Sunday, 16 September 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - Koyuk to Elim

I knew pulling into Koyuk that a long break was going to be necessary. The team had been 'on the edge' since leaving Old Woman Cabin and that tough, tough 12 hours had taken more of a toll.
Q and See - both key dogs - had some issues that meant there was a good chance they were going to dropped, but for now we just enjoyed being in a village and off that darn sea ice.

Travis and I were parked next to each other and chatted quietly away while going through chores with the comfortable comradery of people that have survived an 'epic' together. Let me say it again, he is a fine young man!!!

All the dogs ate, which was a good sign. I massaged out Q and See's shoulders and jacketed them up. We were in a nice spot out of the worst of the wind and I laid down a bunch of straw for the dogs, loving up everyone really well before heading up to the community center.

I guzzled coffee, tang and any other liquids I could get my hands on once inside. The last leg was not just hard on the dogs.

Race officials were gracious enough to give me a few supervised moments on the computer so I could get messages out to folks to let them know that, despite the lack of GPS progress, I was alive and well.

My plan was to rest here for 12 hours before hitting the trail again. It was my belief that if I didn't give the team a good, long rest here getting to Nome might be in question. That's how tough that section of the trail had been. They had done a great job out there, but I knew that mentally and physically they were at their limit..

The twelve hours went by quickly, but the dogs and I managed to get refueled and rested. Sadly though, Q and See's shoulder injuries hadn't improved during the break, so they were going to have to head back to Willow.

Despite that, I felt confident when leaving Koyuk that the team and I were back on track. Quickly those hopes were dashed. The dogs left horribly! I was so disappointed, but I tried to keep my spirits up and just go about doing what I know I have to do get the dogs attitude up.
They were glancing wistfully over their shoulders back towards Koyuk. I switched leaders and eventually resorted to what I normally see as a sign of desperation - I switched runner plastic HOPING that there was a 'physical' reason for their flat state.
It actually worked, not in a HUGE way, but they started to move forward with a bit more enthusiasm. Oh, thank goodness!!!

Tess and Bang were in lead when we dropped down onto the shores of Norton Sound again. A vicious blast of coastal wind slammed the team and Bang came to a screeching halt. She had had quite enough of the wind, thank you very much.
I moved her back into the team. Before heading back to the sled I leaned over and whispered into Tess's ear, explaining that we were running out of options here and I could really use her help.
 I really don't know if she understood or was just happy to be up front on her own again, but things really started to click. I was so, so pleased!!

The wind kept blowing hard though. Thankfully there wasn't alot of snow, the wind was coming from the side, and the markers were all up, so we could stay on trail BUT the waves of blowing snow across the flat ice made for an interesting and kind of dissy-ing illusion.

Tess continued to storm across the ice - pretty much the nicest run I've ever had across this section of trail. Travis's team caught and passed us as we were just about across the bay.

Once on the road up that wraps up and around the mountain on the edge of Elim the dogs drove hard and then loped on the downside into town.

They were moving so well, I actually debated keeping going, but in the end decided that I wanted to play it conservative and count on a strong finish from them.


Unknown said...

As usual you have brought the race and the dogs alive and real to us again. I so enjoy these details that you share with us.
Thank you.

Unknown said...

As usual you have brought the race and the dogs alive and real to us again. I so enjoy these details that you share with us.
Thank you.

Unknown said...

Unknown (me) evidently does not know how to use this comment section. :)
But I love your tales of the trail.