BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — The route of a sled dog race in Southwest Alaska was altered due to warm weather and open water.

The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race will run two laps to its halfway point and back on Friday, KYUK-AM reported .

The race committee decided to change the route Sunday night — on an evening of 36-degree weather and rain in Bethel.

Race officials said this is the first time the race has changed its route, which traditionally runs 300 miles (480 kilometers) across the Kuskokwim River from Bethel to Aniak and back.

"Tradition is a big thing and changing the method of competition throws things off a little bit," race committee chairman Myron Angstman said. "We have more open holes than normal, and the ones we have are bigger than normal."

Angstman said he's urging officials to come up with a trail that doesn't cross the river for the future.

Local mushers said they agree the change is the safest way to run the race.

"I just kind of laughed because we've never done this before," Akiak musher Mike Williams Jr. said. "But it's understandable because of all the open water."

Williams said he expects his dogs to race well on the repeated route, but three-time K300 champion Pete Kaiser called it a curveball.

"We've all trained for a specific event the way it's usually run," Kaiser said. "But it's the same for everybody, and everybody is going to have to deal with it."

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Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org