Chesterfield sled dog racer heading for World Championships

  • Marla BB gives her two lead dogs a hug after completing the 12-mile trail at the Chesterfield Gorge in January 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Marla BB gives her two lead dogs a hug after completing the 12-mile trail at the Chesterfield Gorge. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Marla BB as she completes the 12-mile trail at the Chesterfield Gorge with her dogs. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2019 11:54:40 PM

CHESTERFIELD — When dog sled musher Marla BB is on the home stretch of a race, she will yell out to her team of Alaskan Huskies, “Take it home!”

“They always keep a reserve, and when I say that, they take it up a whole ’nother notch,” she said.

BB is an accomplished dryland mushing racer who has won competitions throughout New England, the Midwest and Canada. In 2015, BB won the North American gold medal and qualified to represent Team USA in the International Federation of Sleddog Sports World Championships, but the trip proved too expensive and BB did not participate that year.

Later this month, however, BB is seizing her opportunity to compete on the international stage. She qualified once again for the World Championships after placing third in the North American competition in 2017, and she is going to Nybro, Sweden, from Oct. 23-27, with four of her canine teammates.

“It’s the pinnacle of my dryland sprint career to go and represent Team USA,” BB, 60, said in an interview on Saturday. “Now is the time to go to the Olympics of the sled dog world.”

The international competition will feature events such as bikejor, scootering, and harnessed team racing. BB and her Alaskan Huskies will participate in dryland mushing, a sport where a team of dogs pulls a person on a variety of vehicles, including a bike, scooter, or dryland sled. BB’s dogs will be pulling her on a three-wheeler that is like a tricycle without the pedals, she said.

On the sled, BB said she is “harnessing the energy of the team and directing them … (Once) we take off, my job is to tell them when to take turns so they don’t miss them and to steer them in a straight line … If you want to be fast, you want to go through the mud puddles and I come back from many races covered in mud and you can barely see me.”

BB has raced in a variety of races, both on snow and dryland circuits, with dog teams ranging in their size from four, six and eight. She has been racing since 2010 and she said her team of Huskies traveling to Sweden represents a “new generation.” They are from the third litter of Huskies she has raised as some of her championship-winning Huskies have aged out.

“It’s just like any sport – new athletes come into the fold,” she said.

BB said sprint racing (four to 25 miles) presents a different kind of thrill compared to mid-distance (100 to 300 miles) or long-distance (300 to 1,000-plus miles).

“Sprinting is thrilling, fun, flying and you are trying to go as fast as you can while keeping control,” she said. “And I love watching the dogs come flying across the finish line.”

Once she completes her racing in Sweden, BB will not be staying still for long. BB and her dogs will head to Alaska in December to take part in the Serum Run, a 685-mile event from Nenana to Nome. The event commemorates the Serum Run of 1924 to 1925 and will take BB and her team through many different villages until the trip concludes in March.

“It’s from one extreme to the other,” BB said about racing sprints on dryland in Sweden to the monthslong course on snow in Alaska.

Legs of the journey will tally up to 50 miles with a dog sled team of up to 12 dogs, according to BB.

“It’s a dream come true to take my team and travel across Alaska by day and getting to know people at local villages at night,” BB said. “It’s at a slower pace (than sprint racing) and you can really enjoy the terrain and scenery.”

BB is the owner of Hilltown Sleddogs, which offers lessons, rides, demonstrations, education, camps, and tours of her 20-dog kennel.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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