Sunday 29 January 2012

2012 Don Bowers Memorial Sled Dog Race

The Don Bowers race is a very fun, low key event perfect for training rookie mushers and rookie dogs! My purpose in running it this year was to get some race experience on my 3 rookie dogs - Rocky, Boo and Smartie. I also wanted to work with a few dogs that Richard raced last year, but that hadn't been on a race with me before - Casey, Beauty, Trampie, Kelly and Astro. Rounding off the team was a few of my 'leaders, but not top leaders' - Billie, Tess and Wifi - and finally some predictable power for the hills that I know this race has - Charge, Q and Turtle.
It was tough to load the team without running back and grabbing one of my old, standby leaders, like Jinx or See or Bang or Bingo or Runner, but it was right not too. Time for me to make a leap of faith.

Two years ago Tess had a bit of a meltdown at the Ceremonial Start and Restart of Iditarod. The crowds were just too much for her, I guess and she spent the first 10 miles of Iditarod wishing she was anywhere but there.
The smaller crowds of the Don Bowers were perfect for helping her regain her confidence, so she and Billie got the 'nod' to be the leaders out of the starting chute!

With able help from Brittany (yes, THAT Brittany who is up in Alaska visiting), Ruth Ann Stitt, Jamie West, Keith Blaha and Peter Duncan (thanks to you all!!!) the team got up to the start line and off down the trail.
Tess was totally solid in lead. I noticed Peter whispering sweet nothings in her ear as we were hooking the team up. It might have been his wonderful Scottish accent that calmed her!!! (I might have to put you to work at the start of Iditarod Peter!!)

The Bowers starts on the same trail as Iditarod, part of which we have been training alot on the last few weeks, so it was a nice comfortable start.

About 10 miles in Justin Savidis's nice looking team caught up with us. We had a beautiful 'Iditarod style' pass - no stopping, no brakes used, no words to the dogs....I love passes like that. Justin turned and lifted a hand as he kept moving down the trail.

The trail was beautiful and the team moving really nicely. It was certainly cold, but I barely noticed. We rolled through the 'Nowhere' Checkpoint and I was thinking about how quick this leg was going to be when the trail went soft. For the next 20 miles we slogged through sugary, loose trail up and down some monstrous hills that are infamous to Don Bower mushers. So much for that quick leg.

At Shulin Lake we started to pass mushers camped out on the side of the trail. My decision to not take one top notch leader with me came back to bite me in the butt a bit as Billie and Tess proceeded to try to scrounge food from each parked team. HUGE thanks to all my competitors for being understanding and helpful in getting my rambunctious rookies by.
I went around a corner, found a quiet spot and pulled my team over. They ate like starving wolves when I offered them the premade meal I had in my cooker. I laid out some straw for them, which they all happily dove into, cleaned up my sled, knocked off all the coffee in my thermos, fashioned my wonderful straw bag into a makeshift tarp, put some Adele on my iPod, pulled my arms into my SkookumBrand anorak, propped my legs up on my sled (sorry Gabi - no walls!!) and closed my eyes. Very nice.
Occasionally teams would start to bark as mushers finished up their breaks and hit the trail again but the dogs were resting well and none of us did anymore then crack our eyes open to watch dog teams roll by.
It was such a comfortable spot that I ended up not getting moving again till close to 3 hours after our arrival. Oh well, the extra hour rest wouldn't hurt any of us.

The next 25 miles was back to lovely, packed trail again and the dogs moved accordingly till Hal Morgan's barking dog lot told us we were approaching Morgan's cabin checkpoint. We checked in and checked out.
The next leg of the race was new and it was reported to be anywhere from 17 - 22 miles. I think it was actually closer to 25. It seemed to go on forever through cold swamps but eventually we pulled into Kirshner's warm and inviting homestead which would be our 'home' for the next 6 hours.
Local boyscouts directed with military like direction from Beth Wheeler buzzed around with buckets of water, our drop bags, our straw...whatever we needed. Very appreciated!!
I bedded down the dogs and got the cooker going to give them a nice warm meal which they all devoured. Once they were settled and my area organized it was up to the house for a delicious bowl of stew for me, coffee and glass after glass of water.
There was a tent for mushers to sleep in, but it wasn't heated and since I know I can do a 200 mile race without sleeping, so I decided not to bother with dragging out my sleeping bag.

