Monday, March 17, 2008

Jeff's Passenger Race

I convinced Jodi that we should go have some fun over at the ADMA race track last Wednesday, as the annual Passenger Race was happening. I haven't ever done a passenger race, so thought it would be a great thing to do with my best friend. Jodi & I haven't gotten to do a whole lot together this season, making this a perfect excuse to get together. A few of my guys picked up a bug from the Two Rivers 200, which meant that I really didn't want to take them down to the track just days before the ONAC....that wouldn't be very nice at all. So, I picked up Jodi and 10 of her dogs for the race. We pulled bib number 6 and our combined weight (with all that gear) allowed us to run up to 10 dogs. Good call on Jodi's part...I didn't think we'd be able to run more than 9. All that stinking gear is HEAVY!! So, we hooked up her team, I climbed in the sled and she unhooked the dogs. We didn't have any handlers at all and of course, her leaders tried to go out the "In" chute. Thank goodness that Barb Moore was there, as other folks kind of stood there, staring while Barb charged over, grabbed those leaders and pulled them to the start line. Thanks, Barb!! We took off and dang, but Jodi's dogs were flying! Lasher and Dru were beautiful up front, stretching out the whole team, moving fluidly. I couldn't watch much though, as little balls of ice were flying up from under the dogs' feet, smacking me in the face. Ouch! We ran fast around the track, no other team in sight. We stopped at the turnaround, threw our "bribes" to the turn-around judges (candy and a scented, plush Gingerbread girl) and Jodi practically tossed me out of the sled when the hook caught. I jumped on the runners, Jodi jumped into the basket and just as I reached down to pull the hook, Arleigh Reynold's team with his Quarterback passenger came around the turn. One of Arleigh's dogs ran right into my back, slamming me into the sled. I got up and off we went, following Arleigh. The trail was icy and Jodi's sled, with a lower handlebar than mine, was real squirrely (for me, anyway), sliding around the corners, threatening to tip at every turn. However, with Jodi's leaning and my crouching down, we managed all of the turns and curves just fine. All was well, until another team came up behind us, just before the 1 mile mark to the hall. The dogs passed fine...the sled; however, slammed into me, knocking me down. Jodi's dogs started pulling and for a moment, both teams were side by side. I was down on my knees, so I lunged forward, planting a knee on the brake until Jodi could plant the hook. I somehow managed to keep the sled upright and got it stopped. I do have a big ole' bruise for my troubles though. Talk about extreme mushing!! Sheesh!

We headed up the hill and lo and behold, there was Donna Thompson and Swanny, with his freighters. We caught them on the way in to the finish...and when I passed, there was my old man, Torus, leading Swanny's freighters, with Dutchess in swing. As I went by, I called to Torus "Come on, Torus! Let's go, Boy!" and to Dutchy "Hey Dutchess! Pick it up!" Those dogs just took off like a rocket, sticking to us for a stretch. It was really cool to see these guys pick it up for a valiant finish. I loved seeing Torus stretch out, with Dutchy just behind. Too Awesome! I really love both of those dogs and am extremely happy that Swanny is able to give them a job.

Jodi & I crossed the line with her team and got them to the truck. What a BLAST!!! We had so much fun out there....then, we heard that we'd come in 2nd!! Right on!!!! Wahoo! Jodi ran over and we hugged each other, laughing, not believing our ears. A 2nd place finish is WAY cool...especially with her dogs hauling my heavy bum around the course. And we found out that there was a tidy bit of money for the first few places. Bonus! What a way to end the day. :o) Jodi had to head to work, so I took all her fur kids home to their houses and dropped off her sled. This was so much fun, that we hope to do it again next season.

In other news, Rocket had his bottom fang extracted, along with the little tooth just behind it. Dr. O did a fantastic job, you wouldn't even know Rock-a-doodle had a problem. He's healing up very nicely. Thanks so much, Dr. O!! You are the BEST!!! The next gig is the Valley Funale, the last Saturday of March at Pleasant Valley Store. Manny will take the team and do the 10 dog, 25 mile class. It's always a fun way to end the race season. The kids will do the kiddy races...Conor will (maybe) run his first 1 dogger, while Devlyn will run in the 2 dog class again. An easter egg hunt, Hungry dog contest and a BBQ will round out the day, providing lots of fun for all. Come on out and join us!

