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Dog days of winter: Overflow crowd watches Beargrease mushers hit the trail

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A mild day, at least by North Shore standards, got some of the credit for what was called an overflow crowd of spectators who trekked to Two Harbors for Sunday's start of the 31st John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The race website is tracking the teams with live updates and video.

The Sunday starting point for the race was moved north because of the limited snow base in Duluth. The Duluth News Tribune reported that Jason Rice, president of the Beargrease board of directors, called it the best-ever start along Lake County Road 2, where cars lined up a mile in either direction.

"A fantastic beginning to the event," Rice said. "In a year when people were saying, 'How are you going to do it?,' we went with our gut and it turned out to be right. That was absolutely a phenomenal crowd."

Video: The hilarious screaming dog

It was a crowd that got a good chuckle at the starting line.

Northland's NewsCenter captured video of an eager black and white sled dog that was so excited it seemed to be screaming. The station's report noted the eager pup had crowds howling with laughter with its "...all–too-human yell."

There's a gallery of photographs on the Beargrease Facebook page.

More on the race (and racers)

The St. Cloud Times published a feature story on the year round efforts made by Minnesota mushers to be ready for the annual event as they prepare themselves, their equipment and their dog teams to race. It's an expensive prospect.

Beargrease marathoner Peter McClelland, 46, of Ely started racing 12 years ago. He told the paper a musher can expect to spend $500 per dog per year on food, maintaining water lines and basic veterinary care.

"Sleds run $700 to $3,000," the story added. "Harnesses cost $20 apiece; ganglines cost about $30 per dog pair; a snow hook runs about $50. Mushers need a truck and trailer. For summer training, they need an ATV or a good cart."

The winner of the 103-mile Beargrease mid-distance race is expected to reach the finish at Devil Track Lake near Grand Marais about midday today. The winner of the 319-mile Beargrease marathon event is expected to reach the finish at Billy's Bar north of Duluth on Wednesday morning.

Marathon teams must take at least 24 hours of rest along the 319-mile course; teams that left the starting line first must take more rest to make up the time difference.

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