I was due to leave at 10:30am, so alittle after 8 I gave the dogs a 'soup' of chicken, Energy pack and water. That's also a good time to watch them all get up and move around and make sure their are no injuries cropping up after some rest. With the exception of Charge, who had a bit of an upset stomach going into the race, everyone ate and looked good. Charge ate enough that I wasn't worried, but did give him some extra pampering - who doesn't love to be spoiled by their 'Mom' when they aren't feeling 100%???

When we went to leave at 10:30 the dogs were less then keen. I was missing my 'checkpoint' leaders (dogs that will always get up and lead a team out of a checkpoint). The vet offered to go walk in front of my leaders. I thanked her but said they needed to learn do do it on their own. I walked up front and chatted with Tess and Billie and this time they went. Not with any great amount of enthusiasm, but I knew that would come back once they got rolling and worked the 'kinks' out.

The first 15 miles or so was alot of stop and go as everyone took turns relieving themselves and I put a few booties on here and there. Everytime I'd walk back to the sled Casey was screaming to go, so I moved her into Billie's position in lead.
Holy Cow - she was driving and scrambling down the trail. I thought the enthusiasm might die down after a bit, but not so. If this was her 'interview' for an Iditarod lead dog position, it secured her the job.
In and out of Morgan's cabin and onto Oil Well Road (Thanks so much for the bottle of Tang - it totally hit the spot!!). It was a pretty nice afternoon - cold, but clear with a bit of a breeze. Denali looms over the trail up in this neck of the woods and I got to see some lovely vantages of it.

Just before Shulin Lake I passed Gerry Sousa and Tamara Rose camped with their teams. I like Tamara a lot and stopped to chat with her. Her run wasn't going great and she feared she would have to carry two dogs in her sled bag for the last 55 miles of the race. I sure felt for her.

The big debate on this race is always whether or not to try a 'straight through' 100 mile run to the finish or break it into 2 - 50 mile runs with a break in the middle. If you break it up, your team speed will be faster, but you have 'lost' your rest time to your competitors, if you go straight through your overall traveling time is likely to be slower.
I have always done this race as a 50-50-100 but I always waffle on it up to the last moment. This time was no different. I knew for my overall training it was good to get that long push on the team in a race but when I saw Tamara camped there, I was sorely tempted to camp with her, but I kicked myself in the butt and stayed on my race plan.

I've crossed Shulin Lake many times over the years, but never in the daylight as it was this trip. I knew the Shulin Lake Lodge was there, as it is always lit up when we go by, but I didn't realize all the nice little cabins that dot the shores of the lake. I glanced over my shoulder at one point and caught my breath at the sight of Denali and Mt Foraker with the lake in the foreground. What a tremendous view - very memorable.

I was prepared for another 25 miles of 'slogging' on the way home, but the trail had 'set up' nicely and it was a pretty good run through the hills and canyons. After passing Gerry and Tamara I had been in 2nd place, but I was fairly certain Gerry's team would catch me in the 55 miles to the finish.  Sure enough, about 10 miles from the Nowhere checkpoint Gerry's seemingly impossibly bright headlamp lit up the night (for those of you that will be asking, I think it was one of the Lupine lights that Ken Anderson or Underdog feeds is carrying. Too pricey for this dog musher, but very impressive).

As impressive as Gerry's headlamp was the night sky. The sliver of moon was framed by the planets of Jupiter and Venus - and billions of stars twinkled away. Off to the south the city lights of Anchorage glowed red. I'm usually not a big fan of the glow of city lights, but, I think because everything around it is so black, the city glow of Anchorage is actually very pretty. Despite the fact that the temperature kept dropping and things were being to be very cold, it was a great night to be out and about.

