BAR HARBOR — Lily Anderson’s teammates have four legs each and names such as Whiskey, Mango, Owl, Alder, Twix, Lamborghini, Cello, Penny, Eddie and Fire.
The Mount Desert Island High School senior and her team of 10 Alaskan huskies recently competed in the 25th annual Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races March 4 in Fort Kent. Led by Whiskey and Mango, Anderson placed 10th in the 100-mile race by completing the course in nine hours, 47 minutes, 59 seconds.
From a young age, Anderson has blended athletics with her love of animals. She started out riding horseback English style as a child, but when that barn closed down, her mother, Erika Lindquist, looked for another outdoor activity.
That’s when they found Pulling Together in Somesville, a nonprofit that introduces youths to dog sledding. Anderson graduated from that program to mid-distance mushing and now trains at Lone Wolf Guiding Services in Shirley with Mark and Ashley Patterson.
Anderson said she loves the animals and the peaceful quality of the sport.
“The dogs are my favorite part because they are so amazing and it’s just so quiet,” said Anderson. “It’s a hard feeling to explain, but they are all out there working together, doing the same thing all in unison so quietly.”
Anderson spends her weekends and summer vacations training at Lone Wolf and ran her first 30-mile race at the Wilderness Sled Dog Race in Greenville three years ago. Last year, Anderson finished seventh in the 30-mile Can-Am race but felt prepared to take on the longer challenge this year.
Anderson said the dogs are trained similarly to how a runner trains for a marathon. They start out running at a low mileage and then get up to running 45 to 50 miles per day.
“We work with a three-day-on and one-day-off schedule,” said Anderson. Training the huskies is enough of a workout on its own to keep Anderson in shape for the races. “Working the dogs is enough because we are in such harsh conditions every day,” she said.
No matter how much they prepare, Anderson and her dogs couldn’t anticipate what Mother Nature had in store. The week of this year’s race, it rained nearly 10 inches, causing the course to freeze over.
“Most of the trail was sheer ice, but the bottom had melted, and so there were these mud pits that the dogs didn’t want to run through,” Anderson said. “The Can-Am is known for its hills, and towards the end, you go up and down two really steep hills, and nobody had control.”
Despite the course conditions, Anderson couldn’t be happier with her team’s performance.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because the trail conditions were so insane, but I have never been prouder of myself or the dogs,” Anderson said.
When mushing season is over, Anderson goes home to her pit bull, Leo, and completely switches gears for the spring sailing season.
After high school, Anderson hopes to continue dog sledding and working with animals.
“I would like to come back in some capacity, maybe as a vet or something,” she said.