Beargrease 120 defending champ aiming for ‘fun’ 2023 race after physically, emotionally tough season
DULUTH, MN -- As the Beargrease 120 teams approached the starting line in Duluth Sunday morning, Rita Wehseler knew her dogs’ training load this season was a bit lighter than usual.
“It’s been an interesting and tough year but I’ve been doing this for 20 years you have good years and bad years,” the Tofte native and defending mid-distance champion said.
Wehseler is referring to the unusual winter the North Shore has experienced this year.
She said the nearly 44 inches of snow her area received early on this winter plus a snowstorm that brought 40-mile per hour winds caused some significant setbacks in her training.
“After the 40 mile per hour winds, I would run smaller teams and snake around the downed trees with smaller teams instead of running 14 dogs teams,” Wehseler said, adding that meant she needed to run even more training in order to get all her dogs prepped.
With the warmer-than-usual January temperatures, she said her dogs are used to slightly higher temperatures, but they’re bred and ready for this bitter cold stretch forecasted during the Beargrease.
While it’s been a physically tough season for Wehseler and her team, it’s also been a difficult one emotionally.
“I just want to finish this year,” Wehseler said. “I had a very tough year. Then, sorry, two weeks ago my mother-in-law died so that put a stint on the training as well. So it’s been a challenging year. The battle cry this year is ‘we’re going to go have fun.’”
Wehseler’s mother-in-law, Florence Wehseler was well know and loved on the North Shore.
She and her family had a logging camp near Isabella and also built the North Shore Market in Tofte.
Florence was six days shy of her 97th birthday when she passed.
Meanwhile, Rita Wehseler is hoping to honor her mother-in-law during this week’s race.
She’s expecting it will be a quick one, given the cold temperatures and packed-down snow.
Wehseler and the rest of the 22 teams racing the Beargrease 120 are expected to cross the finish line at the Trestle Inn early Monday morning.
Northern News Now will have a crew there and will bring you updates as the teams start to come in.
Click here for the most up-to-date results.
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