Eventually Casey's inexperience on a run of this length was beginning to show. I wanted this to be a positive experience for her, so I swapped her and Wiffie out. I thought it was appropriate that he lead me across the finish line, as the last time we did this race he was in my sled bag at that point.

The dogs picked up when we hit the Corral Hill Trail. They knew we were headed 'home'. This year the race was supposed to end at Eagle Quest Lodge, so I was watching for the turnoff, but didn't see it. I had even stopped a few times and checked out a few turnoffs, but with all the markers around for a variety of events and races in the area, nothing seemed right. When I got to Vera Lake, I was certain I had missed the turn. Cell phones are allowed on this race, so I pulled out mine, powered it up and called Donna, who was at Eagle Quest waiting for me. "Where are you?", I asked "At Eagle Quest", she said. "Hmmm", I said, "That's where I'm trying to go".
Long story short, but race officials said they would come out and check markers and I turned my team around. The team was NOT IMPRESSED with this turn of events. Aft er a VERY long run we were at the intersection of two trails they KNEW headed to either their truck or their dog houses and I wanted them to turn around. They are good dogs though and they did what was asked of them, not with tremendous enthusiasm, but they did it, and moved steady back down the trail. I was very proud of them for that.
On they way back I had a head on pass with Tamara, who had missed the turnoff too. She turned her team around and followed me into the finish.

I had told Donna that if I was too late, she could just leave the dog truck at the finish for me - but to my JOY both she and Keith were waiting at the finish for me. I was tired and cold and very, very grateful for the help!! Thank you so much, you two!!!

The dogs were fed, unharness and put away. All the gear was gathered and thrown in the truck. We had a bowl of yummy soup at the Lodge and headed home.
On the way home we had two separate incidents with moose jumping out in front of us - but yet, on the 200 miles of trail I saw not one moose. Thank goodness, as that was the thing I had been most worried about prior to the race. I'm glad I didn't let my fear get the best of me and do something foolish like not run!

My thanks to all the wonderful volunteers that make this race possible; to Donna, Keith, Brittany, Ruth Ann, Peter, and Jamie; to 'Bet' for keeping the blog and FB page updated; but mostly to my amazing dogs - my respect and love for them never decreases. They are the most amazing creatures I know!

Photo by Donna Quante/Husky Productions


Congratulations Musher and Pretty Curly Tails - Bet

WHOOOO BOY!  What an exciting race that was!

Last night we stayed up to celebrate the 3rd place finish of the Musher and the Pretty Curly Tails in the Don Bowers Memorial 200!

It was very exciting in the North Wapiti house last night!  Cricket even came in from guard duty to have a celebratory waffle with the rest of us!

I'm also happy to report that the anti-mooses screeching actually worked!  The Musher said that she didn't see any Mooses the entire race!  Or course, once she finished, you all dutifully stopped screeching, which explain the two suicidal Mooses that jumped in front of the dog truck on the way back to Willow... but no Mooses came close to the truck.  Silly Mooses.

So, here is the Musher waiting to race

And here is the Musher and Pretty Curly Tails coming in to the finish line

Here are the Pretty Curly Tails making a bee-line to the truck after the finish

Here is a really cool picture of the Willow dog yard with the Northern Lights thingies

And here is a picture of the race superstar

Yep, you guessed it... little firecracker Casey led for about 80 miles of the race and the Musher says Casey has secured a spot on the Iditarod team!!!

The Musher will be posting her own blog of the adventures, so I'm going to sign off because I have to pick up all of the balloons and confetti.

- Bet

Saturday 28 January 2012

The Race So Far - Bet

Howdy Ho everybodies!  It's your sitting around in Canada enjoying my chair, just woke up from a nap non-roving Border Collie Reporter, Bet here!

Its been a very exciting race so far... ok, that probably wasn't very convincing because I just said I had a nap, so let me try that again...

