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02-08-20 Yukon Quest Update

Lex Treinen

Emily Rosenblat has put a lot into the Quest, even though she’s not racing. She’s married to Richie Beattie, who’s making a comeback to Yukon Quest racing this year.

So far though, it’s been difficult for both of them. Waiting at the finish line at the Midway point in Dawson, Rosenblatt explains that while it’s been difficult for Beattie out on the trail she’s had her own logistical struggles. It started with a broken car near Salcha when she and her dad, who is helping handle for Beatti,e couldn’t shift the car out of first gear. They call a mechanic friend for help, but no use.

“So we limp the truck back at 20 miles per hour to a friend’s place in Salcha, get a ride to town, pick up a U-Haul because you're just like thinking, adrenaline ‘what do I have to do to get to Dawson?” she says.

A frantic Facebook callout results in a borrowed dog trailer from Lance Mackey, but coming towards Tok sometime after midnight, the ball joint shears off from the trailer hitch.

“And then at like two in the morning, you're starting to get a little sleepy, all of a sudden I see sparks flying up behind me and a horrible loud noise and the ball hitch on the truck literally snapped in half and the trailer detached and we were on a steady decline, so you know, it's still moving towards me but it stopped, so I stop, pull overrun into the truck and get those little reflective triangle things, put them out, just go in survival mode,” she says.

After four hours of sleep in Tok, a slog to Dawson City ensues.

“It took us 20 hours, they say it's 12 hours to Dawson but it definitely took us 20 hours to get here through crazy roads and snow and everything, there was only a few crazy roadblocks. Now in hindsight it just seems like funny and ridiculous,” she says.

They hit rock bottom, she says. Now she’s waiting to see Beattie, whom she hasn’t seen since Circle.

“I'm feeling a little bit more positive about the second half of the race. Like nothing - it couldn't get worse than this at this point. Let's hope, knock on wood,” she says.

It can get worse. Around the corner a dog team appears. It’s her husband’s team, but Richie Beattie isn’t on the sled. A man that nobody recognizes jumps off the runners. Rosenblatt’s face drains of color as she calls for help as confused onlookers start to murmur. The race marshall is called from inside the checkpoint across the street where he had been in a meeting about trail conditions. Hatless and gloveless, he jumps on a snow machine, revs and zips off up the river where Beattie could be lying anywhere in the snow. In the finish chute, the dogs start to get nervous, despite Rosenblatt’s comforting. And officials try to comfort her, reminding her that another musher appeared shortly behind Beattie on the race tracker. Surely he’ll pick up a musher that’s fallen from a sled.

Finally, that team arrives. But it’s just Rob Cooke on the sled. But next to him just outside the finish chute, the race marshall zips in with the Beattie in back. He’s safe, but clearly still exhausted. Meanwhile, Rob Cooke in the finish chute explains what happened from his perspective as he and his team chugged down the Yukon River.

“There was a guy walking down the trail and he was freaking the dogs out, and I was getting ready to really start shouting at him because he wouldn't move, and then he crossed the trail and he turned around and I recognized it was him, and so I said, what's happening, he said his dog team had just taken off, I just got him to jump on, we just shared the runners,” he explained.

Cooke said he could understand - he’s been extremely tired this whole race as well, dozing in and out of sleep amid the tough wind drifted snow and vertigo-inducing flat light.

“I had similar situations last night, I was really struggling last night coming into Clinton Creek to stay awake, so I understand that, you know, and he didn't get much sleep in Clinton Creek I don't think, so I understand where he was coming from. He was super worried obviously, his dogs had just taken off and in a situation like that, anything can happen,” he said.

Just before the finish line, they ran into the race marshall, who brought Beattie to the finish. Even he was confused about what had happened.

“A little while ago I just woke up and I was sitting around my sled and the team was laying in the snow, I have no idea how long it happened...cause I was way...I should have been here so long ago,” he says.

Luckily for him, the dogs did just fine.

“They're great, they were barking when they came in just,” Rosenblatt tells him.

After clearing the gear check and showing a passport, Beattie and Rosenblatt jump on the runners of the sled and head off towards the checkpoint, holding each other around the waist. A vet check clears the dogs and the musher is just fine. It’s a reminder that yes, things always could be worse. Beattie wasn't assessed any penalty, since rules state that in the case of an emergency, outside help is acceptable as long as it doesn't provide a competitive advantage.