Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

02-12-20 Midday Yukon Quest Update

Lex Treinen

02-12-20 Midday Quest Update

Credit Lex Treinen / KUAC
Cody Strathe's dogs still wanting to go after finishing the race.

Lex Treinen (Whitehorse, Yukon) In gusting winds along the Yukon River, Cody Strathe said he was looking over his shoulder the whole way into Whitehorse, where he arrived early Wednesday morning.

The 42-year-old musher crossed the line in third place, the best finish in his career. For much of the past thousand miles, Strathe had fought for third place with three-time Quest winner Allen Moore, but finally, around Pelly Crossing, 300 miles from the finish, Strathe knew he had to make a move.

“Around Pelly I started trying to stay ahead of him, but still wasn't too concerned if he passed me, I don't know where he's at right now, but I was looking over my shoulder the whole way,” he said.

That continued all the way through the last 100 miles into Whitehorse. Strathe says he’d had experience getting passed by Moore in the final sections of trail and that was on his mind as he slogged through the gusts of wind and deep snowdrifts.

“We've run the Copper Basin with him for years and suddenly he'd come running around the corner and he'd have two ski poles on the back of that sled and it looked like it was like this crazy spider with all these things flailing around and I kept thinking that was gonna happen tonight, he was gonna come around the corner and catch up with me but he didn't haha,” said Strathe.

But Moore was nowhere to be seen - in fact, he was thirty miles behind Strathe, who had no real reason to be worried. Back in Carmacks, Allen Moore even told reporters that he wasn’t making any serious effort to catch Strathe, who he knew had a faster team. At the time, Moore said he was hoping he could just stay enough out of sight to make Strathe nervous and hopefully make a mistake. But Strathe did no such thing and continued to put time into Moore throughout the final run.

In fact, his moving speeds - the average speed his team ran not including rest times - were faster even than frontrunners Brent Sass and Michelle Phillips. It’s something he said he did through compassion for his dogs. "It's probably just me projecting cause I'm a wimp. My dogs are really tough but there's certain times where I'm like, 'I don't want my dogs to have to do that' and so then, but then sometimes we're just out there and we have to do it and it's not a big deal. They're so tough they're so amazing,” he said.

Before the race, Strathe said that he had the team to win and that it would be up to him to make good to them. While he improved his previous best finish - 12th last year - he said his fear of pushing his dogs too hard kept him from making a more decisive move. Still, he said that if he were in the right situation, he might be able to find a way to improve on his finish - if he gets the chance.

“It's just dependent on the situation, I mean I can't say it's like if the right moment would have happened here, I would have gone for it. I took specific times where things were going right and I took a chance,” he said.

During the early part of the race, Strathe said he had a realization that he doesn’t care about winning as much as some of his competitors. He was on the Yukon River breaking endless miles of trail - he was grumpy, his attitude transferred to the dogs, and the whole situation spiraled into misery. He said he never wanted to experience that again and threw out his goal of winning.

“The goal was not to try to win it, the goal was to do the best we could do with our dogs so that they could finish happy and strong and I mean I knew that the team possibly could win it, but I also didn't figure I would just because the kind of person I am, I probably wouldn't push them that hard, I wanted to be in the top five, but I didn't really care.”

And reach the finish line happy and strong his dogs did. Unlike Phillips and Sass’s dogs, which were visibly exhausted at the finish, Strathe’s dogs were barking energetically and jumping in their harnesses in the finish chute. Strathe said he’ll now go have a shower, a beer, and deal with some lingering injuries he’s accumulated over years of mushing. While he was sure to keep his dogs in top shape throughout the race - the dogs didn’t quite return the favor, but he’s okay with that. His injuries, he says, were from them.

“It's partly from just life with dogs - they beat us up, in a good way,” he said. ###

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.