Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2008 Midnight Run 13th Place!!! Us ready to start the race. Boston & Gibson are in wheel. The person in the orange vest is a race handler. We have to have 4-5 help get the team to the start line because the dogs are so strong, they'd drag us across the parking lot.

Me crossing the finish line!!!

Well, I am pleased to announce that I FINALLY had a great Midnight Run!! I've run this race a few times and I always usually have a bad experience due to the challenging and often dangerous trail conditions. Last year we went down a steep hill with a 90 degree turn and I went over a cliff and lost my team. So, before the start this year my stomach was in a knot. My team was Zoey & Star in lead and Odessa, Cowgirl, Lilly, Fender, Boston and Gibson in the team. I ran a smart race this time and kept to my race plan for once, not changing anything to keep up with the competition. I ran a very conservative first leg and held the team back for probably 3/4 of the 46 mile leg, that way I'd still have a team with energy left for the 2nd leg of 43 miles. I was pleasently surprised with how well the first leg went. There were twists and turns and steep hills, but having a lot of snow and a new Prairie Bilt sled that actually turns really made a difference. I didn't drag or hit one tree!! Instead of running the cliff section, the trail crew re-routed around that and had us cross a lake. It was a moon lit night and crossing that lake was so beautiful with all the stars out. We start the race at 6:00 pm so most of it is ran at night. The dogs were doing awesome and keeping an excellent pace. I was so proud of them. After we climbed Marquette Mountain there was only one very icy steep down hill where I said "oh $#&%"!! I stood on the brake for all I was worth, luckily we stayed upright and it was over quick. The last 19 miles of the first leg we run over a flat snowmachine trail next to the highway. It is really cool, it is late at night and there are bonfires and hundreds people partying all along the trail. At first all the shouting and clapping when you go by scares the crap out of the dogs, but then every time they'd hear a crowd up ahead they'd actually speed up. We loped along at a great pace that whole section of trail. The team was on fire. I was just hoping that they wouldn't burn out because a ways behind me I could see a headlamp and did not want to get passed. I hadn't gotten passed the whole first leg yet. The last 15 miles, Boston, one of the yearling males, was getting horrible diarhea, which disrupts the flow of the team every time he had to go. But then he'd get right back into it. He is a powerful dog and really helped us on that leg. I never gave a pick up command till we hit the plowed road, the last 3 miles till the Deerton Checkpoint. The dogs were cruisin, and finally the headlamp behind me was getting closer and I realized it was Bruce Magnussun, who is driving an awesome team of dogs. Bruce passed, then his leaders weren't cooperating and got balled up, so I went on by him again and on to the checkpoint. His first leg time was still faster than mine, which put him infront of me after the checkpoint, but just the fact that it took so long for him to catch up was awesome. His team finished 9th overall. We had such a great first leg that Larry wasn't even expecting me in yet. The dogs looked awesome and were ready for more. Then, Larry came running around the corner and grabbed the team so we could do our 5 hour layover and bed the team down. We were very efficient getting our dog care activities done. All I said to Larry was I had a great first leg and we went to work taking care of the dogs so we could get them resting as soon as possible. We gave them a chicken snack in line, then hooked them around the trailer, fed them a warm meal, the vets looked them over, then we massaged Accede into their shoulders and wrists, put their dog coats and wrist wraps on to keep them warm, spread the straw and let them get some rest. Then, I got to eat/drink, go to the bathroom and I got about 3 hours of sleep. An hour before my re-start (4:19 am) we gave the dogs some baited water to keep them hydrated, then walked the dogs around to check for any lamness. I am very pleased to say that everyone was healthy and ready to go. I decided to leave Boston behind because of the diarrhea. He is young so I didn't want to take a chance with him having a bad run. Plus he is about 65 pounds, which would ruin our great race if he had to ride in the sled bag. He was so upset about being left behind, he was going nuts and shaking the whole trailer!! by the 2nd leg, it was pretty cold, below zero, the lowest -12. I had no idea and wondered why I was getting cold at times. I would just kick to help the dogs and run up hills to stay warm. I had Zoey and Star in lead also on the 2nd leg also. They were so awesome!! We had a great 2nd leg and never had a problem! I only stopped once to snack and once to flip a dog to the correct side of the gangline and once to turn the right way. I never even saw another team out there infront or behind, so I knew my dogs were maintaining a good pace. I still kicked constantly so nobody would catch me. I finished the race at about 8:36 am with happy, healthy dogs. We actually ran the 2nd leg at 11.5 mph, which was 1 mile per hour faster than the first!! Lilly and Zoey were barking to go more at the finish line!!! I am so glad the trail was awesome and the dogs did so well. Zoey & Star really got the job done leading all 89 miles. I had a great race and it was an excellent way to end our race season. I finished 13th place out of 29 teams. I moved up 13 places from last season!! I've always wanted to finish in the top 15, so for next year our goal will be the top 10!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Magical Run/Race PreparationsMe and Zoey before the 2007 Midnight Run
Last night was our final training run before the big race this Friday (the Midnight Run). I ran 10 dogs: Zoey & Cowgirl in lead, then Odessa, Star, Lilly, Fender, Tefa, Jackson, Gibson and Boston on a 19.5 mile run to be sure who I am taking as my final 8 this weekend. It was a magical run!! It was cold, the dogs were just awesome! I rode the brake almost the whole run to protect the team and try to keep them at a slower pace, but they were on fire. We came back just as fast as we went out. Usually the team slows down on our way back down Manistee River Rd., this straight, boring county road we travel before the final 3 miles home. I actually had to be on the brake for the entire time to keep them slowed down. It was so much fun seeing the team run how I've known they can perform, I actually got butterflies in my stomach out there watching them!! We had 4 short stops and still averaged 13.44 mph. I was so proud of the team. Maybe this is a sign of good things to come this weekend. Or, maybe I'll be hanging on for dear life on those trecherous Marquette Mountain trails. I am already getting nervous about the race and it is still 3 days away! My team that I chose is: Zoey, Cowgirl, Star, Odessa, Fender, Lilly, Boston & Gibson. I will have 3 yearlings in my team (Fender, Boston & Gibson) that have been doing super all year, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the second leg after the checkpoint. The race starts at 6:00 pm and the first leg is about 49 miles, then we take a 5 hour layover where the dogs get bedded on straw and I get to sleep in the truck. Then, the 2nd leg, where I am usually very sleepy for the first few miles, is about 42 miles. For any that want to know, dog care is key to success in a race where there is a layover. So, here is what we do: When I pull into the checkpoint, Larry is waiting there to help the team. We water and snack the dogs in line right away. Larry has already spread the straw around the dog trailer. Dogs are not allowed to be boxed at all during this time, making it easier for the vets to check them out. Then, we rub Accede (a liniment made by Ten Squared Racing that helps keep their muscles warm and soothes any soreness) into their shoulders and wrists (the parts of the dog that you really have to protect), then we put dog coats and wrist wraps on every dog to keep muscles warm. We then hook them each to their spot around the trailer where we feed them a warm meal. We then leave them alone to sleep curled up on the straw for as long as possible during the layover. I then get to eat something, which is usually hard because I always get a queezy stomach during this race for not drinking enough water during the first leg from running up all those darn hills. Then, I get as much sleep as I can. About an hour before we depart on the 2nd leg, we give the dogs more baited water (we bait it to get them to drink it so they stay hydrated), walk them around to see if anyone has any stiffness, algyval a few shoulders again to warm them up, then harness, bootie feet if necessary, hook them back into the line and off I go into the darkness again. By the time I finish the race it will be around 10:00 am Saturday morning. I will update everyone on the race after this weekend. Hopefully we have a safe run this year!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Family FunMom, Dad, Ana, Makenzie & Maddie enjoying the dogs

