Saturday 31 January 2015

Eagle Cap Extreme

I'm blaming the people of Joseph, Oregon. The first two times I've run this race the weather has been horrible for my team. Warm to the point of pouring rain last time even - yet, here I am writing about another trip to Oregon and the Eagle Cap Extreme.

My friend, Lisa Gersbach of Idigadog Kennels in Australia, had flown over for a bit of adventure and to help out for the trip. We had a relatively uneventful drive down to Oregon - no broken down trucks, no wrestling used condoms out of dogs mouths, no problems at the border......Well, there was the visit with one of Canada's 'finest' - I swear I was in a 100 km zone - but that was just expensive, not problematic. Lisa was just disappointed he wasn't in his Red Serge uniform. The dogs were disappointed he wasn't on a horse.

Lewiston, Idaho overlook

Meeting up with us in Joseph were Shelly Young Lewis and Kristin Fox, who were here to round out the handling team....okay....really they were just in it for the fun, but as they found out, I put anyone that even slows down around me at a race to work. 

Heading out I already had the idea in my head that I might drop down to the 8-dog / 100-mile event if the weather was warm. Training has not been ideal this year and pushing a slightly undertrained team through the heat didn't sound like a lot of FUN - and my goals for this year all revolve around having fun with the team.
Once we got to Joseph the t-shirt like weather set my mind - 100 miles. I vet checked in all the dogs, as I hadn't really put much thought into which 8 of the 12 that traveled down to Oregon with us would run.

Julie, one of the fantastic vets (and a friend from my time as a judge and musher on Iditarod), got a bit of an 'ouch' from See when examining her. When I came over See stood like a rock for the re-exam. I was suspicious though and that evening took See off on her own to take a closer look. With just her and I, she admitted she had a sore toe and was a sad cut from the 12.
In the end, after a bit of tossing and turning and rolling things around in my head overnight, I decided to take 2 girls that were solid leaders - Missy and Boo - and 6 big boys - Turtle, Astro, Scud, Fletch, Todd and Neo.

The morning dawned VERY humid, so humid this dryland Alberta Chick was fairly convinced it was raining! Eventually though it cleared and the day looked to be awesome for musher and fans.

We had a lovely breakfast in town (can honestly say I have NEVER had a bad meal in Joseph) and headed up to Fergie Ski Area for the start.

Everything seemed very low key and relaxed for me - 50 miles out, 6 hours rest and 50 miles home is just basically a training run - and on a trail I know and love! SWEET!!!!

A few folks teased me about the small size of my team - it has likely been close to 20 years since I raced an 8-dog team - and I did think (unwarrantably, it turns out) that I might be doing a lot of work at the back of the sled on this trip.

I noticed prior to the start that Boo didn't seem to be handling the crowds so well. Boo is a complicated little creature. She hates smoke from campfires (I have NO idea why) and crowds. Sometimes she will suck it up and deal with them, other times not. Today, it turns out, was a 'NOT'. She was sitting next to the truck shaking. I knew once we got rolling she'd be fine, but I tucked her in the security of her dog box until just prior to our start and decided to run Missy and TURTLE (I know, what was I thinking?) out of the start.

Photo courtesy of Eagle Cap Extreme

Photo courtesy of Eagle Cap Extreme

As I should have known, Turtle was pretty distracted at the start. We were only a few miles in when I tucked him back into the team and put the now relaxed Boo into lead. The team settled into a nice climbing pace and worked their way up and out of the ski area.

Jill Taylor rolled by me quickly - and many miles later a couple of the teams from the Pot race rolled by and those were the last teams I saw for the entire 54-mile run to Ollocot - which is, honestly, the way I like it. I thought I saw flashes of headlamps every now and again in the dark and the dogs seemed to occasionally think there was a team ahead, but we were able to just set a comfortable pace for us and roll happily along throughout the afternoon and evening.

Eleven miles from the Ollocot checkpoint the trail pops out onto a 'road' and then rolls downhill the rest of the way in. Several times young Neo tangled the front end trying to overrun my leaders. When I stopped to snack I decided to throw him up front for a bit and see how he did in lead. What the heck? He's led on at least one other occasion!!!
He was GREAT! I kept him in lead for the rest of the run and he even did a super job along with Boo getting us into the checkpoint, past a 200 mile team that was waiting to pull out, and, with very little help, into our parking spot. I was so proud, I was BEAMING.

Caring for eight dogs is SWEET!! Booties were off in no time, straw laid out, vet checks done.....all before my cooker had even had a chance to get rolling.

All the dogs looked great - both by my and the vets' assessments. I rubbed down a few wrists to be proactive, but it was so warm I didn't even bother with wraps. Everyone ate everything offered to them and settled down quickly to nap.

I strolled up to the Hospitality Tent for the good food, coffee and company that I knew would be waiting. I LOVE this checkpoint and the folks that man it. As well run and inviting as any checkpoint on any race I've been on.

Bucket for getting water from the creek for the dogs.

