Monday, March 4, 2019

Flathead Classic Sled Dog Race 2019

They did it again! Completely amazed me with their speed! The fast four (Jig, Whip, Buck and Flier) have proven their name again and finished the Flathead Classic in 2nd place of the 8 teams entered!

We arrived at the race in Olney, MT on Friday evening (2/22) for the snacks and musher meeting. One of the things that amazes me about this race is the amount of sponsorships they obtain. As an organizer of our local races, I know how hard this can be. Our musher packets had a large amount of swag (O'Keefe's tough hands lotion and lip balm, a new pair of thermal work gloves, a race hat and more!!)

After the meeting we got settled in our tiny cabin at the Dog Creek Lodge and fed the dogs. We were all amped for the races to start in the morning.

The races only contained 6- & 4-dog sled teams this year. They needed another year to get things situated better for the big 8- & 12-dog teams. So, our team was set to leave fairly early at 9:18, the second 4-dog team out! Because we were staying at the race site, I actually didn't need to get up too early! Waking up at 7am was more than enough time to get all my gear set, the dogs dropped, watered and pottied. In no time, we were off!

It had snowed overnight a few inches so the trail was a little slower than I expected. They ran the course in reverse this year, as there are a lot of turns and meeting teams on a corner it is better for both teams to be turning right than left, to avoid obvious crossing problems. They were fairly quick through the first loop, I only need to run with them a few times up some small hills. We had caught the first team early on in the first loop and now were running in front on the course. When I came to the point where we were to start into the second loop the trail volunteers were blocking the trail, trying to send me the wrong way. I sat there for about 30 seconds arguing the course with them before they finally moved aside and we continued on our way.

After the first two loops (different loops, not the same done twice), the course brings you RIGHT back by the start/finish line and sends you out on the longest, hardest last loop. My team came blazing through the start area and out to the last loop super quick with no problems! And then we hit it....the killer climb!

I knew it was long and steep and hard but I didn't realize how long and steep and hard it really was. Last year, they sent us on this loop first when the dogs were still hot and fast from the start line. Now we were more than halfway through the race and the dogs were tired. I was sucking some SERIOUS wind by the top of the hill but we made it and it was nearly all downhill from there! Again the trail volunteers tried to send me the wrong way, to the 6-dog 18 mile course, but they were not blocking my turn and I just turned right, telling them the 4-dog teams were to follow the blue arrows and turn right. As we ran off, I heard a "oh yea!" The last portion of the trails had a good amount of technical turns, making it quite fun. We finished strong and I was super proud of them!

I felt the dogs had done well but I had NO idea where we'd be in the standing. I would not have been surprised if we had been in the back of the 8 racers or up front. When all racers were in, I was pleased to see we were in 3rd after day 1!

We watched the skijorers and fatbikers race the rest of the morning, enjoyed pizza with friends that evening and relaxed.

The next morning was COLD and we had no fresh snow so the trail had set nicely overnight and felt like it was going to be fast! They started us in reverse order, slowest to fastest, so we went out 6th. The trail was INDEED much faster. I did not need to help the dogs at all through the first loops. In fact, I barely held on ;)

This time I did not need to argue with trail help and we were cookin'. We came screaming around the corner at the start/finish out to the last loop. Here I started running with the team on the hills. We kept a good pace up the hills, it helped that we caught Butch Parr halfway up the hill, they knew the team was close and that kept them pushing. The killer climb felt much shorter this time, it really helped us all that the trail was firm, making the running easier! We passed the 2nd place team going backwards on the loop, which was a tad surprising but was no consequence to the dogs, they kept charging down the hill.

Buck not pleased to be wearing a Canadian harness. Kim Stanley let me try this Tough Skin Harness from Howling Dog Alaska on him. I'm considering getting the US version of this for him for canicross this spring.

In the end, we had moved into 2nd place and ran over 6 minutes faster on day two! AMAZING! I was quite pleased with the team and glad to end our snow racing season on two fantastic races!

Next up! DRYLAND! The Spring Fling in Cle Elum. April 20th & 21st!

Good puppas!

No comments:

Post a Comment