Holy Moley everybodies, this is a real nail biter of a race! 

Ok, that wasn't very convincing either, so I'll have to go with: its been a very predictable and going as scheduled race... which is GREAT!  No Mooses, no plowing trails with faces, and no pants on fire (yes, I know... so disappointing on the flaming pants thing)

The Musher and Pretty Curly Tails got into the Kershner Home checkpoint at 4:08 am this morning with all 14 Pretty Curly Tails.  They had to take a mandatory 6 hour rest period.  Here are the Pretty Curly Tails curled up and resting

Here is the sled resting

I can't tell if the Musher is in the sled resting or not... nobody tells me these important things.

The Pretty Curly Tails were checked out by the vet and found to be okey dokie spiffy keen!

According to the Musher, the middle 30 miles is punchy and slow because the pups don't have their "snow legs" yet... once again, clueless.  All this time I've been studying baa baa sheepie things books and I should have purchased a "Translating Musher Talk for Dummies"

The Musher did say they were all having fun... I hope that's not code words for something else, but I'm guessing that they are all having fun, so that's good.

They left the Kershner Home checkpoint at 10:30am and plan on being back into Willow at the finish around 10pm... which is way past my bedtime, so I'll have an update in the morning.  If you are on the Facebooks, the Photographer Minion Donna will make an announcement or something and I told her to also tell the mail list peoples, but she'll be really busy helping the Musher with the pups and stuffs, so that may not come for a while.  You should definitely keep hitting refresh on the official Don Bowers 200 Web site for official updates and stuffs.

In the meantime, while you are waiting, there's an interview that has the Musher in it here.  Click the blueish looking button that has a megaphone on it directly under the words stuffs.

Meanwhile, back in Willow, Alaska
Hey?  Where did everyone go?

- Bet

Friday 27 January 2012

AAAAAND They're Off! - Bet

Thanks to the Photographer Minion Donna Quante, we have pictures of the start of the Don Bowers Memorial 200

Keep checking the Don Bowers link and also if you are on the Facebooks, don't forget to like them and let everyone know how much you love the Musher and Pretty Curly Tails!

So, here it was on Willow lake this morning before the race.  A balmy -32 degrees... eeesh!

I was glad to see that the Musher was wearing her chilly gear and remembered her hat.  Please note, that's the fluffy lined Skookum brand hoodie thing and not some wild animal attacking her head.

I have some pictures of the Pretty Curly Tails before the race, but I'll save those for tomorrow in case we don't have any action shots.  I don't everybodies having Pretty Curly Tail withdrawal.

So, here's the Pretty Curly Tails taking off at the start of the race.  The Musher has bib #10 and was the second out of the chute.

Front front to back we have:  Billie/Tess, Kelly/Casey, Tramp/Boo, Smartie/Beauty, Turtle/Wifi, Astro/Rocky, and Q/Charge!

Sigh... I wish I was there watching the race from the warmth of a truck or nice hotel room, or at Starbucks or something.

Anyhoo, there they go, off to have fun and avoid the Mooses (keep up the screetchy noises please).

Go you Pretty Curly Tails!  Have fun on the trail and be safe Musher!!!

- Bet

Don Bowers Memorial 200 Team - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies, its your back at North Wapiti lounging in my chair watching Silence of the Lambs and waiting for the part about the baa baa sheepie things, non-roving Border Collie, Bet.

For those of wondering about Cricket, I sent her off to the store for some supplies.  For some reason I started craving Fava Beans and a little Chianti.

While we are all waiting for the start of the Don Bowers Memorial 200 race featuring the Musher and the Pretty Curly Tails, I thought I'd let you all know who is racing today... other than the Musher... of course the Musher is racing, I mean the Pretty Curly Tails are talented and all, but they do need the Musher for stuff and things.  Who would open their snack bags and foods and stuff without having thumbs and stuffs?

Also, when I said "you" I meant all of you but that pesky Rob guy that mocked me on the Facebooks.  He isn't allowed to read this post.

