EAGLE LAKE – After record low snow falls forced the Eagle Lake sled dog races to be canceled in 2011, organizers breathed a sigh of relief last week as several inches of snow and cold temperatures gave mushers and their teams the conditions they needed to take to the trails for the 2012 races.
Despite the below-zero weather and biting wind, sled dog fans came out bundled from head to toe on Saturday, Jan. 14 to support an event that has been in existence since 2007 under the direction of local mushers Larry Murphy and John Kaleta. Thirty mushers and their teams came from around New England, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario to compete in the first dog sled races of the winter season in the northern Maine area.
Larry Murphy, who has been running in sled dog races for over a decade, was the only representative from the Valley in the Irving Woodlands 100-mile race this year. “Murph,” as he is better known in the area, was the second musher to take off behind Jaye Foucher of Ashland, N.H. to start off the day. Murphy and his team finished 10th out of 11 mushers in the lengthy 100-mile race. Denis Tremblay of St-Michel des-Saints, Qué. took the first-place finish in the 100-mile event, finishing in nine hours and two minutes. Rene Marchildon of South River, Ont. began his day taking off in the 10th starting position. Nine hours and four minutes later, Marchildon crossed the finish line in second place. Martin Massicotte of St-Tite, Qué. rounded off the top three finishers with a time of nine hours and 52 minutes.
The 100-mile race teams finished faster than organizers thought they would, according to Kaleta. The teams were slated to begin arriving at the finish line during the later hours of Sunday morning, but the last teams finished around 3 a.m.
“I actually got to get some sleep this year,” Kaleta said candidly on Monday morning.
St. David’s Amy Dionne was the only Valley participant to finish in the top three of the Mad Bomber 30-mile race, which took off shortly after all the teams from the 100-mile race had left the starting line. Dionne finished the race with a time of 2:17:41. Dionne is no stranger to competitive sled dog racing, as she has competed in events in Stockholm and in the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race. Rico Portalatin of Westhampton, Mass. took top honors in the 30-mile event, finishing with a time of 2:07:01. Kathy MacKay of Parishville, N.Y. finished with a second-place time of 2:15:14. Other notable Valley mushers were Holly Dionne, who got an eighth-place finish in the race, John Kaleta, who took 12th place on his 25th wedding anniversary, and 14-year-old Sullivan Abbott, who finished in last place.
The 30-mile race finished at the Recreation Department on Saturday afternoon. The weekend wrapped up with an awards banquet at Tamarack Restaurant.