18 / -9
      29 / 21
      26 / 14

      The show mush go on

      It's a weekend like no other.

      Seventeen teams, 221 athletes, 1,500 volunteers, and countless months of preparation, all on display under the bright lights.

      Cheering fans, from across the U.P. and beyond, line the streets of Marquette to help send off the mushers and their dogs on a safe journey.

      Competitors, much like the weather, got out to a great start, but trouble loomed ahead. White-out conditions greeted teams as they made their way through Wetmore en route to Grand Marais.

      "There was about 30 inches of snow or something on the trail, and nobody wanted to head out and break it," laughed Amanda Vogel, a seasoned musher from Minnesota.

      On day two, fans waiting at Grand Marais' Suicide Hill were barraged with a log jam of mushers, bottled up in a tight-knit race.

      "The first six teams were all like one after the other after the other, trying to get through there. We kept taking turns passing each other and going from there," noted Ryan Anderson, the now four-time champion from Ray, Minnesota.

      The halfway point marked a sigh of relief for mushers and their mutts who got a chance to eat up quickly before getting some much-needed rest.

      "I'm going to grab some food now, maybe just a couple sandwiches, and try to get some sleep. I didn't get much sleep at all last night," Anderson added.

      Bales of hay and backseats of cars might not seem like a place of refuge, but one man's trash is another dog's treasure.

      "It's nappy time now. We're going to hit the straw. We're all going to go to bed," Vogel whispered to one of her dogs.

      After a short spell, it was back to the track, and Mother Nature made another snowy salutation for the leg home.

      "It was snowing so hard at one point in the race that one of my competitors was in front of me and I couldn't even see him. I wiped the snow off my glasses and realized my leaders were right in front of him," remembered Troy Groeneveld, a musher from Duluth, Minnesota.

      Unfortunately, the low visibility was no laughing matter, as tragedy reared its ugly head on M-28 near Wetmore. A head-on collision sent shockwaves through the ranks.

      "We hope that we never see anything like this again, and we will try even harder," lamented Pat Torreano, an Upper Peninsula Sled Association Board Member.

      The racing community swallowed its tears for the time being and got back to work; pulling out all the stops, sticks, legs and arms it could to push through eighteen inches of overnight snow.

      After 38 hours of rough and tough mushing, a finish line stocked with screaming spectators awaited this year's champion...who was all too familiar with the winner's circle, picking up his fourth UP 200 crown.

      "Three hours out, I looked back and there was somebody right behind me, and that's when I just decided I better just start running. And I haven't seen anybody since," Anderson remembered.

      But winning isn't the focus of the 240-mile trek. It's the camaraderie amongst the teams, the culmination of a year's worth of training and a chance to compete with their furry family that drives this tournament.

      Words don't do it justice. Only after you live it live can you really appreciate how special these sled dogs truly are.