Ryan Anderson, originally of Pine City, has been dreaming for years of competing in Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race.
After winning the 400-mile John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon three times – including this February – Anderson and his team were running well and in good shape.
This would not be Anderson’s first trip to Alaska. After starting to race sled dogs competitively at age 10, he had come to Alaska at age 17 to run the Junior Iditarod.
However, he knew he was heading into new territory and facing a whole new challenge with the Iditarod.
The Iditarod course runs over 1,000 miles through the rugged interior of Alaska, and takes anywhere from eight to 15 days to complete. Blizzards with whiteout conditions are common, and the wind chill has been known to drop as low as -100 Fahrenheit.
For a musher like Anderson, it’s the sport’s greatest challenge, one which has been called “The Last Great Race on Earth.”
The 35-year-old Anderson now lives in Ray, Minnesota with his wife Missy Carpentier, and together they own and operate AnderTier Racing Kennel – home to approximately 45 Alaskan Huskies.
As reported in the International Falls Journal, Anderson said he wasn’t looking to win the Iditarod as a rookie, but planned to pick up as much knowledge as he could through the experience.
“I know this first year will educate me for future Iditarods,” Anderson said. “What I expect to learn will only help me as a musher and perfect the dogs’ skills. This is the chance of a lifetime.”
Anderson set off on March 6 with the 16 dogs required for the race.
Fans in Minnesota followed his progress on the Iditarod.com website and the AnderTier Racing Facebook page.
Anderson made it to the Galena checkpoint on March 11 after traversing 396 miles of the 979 mile journey and spending more than 65 hours running his dogs along the trail.
But by the time he made it to Galena he was down to 10 dogs, and many of those dogs were sick, having picked up a debilitating gastrointestinal bug somewhere along the way.
Writing on the AnderTier Racing Facebook page, Missy Carpentier said the decision to end the race was “difficult yet easy.”
“Our dogs are our everything and it is best for them to stop as the bug has hit them too hard for our comfort level,” she wrote. “We cannot come close to being able to express our gratitude to everyone for your support throughout this journey with us. We are sorry to our supporters that we won’t be making it to Nome, but if you are supporting us then ... you believe in us, our dogs, and the care and respect that we have for our dogs and wouldn’t expect anything less.”