Sleepy Yukon Quest musher falls off sled, dogs continue on, passerby finishes part of race
'Our dogs are trained to go. They're not trained to stop,' says Alaskan musher Richie Beattie
A Yukon Quest musher who fell off his moving dogsled after falling asleep had to hitchhike his way to the next checkpoint, while a man in the area jumped aboard the runaway sled and guided the dogs to the end of that stretch.
"Most of that would be profanity," musher Richie Beattie said of his internal dialogue as he saw his sled-dog team running without him toward Dawson City, Yukon.
"In six days, I had acquired about eight hours of sleep, so I was incredibly sleep-deprived," he said in an interview with CBC Saturday.
"Apparently, I lost a little bit more than touch with reality. I lost touch with my handlebar."
The Two Rivers, Alaska, resident was one of 15 mushers who competed in this year's Yukon Quest sled-dog race.
The race started on Feb. 1. The trail stretched between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, about a 1,600-kilometre journey.
Beattie said he was about three kilometres from the midway checkpoint when the incident happened on Feb. 7.
He said he ran after his team, which was on the frozen Yukon River at that point, for a short while before becoming too tired to continue.
Beattie said he figured someone would soon catch the 10 dogs as they continued on the trail and approached Dawson City.
Rob Cooke, a Whitehorse resident and fellow musher who was just behind Beattie on the trail at the time, was the one to rescue the exhausted musher.
"I had an interesting encounter with Richie," said Cooke.
Beattie rode with Cooke to the checkpoint, where Beattie said he saw his wife crying.
"She thought I, like, fell into open water," said the impromptu hitchhiker. "I think she was very relieved when she saw me."
The checkpoint is one of the more well-attended spots on the race. The mushers had to stay in the town for 36 hours before leaving.
Beattie's team ended up arriving in the town with a musher, but it wasn't him.
"Some Good Samaritan jumped on the sled as it passed him, and drove the dogs into the checkpoint," he said.
"Apparently he just, like … pulled in, jumped off the sled, and disappeared."
Beattie, who arrived in town at 1:18 p.m. that day, said he doesn't know who that man is, and he's thankful for the temporary replacement.
He didn't get any penalties because of the incident: "It didn't give me any competitive advantage."
Beattie has participated in this competition three times. Before this year, he said he last raced it in 2007.
"I've been dog mushing for 20 years, and it's been — knock on wood — it's been a good decade and a half or so since I've lost a team," he said.
Beattie, who finished the race in eighth place overall, said he has no ill will toward his rogue team members.
"Our dogs are trained to go. They're not trained to stop," he said.
There were no physical injuries associated with the runaway dogsled, Beattie said.
"Maybe my ego was a little bruised," he said with a laugh.
"I'm sure people will be ribbing me about it for quite some time, just like I would do [to] someone else who was in this situation."