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      Stielstra training for comeback in U.P. 200

      Ed Stielstra of McMillan is no stranger to sled dog racing.

      For the past 19 years, he and his dogs have taken to the trails every winter. This year, he plans to race in the U.P. 200, the Beargrease in Duluth, Minnesota, and the Iditarod. But there's plenty of work to be done to make sure he and his team are ready.

      "Our training runs today; one team of mine is running a 40-miler and the other one is a 33. Then they're going to have a couple days off, and then we're actually doing a 200-mile camping trip starting on Saturday," says Stielstra.

      Intense training means plenty of time away from Stielstra's family which includes his wife Tasha and a new baby.

      "It's no different than him having a full-time job and being home. It's probably just more work on me just because I'm still working full-time in addition to taking care of an infant," explains his wife, Tasha.

      And there's a lot more to the training than making sure the dogs are physically ready for the race. Currently, the dogs eat around 6000-7000 calories per day. But as the day of the U.P. 200 draws closer, that number will increase to around 8000 calories a day.

      Ed's team of dogs is a little different than his winning team in 2008. They're younger, averaging only about three years old. It's been a challenge turning them into sled dogs.

      "It's nice because there's a lot of excitement in the team, but there's also a lack of focus. They're not always focused on going forward," Stielstra describes.

      Even with a younger team, Stielstra aims to finish in the top ten.

      The U.P. 200 kicks off Friday, February 18 in downtown Marquette.