Friday, January 30, 2009

Beargrease 150 4th Place, Rookie of the Year!
Larry right before the start of the biggest race of his life

Our good friends Jerry Papke and Ali Dodge

Zoey (left) and Cowgirl, ran lead the entire race

Well, our kennel has a lot to be proud of this season. Last week, we were getting ready to head to the Beargrease 150, the biggest race we have ever done. I got the flu last Tuesday and thought for sure I'd better by the time we got out to Duluth. A stomach flu turned into a hacking head cold. Saturday night at the bib draw, reality struck and I realized I may not be up to running a 130 mile race. We talked with the race marshall and he gave us until an hour before the race start on Sunday to switch drivers if needed. Sunday morning came and I still felt terrible, so Larry stepped up to drive my team. I've never seen him nervous before a race, but he was definetly nervous for this one. We hooked up our main leaders Zoey & cowgirl, Odessa, Prophet, Fender, a yearling Georgie, Jackson & Gibson and then they were off, rocketing out of the starting chute onto the fast trail of the Beargrease 150. I quickly drove to the next checkpoint, following Ali, who is Jerry Papke's girlfriend and dog handler. We arrived at 2 Harbors and parked our trucks. We cannot have the dogs staked out around the trailer at this first checkpoint, so the work had begun for us. I bungeed as much stuff as I could fit on my little plastic sled and walked the 1/4 mile to the checkpoint. The checkpoint is basically a big field with DEEP snow. The teams arrive and have to do a layover here. You have 8 hours plus your time differential to use at this checkpoint and the Finland checkpoint. Our rest was to be a total of 8:58. It took me 3 trips to get all our supplies to the field. Then, I had to dig a huge snow trench for Larry's team when they arrived to protect them from the wind and just to make it easier to take care of the team. I was disapointed about not being able to race until I started digging. I thought I was going to throw up at one point. I met Joanna Oberg's mom and one of their handlers and they came to the rescue and helped me dig the rest of my trench. I was very grateful! I was also glad I did NOT run the race. This is a very hilly course, and I would not have been able to help the dogs by running up the hills. Larry's team arrived before I was expecting them to. Luckily, I was ready for them. They looked awesome! We pulled the team into the trench and hooked the snowhook into a tree. Snacked the dogs, took off booties, rubbed them down with Accede, put their dog coats on to keep them warm, fed them a light meal and spread out straw so they could rest. Larry then walked to the truck to warm up and get something to eat. I stayed and watched over the team in the bitter cold. It was about -8 at this time in the early evening on Sunday. Only a couple of our dogs layed down at this checkpoint. They were frisky and pretty wound up. I was about freezing to death and wanted to get them back on the trail so we could take our extended rest at Finland where the dogs can rest at the trailer. That meant I could also stay in the truck and keep warm!! So, after 3:10 worth of rest, we rebootied the dogs and Larry got back on the trail for the 2nd leg of the race. I then packed up our stuff and Ali and I drove to the Finland checkpoint, the last checkpoint of the race, to wait for Larry & Jerry's teams to arrive. This checkpoint was way better, but it was very cold and windy. It was well below zero. Luckily, we didn't have to haul anything anywhere. We just got everything ready for our teams to arrive. Larry's team came charging into the checkpoint, looking spectacular. I was shocked they looked that good. This is a long race! They were jumping and barking to go, but we pulled them over to the trailer. Snacked again, took off booties, rubbed them down with Accede (a liniment to keep muscles warm), put dog coats on them, fed them, then bedded them around the trailer on thick beds of straw. THIS time, everyone konked out and fell fast asleep like good doggies. We had over 5.5 hours of rest at this checkpoint. The final leg, Larry was to leave in 6th position, only 2 minutes out of 4th place. I was just hoping he'd hang onto 6th place. Two very good teams were right infront of him, Tom Benson & JR Anderson. I didn't think we could catch them. When Larry started the 3rd leg, he said the team was fresh and he finally took his foot of the drag mat and let them cruise. And cruise they did!! He caught Tom's team pretty early on that run and a few miles later caught JR's team. The team was flyin! Meanwhile at the finish, I watched Dave Turner win the race, Don Galloway take 2nd (he won last year) and Dawn Breedlove was 3rd. I was not expecting Larry's team yet. I saw another team coming and Ali and I said at the same time "wholy crap, that's Larry!!!". Our dogs came loping across the finish line, jumping and barking to go. I could not believe it! This was our very first Beargrease, so not only did Larry finish 4th, but he got "Rookie of the Year" honors. They had the 2nd fastest 3rd leg time also, less than a minute slower than Dave Turner's team. We really made up some ground on this leg. I am so proud of Larry and the dogs. They were awesome! We finished the race with all 8 dogs and Zoey and Cowgirl led every step of the race. The team was flawless! Jerry Papke's team also did awesome. He started the last leg in 8th place and rocketed his team to a 6th place finish!! He is also a rookie and had an awesome team. Now, onto the next race, the 91 mile Midnight Run, the 3rd weekend in February. This time, it is MY turn!!

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