without a main leader,” he said.
And they’re having trouble.
On Sunday, his beautiful, big dogs were nestled in straw, on wool blankets in a tarp tent at the Dawson dog camp.
Guimond snuggled with each one, kissing them and covering them with more straw.
“Coming into town they were boogying,” once they realized where they were, he said.
“So I know they can do it — I just wish they’d show more incentive.”
Guimond lost some valuable training time when the mercury dipped below 50 for several weeks just before the race, and that didn’t help, he said.
Although his dogs are slower than they should be, Guimond was sticking with the middle of the pack until he left Fortymile, 77 kilometres from Dawson.
He took off just after five on Friday night, and should have arrived in Dawson at one or two in the morning, but it was starting to snow, and his young leaders kept falling off the trail.
After eight kilometres of this, Guimond walked ahead of the team for another five, trying to find the trail.
“I never even realized I was off the trail until I hit a bluff,” he said.
He hunkered down and camped. And when he woke up, there was 7.6 centimetres of snow on him and his team.
That’s when Ann Ledwidge, another Quest musher from Dawson, showed up.
The two locals decided to head back to the cabin at Fortymile, and in the morning, the cabin’s caretaker went out on a snowmachine and opened the trail.
Whitehorse musher Kyla Boivin was there when Guimond and Ledwidge arrived, but took off ahead of them.
“I should have just kept going,” said Guimond, who has replaced Boivin at the back of the pack.
“Now I’m racing Ann and Kyla.”
Dumping out her drop bags, Boivin was a few campsites down, dealing with exploding bags of kibble.
Larry “Cowboy” Smith was helping the 25-year-old musher pick up the strewn dog food.
Behind them, Hambone was watching the dinner preparations. The 10-year-old Cowboy Smith dog has run all six Quests with Boivin.
“And he’s finished every one,” she said.
This year, Boivin had to drop her main leader, Shoofi, after she stepped in a hole in the jumble ice.
So, like Guimond, she was down to running young leaders.
But Boivin’s were doing well.
“They’re magnificent to watch,” she said.
Her dogs were sore, and that slowed down Boivin’s race, but now they’re starting to pick up speed.
“I’m not sure if I can catch (Mike) Ellis, he’s 24 hours ahead of me,” she said.
“So it’s Cor, Ann and me, racing for 14th place — why not?”
Ledwidge just wants to get to Whitehorse in time for the banquet, she said.
Her husband, veteran musher Peter Ledwidge, was changing her sled runners at the dog camp on Sunday.
“No one else is getting my meal,” she said.
Although she only has seven dogs, Ledwidge isn’t too worried.
“They’re doing awesome,” she said.
“The problem is me — not the dogs.
“I might actually race through this second half,” she added with a laugh.
Ann’s replacing Peter, whose back acted up before the race.
“I thought it would be just like running dogs and camping,” she said.
“But it’s a lot tougher than I thought. It’s a mind game out there.”
Ann dropped a number of dogs early on, and by the time she left Circle, only 350 kilometres from Fairbanks, she was ready to turn around.
Out in the jumble ice on the Yukon River, she ended up with three dogs in her sled. “I didn’t even know you could fit that many dogs in an empty sled, let alone a loaded one,” she said.
At that point, she would have turned around.
“But I figured Peter was already headed back across the border,” she said.
“It took guts to keep going into the isolation.”
Every run, Ann is figuring something out and learning more.
And although she’s down to seven dogs, Ann’s not worried.
“They’re so strong, there’s nothing wrong with them,” she said.
“I want to finish.”
Cotter comes back
More than 18 hours after he left Dawson City, Bill Cotter returned to the gold rush town.
He got turned around and couldn’t find his way, said Quest spokesperson Juliann Fraser from Pelly Crossing.
Cotter initially left Dawson at 1:17 a.m. Sunday and returned around 8:30 p.m., said Fraser.
That’s roughly the time it takes most mushers to reach Scroggie Creek dog drop, 159 kilometres past Dawson.
Cotter plans to head back out on the trail sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday with the remaining three mushers, Guimond, Ledwidge and Boivin, she said.