Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Midnight Run 1st Place!!!!!!!!!!!
My team and I leaving the starting chute.
I drew bib #1, so I started first and finished 1st! Not bad!

Me at the finish line, early Saturday morning, getting a "bag check" and signing in. I was VERY happy!

Larry's team finishing a strong 9th place!

Larry's team waiting at the finish line. Boston (right) and Cowgirl in lead. Boston really surprised us this year by leading the entire 91 miles!
What a fantastic race and magical run for my team! I was a little nervous about drawing bib number one, but I quickly decided it could be an advantage on a tight trail with nobody to pass infront of me. The first leg is a challenging 49 miles. We left the starting chute like a rocket! I was worried about the first few miles because we run right next to a major highway. My team tried pulling me into the road last year, so I was hoping it wouldn't happen again. To my surprise, they didn't even try and stayed on the trail, thank god! Hurdle #1 down, now a few more to go! I rode the drag mat (the brake) for about 15 miles to keep them from going too fast. Hurdle #2 was getting through both road crossings without getting held up by traffic. We blazed right through the first one and only got held up for about 1 minute at the 2nd one. After the gravel pit, I just let them go their own pace and protected them on the down hills. They really flew! I was in shock and awe watching my team perform so beautifully. This is a very hilly section of trail and I am usually exhausted after, but this year it was incredibly easy with this team. They powered up the hills! I only ran up about 3 and just kicked up the rest. I think I ran up every one last year. We got through the hills and went down Marquette Mountain. For those who don't know, this is a gigantic ski hill that you have to go down and hope you don't run over your dogs in the process. I stood on my metal brake with BOTH feet and safely made it to the bottoem. Hurdle #3 down! Then, we run through another short series of hills before coming to an overpass where the dogs have to run under it. There is a highway overtop with passing cars, so each year, my team usually gets in a huge ball underneath it since the sound of the cars overhead terrifies them. Not this year! My team charged underneath like a freight train! When you come out the other side, you have to make a sharp 90 degree turn and pull your sled around a guard rail. Well, the dogs went around it, me and the sled crashed into the barrels they place infront of there for safety. We did this same thing last year! My team got in a small tangle, so a spectator stood on my snowhook so they wouldn't get away from me. I quickly untangled the
front 4 dogs and sped away! Hurdle #4 down!
This next section of tail is a flat 19 mile snowmachine trail that runs parallel to Lake Superior before coming into the Deerton checkpoint. At this point, my team was absolutely flying! I was in the process of having that "magical" run that everyone talks about. Nothing was going wrong, the dogs were so strong. They only got stronger and faster the further we went. I was hoping we weren't going too fast, but they looked so comfortable, I just let them do what they were doing. We passed hundreds of people on this stetch. There are bonfires all along the trail and crowds of cheering fans. It is my favorite section of trail. I was beaming ear to ear watching my team perform flawlessly. They were on fire! We came up on about 5 or 6 UP 200 teams at this point and Little Tefa and George just sailed past. I never had to ask for trail or interupt the rythm of the dogs. It was amazing! I usually kick on this section of trail to help the dogs. I didn't even need to this year, so I didn't! Before too long, someone from the crowd told me Deerton was 4 miles away. I was thinking, "already?!" That first leg went by so fast, I couldn't believe we were almost there.
When I pulled into the checkpoint, everyone was in shock at the time my dogs just ran that first leg. We ran it in 3:46, setting a new record for that leg! We ended up being 19 minutes ahead of 2nd place!!! My dad was waiting there for us and he and a group of volunteers grabbed my team and helped us to our truck and trailer so I could take care of the dogs and get them resting for our 5 hour break before starting the last leg of the race. The vets came and looked everyone over and remarked how good they looked. They did too! I had no issues with anyone. I checked all the feet and put ointment in them, massaged their shoulders with a liniment called Accede to help keep the muscles warm, put their dog coats on and wrist wrapped a couple of dogs to make sure their wrists didn't get sore, fed them a warm meal, put straw down for them and let them rest. I was so happy that everyone ate so well! You don't want a dog to not eat because they can become very dehydrated.