Hospitality Tent at the Checkpoint

After some chili, legendary sourdough bread and a few cups of coffee I wandered back out to check on dogs. Everyone was happily snoozing. I covered a few with blankets and threw the extra blankets in a pile next to where Fletch was sleeping and stretched out next to him.

Fletch's 'teenage years' were a bit troubled, but this past summer I had him neutered and that seemed to be a really solid decision. It seems to have helped him find his focus and has been amazing this season. I was so pleased to have him on the team and see him rising so well to the occasion! I tickled his toes and played around with him a bit before we both got ready to nap.

I was just drifting off to sleep when the leader in the 200 mile race rolled into the checkpoint after a blistering 100-mile run. His parking spot was next to my team and the chatter between him and the vet team ruined any chance of a quiet resting spot next to my dogs. No hard feelings, vet/musher communications are fundamental in the sport, so I wandered off to the musher sleeping tent. Sadly, a dropped dog was expressing his strong opinions at being dropped from his picket outside the door.
I knew sleeping wasn't really necessary for me on a 100-mile race, so I wandered back to the Hospitality Tent to kill a bit more time.

Soon enough it was time to get moving. I decided to leave young Neo in lead with Boo. He needed a bit of help off the straw, but quickly got us moving and we left the checkpoint at a nice clip. The eleven glorious downhill miles from last night were uphill now but the dogs were fresh and happy to tackle them. I had my iPod on, so bopped along to the music and poled with my ski pole a bit - mostly to keep me awake - the dogs were traveling lovely.

Somewhere during the night I caught up with Jackie Wepruk and passed her. Jackie is a good friend and one of the people in the dog world I respect most. I am honoured that her kennel all originate from my bloodlines - in fact, one of her leaders, Jolt, is even a littermate to my leader, Boo. The teams traveled comfortably together through the rest of the night.

As dawn was breaking we caught up with Angelique and her team. Sensitive Boo and young Neo weren't up to driving well by them, so we traveled on and off with them through the morning. Jackie was able to get by though, so off she went.
Just after the Salt Creek checkpoint Angelique stopped to put one of her dogs in her sled bag and I was able to get Boo and Neo by and focused again.
The sun was beating hard on us now and I was beginning to look forward to getting the dogs off the trail.

The trail winds along the side of numerous small mountains and in some spots you can see quite a ways ahead. In one of those spots I caught sight of Jackie and her team, who I hadn't expected to see again. We caught and passed them about a mile from the finish. Jackie's team fell in behind. I offered Jackie the trail at one point, but she said she was happy finishing 'this way'. The teams zipped and darted through the trees for the final stretch to the finish.

As things opened up for the last dash, Jackie's team charged up beside me and the teams crossed the line in a dead heat. How fitting.

My kick-ass handling crew was waiting with food and snuggles for all. We tucked the dogs onto the shaded side of the truck for a bit to cool down before feeding them. They all happily drank some plain, cold water while awaiting their post race meal.

Special snuggles were in order for Missy, Boo and especially young Neo, who did all of the leading - but everyone did great and got scratches, pets and loving.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Fox

Neo accepting his 'First Star of the Race' award. He claims he was caught off guard and didn't prepare a speech, but would like to thank his parents!

Huge thanks go out to Lisa, Kristin and Shelly for doing such a great job handling and being silly!!!!

Photo courtesy of Shelly Young Lewis

And of course, to Bet for keeping the handlers in line and all her awesome reporting.

Photo courtesy of Elaine LaRoche

A special shout out to Henning Bartel of Arctis Carts for transporting an order of meat for all the Canadian teams in the race when we ran up against some inflexible border crossing regulations!  None of us would have been able to run without his help!!

And of course, to the FANTASTIC folks of Joseph, Oregon, who put on a FIRST CLASS event. Sadly, your weather SUCKS and I won't be back.....yeah....right. Even I don't believe me!

Friday 23 January 2015

Eagle Cap Extreme Day 2 - Bet

HOOO howdy ho Everybodies!!

What a day!!!!

Just to save you from the suspense, the Musher and all 8 Pretty Curly Tails finished today, tails wagging and the dogs were happy too (hehehe, I made a joke there).

After the team left yesterday, the boring sitting around and waiting stuffs and things began.  Our Oregano Outpost was very nice.  The couch was very comfy.

The floor was even pretty comfy, but then again I was EXHAUSTED from the day's events.

And at bedtime, I had three choices of sleeping places.

This bed is too hard
This bed is too soft
This bed is just right
In the morning all of the minions and Lisa Oi were still asleep so I took charge and started updating everybodies

A Coolie's work is never done
We all went to get coffee and some kind of addictive tasty cinnamon roll thingie, then we waited

Kristin and Shelly Minions waiting
And took scenic pictures

Kristin and Shelly Minion and me... in my same ensemble as yesterday
Yeah, about me wearing the same fashionable ensemble... it seems that my FORMER personal assistant Lisa Oi forgot to pack the bag with the rest of my ensembles.  I fired her immediately.

