Well, those of you on our list or Facebook pages know that the CB300 did not turn out as we had hoped. Both Mark and I ended up scratching from the event. Me at the Sourdough checkpoint and Mark 40 miles later at Meier's Lake.
The race started out well. It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, with scenery that only Alaska can do - big mountains rising out of ice fog, beautiful pink skies, vivid blue backgrounds with ice fog shrouded trees. I wish I had brought my camera along!
Many teams, mine and Mark's included, ended up on the highway within the first 5 miles or so. I was able to 'Gee' my team down the next driveway, but missed the 'haw' back onto the trail and ended up in some folk's yard. I 'Come Haw'd' the team around, shot back out the driveway and caught the sharp 'Gee' this time. Problem was the corner was a bit tight for a 12 dog team and I smashed through some trees and landed in a heap. I looked up to see Mark's crew coming down the Glenn Highway too. With commands from him and some whistles from me, his team was quickly back where they belonged!
The rest of the run into Tolsona was uneventful and quick.
Mark and I have trained on the leg from Tolsona to Wolverine Lodge a number of times. It has always been a dream kind of trail, hard, fast, a couple little 'sporty' moments to keep interest up but mostly just clean running into Wolverine! Not this year. A good part of the trail was non existent. A light layer of abrasive sugar snow lightly dusted over frozen mounds and tussocks. The common consensus by spectators and other dog drivers is that that is the kind of trail Siberians thrive on - well, not mine!! They HATE crap like that. They kept moving, but the pace was slow and I took several breaks to bootie dogs up. Thankfully, once we hit the trails maintained by Tree at Wolverine things got back to good and the dogs where happy to kick it into gear again.
We came across the lake and into Wolverine Lodge strong. Unfortunately, team parking there wasn't that great and I ended up off in the boonies on an unpacked base. It was a long walk to the lodge and the trips make back and forth dragging my food drops and water, as well as the rough trail on the trip over was taking a toll on my ankle. I could feel it was swollen and mad, so I opted just to leave my boot on. My best 'ignore it and maybe it will go away' act.
I did alot of visiting while waiting on a (delicious as always) hamburger cooked by Tree and then lay down for a 1/2 hour or so before heading back out to the team.
As I walked out the door of the lodge I slipped on one of the steps and wound up in an inverted 'U' shape between their deck railing and the stairs. I lay there for a moment thinking "Damn, I'm getting too old for this" before regrouping and dragging myself back to my feet.
I bootied almost all the dogs, closed up my sled and we slogged around a bit in the deep snow before Jenny was able to get my leaders on an outbound trail. Once we got on something 'trail like' the dogs very willingly headed out.
The night was cold and dark. I rigged up my new sled mounted light to backup my headlamp and was very pleased with the result. It's a nice little Browning headlamp, modified to run off a 3V lithium battery (sometimes having an electrician for a hubby is a very good thing!). I think the dogs really liked it too, as the few times I bumped it and it wound up pointing at the ground, their speed slacked off a bit, only to pick up again when I repositioned the lamp. Or maybe that was just my imagination!
I grabbed a cup of delicious warm soup to go at the unofficial Crosswinds Lake 'safety stop' and quickly sipped away before we got off the lake and onto anything bumpy enough to cover my fur ruff in bean soup! I swear it warmed me all the way to my toes.
A team passed me while I was replacing some booties and I occasionally saw headlamps in front of and behind me through out the night, but never saw another team.
It was very early and very cold when we pulled into Sourdough. Jenny hadn't arrived in the checkpoint yet and the checkers made it very clear that getting down to the parking area was 'dicey'. Thank goodness Sue Ellis was there and willing to help! (I appreciate it Sue - and haven't forgotten that I owe you a few beers!)
We negotiated the 90 degree turn, the sharp drop with the metal pole at the bottom and the chewed up final descent to the parking area. Drop bags were back up the hill and straw was off in some other direction.
The dogs were still spunky and hungry, rather then hike up the hill (yet again) for water, I melted snow and cooked them a nice warm meal. They ate every last crumb and curled up in their straw for a nap.
I headed up to the heated cabin to do the same. Problem was I just couldn't get to sleep. My ankle, aggravated as much by the walking in loose snow as by the trail was pounding. I repositioned myself a few times and even tried switching to a chair to sleep. I was sore, stuffed up from my cold, and exhausted but totally unable to sleep. I began to obsess about my ankle, what if it was more then a sprain? What if I was compromising it by pushing it on this race enough that it was going to interfere with Iditarod? It hadn't hurt this much since a few weeks after I originally did it, 8 or so weeks ago.
I was badly in need of someone to hear out all my concerns when friend Clint Warnke strolled by (Clint was handling for his girlfriend Sarah Love)."Got a minute?", I asked. When I spilled out all my concerns to him, he simply said "How much have you invested in this race?". "Not much", I said. "How much do you have invested in Iditarod?". Oh yes, that drove home the point. With only a bit more waffling and stalling, I asked for a scratch form.
Jenny and I packed up my team and sled. When Mark got up from his nap, we saw him off and headed over to Paxson Lodge to wait.
It turns out that Mark scratched at the next checkpoint, Meier's Lake. That story is his to tell, but I will post what he posted on his Facebook page (yup, Mark has a Facebook page and actually posts to it!) -
"The reason I scratched is that the young dogs stopped having fun. Poor trail conditions between Glenallen and Wolverine caused some feet problems that a more experienced musher might have caught, but I missed. My plan was to run through Meier's and take my 8 hour layover in Paxon, but half way to Meier's it was obvious that my plans would have to change. When I got to Meier's I set my snowhook, gave each dog a fish, and congratulated them on a job well done. As far as they know it was a 300 Kilometer race. Anyway they're young and will see more races."
So, not the results we hoped for, but it is what it is!!
Congratulations to Mike, Sue Ellis and the rest of Team Tsuga for a great showing on the Copper Basin!! Way to do the breed proud guys!!!
As a 'footnote' (ha, ha - pun intended!) - I went to the Fairbanks Urgent Care Clinic on Tuesday and got my ankle x-ray. Thankfully there is no fracture, just a sprain. I have a proper brace, an exercise program for it, and instructions to 'ice and elevate' at every opportunity. I also have reassurances that if I push it, it will hurt and slow down healing, but I won't do any permanent, long term damage!
Karen (who is sitting typing this with her ankle elevated!)