About an hour later, Larry's team arrived and looked great! He had no issues with any of his 8 dogs. He was running a couple of yearlings and two year olds mixed with a few veterans. All but 3 of his dogs had never done a race with a checkpoint, so we were very interested to see what would happen. We got his dogs taken care of and then Larry and I got in the truck to try and rest. There was no rest for me! I was way too pumped and excited about what just happened. We couldn't stop talking to each other. My out time was at 3:34 in the morning, so at 1:30 we both just got out of the truck and got to work getting everything ready to run the last leg of the race.
About an hour and a half before my re-start, we watered the dogs with a light beef broth and then walked my dogs around to see if anyone was sore. Usually we have atleast one sore dog after a rest. To my amazement, nobody was sore!!! They looked fantastic! We hooked them back into the team and Larry, my dad, and my brother-in-law, Chad helped my team to the start line. The dogs were very charged up to go again, which is always nice to see!
The 2nd leg is 42 miles of hills and flats, but is less challenging than the first leg. My main focus was to just not screw up my 19 minute lead by taking a wrong turn or doing something stupid! The team flew on the 2nd leg! I ran more conservatively than the first leg to ensure I had a team left for the entire race. They looked great, all 8 dogs performed flawlessly. Our only 3 snags were Having to hook down and turn my leaders twice and at one road crossing. There is one crossing where there is nobody there to help you. There is a good sized bank, you drop down onto a plowed road and have to climb up the bank on the other side. I told the dogs "straight ahead" 3 or 4 times because the trail on the other side was hard to see. We were almost across and BAM, George pulls the team to the left and wants to go down the plowed road! A million things flashed through my mind like, we wouldn't be able to stop the team and turn them around on that road, my race will be over etc. I screamed out "Tefa, GEE, GEE, GEE!" She immidiately lunged into her harness with all her tiny might, pulled George's 65 pound body of muscle up over the bank, and drug the entire team onto the trail on the other side!!!! I was shocked, amazed and filled with joy that she had totally saved us! I then let out a "whoo hooo! Good girl Tefa!!" She amazed me!
The rest of the leg went smoothly. I ran up probably 5 or 6 hills this leg, but just kicked up the rest. The team was strong and the trail a little punchy, so it disrupted the dogs every time I got off to run, so I didn't. The last section of this leg is on a very tight, twisty trail about the width of your sled. We flew through here. You can't be on your brake, since you have to steer around the turns, so you just have to let them go fast. We got in one tangle when my team came abruptly up to some open water that they didn't want to cross. My leaders, George and Tefa, got their neckline hung up around a tree and balled up the rest of the team in a big tangle. I hooked down, grabbed George and pulled him around the tree and pushed him and Tefa across the water. Prophet got turned upside down in the process and drug through the water on his back and had his back leg completely wrapped in the gangline. I ran up, pulled back on the line and thankfully got him untangled without injuring him. About 2 miles later after continuing on through this tight mess, we finally emerged out of the woods behind the football stadium in Munising for our triumphant 1st place finish!! A rush of emotions took over as I passed the crowd of people and watched my team run effortlessly to the finish. I was so choked up I could barlely speak when we came to a screeching halt at the finish line. We finished 19 minutes ahead of 2nd place! What a race! After signing in, a bunch of people helped my team back to the truck and I quickly got them taken care of so I could wait for Larry's team to finish. Larry and team came in looking great in 9th place!! All 8 dogs finished in both teams! We are so proud!! I will never forget this magical race for as long as I live!
Next up, the Copper Dog 150, March 12th in Calumet, Michigan. Larry was supposed to run this, but after having run 3 races this year, he is a little burned out and has decided to hand over the team to me. I will gladly except the challenge!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Beargrease 150 7th place!!!!!
Larry and "Little Tiny Tefa" after the race. We had our doubts about her leading our team for this length of a race. With our main leader, Zoey, out with a toe injury, we had to rely on Tefa to get the job done. She did amazing, we will never doubt her again!! She pulled her heart out and gave it her all the entire race!
Larry & Odessa at the race start