Anyhoo, here is the Don Bowers team for 2012!!!!  In no order whatsoever, so don't go reading into the way they are listed as how they are running, because its not, so stop that!

Rocky is sponsored by Mary, Greg and the huskies: Yucab, Maracaibo and Rosa

This is a picture of Boo as a youngster.  Boo is sponsored by Tammy Taylor!

Kelly is sponsored by Deb Bok

Astro is sponsored by former NW Pretty Sled Dogs: Spider, Batdog and Junior, now living with the Ellingers in MN

 Turtle is sponsored by Kathryn and Pete Trussell, Frank and Paula Langenstein

Wifi is sponsored by Barbara and Jerry Lake of Hampton, TN

Charge is sponsored by Pat Bach and family

Q is sponsored by Musher Minion Donna Quante

Alice Fitzgerald is sponsoring Casey

Beauty is sponsored by friends of Save Our Siberians - Siberspace Rescue Fund

Tess is sponsored by Marlene Daniels

Billie is sponsored by LaRita Skipper

Tramp is sponsored by Chugiak Kennels, Nelson, New Zealand

Smartie is sponsored by Karen Ernest and Trina!

The Musher reports that she plans for Tess and Billie to be the main race leaders, but Tess doesn't like crowds, and who does really?  They're just so crowdy!  So if there are crowds, then leader plans will change.

The pre-race report is that its cold (duh), and the race peoples are having problems keeping the trails open because of drifting snow, lots of snow... really big lots of snow... there are also cranky Mooses.

I want everyone to join me in wishing the Musher and Pretty Curly Tails a FUN race, and now everyone make a very high pitched screechy noise to ward off the Mooses, because Mooses don't like high pitched screechy noises coming from all over the world.

- Bet

Thursday 26 January 2012

Who is in Alaska - A Musher post hijacked by Bet

The Musher has been very busy training with the Pretty Curly Tails, caring for the Pretty Curly Tails, plowing a trail with her face for the Pretty Curly Tails... and she's been meaning to post a Who is in Alaska post for weeks...

So... every time I log into Blogger, here is her post... half finished... so I'm finishing it!!!!!

It occurred to me this morning that I haven't actually let everyone know what dogs 'made the truck' for our trip to Alaska this year!!! Although I'm certain that with all the pictures, video, etc that have been posted in the last week that everyone who was really motivated has already figured it out!

I'd say 'Of course he made the truck, he ALWAYS makes the truck.' But the fact of the matter is that Crunchie is 10 1/2 years old. For a senior like that to keep up with dogs 1/3 that age is astounding, but then again, he is an astounding dog. (Crunchie is sponsored by Dana and Judy Kevelder)

Wolvie aka 'Wolverine'. The son of 2 of my all time favorite dogs, Grover and Kara. He is beautiful, talented, and a quiet, solid worker! (Wolvie's 2012 Sponsors are Brenda Potter, Carolyn Martin and Mark Fraser. Go Wolvie!!)

Astro - big, hardworking level headed boy. His first trip to Alaska, but a veteran of last season's races!! (Astro is sponsored by former NW Pretty Sled Dogs: Spider, Batdog and Junior, now living with the Ellingers in MN)

Q (aka Q-Zee, Q-tip). Hard to believe Q is 8 1/2 years old. A true powerhouse in the team. Q is a veteran of many races, including Iditarod. (Q is sponsored by Musher Minion Donna Quante)

TopDog - the very handsome, very polite and mannered Kara son. They just do not come any sweeter (or fluffier) then this boy. (Barb and Mike Branham and Cheryl Dawson are delighted to share sponsorship of TopDog)

 PLEEZEE - was there ever any doubt Trampie was going to Alaska???? The very opinionated young superstar leader. And it's soooo much quieter here at North Wapiti... except for the Tramplings of course - Bet  (Tramp is sponsored by Chugiak Kennels, Nelson, New Zealand)