She was distraught and threatened to leap from the dog truck.

Or she may have been recreating the same picture that her husband posed for during the 2014 Iditarod or something... I choose to believe she was so ashamed at forgetting my ensembles that she would have plunged.  I have no idea why Kristin is crawling around inside the dog truck.

Anyhoooo... before we knew it... here comes the team!!!

The Musher did the usual bag check...

Then sat down with the Pretty Curly Tails and thanked them for a wonderful race.

Then thanked me for being such a good Roving Border Collie Reporter

Gave the team their well earned soup

Packed everything up

Made sure the Pretty Curly Tails were tucked into their boxes

Sleepy Astro
Then we left to go find the nearest coffee shop

No Musher, the coffee shop is to the left... LEFT... GEE or HAW or something
Then we got some well deserved rest ourselves

All is right in the world once again

I have some more pictures, I'll bloggity blog them later

- Bet

Thursday 22 January 2015

Eagle Cap Extreme Day 1 - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies!

It's your Roving Border Collie Reporter, Bet, reporting from the Eagle Cap Extreme in beautiful yet slightly warmer than we'd like Joseph, Oregano!!!

We started off the day with an exciting breakfasty thing that's NAMED AFTER ME!  I'm very popular here, I have fans all over, so I HAD to try out my breakfasty thing!

I mean, it's got BACON!  Who can resist bacon?  Certainly not me.

Kristin Minion allowed me to use her lap as a table, since we had to get to the starting line.

Of course, the Musher got lost, so I had to take charge and give her directions.

LEFT MUSHER! LEFT!!!!!  I mean Gee or Haw, or whatever!

Yesterday was the big bib drawing thingie, and the Musher drew bib #22.

Because it's so very, very warm here, the Musher decided that instead of the longer race, she was just going to do the 100 mile race.  I'm sure the Pretty Curly Tails would have done just fine and dandy in the longer race despite the warmer weather, but pfffft, that's no fun, slogging through slush and stuffs, and this season we're all about having fun.

So, that means the team was smaller... more on that in a jiffy, because...


This is Shelly Minion (to my left) and Lisa in the FASHionable purple ensemble (that matches my collar).  Lisa is one of the Musher's friends and my personal assistant.  I'm pretty sure her last name is Oi.

As you can clearly see, I'm not looking at the camera, mainly because I'm wearing the same ensemble that I wore yesterday and I'm a bit peeved about that as SOMEBODIES didn't unpack my suitcase so I could pick out something more race appropriate.  hmmmpht.

There was a lot of prepping and doing stuffs and things, and of course... the FANS!!!

These are students from Stella Mayfield Elementary school and HUGEY HUGE Musher fans!  Look at the wonderful signs they made to root her on!  That's art!  Behind the scenes I talked to a few of them to submit some drawings of me because that Cartoonist needs to go... just sayin.

As usualy, the Pretty Curly Tails were relaxed and ready to rock when their time came.

As race time approached, I allowed my personal assistant Lisa to braid the Musher's hair, but in return Lisa has to give me a full body apricot scrub and pedicure in the hotel tonight.

As the starting time was getting close, the Pretty Curly Tails got time to stretch their legs and send some pee mail.

The Musher showed her fans the sled and what goes in it and how it zips up and what goes where and all that boring blah blah stuffs.

"... and this is where you put a flashlight or a rice cooker..."

Before we knew it, it was time to move toward the start line, so we moved toward the start line... as you can see, the Pretty Curly Tails know the way and they don't really need handlers, they're self-propelled, although that handler is about to be squished.

The Musher stopped to chat while we were waiting for their turn into the chute... no doubt they were discussing Flat Whites and Tim Bits or something because... nom.

Then it was the team's turn at the gate, waiting for their turn to go.

The fans went WILD!!!!  The Pretty Curly Tails went "meh" because they're professionals and know how to pose for the media.

And then off they went to have fun

So.... you may be wondering which of the pretty curly tails got to race!

In lead:

(Missy is sponsored by Rita Skipper)

(Turtle is sponsored by John and Nancy Hermle, Lazy S Samoyeds)

In Swing

(Fletch is sponsored by retired PCTs Batdog and Junior and their humans, Mark and Pat Ellinger)

(Neo is sponsored by Heather Croke) 

In Team
( Boo is sponsored by Tammy Taylor)

(Scud is sponsored by Nelson and Chelle Tromp)

In Wheel

( Todd is sponsored by Joli Jurcak)

(Astro is sponsored by CJ, Dana, Mattie and Ethan Joyner)

So, the rest are lounging around the hotel with us, but they aren't going to get any of the pizza that Shelly and Kristin Minion have said they're having delivered... I hear it's a special shrimp and pasta pizza!!!

(Ryka is sponsored by Barbara and Mike Branham, Cheryl and John Dawson) 

(See is sponsored by Marlene Phillips-Daniels)

(Snap is sponsored by Heather Walls and Dan Rehak)

(Squib is sponsored by Barbara Sheroke)