Prophet, ready to go

Our yearling, Curlin, in booties for the first time. The trail was a bit abraisive, so we bootied our entire team to protect their feet for the first 2 legs of the race.

George (front), our super 2 year old main leader, and Gibson (rear), before the race start

Tefa and George leading the team into the starting chute

Larry's team finishing 7th place out of 42 teams. The finish was so icy, they had to stop teams at the top of the hill and undo the tuglines so they couldn't pull as hard coming down to prevent any injuries to the dogs. There was also a bunch of people onhand to grab the teams and stop them at the bottom of the hill. Larry finished the race with all 8 dogs.

Larry (above) and George after the race. George was so awesome! It is amazing that he is that good in lead at only 2 years old. He was excited to see what was around every corner for 106 miles!

With me having a knee injury, Larry got his chance, once again to race the Beargrease 150, a 106 mile race that starts in Duluth, Minnesota and finishes in Tofte. He loves this race and was so excited to start! The first leg is 35 miles. The team starts in Duluth and runs to their first checkpoint in Two Harbors.

While Larry is racing, I get the fun of driving our truck and HUGE dog trailer 40 miles to the checkpoint. When I arrive, I quickly have to find a parking spot. It is a race for the handlers to get all our gear to the actual checkpoint, 1/4 mile away and secure a great spot to rest our teams. This year, I was smart and brought two big plastic sleds to haul everything in one trip. I fit a bale of straw, a huge duffle bag filled with wrist wraps, linement, booties, etc., a chair for me, a shovel, 5 gallons of water, a cooker and a cooler on the sleds and used bungees to secure everything. It was VERY heavy, but I quickly drug it into the checkpoint and found a nice spot next to our friend Dave Turner's team. Thad & Stepanie, Dave's handlers were already busy digging a snow trench for his team. This is my least favorite checkpoint because of all the work involved for the handlers. It is basically a large field filled with snow. So, the handlers (that being me and only me) have to dig a trench in the snow big enough to fit an entire 8 dog team. Not to mention, we had to haul our teams over a gigantic snow bank to get into our trench that was over my head. I got trench dug, supplies ready, boiled water and poured it into the cooler of meat and then went to the finish line to wait for Larry.

I figured he'd be coming through in about a half hour. Well, that came and went, a few teams came in, and about 20 minutes later, Larry came in. The team looked fantastic and frisky, but the look on Larry's face said it all. Something went wrong. We got our team to our trench, took off booties, fed, put down straw, put coats on, and massaged shoulders and wrists and let them rest. Larry then told me he missed the turn coming into Two Harbors. He came to a fork in the trail and couldn't see the turn arrows. Our leaders wanted to go left, but he told them "straight ahead". He went for about 10 minutes the wrong way before realizing he took the wrong trail. He had to turn the team around and go back 10 minutes and turn onto the correct trail. Larry was very disapointed with his error, especially since the team had a flawless run. Our goal at this first checkpoint was 2.5 to 3 hours of rest for the team before continuing on to the 2nd 38 mile leg of the race. Larry was pretty down, so I gave him a pep talk to get him on the right track. There was nothing we could do about the wrong turn now except to go out and run a fantastic race for the last 2 legs. After that, Larry came back to the checkpoint with a good attitude and petted up the team. After 2.5 hours, we got the dogs ready and led them out of the snow trench and over the gigantic snow bank. In the process, I fell down the bank and re-injured my knee. It wasn't as bad as the first time though and me and two other volunteers got Larry started on the 2nd leg of the race. Then, I hauled all our gear 1/4 mile back to the truck and drove another 30-40 miles to Finland, the last checkpoint of the race.

This is where Larry and the team would take their remaining rest (you have to take 8 hours total plus your time differential), approximately 6.5 hours. I arrived at the checkpoint, found a parking spot and busied myself preparing for the team's arrival. When Larry's team arrived, again, they looked fantastic! Fresh and frisky like they never ran! We lead them to the truck (this checkpoint is awesome because you don't have to haul gear or dig snow trenches), and did our checkpoint routine, and then let the dogs rest in the deep straw around the trailer. We put coats and blankets over them to keep them warm and comfortable. We found out shortly after, that even with the wrong turn, Larry's team would be leaving for the finish line after our rest in 7th place out of 42 teams! I was shocked that we were that far up in the standings given our mistake. About an hour before Larry started the last leg, we watered the dogs and then walked them around on leashes to see if anybody was stiff. 7 out of 8 looked great. "Little Tiny Tefa" had a sore wrist, but nothing serious. She is one tough little dog. We massaged her wrist with Accede, and walked her around to stretch it out. We got the rest of the team ready, Tefa & George still in lead and off Larry went on the last 33 miles of the race. I then drove another 30 miles or so to the finish line in Tofte and waited for them to finish.

Larry had an awesome run on the 3rd leg and the team flew! They ran like they were still fresh and Tefa and George really came through and did an awesome job leading the team the entire race! Larry finished in 7th place! I am so proud of Larry and all 8 of our dogs: Tefa, George, Fender, Odessa, Prophet, Curlin, Gibson & Jackson. I can't wait to race this next year. Maybe I'll be healthy by then!

Our next race is the 91 mile Midnight Run in Marquette, Michigan on Feb. 19th. My knee is healing nicely and I've been training the dogs for over a week now. I am racing the main team and Larry is racing the 2nd team. I can't wait!!!