Carmacks, YK - The Yukon Quest has once again proven itself as one of the toughest races in the Far North. Of the 18 mushers who signed up for this year’s race, only eleven may finish. The race has claimed rookies, and seasoned veterans alike, but there are still a handful of teams plugging along toward the finish line outside of Whitehorse. KUAC’s Emily Schwing caught up with the “Kiwi Musher” and has this profile.
The Yukon Quest trail can be a lonely, solitary route. And with the way this year’s field spread out early, it was even more so, but Rookie Curt Perano says that’s how he like to travel. “I like to just do my own thing and not be influenced by what other people do or say," says Perano. "If do bump into other people, no problem, but I will probably try to adjust my schedule to break away.”
Perano hasn’t spent much time near other teams. He did break trail with Dave Dalton on a run between Eagle and Dawson City after high winds and falling snow drifted in the trail. “And you do that when the time is right, but I’m not one to travel in big groups.” Because he’s running his team alone, he does find ways to pass the time. “I just work. I get my ski pole out or something like that," he says. "I find if I just stand there, my eyes are open, but I’m not seeing what’s in front of me, I’m just thinking very random stuff, so I know when I really need to focus, I’ll get my ski pole out and work with the dogs.”
He also plugs in his iPod every now and again. “It’s random. I like the heavier stuff, and rock... a bit of everything.”
He and wife Fleur moved to the United States in 2007 and then to Alaska two years ago, because he wanted to start running his dogs for much longer distances. He’s run two Iditarods. He’s planning a third run to Nome this year.
When he was back at the Circle checkpoint he said he chose the Quest this year for a change of pace. “It’s another trail to run with the dogs really," he sasys. "I’ve never run up this part of the country so why not.”
And he’s not the only rookie on his team. He says he’s impressed with a three-year-old dog named Croc.
“This was his first race and I was a bit unsure, but he’s he’s happy and having fun and he hasn’t made a mistake yet and he’s done a great job, so that’s rewarding.”
But Croc and the rest of Perano’s team didn’t seem to come together until the back half of the race. Veterinarians were impressed when his team came into Carmacks, but he says that wasn’t the case early on. “I left the start line with something missing, and they were really lacking something for a long way into the race," says Perano. "So, I really took a step back, so I could get them happy and working and they started to kick into gear maybe 70 miles before Dawson. I guess the last hundred or so, they’ve started to look nice and their attitudes are really good.”
He thinks they may have had to work through some illness. Regardless, he says he was eager for his team to gain some experience on what he had heard was a challenging trail. “I’m not a big one and it may work against me – but I’m not a big one for doing a lot of research on what’s around every corner before a race, because I kind of feel it’s there and you’re going to have to deal with it in one way or another, so I go into it not totally blind, but some of it. But I’ve learned a lot from it.”
Perano says his predominantly solo run has built his confidence. “I think the more you can expose yourself and your dogs to, the better you’re going to be, because they get the confidence that they can work through it and you get the confidence that you can drive them through it, and next time you face it, you know well ‘hey I got the dogs that can deal with that!’
And he says there will definitely be a next time. “Oh yeah definitely, it’s a good race!” he smiles.
With five teams in front and five teams behind him, Perano is likely to finish solo right in the middle of the pack.