-Were you a Rogue today?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

08 Two Rivers 200, The Chatanika Challenge

What a great race this is! Definitely a qualifier won't find one much more technical, that's for sure. It was gorgeous the entire though. Friday found us with temps around 40F, though it did start out to be overcast, the sun soon came out to bake down. I put the furkids in this lineup: Just & Dusk (lead), Zen & Feather (swing), Ahab & China, Jericho (single), Inu & Luke, then Rocket & Chevy (wheel). I chose to run 11 dogs and left Sunshine at home...he really doesn't do well in the heat and is pretty heavy (actually, he's downright fat!), so I thought it better to take one less. The first part of the trail is 40 miles of climbs and drops. I'd drawn number 13 (lucky?), so that meant that the trails would be chewed up for my team. The warm temps made the snow rather slick and a bit slushy...icing up the runners, brake and drag mat. I didn't realize this until the first drop....the first few are short, but a bit twisty. My feet slid right off my mat/runner, dragging me down the first hill. The second one, the same thing happened, but this time I lost my grip on the handlebar. Luckily, there was a burnt out stump off to the side that caught the sled...though it shredded my bib, which had been tied to the front of my sled. I planted the hook, lifted the sled out of the soft snow...then, tried for about 10 minutes to get my hook out! I kicked, dug, used my other snowhook, nothing worked. Just when I'd get it a bit loose, the dogs would replant it. Definitely a good hook. We had 4 teams pass us, as I got very frustrated. I then dumped again going around a sharp turn...don't know how that one happened...first we're in the turn fine, next thing I know, I'm on my side and my hand hurts like crazy! I jumped up and immediately got going again...but was feeling pretty stupid and clutzy at this point. The dogs were super strong...Manny had warned me; but, I really thought it'd be fine. He was right and by this point, I was a bit nervous at the sheer power singing through the gangline. We took off again and we were hanging right behind Bill Cotter for many miles. I did have one more the first road crossing. Chevy was in wheel and cut the corner, launching us off the banked snow, dumping the sled. My head cracked on the pavement, shooting pain through my skull. Luckily, Manny was the volunteer at that road he caught the team as I staggered up and across the road. I was ok, til he asked me if I was which point tears started to swim before my eyes as pain radiated across my head and down my neck...I told him through gritted teeth, "No, I'm not alright!! I lost the team, crashed, hurt my hand and now my head is splitting!" And here, we were only 10 miles in!! What the hell did he think? Definitely wasn't a bed of roses. I jumped on the sled and got going. I gave myself a mental shakedown at that point..."Come on, Tammi! You've done this know what you're doing...quit messing around and DRIVE." That worked, as we came down the mine hill, crossed the 2nd road crossing and actually stayed upright! Todd Mackinaw was manning that crossing....he said, "Good Job!" and told me I was one of the few who actually made the 90 degree turn. That made me feel better. I told him my head had bounced off the road at the last one. He said, "Good thing you have a hard head." and laughed. That got me chuckling and off we went. Greg Stoddard caught up to us going up the next set of hills...we pretty much stuck together from there until we crossed the Little Chena.

We stopped to snack down at Fairbanks Creek, when I noticed something funny about Rocket. He was eating his fish, but his bottom left fang was poking out of his mouth. Somewhere along the way, he must have caught the tooth on a root or rock while dipping....and hurt his lower jaw. He didn't seem to be doing badly and was pulling strong, wagging his tail. So, off we went. Before going down Iowa dome, I decided to undo Ahab's tug as he had started overheating and wasn't pulling much. I wanted to make sure he didn't get tangled in his tug. We were doing great going down Iowa Dome...a little faster than I would've liked, but not too horribly bad. Unfortunately, Ahab tripped and fell about halfway down the descent. I couldn't stop the team, though I managed to slow them. I kept calling him to get up and he did. Then, a little further down, he slipped his collar and was running loose. I called him as the sled went by...but at that point, I couldn't stop as there was a mess of humped overflow that I had to negotiate before I could stop the team. I did finally get Ahab...he came limping up to me a few minutes later, so I loaded him and he rode the next 12 miles. I got to the dogdrop and dropped Rocket; the vet said that she's seen it before...(he'll lose his bottom fang and a tooth)...but he'll be fine. I was sickened...but she told me not to worry about it and to keep going (Jeanne Olson is just awesome...I'm glad she's my vet). I also dropped Ahab, but they never did find anything wrong with him. That was good, as I thought he'd hurt his wrist or shoulder.

We crossed the road and pulled over for a break a few miles down, parking right behind Greg. We rested for 2 1/2 hours...I broke spruce bows off for the dogs, which they gratefully used. The rest of the run to PV store went very well...we had to slow down for the connecting trail between the North Pole trail and the was narrow, tight, twisty with trees that you couldn't avoid kissing. Better to go slow and not damage the sled. We got into PV store in like 10th place! That was very cool! The dogs rested GREAT and we left 5 hours later, with 9 dogs. The run to Angel Creek was pretty uneventful, though I was really freaked out about the trail to the finish (steep downhill with ice). We got into Angel Creek and rested for 5 hours. Jericho had developed a limp, so I decided to drop him. Then, China was holding up her left wrist, not putting weight on it. I had Dr. Rose check her out and she said China would be fine to go...but since I was already worried about the steep downhill on Flat top...I decided to drop her and run 7 dogs. Better safe than sorry.

