Sunday 30 January 2011

An Update! - Bet

Good Morning everyone, Bet here!

Before I go into details, I just want everyone to know the EVERYONE is FINE!

I got a late night call from Helen the handler (who still smells of fresh baked cookies even over the phone) who told me that she got a call last night from the Musher!  This is very weird because normally mushers don't have phone access on the trail... but it turns out the Team North Wapiti was back at the hotel in Grand Forks trying to dry off.

It seems that there were trail issues: trouble marking the trail, all of the new snow (which was really REALLY, did I mention REALLY wet and heavy snow), and the race coordinators decided to suspend the race until Sunday morning at 6 am with a restart at the Fiva check point.  They are cutting out a 40 mile section of the race and will run to the finish which is 60 miles.

The Musher reported that the snow is wet (I think I may have mentioned that already) and everything is soaking wet and heavy.  There has been no place on the trail for them to dry out their gear, so they headed back to the hotel for some drying and rest time.

The curly tail in Richard's bag was Meg, who tweaked her wrist and needed to rest.  To even things out, Beauty will stay on the truck tomorrow to keep Meg company.  Jinx is pooped too, she's been doing a valiant job leading the Musher's team and is a bit sore, so she may stay back and take a well deserved break depending on how she feels in the morning.

The Musher mentioned something about mountains before she got cut off from Helen the Handler... I'm hoping she didn't mean Mt. McKinley and the recent sighting of some balloons and a cat.  We hope to retrieve Bait soon, and have hired some sherpas to go retrieve the wayward kitty.

I am pleased to report that the Musher and Richard are now both underway again at the race, and we hope to have the full story once the Musher dries off the curly tails when they get into Grand Forks again (ETA around 12pm Grand Forks time).


Saturday 29 January 2011

The Wait For An Update - Bet

Bet here!

I'm sure all of you are anxious for an update, and I sure wish I had one for you, but I don't. 

Sled Dog racing isn't like NASCAR (because the dogs would get really dizzy going around in a circle, and can you imagine how messy that track would get?), and there are long lulls in updates because most of the races are held in really, REALLY remote places that don't have the interwebs (gasp!) and sometimes they don't even have phones (GASP!) or dentastix home delivery (GAH!), so sometimes we all just have to wait it out.

While we all wait for word from the field, I thought I would play a little game with everyone.  There won't be a prize given for the fastest to answer, other than the prize of learning a little bit more about the Musher and her Pretty Sled Dogs.

You can find the answers on this blog and also at the place where the Musher use to put her "diary" entries (before we got her switched over to blogs).

1.) Why didn't Karen run the Yukon Quest in 2006?

2.) How many Iditarods has Karen and the Pretty Sled Dogs run?

3.) How many Iditarods has Karen and the Pretty Sled Dogs finished?

4.) How many times has Karen caught her pants on fire?

5.) What state does Karen sometimes travel to for training?

6.) Why is Kara depicted in cartoons with a fire extinguisher?

7.) What year did Karen break her sled and had to have a replacement flown out to her?

8.) What are the "little piggies"?

9.)  Hector had a bit of an embarrassing issue.  What was it?

10.) What is the name of Kara's dog bed?

I hope that keeps some of you busy until we get a real update from the field.


Friday 28 January 2011

Rail Trail 200 Is On! - Bet

Hey everyone!  Bet here, your roving Border Collie Reporter!

We're please to announce here at North Wapiti Central that the Musher and Richard are on the trail and racing in the Rail Trail 200!

Richard is Bib #1 and the Musher is Bib #5.

Unlike some of the other "big time" races, these little races are hard to report from (especially since I'm not along on the trip) because the updates from the race organizers are sparse, and the Musher and Richard (for some reason) don't like dragging along 200 miles of ethernet cable so they can provide real-time updates.

We've made a few attempts at improving communications with the mushers during races:
We also tried another, lighter method of tracking, but the Musher put her foot down:
So, using space-age technology and some duct tape, we are proud to announce that Team North Wapiti has launched its first video Catallite:
Bait "volunteered" for the duty and bravely sailed up into the air with a nifty camcorder, ready to take overhead shots of the race as it happened.

Unfortunately we made the mistake of allowing Kara to determine the best time and wind direction for the launch, and we're sad to report that Bait is now somewhere near Alaska, but sending back fantastic shots of the mountains... along with some pretty pathetic meowing in the background.

Thursday 27 January 2011

The Trip to Rail Trail Sled Dog Race - Bet

Bet, your roving Border Collie reporter, here!

Just accessed the Interwebs to check on the progress of the Musher and crew.

Apparently the cranky dog truck had even MORE problems (cha ching) on the way to Grand Forks (BC, not ND) and the mechanics aren't even sure the duct tape and band aids they put on it will fix the problem, so that's a big bummer right there.

