Tuesday, 17 April 2007

April 17, 2007 Taiga 300 Part III

Because we were all using the same spots in the checkpoint that we had used earlier, but pointed in the opposite direction, all my boys ended up parked where the girls were before. MUCH sniffing and marking ensued. Poor boys, as if they weren’t stirred up and out of their minds enough already!
I got a good meal in them right away and then just let them rest. I cleaned up my parking spot and repacked my sled for the trip back to Wolverine before heading up to the lodge.

Up in the lodge, Alan offered to cook breakfast, but with the disclaimer that his wife would have done a better job. The disclaimer was unnecessary – his omelette was top notch!

Race organizer John Schandelmeirer was telling us stories of a couple foxes that came down in the night and raided the straw and garbage piles next to the parked dog teams. Very brave little critters! Apparently, Zoya and Molly’s teams were barking their heads off at them!

I really wanted to be out of Maclaren as soon as my mandatory 4-hour layover was done to get as much running in as I could before we hit the real heat of the day, so I didn’t want to go down to the cabin to nap (too comfy). I intended to just hang out in the lodge, but in no time, Mike, Becca and I were all snoring on the super comfy couches. Luckily Becca set her alarm - just in case (my watch is still sitting somewhere at the top of Rainy Pass, so I was relying on an alarm clock that I had left down in my sled).

The three of us staggered around half asleep, muttering and grumbling as we pulled on layers of clothes, boots and such.

Before waking up the dogs (they always notice when I come over to the team, but late in a race they won’t really get up until I ask them to), I took the opportunity to put in an extra section of gangline. I figured that a 14-dog gangline would allow me to space out my girls and boys a little better – and it would also give me the option of running Olena in single lead (all the girls in season had her really worked up and no one wants to run lead with her when she is worked up – pure evil!!).
When asked, the team got quickly up and once tugs were hooked up and the final gear tucked into the sled, they left the checkpoint smartly!

I was worried that all the snowmachine tracks leaving the Lodge would cause the same problems they had leaving in the other direction last night; however Dasher and Spider listened well and hit the hard-packed race trail with no hesitation! YEAH!!

The team moved well and with Becca just a bit behind us, we began clicking off the miles. I had one little incident about 2 miles out though where the girls all stopped to flirt with the boys. As per the ‘ritual’ I had developed, I threw down my hook and ran up the gangline as fast as I could. Problem was my hook didn’t hold and I was doing my darnedest to keep the leaders ahead of the boys. I thought I might have to run all the way back to Wolverine backwards, dragging my leaders, but thankfully Becca came running up and set the hook for me. Without her help, I most certainly would have ended up with a breeding that time! Phew!

In typical ‘tired Karen’ fashion, I obsessed about each of the obstacles we had cross on the way up to Maclaren but the dogs handled the overflow, glare ice, ice shelf and other things very well. I was very proud of Dasher and Spider. They were learning to really work with me and I was gaining trust and faith in their leading abilities with each passing mile. This was EXACTLY what we all needed.
Olena had been favouring a leg almost since we left the last checkpoint. It seemed to be more comfortable for her to lope than trot but as the temperature picked up, she was heating up faster than the rest of the dogs and I eventually stopped and put her in the sled bag.

A number of the dogs were still dealing with diarrhea, but everyone snacked well, wagged their tails and rolled happily in the snow on our numerous breaks.

Becca and I had originally talked about shutting down about noon and waiting out the worst of the heat of the day, but there was a nice, light breeze blowing and I thought we could make it to our previous camping spot on the Big Su river by 2:30 or so without taking too much out of the dogs, so we decided to aim for that.

Between 1 and 1:30, the breeze vanished and the sun got quite strong. Becca had had a few issues and fallen back out of sight, so I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I was convinced that camping in our old camping spot would be a good thing mentally for the team and kept pushing through.
When I hit the over flow that had caused us so much trouble the previous day, we just scooted over it. Zoya was camped out on the other side of the overflow and I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. I asked why she hadn’t gone ahead to where we had camped before and she said she thought she was 8 miles or so from there. I was sure we were just a mile or so away – luckily I was right. Becca had caught up again and our teams pulled happily onto their old beds from yesterday.
Our intention was to camp for only 2 hours, so I prepared a meal of meat and lots of water for the team. Everyone licked their bowls clean of seconds and even thirds! By now it was plain HOT outside. The dogs sprawled out on the snow, soaking up the sun while I started a fire to burn garbage.
At 4, when we should have been starting to get ready to go, it was hotter than it had been when we arrived. We decided to stall an extra ½ hour, hoping a few wispy clouds that hung around would eventually block out some of the sun. They didn’t, but we hit the trail for the final 56 miles or so, right at 5.

The trail twisted and turned along the Tyrone River, giving us brief respites from the sun, but it was still pretty hot for the next few hours. We passed the cabin that John was camped at the previous day and it was even cuter in daylight than at night. It would be a great spot to camp at!
The river was covered with snowmachine tracks and had very, very few markers, but I just left Dasher alone and she did a tremendous job of keeping us on the main trail. Just before it was time to start thinking about headlamps, I stopped and snacked the team.

Olena was still in the sled bag. I had put her back on the gangline as we left our camping spot, but it immediately became obvious that she needed to ride the rest of the way to Wolverine. She popped out for a snack with the rest of the dogs and curled up quickly once I tucked her back in the bag.
Once you hit Tyrone Lake, things get very straight and boring for all – especially when you are all tired and looking for a finish line!

Becca and I had been traveling on and off together since our camping spot. It was obvious her team was faster, so I stopped and told her to go ahead. Sadly, my dogs aren’t big chasers, so letting another team lead doesn’t pick up the speed of my team any. She pulled ahead, but I’d occasionally see her headlamp flash back as she looked over her shoulder. It gave us something to aim for.

As we made the final turn and Wolverine Lodge came into sight, Olena’s nose stuck out of the sled bag and she started to whine. I’m sure she smelled familiar smells. All the dogs picked it up and we coasted across the finish line.

Gwen and a bunch of other folks were around to help get the team safely hooked onto the truck without an ‘oops’ breeding! It would have been ironic to get all the way through the race without one and then have one at the finish line!!

Despite my early doubts, the Taiga was a good healing experience. I don’t think a moment went by that I didn’t think of Snickers and wish she was with us, but that was to be expected. I think it was probably a good thing that I had issues with my ‘in season’ girls. It kept my mind in the present and kept me focused on the team. Sometimes blessings come in weird packages!

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