Frank Turner fought back tears.
The veteran musher scratched from the Yukon Quest in Dawson early Friday afternoon.
“There were just too many injuries,” he said.
“The trail is just so well done, it’s hard, there was just too much pounding on the dogs — it’s like running on pavement.”
Turner, who’s raced in 23 Quests, has always taken pride in finishing with large teams. This year, he’d planned to end in Fairbanks with 12 healthy dogs.
But things just didn’t turn out for the Whitehorse musher.
“Carter was outstanding, he should be in the hall of fame,” said Turner as he filled out the withdrawal form.
“But he has a tendon injury, and if I kept running him it’d turn into a more serious problem.
“Marley has been hanging out without pulling since Pelly.
And I’ve been working on wrists since Carmacks, and they haven’t really improved.”
It came down to a question of numbers for Turner.
The sled, the gear and Turner himself are all a fixed weight, so even if he carried less food, trying to run another 800 kilometres with seven dogs, instead of 12, just didn’t make sense.
“The only reason to go on would be to satisfy others’ expectations,” he said.
“And that’s not good enough.”
The whole experience had Turner asking himself what he was out to prove.
“I need to sort out why I am doing this, just to be clear with myself,” he said.
The motivation was to go out and run a good race, but not at the dogs’ expense.
“It’s never been finish or die, or win or die,” he said.
Competition used to be a big part of Turner’s race, but that’s changed over the years.
This year, instead of trying to catch other mushers, Turner focused on having the best runs he could, and it altered his whole race experience.
“My mantra was to focus on the dogs,” he said.
“Not to try and catch someone or pull away.”
And, for the first time in his racing career, Turner didn’t go through his usual, emotional ups and downs.
“I felt good, and was visualizing taking my team to Fairbanks and the feeling you get when you cross the finish line,” he said.
“And now it’s like 180 degrees — I am so disappointed not to be going on from here.
“I feel like crying.”
In ‘95, Turner won the Quest in record time.
But over the past 20 years the race has changed, he said.
“It used to be possible for a little guy with a small kennel to get it together and win the race,” said Turner, who only had 30 dogs when he won it.
“It taught me never to underestimate people, particularly myself.”
Now, the frontrunners all have huge kennels and train upwards of 70 dogs for a 14-dog team, he said.
And the probability of a small kennel winning the race is very low.
Turner’s not sure if he will run the Quest again.
“I’ve learned not to make any forecasts about it,” he said.
Yuka Honda also scratched in Dawson after arriving hours later than expected with her main lead dog in the sled.
Two snowmobiles and a plane were sent out to look for Honda and rookie Greg Parvin on Friday morning.
Honda was spotted on top of King Solomon’s Dome, but Parvin was nowhere to be seen.
The Alaskan musher had left Scroggie Creek dog drop Wednesday, and returned eight hours later, disoriented.
He left again Thursday morning, but still hadn’t shown up in Dawson, 160 kilometres away, on Friday.
The mushers travelling with Parvin had all arrived.
Friday night, race marshal Mike McCowan announced that a search crew would leave Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
But two of Parvin’s handlers jumped the gun, headed out that night and eventually found him only 37 kilometres from Scroggie.
“His dogs quit on him,” said race judge Doug Grilliot.
Parvin, who scratched, was given the option to head toward Dawson or return to Scroggie.
He opted for Dawson, and arrived Sunday.
Kiara Adams and Catherine Pinard scratched in Pelly after losing too many dogs to injuries.
J.T. Hessert was withdrawn, but is continuing the race on his own.