MEARNS musher Wattie McDonald has returned home to Stonehaven from Alaska after completing “the last great race on earth” for the second time.
The gruelling 1150 mile Iditarod sled dog race began on March 6 and Wattie reached the finish line 11 days, 23 hours, one minute and 33 seconds later, coming in 36th out of 62 competitors and slashing his 2010 time by 12 hours.
Despite his success, Wattie’s journey was far from easy, with the route taking in all kinds of challenging terrain. He said: “This has to be the toughest trail that I have ever driven dogs on. The route I took last year, which itself was gruelling, seems quite tame in comparison.
“The race includes 150 miles up the Yukon river and with the head winds it was just tough as hell - not only that, but the hills seem to be getting bigger.”
Wattie again ran a team of experienced dogs from former Iditarod champion Dean Osmar, but despite the strong team the race took its toll. He said: “I had to drop my first dog with a foot injury at the second check point 70 miles into the race. The trail was so hard and fast it was very difficult to keep the dogs at a steady pace. It seemed to affect me and the dogs, as it was difficult to get them motivated the first couple of days which knocked me off my top 20 schedule. The dogs wouldn’t eat or work to their potential, and it was proving tough on both dogs and musher.
“It also left me 12 hours off the pace which was always going to be tough to catch up.”
Wattie is delighted with his 36th place finish, and added that his quicker time this year is a “great achievement”. He said: “With even seasoned mushers dropping out early on in the race this was a tough challenge. The tough trail conditions wiped out a few of the top contenders so for me and the dogs to hang in there was just amazing.
“There were so many hills it was like crossing over ben nevis and back a dozen times but again the dogs were just totally awesome, and they finished very strong. It was amazing to see my wife Wendy waiting for me at the finish line.
“This was just an amazing adventure for me I feel like the luckiest man on the planet fulfilling my dream once again and I just cant thank all my family and friends who chipped in one way or another also im very grateful to my sponsors who helped out in many ways.”