N.B. woman and her huskies make history with Maine sled dog race
Proud and exhausted.
That's how Katherine Langlais described her feelings as she hovered over a bowl of soup at the end of a 250-mile (400km) race through deep snow, isolated forests and a pair of dark winter nights.
It was her first full meal in three days. But she says it was all worth it as the northern New Brunswicker because the first woman to ever win the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race.
"I'm just coming to the realization of my win, actually, it's something to process," said Langlais, 39, a few hours after crossing the finish line in Fort Kent, Maine. "I'm feeling tired, I'm feeling good, I'm feeling like we had just accomplished one of our dreams," she said.
Langlais and 12 of her Alaskan huskies started their race on Saturday at 10:40 a.m. ET. Racing against 13 other sled dog teams through the northern tip of Maine, she made the circuit through the isolated forests faster than any other musher.
At 8:36 ET on Monday morning she crossed the finish line. She was 12 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher, and the first woman to ever take the title in the 30-year history of the race.
"That's what I'm very proud of," said Langlais. "I'm always one to fight for, you know, that women are just as important in every field as men, and we're just as competence and we can accomplish the same things."
WATCH | What it means to be the first woman to win the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race:
And she wasn't alone. Canadian women came in first in all three races this weekend, Langlais said, with racers from Quebec winning the 100 mile(160km) and the 30 mile(48km).
"It was nice to know that when I came in this morning that, yes, I did win, but I won along with two other women."
Langlais says she wasn't sure she'd won until after she crossed the finish line.
Sled dog teams start the race in a staggered fashion, leaving two minutes apart. After that, mushers can choose their own strategy, even travelling throughout the night, but it's mandatory to stop for a total of 17 hours over the course of the race to look after their dogs and to rest.
Racers can choose how long they spend 12 hours over three checkpoints, with the final checkpoint being a mandatory five-hour stop.
"I chose to rest a little bit longer in the first runs since it was a longer run," said Langlais, who says the first leg was about 72 miles, or close to 116 kilometres.
She says three dogs were removed from the sled at checkpoints along the way.
"Just like us when we run an endurance race, we can, you know, feel sore and tender in certain areas," said Langlais. "When this arises, sometimes it's something that we can massage out, other times it's just best to drop them and go on without."
Langlais has been raising Alaskan huskies with her husband at their home in Glenwood, about 40 kilometres southwest of Campbellton, N.B. She said their dogs live for racing.
"They're dogs that were born and raised to be performance athletes or the endurance athletes, I should say," she said. "Very, very active dogs and a lot of appetites is something that's that we breed for, is to have a dog that's eating all the time."
Over the course of the race her strategies with dog management and timing the team's rest periods all paid off.
"All the stars aligned for us this weekend," said Langlais. "Your dogs have to be performing, we have to be feeling good as well. You can't make that many mistakes, so I guess I didn't make that many mistakes."