We arrived with plenty of time to spare at the restart. It gave me time to get the bale of straw for Owl Creek and accompanying drop bag ready for Randy, who takes everything up to the unassisted checkpoint.
Surprisingly, there was plenty of snow in
the race had auctioned off rides for the first couple miles of the race. After getting
parked, there’s plenty of waiting…
When I dropped the dogs at the restart I had a shock. One of my main leaders, Mambo, whom I’d relied on in 2013 and had the most experience of the lead dogs on my team, wouldn’t step on his front left foot. There was no swelling and after a lot of consulting with the race veterinarian, we determined he pulled a tendon. It’s a tribute to his tough-headedness that he didn’t give any sign of pain on the first leg or even after – since pulled tendons are extremely painful.
Leaving Mambo was a blow to my plans. I felt bad to leave him in the truck, he still wanted to go. As I thought about it, I decided to remain confident in my remaining two leaders. Although they don’t like to lead together, Legolas had led the entire way for Race to the Sky and Eagle Cap 2013 and Urchin had led the first 150 miles of his very first race in Alaska…so I didn’t anticipate any issues.
I should note that I’ve found it interesting how my male leaders seem to jockey with each other for “first lead” position. Urchin was “my boy” in
– I’d trained him to lead and watched him grow to a gee/haw leader in his
yearling season! Legolas was my old friend; having led in every race since I
got him…and I could tell he was jealous of my “new” leader. They always ran
worse together than separate – now that I think about it, I might have been
better off running each of them in single lead rather than together. This past
season (2015) I don’t think I ever ran them together in lead, ever, and rarely
ran them together in the team. Also in 2015 Legolas apparently decided Mambo
can’t teach him any more than he already knows because he does better running
with young dogs…when he can control the team himself. And I guess Legolas has
some right to pride – he’s a good trainer! It’s little, often humorous quirks
like these that keep mushing so interesting.
Back to the race…we got out of the chute without running over anyone on the turns or when we crossed the roads (always a good thing!). The dogs settled to their trot as we traversed the windy fields and dropped our passenger off at the last road crossing. Then we settled into a good pace for the loop we run before heading up Huckleberry pass. It was an uneventful run into Whitetail; other than some passing with Bryce Mumford who was running two of my yearlings.
At Whitetail I declared my mandatory 4 (actually 6 due to the time differential from starting position and differential from the first leg). The dogs ate well and we had no issues – I tried to get some sleep, which is very hard so early in the race. Usually my "sleep" is laying there with my eyes closed and mind racing. I think I’ll try putting in earplugs or music next race and see if that helps me calm down and sleep. My biggest fear, probably because there are so many race stories about oversleeping, is missing my alarm or a handler forgetting to wake me up. It can also be a challenge to sleep through teams coming and going; and at Whitetail there is always a lot of commotion.