 I'm really high on this young dog. This is Boo - or Boosie to her friends. She a head down, tail down, get the job done kinda of gal!! (Happy Running! Tammy Taylor)

Billie is a favorite of many. A 'boomerang' dog (sold at as pup, but eventually worked her way back to NorthWapiti) who has shown us how silly were were for letting her go to begin with. She does have a few 'quirks' but her drive and work ethic make up for them!! (Billie is sponsored by LaRita Skipper)

Tess. I'd like to think if I were a dog I'd be a lot like Tess. A definite tomboy, not flashy, just solid, no nonsense kind of gal that gets the job done!!! (Tess, I know you belong to Karen, but will always view you as "my girl". Will be watching from afar this year. Marlene Daniels)

 Kelly. Really nice young gal. Daughter of Moses and Kara, two of my former Iditarod main leaders, she is showing that she is ready to step up and follow in her parents pawprints!! (Kelly is sponsored by Deb Bok)

Runner is another veteran of the trail. A leader and one of the most enthusiastic eaters we have - a GREAT trait for a distance dog!! (Runner is sponsored by Maureen Zavodjancik)

Wifi aka Wiffie, although camera shy, Wiffie knows how to pull and is nothing but business on the trail (Wifi is sponsored by Barbara and Jerry Lake of Hampton, TN)

Photo by Donna Quante/Husky Productions
Roscoe loves to work and loves to shine in harness (Roscoe is co- sponsored by Diane Shepard of Glendale, AZ and Jackie Phalen of Maple Park, IL.)

Rocky made the team because he's got such long legs that he can hover over the deep snow banks and reach items on tall shelves... ok, I just made all of that up - Bet (Go Team North Wapiti! Mary, Greg and the huskies: Yucab, Maracaibo and Rosa)

Turtle is a total show off and all of the younger pups don't like him because he's so good at what he does: pull like a champion. (Turtle is sponsored by Kathryn and Pete Trussell, Frank and Paula Langenstein)

Smartie is sometimes mistaken for her beautiful father Crunchie, and has some big paws to fill on the trail this year, but we're pretty sure she can handle herself like the pros. (Smartie is proudly sponsored by Karen Ernest and Trina!)

Beauty is a chip off the Kara block in both looks and work ethic. (Beauty is sponsored by friends of Save Our Siberians - Siberspace Rescue Fund)

See see run, run see run, I made that up all by myself - Bet (See, though we aren't near enough to watch you perform, we'll be following you every step of the way on the computer. Go girl go.
Marlene and Doug Daniels)

Bingo is ready to roll at any time, and can also strike a model pose when the camera comes out.  Her hard work got her on the team this year (Bingo is sponsored by Mary Atkinson)

Photo by Donna Quante/Husky Productions
Bang won't be outdone by her beautiful sister and continues to show her talent in lead and eating snow (Bang is sponsored by Kathy Carmichael)

Photo by Donna Quante/Husky Productions
Jinx continues to ooze talent and work ethic.  Being THE lead dog at North Wapiti can be pretty stressful, but Jinx takes it all in stride (Jinx is sponsored by Kathryn Clark)

Charge can levitate, never gets tired, and always wants to run some more... we need to moderate his latte levels apparently (Charge is sponsored by Pat Bach and family)

Irving. Being a one-eyed dog has done nothing to slow down this hard worker, and the chicks just love him because they think he's winking at them (Good luck to all - Rachel and the Wyoming Siberian pack!)

Photo by Donna Quante/Husky Productions
And yup, the little redhead made the cut. Casey is here with us in Alaska... because redheads are the best. please note, the cartoonist made me write that... sigh - Bet (Alice Fitzgerald is sponsoring Casey in addition to her sponsorship of Herman, who is co-sponsored with her son Travis, so they can continue to sponsor the next great generation of North Wapiti dogs!)

Photo by : Donna Quante/Husky Productions
Ok, so there you have it, the 24 Pretty Curly Tails in Alaska!

Now, who wants to guess who will be racing in the Don Bowers 200 tomorrow?

- Bet