The dogs were tired coming in and I had a bit of a bug going through the boys, but I knew running this race on it’s mandatory layovers at Maclaren wasn’t going to push this team beyond it’s training nor ability. The purpose of my race was for it to be a ‘getting back in the saddle’ thing – and that wasn’t going to be accomplished on an ‘ultra conservative’ time line.
The dogs were hot, so I just gave them a meal of meat and lukewarm water to start. Eight of the dogs polished off everything – Olena, Batdog, Barq and Odie were suffering ‘the bug’ worst of all and didn’t dive into dinner well. But I wasn’t too worried, as I figured they would after a bit of rest.
I headed up to the very comfortable and cozy Maclaren Lodge, where I had a wonderful bowl of chili and a whole jug of water. Susie and Alan (who run the lodge) were very accommodating and even tossed my pants into their dryer to get rid of the ice buildup from dealing with overflow.
I killed about an hour before grabbing more water for the dogs and heading back down to the team.
This time I prepared a big meal of Eagle Ultra and meat for them – and as I hoped, everyone ate. With full bellies, they burrowed into their straw for a good sleep – I intended to follow their example, but first I ran up to the lodge for more to drink and to use the flush toilet (what luxury!).
The cabin set aside for mushers was perfect – neat, warm, with cots that even had blankets and pillows. Heaven. I set my alarm and was asleep in no time.
Two hours later I forced myself out of the cozy cabin and back up to the lodge for more water for the dogs. I wanted to make sure they got well hydrated on this rest due to the hot run into Maclaren and their bug.
Again everyone ate at least some of his or her meal - most of them gobbled every last morsel up.
Dasher finished her meal and attempted to sidle over to one of the boys. I juggled a few dogs around to make extra sure her attempts at romance were unsuccessful.
When we left Wolverine Lodge the night before, sleds were loaded down with food and supplies for the rest of the race – which was over 250 miles! Every square inch in my sled bag was stuffed with stuff! It was a heavy and cumbersome load! For this next 30-mile leg we had the luxury of leaving gear/supplies at Maclaren that we could use on our return, so I emptied my sled of everything but mandatory race gear. Sweet!
Becca was a little nervous the mountainous 30-mile leg (heights make her nervous) so we agreed to travel together. Right around 11 pm Becca, Mike and myself pulled our hooks and headed into the night.
There were a lot of tracks leaving the lodge and I had lots of trouble getting Dasher over onto the packed trail. Mike’s team hit the race trail and slipped off into the dark. Unlike the previous 100 miles of trail, this was hilly, mountainous terrain. I was grateful for the lighter load in the sled! The dogs moved strongly and we reeled Mike’s team back in and took over leading our little threesome.
The night was bright and that gave a teasing hint of what beautiful country we were traveling through. Many times during the run I wished I were doing this leg in the daylight.
Every now and again my front end, with its 3 sexy girls, would come to a screeching halt. The boys would take the opportunity to try and jump the girls and I’d go charging up the gangline as fast as I could to prevent any breedings. That certainly kept me awake and on my toes!
Eventually the trail hooked up with the Denali Highway (which is closed in the winter) and began a long, gradual descent back towards the Lodge. A few miles before Maclaren we swung off the road and back into the hills to hook up with our outgoing trail. Along this leg was a little box on a post next to the trail. It was filled with envelopes and a sign encouraging mushers to ‘Take One’. I did and was delighted to find a free nights stay at Maclaren Lodge inside! It is valid until April of next year, so you can be CERTAIN Mark and I will be making use of it next winter!
The dogs picked it up when they realized we were heading back to their straw beds and came strongly into the checkpoint.
I was pleased with the team and in great spirits as I parked them and started my checkpoint routine.
Next up – the finish.