Windows & Koyuk

Last weekend the whole family came over to run dogs with us. First I took the race team on a 29 mile run to prepare for our upcoming race next weekend. Then, Makenzie ran Windows & Koyuk on a 3 mile run. My dad was next and he ran a 5 dog team on the same 3 mile run. Maddie & Ana stayed in the kennel and made "snow castles" with Grandma. It was a really fun day. It is nice having other people get to have as much fun with the dogs as I do. My team on Saturday was: Star, Tefa, Odessa, Cowgirl, Zoey, Lilly, Fender, Jackson, Gibson, Boston and Duelly. It was a nice run when we were going in the right direction. I have been giving Star a break in lead, so I had to rely on Tefa & Zoey to make the turns. Well, they turned me the wrong way 4 times and it was very hard to stop 11 dogs. When we finally did get them stopped, we had to hook the snowhook to the snowmachine, turn the whole team around, then untangle them. We also had to stop and wait for a TON of snowmachines that day. They were out in full force. Sunday we went on a 20 mile run and FINALLY everything went smoothly. This time Tefa & Zoey got every command. No tangles or anything and we only had 4 short stops. We averaged just over 13 mph, which is a pretty good time. The dogs were moving along nicely. We do have a couple of injuries in the team now though. Jackson, a yearling has a sore shoulder. He looks fine now, we will be running him this weekend to see if he is healed. We got more rain this week, which turned the kennel into a skating rink. When I went out to feed the other day, Tefa was holding up her back leg. She has a swollen toe most likely from playing with her neibors in the dog yard and falling on the ice. So now she won't be part of my Midnight Run team and is in the house recouperating. Next weekend is our biggest race of the year, a 90 mile 8 dog race called the Midnight Run. The first leg is 49 miles through some very tough terrain up and down very steep hills. It was this section last year that I went over a cliff climbing Marquette Mountain and lost my team. It was very scary!! I heard they re-routed this section, let's hope so!! After the first leg we take a 5 hour layover where we bed the dogs on straw so they can take a well deserved break. Then, the final leg is around 42 miles of much gentler trail (thank god!) to the finish line. It is a physically & mentally tough race. I am looking forward to having a clean, safe run this year. I always learn so much every time we race it. So, now we are just keeping the dogs in shape and happy till race time. Last night we did an 8 mile fun run. Tonight we will go 15. Then this weekend we will do a couple of 20's, then one short run next week, then off to the race!! We will keep you updated.