As planned yesterday, Mark, myself and our friend, Donna Quante headed into Anchorage to watch the final day of the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Races. We had a blast!
The teams start on 4th Ave, just like the Iditarod – however, unlike us – the clock is ticking the whole time on them.
We walked down the Avenue and found JP Norris and Bob Chlupach, both driving Siberian teams, to wish them luck and then walked down to the turn onto Cordova street to watch the teams blast by. We cheered for everyone, but saved out loudest cheers for the Siberian teams and fellow Iditarod veterans, Frank Sihler and Ken Anderson.
It usually takes the teams about 90 – 110 minutes to negotiate the 25-mile course (yes, this is as close to flying with a dog team as you can get), so we slipped into a Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat before wandering down to Cordova Hill (aka Heartbreak or Heart Attack Hill) to watch them come home.
As all the teams start in ‘reverse order’ on Sunday (slowest goes out first, fastest last) there was lots of action and passing occurring on the Hill. Second team to leave and second on the way home was Bob, which meant he had a good run. Less then two minutes behind was JP. Both the Siberian teams looked strong, despite really, really warm weather. I think they did the breed proud this weekend.
The highlight of the whole day though was watching eventual winner, Egil Ellis’s team come up that hill. After about 23 miles of hard racing those dogs DROVE up that hill, pounding and pulling into their harnesses for all they were worth. It was incredible. Egil was pleased too and his grin kept getting bigger and bigger the closer to the top of the hill he got. At the top, he pumped his fist in the air as he headed to the finish line.
As a fan of the entire sport of dog racing, I was glad to be there to watch that- the memory will stick with me for a long time.
(Note: Race results can be viewed at SledDogCentral.com along with a nice gallery of photos from both Day 1 & 2 of the race).
We did also swing by Iditarod headquarters on the way into town to pick up the results of the blood testing that was done on the dogs earlier in the week. The results were great. One value that Iditarod mushers watch really closely is the Hematocrit. This “is a measure of the red blood cell concentration in circulating blood. The purpose of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the other cells in the body. “ Dogs with higher HCT levels will recover faster and be able to work harder. I have watched mushers pick dog teams, or at least eliminate dogs from their final 16, just because of a ‘low normal’ HCT value. The acceptable range on this test is 38 – 54. Well-conditioned sled dogs should be well over 40. I believe the average pre race value on all dogs finishing the Iditarod last year was 46 (the vets study these kinds of statistics constantly). Our team has traditionally ranged from about 43 up to 51 or so. This year though, on the 19 dogs left in contention the low was Hilda at 44.3, the high was Sprite and Dasher, both at 53.3 and the average a whooping 49.9. Science is confirming what we already suspected – this team is ready to rock! I credit this to a top notch feeding program and a well-executed training program. Mark says it’s about time I figured all that out!
Well, this week will definitely be a busy one, as we take care of all the last minute tasks that need to be done before Sunday, squeeze some mandatory social engagements into our schedule and still have some short, attitude building runs to put in on the dogs, but I will try to get a few more diary entries in in the coming days.
All for today though!