The Musher and crew are now at Grand Forks (BC) and awaiting the start of the race in a few hours... watching the rain.  Yep, rain.  Never fear, the Musher is in good spirits, the curly tails are ready to get pulling, and I'm warm and comfy on the couch.

So, you're probably wondering who made the trip this time!

The Musher




Jinx (who still doesn't have a sponsor, I mean COME ON!!)























Wednesday 26 January 2011

What The Heck Do You Do With A Neckbone - Day 2

I expected that Day 2 of the Neckbone would be much less windy then Day 1 - I was partially right!

The first 18 km of the trail ran along the highway ditch. It was a bit punchy and had a number of willows poking out of the snow, but nothing too bad.
Once we turned into the bush, things got lovely. The trail had some new snow on it, but was still reasonably well packed and easy traveling. I ran with a few teams and passed a few others.

We skipped across a little road where Redmond, one of the trailbreakers, told me to 'watch out from here on'. "Watch out for what?", I said. "You are on bush trails now", he replied. Excellent! Bush trails are usually alot of fun - as this one proved to be too.

Eventually the trail went through someone's yard and dropped onto a lake. I knew there was a team just moments ahead of me, but when we hit the lake, I could see no dog team tracks at all. I was a touch concerned until I spied the team about 1/2 way across but it was so windy that all the tracks had already vanished.

Jinx and Dasher were not concerned at all and everyone just put their heads down and went to work. I actually enjoy watching the team work through weather like this, so I was no more bothered then they were.

When we got off the lake I stopped to let everyone roll around and shake off the snow that had caked their fur. The trail then began winding through some swamps and low rolling hills. It reminded me a lot of running the trails near Willow, AK.

I was playing with my GPS during this stretch and realized that we were heading over to cross Montreal Lake, which is HUGE!!! It was calm in the trees, but I knew with the way the weather had been on our last small lake crossing, we were in for some fun!!!

Sure enough -

The pictures and video I'm sharing here in no way do this wind storm justice. It was definitely worse than the pictures appear and being behind some nice experienced leaders made it seem easier than it was.
When I hit the lake, I knew there were 4 teams ahead of me in the race. A few miles along I came across the 4th place team struggling to get their leaders to go into the wind. Jinx and Dasher rolled right by them and Joel was able to get his team to follow mine.
By this point we were often losing sight of one spruce bough marking the trail before the next came into view. We would just blinding go ahead, I'd scan the horizon and as soon as I caught sight of a marker, I'd yell out commands to my wonderful leaders to correct our course. After a bit, they were looking for the markers as intently as I was.
Again a team shut down on the ice came into view. Their leaders weren't even interested in trying to head into the wind anymore, but they readily sucked in behind my guys. We were now leading a 3 dog train across the lake.

A minute or two later we came across one of the trail breakers sitting on a snow machine. My team took the opportunity to try and use his snowmachine as a wind break and I had a bit of a mess straightening everyone out. Jinx was in standing heat and the boys all decided this was their chance. I got it sorted out and got the team moving - which is the way to deal with trail like this - just keep going forward, but they were still a bit tangled.
A bit later I stopped everyone in a spot where I was next to one spruce bough and could see the next ahead of me and ran up to fix my tangle. I got it organized but Jinx's hormones got the best of her in this stressful situation and she jumped back into the team creating a bigger tangle. While I was sorting this out the trail breaker drove by and the team behind me passed and slipped back into 3rd place.

About this time we started to see the edge of the lake and things began to clear up a bit. We popped into the trees and total calm again. The other team I had led across the lake was faster and repassed me. The trail rolled through the woods and a few swamps for 3 or 4 miles before popping out onto the finish line on a road.
Barry was waiting to guide the team to the truck and Stefann, the 3rd place finisher, gave me a high five and a 'thank you' as my team passed him. "No problem" I said, very proud of my team.

We had just finished feeding my team when the race officials put out the 'TEAM' cry. "Karen, I think it is your second team." I turned around as Bang and Rocket led Richard up onto the road. My sense of pride increased!! Way to go dogs!!! Way to go Richard!!
This storm was a tough one and certainly outside of anything Richard would have previously experienced. Bringing his team through it - and it turns out that he had also led a few teams across the lake - in such good time and good spirits says a lot about him - nothing that I hadn't already figured out, but perhaps showing others a glimpse of why he is on the runners of a NorthWapiti team.

Sid Robinson had this to say about our teams during the race -

"Most mushers would agree that Karen Ramstead's two teams of Siberian huskies fared the best in the wind. On both Saturday and Sunday, I got to watch Richard Todd's team travel in the wind. His dogs seemed completely unperturbed by the wind and kept up the same speed they had in the quiet of the bush. It was impressive to watch them. Although I suspect Karen's dogs train a lot in poor conditions, I could not help but think the Siberian genetic background might give Karen's dogs an extra advantage in poor weather."

