MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – Before the Jack Pine 30 sled dog race was canceled, three women came together to train and help one another as they prepared for their first mid-distance race.

Erica Tieppo, founder of Mother North Mushing, brought the group together.

“I got my first dog and sled in 1995 if I recall correctly,” said Tieppo. “I was very into dog sports, and I initially wanted to do agility with border collies, but I decided instead to pick up dog sledding. My nickname in school was Balto actually. I love winter sports, the experience of being out in the forest in winter. I grew up on my dad’s snowmachine and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Tieppo’s passion has grown into a larger sense of community, welcoming two new racers into her pack.

“There’s a group of us newbies who will be running the race for the first time, and we’ve decided that we’re going to buddy system and do the race together and make sure everyone finishes safely and that we’re there supporting each other and making sure no one is left behind.”

Alexis Weeden is the president of the Northern Michigan University Mushing Club. During her freshmen year, Weeden’s roommates took her out on a dog sled for the first time.

“I was so excited; I am the biggest adrenaline junkie. I want to go as fast as I can go or as stupid as I can go as soon as possible at any given moment, so I was super psyched to be out.

Two years later, Weeden has been training to run her first mid-distance race in the Jack Pine 30.

“I’ve been learning a lot about team management because I haven’t had experience with actually driving like big teams,” said Weeden. “I drove a touring team my freshmen year which was eight dogs, and I did that with one of my teammates in the basket. It’s just been a lot of learning how to like to manage myself as well because I am going to do the stupidest as soon as possible. So, it’s been a lot of learning to curb that impulse to just go fast, and instead be like, okay how are my dogs doing? Are they doing okay? Rather than like I just want to zoom. I have to remember to watch them and me.”

The last in the trio is Janine Pollock who came all the way from Florida to train with Tieppo and Weeden for the Jack Pine 30. Pollock is just starting out in her sled dog journey, with this being the first time most of her dogs have even seen snow.

“I’ve only mushed twice on a sled, that was once in Colorado with snow buddies, and then the time in Alaska,” said Pollock. “So, I’ve enjoyed every little bit of it, and it’s exhilarating and like Erica said earlier, it’s about being one with nature and just listening to absolutely nothing.”

Pollock has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). From dryland training in Florida, she’s most looking forward to training on a sled in colder weather to help with her stability issues and ease her other MS symptoms.

“I’ve found that training in the hot temperatures I might not be able to give the dogs as much of myself and my energy as I can. I think being up here in the cooler temperatures that’s really made a difference in the way my body [has] energy, the way I feel and I’m just looking forward to doing these training runs and being able to give my dogs a little bit more of myself and little bit more of my energy,” Pollock said.

While weather has delayed these three from their first mid-distance race, it won’t slow down their passion for the sport.

Erica Tieppo has launched a Patreon as a way to give an inside look at the day-to-day life of a musher in the Upper Peninsula. You can learn more here.