Sunday, February 8, 2015

Priest Lake Sled Dog Race

Today we won our second race ever!! Our last win was at the Priest Lake race as well. And just as it was two years ago, we were the only ones signed up for that class. So all we had to do was finish. 

It was 60 in Corvallis when we left.  The dogs sunning themselves in the spring weather.

My team decided to not just finish but do so as superstars!! 

Day 0 (travel day) was a rough start to the weekend. Since our "new" trailer broke last weekend we had to put together our old trailer the morning we departed.  Cobey did a stellar job figuring out a way to put the boxes on with what he had.  It was slow, tough work but he did it!  The drive up took longer than we remembered or planned for. It was rainy and foggy. We got to the cabin late, we were tired, hungry and cranky. Finally we went to sleep after getting the dogs fed and settled (still raining). 

The next morning it was just pouring!  I thought there couldn't possibly be any sled-able snow left. Surprisingly, the snow was still in decent condition with the exception of the lake at the end of the start chute, so they had us start off to the left of the chute. 

After waiting all morning and much of the afternoon (and getting absolutely soaked because it rained non-stop), my 8-dog sprint team took off, in a class all our own. I put Isis and Okie in lead, Whip and Jig in swing, Buck and Buzz in team and Flier and Tank in wheel. Since the course was changed from loops (because those trails were in bad shape) to an out and back, I needed to have reliable dogs in lead that would pass cleanly and Flier and Tank have not been so lately. 

All the head on passes went great! Okie and Isis avoided teams, Flier (my alligator of late) left the teams alone too!! Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication the turn around ha been taken down when we got to "the turnaround" so we did not know that was where we turned. We probably went another mile before the snowmobile help came and said we were past the turnaround. The turnaround was a mess and it took a while to untangle, but we did and were off. With about 2 miles to go, Isis was really dragging and Whip kept overrunning my leaders. So, clearly Whip wanted to give it a shot and boy did she ever do great!!!

All in all, I felt day one was successful. We ran in miserable conditions. My dogs kept going and even ran through some standing water. I was really happy to see the Saw pups would run through water given that their dad has an extreme adversion to water. 

That night the cabin was filled with clothing and equipment drying out. 

Harnesses drying in the bathroom.

Day 2 was much drier and sunnier.  But it was also warmer.  Fortunately the Priest Lake Sled Dog Race officials allowed the lone 8-dog sprint team to run on the coat-tails of the 8- and 6-dog mid-distance teams (going 14 miles) so that we could still race and leave earlier.  We did not plan appropriately.  Last time we ran this race the event concluded much earlier and the sprints were run early in the day so we did not ask for Monday off.  Since travel was a long drive, we gained an hour heading back in to Montana and the boys needed a bath and good sleep before Monday, we needed to leave early.  So BIG thanks to the officials for squeezing us in (next time we'll plan to take Monday off for travel!)

I started the team the same as on Day 1 but within the first 1/2 mile it became apparent Isis wasn't going to work in lead.  She was doing rather well except she won't run over poop which was ALL over the trail. So Jig got her chance to shine.  And did she ever!  Jig was a SUPERSTAR! Hard charging, listening to my commands, running by teams!

At the (correct) turnaround, Okie and Jig turned the team cleanly but as I turned to thank the trail help, Okie turned the team again (she remembered we did not turn there yesterday).  Unfortunately this time it was a huge tangle.  After we spent some time getting straightened out we headed for the finish.  Okie still wanted to turn back around but Jig would not let her!  Way to go little girl!

Jig and Okie focused down the trail!

It was a beautiful run. Great passes with the novice teams and a good fast pace. Jig is a shy girl and the finish was a little tough for her since there were a lot of people there. But she got through and got LOTS of praise! Definitely the MVP of the weekend!

Look at that powerful little leader (lead, right)

On the home stretch!

The support crew was great as well!  Rohn was very disappointed that he did not get to run the team with me today (next time little man!). Day 1 we took them back to the cabin because the weather was so miserable but Day 2 they hung out, prepped gear, readied dogs, cheered and praised the team afterwards!  I sure like having them with me!

Being goofy on the drive home!

A BIG thanks to our friend and fellow musher Sonya McCloney who took care of the 4 we had to leave behind due to space limitations.  Sonya even ran the two cut from the team with her superstar Sepp! Thanks Sonya!

We gained a lot of experience, perspective and knowledge on this race, dogs and musher alike.  I learned a lot of fellow mushers that I respect and made some decisions, I hope to talk about in later posts about the future of the kennel. All in all, very successful trip! Thanks puppas!

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