Dogs and gear were tucked into the truck and we headed over to the school for a traditional feed of neckbones and bannock before hitting the road back home!

Another race in the books!

2011 La Ronge Neckbone Sled Dog Race Results
Day #1: Stanley Mission to La Ronge (80 km). Weather: Temp from - 25 C. to - 18 C. Moderate south-east winds. Snow and blowing snow.
Day #2: Creighton Junction to Weyakwin (80 km). Weather: Temp at about - 5 C. Strong northerly winds with gusts. Snow and blowing snow. Visibility on lakes down to 50 metres at times.

Day 1
Day 2
Gerry Walker, Pierceland, Sk
Quincy Miller, La Ronge, Sk
Joel Poti¨¦, Saskatoon, Sk
Stefaan de Marie, Christopher Lake, Sk
Karen Ramstead, Perryvale, Alberta
Miriam Korner, La Ronge, Sk
Richard Todd, Lincoln, England
Emma Smallwood, Air Ronge, Sk
Sid Robinson, La Ronge, Sk
Ragnar Robinson, La Ronge, Sk
Harold Johnson, Molanosa, Sk

Tuesday 25 January 2011

What The Heck Do You Do With A Neckbone?

Well, if you live in northern Saskatchewan, you eat them (they are pork neckbones and slathered in barbecue sauce, they aren't bad, although they are a pain to eat) - but if you are a dog musher from northern Alberta you run a Neckbone.

Back in '07 Mark and I went out to La Ronge, Saskatchewan for the Neckbone Sled Dog race. We had a great time and have frequently talked about going back, but the scheduling just didn't jive. This year, without Iditarod or Alaska looming - and Canadian Challenge, which uses some of the same trail as the Neckbone, in the plans - it seemed to be a good option.

So, on a bit of a last minute whim...okay...let me clarify that a bit...a last minute whim for me meant that the Ford Dealership in Athabasca was given some heavy prompting to get the last of the dog truck repairs done PDQ, Richard jumped in a vehicle to drive to Calgary to pick up one of his friends, Barry, who was supposed to fly in from the UK on Thursday and make a leisurely trip up to the kennel on Friday, (Leisurely visit out the window - trip handling for the NorthWapiti team on the table. Thank goodness Richard's friends are as easy going and accommodating as he is.), twenty dogs selected and put in the truck, and point the truck down the road for the 12 hour drive... Not much in my life is ever done easily and 'on a whim'.

This year the trail was entirely different than in '07. Rather than running in the highway ditch from La Ronge to Weyakwin and back, the race started in Stanley Mission, home of the oldest building in Saskatchewan (150 years old - yeah, I know, that has most of you European readers rolling in the aisles) and ran, mostly on Lac La Ronge, 50 miles to La Ronge. Day 2 started 20 miles south of La Ronge, through a bit of highway ditch, a lot of bush trail and a bit of lake trail (much more on that particular feature later), ending 50 miles later in Weyakwin.

Day one started out well, with Richard and me getting launched off the truck with no issues, despite our bib numbers being 8 and 10. Must have been our great handler!!!

Because Richard was driving a team of mostly 'in heat' girls, I wasn't interested in traveling too much with him. In fact, I tucked in behind Gerry Walker hoping my team wouldn't notice Richard's 'hot girls' as we went by. It actually worked.
Richard's team stayed in sight for a while, but eventually on some of the blown in trail, my bigger boys put some distance between them and the 'Estrogen Express'.

We passed a few other teams and then stopped seeing other teams all together, which is always fine with me. The dogs moved strongly and happily even when the weather began to close in some as we got closer to the 'dog drop' at Sucker Creek.
I rolled through the dog drop without stopping (but offering a quick wave to Barry who had hiked out onto the lake to watch us go by).
After Sucker Lake the weather got much worse, but my leaders were well experienced with storms and none of us paid the weather much mind.

As we got close to the finish line of day one, the clouds blew off and blue sky appeared - along with this fabulous sun dog.

It's hard to see in the picture, but at the bottom of the rainbow was a line of dog trucks indicating the finish line! How cool!!

Jinx and Dasher trotted across the line, hung a hard 'gee' and followed my command to 'Go to your truck!'.

Barry had everything organized and ready for us. Dogs were fed, unharnessed and loaded into the truck in no time. He then ran up to A&W to grab a coffee for me and a tea for himself while we waited for Richard.

An hour and a half later or so I spied a familiar headlamp beam working its way across the ice. Sure enough it was Richard. He and the team were in good spirits.

