“Man versus Dog”– Human Perseverance versus Pigheaded Puppies

A dog team in hot pursuit of skier Heidi Loosen at "Man versus Dog"

The first reaction most people had when they heard about Bearskin’s “Man versus Dog” Wilderness Pursuit ski race was generally, “Pffffft. That’s crazy. Skiers can’t beat dog teams.”

Oh, yes, they can. The results are in for Sunday’s “Man versus Dog” ski race and it turns out that what human skiers lack in four-legged canine speed, they make up for in persistence. A skier will pass the finish line for the first time and then willingly go around for a second loop. Teams of dogs—well, not so much.

Skiers gather for the start of "Man versus Dog" at Bearskin Lodge

With careful timing and race course measuring, the plan was for the dogs to travel a parallel race course to the skiers, covering just enough extra distance to compensate for the dog teams’ additional speed. For awhile it looked like amazing planning. On the return stretch of the first 5k  loop, the dogs were closing in on the fastest skiers and it appeared that they’d all reach the turn-around at the spectator area together.

But that was before the three dog teams realized they were almost “home.” All the dogs that participated in the race this year regularly take guests on mushing trips across East Bearskin Lake. It’s usually fun to watch the teams speed up when they catch sight of Erik’s tipi on the west end of the lake. There’s no place like home, even if you are a dog. But during the “Man versus Dog” race today, the teams needed to turn around to do the second 5 K loop before they headed back to the tipi. Not every dog was convinced that this was a great idea.

Shall we discuss whether we dogs plan to continue this race?

The teams being run by mushers Erik Simula and Adam Harju needed to be persuaded that no, the race was not quite over. While both mushers were in deep discussion with their dogs, David Demmer’s dog team drove in, circled smoothly around them all, and headed back out in pursuit of the skiers. (It does help to know that there were quite a few puppies in this race—you know how stubborn kids can be.)

Sometimes a musher just has to show those dogs exactly what he has in mind.

 Meanwhile, our skiers all still looked strong after the first 5K  and they rounded the bend to do the second 5K without whining, complaining, or barking.

Andrew Grimm — who had another big event this weekend, his wedding — won the race. Dave Seaton from Hungry Jack Outfitters came in a close second. Heidi Loosen, from nearby Camp Menogyn, was the first woman finisher.  The winning musher was David Demmer, since he actually stayed on the race course.

Andrew Grimm and Dave Seaton at the finish line of "Man versus Dog"

We knew the “Man versus Dog” idea could be fun, but that the race would need a little fine tuning to perfect the concept. The timing and course length worked well, and in the future, puppy obstinacy can be solved. Bearskin hopes to hold the race again next year. If you’re a skier, consider being part of “Man versus Dog” in 2012.

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