The next part of the race went well until Colorado Creek. There were 2 sections of waist deep overflow that the dogs had to swim and I had to wade through. Luckily, Greg Stoddard and I were running together, so we helped each other out. The first one was about 50 feet across...the second one was about 200 feet. Greg led the dogs while I manhandled the sleds through. Greg got even wetter, when another musher came up and needed help across. He helped her go through, too. Greg went into the overflows 12 times, what a He-man!!! I went through 6 times. I actually did bibs just ROCK and so did those Cabela's boots...they did get a bit wet...but the water never did go through to my socks. :o))) So, my feet stayed warm and bibs iced over before the water had a chance to soak all the way through. However, Greg wasn't so lucky and his boots filled with water. We got some wood and got the fire going to get him warmed up. I told him to change his socks/pants, which he did have a spare set (thank goodness)...and I took care of keeping the fire going while he got into his sleeping bag and attempted to dry out his boot liners (he has the Cabella's boots, too). He ate a bit and just warmed up. But, he wanted to get going as we'd already spent over 3 hours dealing with the overflow/ he didn't wait for his liners to dry and we took off. He decided that he was going to PV store via the road crossing (was only 4 miles versus finishing the 20 mile run to the store) because he couldn't feel his feet at that point...Casie and I (she was the other musher) followed him to the road where I could place a call to tell race officials what was happening and that he was borderline hypothermic. They told us if we came with him to the store that we'd be dq'd. They reassured me that race officials knew Greg was coming and would make sure he got in. Then, I turned my team and helped Casie turn hers. We bootied, snacked, then took off and backtracked to the race trail turnoff.

I was all freaked out about that last 20 miles of the trail, as other mushers (myself included) thought it would be dangerous and difficult. It turned out to be just fine and the trail was even better going back. I actually had a good time on it! But, my headlamp batteries were dying (we spent a good 3-4 hours dealing with the overflow, fire and getting Greg up to the road)...and I'd left the spare ones at Angel Creek figuring I wouldn't need them. I'd also given Casie my lithium pack that was for my backup light, cause her batteries were almost dead. Luckily, the batteries I'd changed out at the beginning of the leg had just been cold. I put them in my pocket to warm up, then tried them in my headlamp and whala...they worked. :o) Wasted a good 15 minutes though...which was just enough time for Casie to beat me in to the finish line by 12 minutes. Ha ha ha! Aw well...I'd rather help others out and know they are safe than worry about a spot or two. The dogs practically flew the last 6 miles...they were loping so very strong and looked gorgeous, muscles rippling, tongues lolling, tugs tight...they knew we were almost done and really stretched out. They made me so proud of them! I'm happy knowing that I was holding the 10th place spot for most of the race and that I have a top 10 dog team. Cool! Definitely musher error, which I'll be working on for next year. All in all, we finished 12th out of 19 teams. There were 15 finishers and 4 folks who scratched.

Well, I'm off to bed. Another thanks goes out to Greg, for being such a top-notch competitor, but better than that, for being such a fantastic person. He's one helluva a nice guy and that certainly trumps everything! You ROCK, Greg!!!!

-Were you a Rogue today?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Race trail training

Here's a picture of the team on part of the race trail (a few miles after Iowa Dome). Warm temps with the possibility for freezing rain are going to make this a c-r-a-z-y run...but I'm looking forward to having a blast out there with good friends (both doggy & human-like), good fun and a good trail. Race draw banquet is tonight. Come on number 3! ;o)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Training for the Two Rivers 200, The Chatanika Challenge

Here's a picture of my race team for the TR200 this weekend. Yep, you heard right...I'm doing the race. Manny is discovering that while he enjoys training, he isn't so much into the racing side of things. But, yours truly is. So, he's handing the runners over to me. And Happy Birthday to me!!! What a great present. :o) Anyway, Manny has had them out on a few training runs this week, to get them used to the temps, run part of the race trail and just check them out overall. The race is just 2 days away, so lots of prep happening right now. Packing drop bags tonight (my resupply bags that will be at the 2 checkpoints- Pleasant Valley Store 92 miles in and Angel Creek Lodge about 140 miles in), cutting meat, going over the sled and lines, etc. The temps are looking to be really HOT (about 30-40F above zero) and sunny. This equates to a slow, mushy trail and dogs who could overheat. Our temps have been all over the place over the past 2 months, dropping down to -50F, up to 58F above at one point. That's over a 100 degree difference in temps! So, you can imagine that the dogs with their permanent fur coats, would overheat easily if a musher doesn't take care. Luckily, the race trail winds through trees, down through swamps (low lying) and on rivers...these are generally areas where temps are a bit cooler. Most mushers will try to run in the cool of the night, trying to avoid those middle of the day temps. I have my race plan in place, and it involves camping/snack/water breaks all throughout. I'm hoping to start with 11 dogs....but may be down to 10, we'll see. That's ok...I actually enjoy running smaller teams.

There are 16 teams signed up as of right now....if all show up, that means over $3000 in prize money! Right on! Not that Rogue Summit is in contention...but it's nice to see our little race growing. Yay! Check out our TRDMA website for information on the race. Well, I'm off...a little thing called "Work" is beckoning. I'll try to post updates...but may not be able to post anything until after the race. We'll see. Take care all!

-Were you a Rogue today?