I was very pleased with both teams' times - mine of 6:22, good for 6th place (out of 11 teams), and Richard's time of 7:49 putting him 2 spots behind in 8th.

It was also very nice to read the nice things race organizer and fellow competitor Sid Robinson had to say about Richard and his crew -

"I expect that all of the front running teams were able to handle the tough trail conditions. At the back of the pack, I was really impressed with Richard Todd's team (Richard is from Lincoln, England). Heading south from Sucker River, my team would not lead into the unbroken snow drifts even though there were spruce markers to show the way. Richard's team of Siberians were willing to just drive right ahead. They needed the odd correction from Richard, but they kept going in the right direction. This gave me a much needed track to follow."

All in all a good day and we were very much looking forward to Day 2!


Saturday 22 January 2011

La Ronge Neckbone Sled Dog Race Day 1 - Bet

Good Evening ladies and Gentlemen!

Bet here, broadcasting live from the massive nerve center of the BCBC (Border Collie Broadcasting Center), also known as the Cloud.
As you can see, things are really jumping here at the News Central as we bring you this update on the Musher and Richard as they do battle at the La Ronge Neckbone Sled Dog Race in scenic Saskatchewan, Canada. 

The Musher reports that the locals are very friendly, and tried to throw a party in her room... very late at night... ok, so maybe they thought her room was their room, details are sketchy, we'll have more after this commercial break:

Kara would like more Dentastix... would someone please get her some Dentastix... this message was brought to you by... Kara

Back to the news!

The first day of the run was for a total of 50 miles, with the first 20 miles in hard packed trails, then 10 miles of hard pack and wind blown trails, and the last 20 miles were breaking wind swept trails, so breaking trails seem to be the theme for this winter!

The Musher had Dasher and Jinx in the lead of the rest of the boys, with Richard and the estrogen express led by Bang and Meg for the first 25 miles, then See and Rocket bringing them in the rest of the way. 

There were no teams between the Musher and Richard and the trails had blown in quite a bit in that time, so it was equally hard for both teams to break trails.  The Musher came in at 3:30, with Richard in about an hour and half later.  The Musher feels that since she has a more powerful team of bigger boys, that gave her the advantage... plus Richard's team wanted to stop and do some shopping, craved chocolate, broke out into the "Electric Slide" at a moment's notice, and all had to go to the bathroom as one huge group.  The mushers closer behind Richard's team were very impressed with the Pretty Sled Dogs and their ability to break trail.

Both the Musher and Richard are very happy with their team's performances, despite the blowing trails and the very VERY cold -25 degree weather.... makes me cold just thinking of it.

More news later!

- Bet

Where are Karen and Richard - The Cartoonist

The Neckbone website isn't very up to date, but we're tracking the teams and can provide location updates on the "Estrogen Express".

Thursday 20 January 2011

Summer Camp Counselors

*****Warning - contains adult subject matter and may not be suitable for all reading audiences***

Since we missed Elkford last weekend I've been itching to get to another race, so after chatting with Mark and jumping through a few tight hoops (like getting the dog truck back on the road), we have decided to head to La Ronge, Saskatchewan tomorrow to run the Neckbone.
Both Mark and I ran the race back in '07 and really enjoyed it. It is a low key, inexpensive to run, good time. Perfect.

Mark will be staying at home to work (someone has to pay for that $2600 truck repair) and hold down the kennel, while I be hitting the road with 20 dogs, Richard and a friend of Richard's from the UK. (I know, traveling with 2 good looking guys with British accents, I'll be lucky if anyone even notices I'm in the truck. I plan to take some knitting with me to keep myself amused).

The teams this trip are not going to be anything like the ones you saw at Eagle Cap. See, almost ALL my main string racing girls are in season. The first ones came in at the Eagle Cap and all the rest have 'jumped on the band wagon', so to speak. My males are crazy for them (Crunchie has been sitting next to his house whining for the last week) and the girls are about as crazy for the guys.

I told Richard the other day that I felt like a counselor at a coed summer camp - my whole mission is to keep the girls away from the boys and the boys away from the girls. It is frustrating for all.

So, to alleviate some of the stress Richard will be driving the 'Estrogen Express' and I will be taking Dasher (who is spayed) and 9 boys.

I will consider the weekend a success if no one comes back bred.

Please say your prayers that Richard does not draw bib 1, as there is no way I or anyone else will get their team by him....wait a minute....maybe we need to hope he DOES draw bib 1. First place would go a long way to pay some of those truck expenses!!

Saskatchewan watch out!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Guess What We Did Today???

We broke trail...

....I know... SHOCKING.

Thankfully, in most spots there was still a ghost of a trail to follow....

And on an 'out and back' trail you get broken trail on the way home!

And even if it had been HORRENDOUS work the beautiful day...

and spectacular sunset...

...would have made it worth it all.