Go, dogs, go! Beargrease mushers include teenager, singer

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Some numbers from the 2014 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which took off from Duluth Sunday afternoon: 2,000 (approximate number of spectators at the starting line); 10 (number of mushers); 420 (number of dogs); 374 (miles of North Shore trail); and both last and certainly least, negative 50 (the temperature low, factoring in the wind chill).

The Duluth News Tribune is tracking the race via the GPS on Beargrease.com, the official website of the race. Musher Peter McClelland of Ely and his team were in the lead Monday morning. Northland's News Center said the site amassed an all-time record of hits, with close to 30,000 views in 24 hours. The website for MPR News carried a series of pictures snapped by photographer Grace A. Walsh.

On Sunday the Duluth newspaper had a feature story on Elizabeth Nelson, 14, who is competing in the mid-distance event. The ninth grader, pictured here with her dog Darcy, is the granddaughter of Jamie Nelson, 65, an Iditarod veteran and four-time winner of the full-length Beargrease. Elizabeth attends school online to have time to focus on tending her 11 dogs.

"They’re kind of my pets, but they also know what their job is, and they work for me,” Elizabeth said. “They know I’m the boss.”

Elizabeth's father Erik also raced as a child; he was 9 when he finished second in the first mid-distance Beargrease. This year, Elizabeth's father and grandmother are her dog handlers.

“It was pretty cool to be able to put the famous Jamie Nelson in my handler spot on the race,” Elizabeth said.

WDIO in Duluth had a story about musher Billy Snodgrass, who keeps the trails happy by singing, from opera to old standards.

"The dogs like Christmas songs," Snodgrass said. "Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, I sing that one all the time."

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