UP mushers prepare for UP 200 this weekend

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The U.P. 200 Sled Dog race is this upcoming weekend. The 230-mile mid-distance race draws mushers from as far away as Quebec and beyond, but this year, only three mushers from the U.P. are entered to participate.

U.P. 200 musher Justin Stielstra from McMillan, nephew of seven time Iditarod finisher and past winner of U.P. 200, Ed Stielstra, is a veteran of the 1,000 mile Iditarod in Alaska.

"We're going to look to have a fun, fast run, [and] hopefully finish with a healthy, happy dog team," Nature's Kennel, and U.P. 200 Musher Justin Stielstra said

23-year-old Justin, a trail guide and musher out of Nature's Kennel in McMillan, says he looks forward to this year's trail conditions, and the expected weather.

“The cold, these guys, they've been training all year long, they're ready for it. If it does get any colder than this we have extra gear we can throw on them to help keep the weight on, keep them healthy and happy but as of right now this is perfect running temperature for these guys," Stielstra said.

Stielstra said his dogs run at their peak between zero and -20F.

"They just fly down the trail, stay happy, keep their energy up and love to eat all the food we give them," Stielstra said

Stielstra said one reason there may not be as many U.P. teams running the U.P. 200, is because they're retiring.

"But you know it's kind of nice there are a couple up and coming kennels that are going to be racing from the U.P.," Stielstra said. "But really, a lot of people are moving a bit where there's more snow, a little bit colder because there's not many places it seems like the last few years that have had great snow conditions to run dogs.”

A fellow trail guide at Nature's Kennel said he's surprised there are not as many teams from the U.P., considering how many people come to the kennel for tours.

"We meet people from all over the world, that's what is so amazing to me here. We've had people here from France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Hawaii, California, Florida—they come from all over just to run dogs in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan," Nature's Kennel Musher Tom Roig said.

The U.P. 200 weekend of races is this weekend, and for more information about the race, you can visit their website at http://www.up200.org/.

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