Yuka Honda’s dog team started sputtering just outside Braeburn.
And just after the Japanese musher left Carmacks, it stalled.
“My leader had a wrist injury and doesn’t want to go,” she said.
And Honda has only one good leader, Olive Oil.
Running a 1,600-kilometre race with a single leader is risky.
“I knew it was a problem,” said Honda, who’s running former Quest champ Bill Cotter’s dogs.
“But I couldn’t get a new one because Bill needed dogs for his team.”
Cotter raced the Quest 300 this year.
“We thought about borrowing dogs, but didn’t have the money,” said Honda.
Honda has a couple more leaders, one who’s young and one who’s nine, but they only run if Olive Oil’s beside them.
Honda tried switching leaders, but it’s not looking good. The team would move a little before stalling out again.
“I asked so many mushers, can I follow you?” she said. “I asked 10, maybe 20.”
Her dogs would start to chase the team in front, but then they’d stop to poop, and Honda would lose sight of the team she was chasing.
Finally Cotter caught up to Honda.
“I said, ‘Bill, please wait,’” she said.
The dogs recognized each other, and the two teams ran together to Pelly checkpoint.
Honda left Pelly at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday with 12 dogs.
“I am kind of worried about the long run to Dawson,” she said.
Two years ago, Honda’s team had trouble in this section. She came into Dawson late and ended up scratching.
“It’s deja vu,” she said.
Honda plans to switch leaders “so many times” along the way.
She’s also been thinking about Jewel, the dog that died in 2007, after Honda lost her team.
“I have her collar with me,” she said.
“So she will protect me.”