Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Race to the Sky 2016: Part 4

    Leaving Owl Creek was not without some doubt on my side, due to past experiences, but the dogs moved great - probably happy to leave in the cooler temperatures and get higher in the mountains where it snowed (wet snow, it's true, but better than rain). I had Rowdy and Urchin leading - Urchin, who had been in lead two years ago when we got stuck.
    This time, though, the dogs had eaten well and chugged up the mountain. In fact, the whole run went very uneventful. It's the same trail back - they knew where we were going - and, like our trip out, we didn't have anyone behind us or travelling nearby.
    It seemed a lot flatter on the way back, and I got really sleepy. It's good and bad when you have a seat on your sled. It really helps you rest, but it also puts you to sleep!
     We came into Seeley on schedule, amidst heavy, wet, sleeting snow/rain. With a long rest coming up, I fed them lightly, preferring to wait an hour or two to feed them a real meal. However, I quickly got the coats out (for the first time during this race) to keep the rain off and put the wrist wraps on as quickly as I could before I got too wet!
    Although everything had begun to be soaked, I finally got to use the tarp I'd been carrying in my sled back and cover my sled so it stayed a little drier. Next time, though, I think I need something for my poor handlers - who were out in the rain. Maybe just a bigger tarp...

    Inside I spent time eating, sleeping and staying dry. I did go out for feeding and was happy at how well they ate; and how good they looked on walks. Then it was back inside to wait...and wait...for the six hours to be up. But I did get some good naps, between checking (hoping and praying) for the rain to stop.

It didn't.

In fact, it poured!

A musher tries to be prepared for all kinds of weather, but there's a mental part to it  - steeling yourself against the impending water-logging you know will happen on the longest leg of the race. For me, the rain is so miserable I've taken to focusing on finding it funny...after all, who is crazy enough to spend HOURS in the rain, SOAKED, and go back again and again?  I also have a bit of an imagination and like to think of all those adventure stories you read or watch where the hero is travelling in the rain. When your cozy inside you don't think about how miserable it can be...that scene in the Hobbit where the dwarves and Bilbo are travelling and it's pouring and they ask Gandalf if he can stop the rain often comes to mind. In fact, some of my favorite music to listen to while running dogs in the rain is from the Lord of the Rings - it's always a journey running dogs, so why not do it to some epic music?

Well, that's enough of my musings...we'll get to the finish at last, in the next episode!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Race to the Sky 2016: Part 3

   The trip to Owl Creek is always long - mainly because the trail goes in and out of the mountain so much. You can see the trail but think, "No way, we must not go all the way out there..." And then you do!
    There was a bit of trail breaking - although some snowmobiles had been out. As I came down the hill where we once were stopped, I could see an avalanche area across on the other mountainside. Neat and scary at the same time...but that mountain was a bit steeper than our side. I was also impressed and surprised to see Brett huffing up the mountain - with his usual smile. I'd hoped we'd be closer to him than that!

   I love coming into Owl Creek - Randy, who runs the checkpoint, makes everything musher friendly and I had a time of it, wrangling my compressed straw bale to my campsite. The dogs were eating slightly better now and I started my cooker for the next wet cooler, then settled in for a nap - after doing foot ointment and wraps. A few were sore, but I figured I'd work on them and then see how they looked.

    About an hour later I got up and walked each of the dogs. The sore ones looked better, but I had the vet crew come out and look just to double check. They gave me to ok for all of them and I felt better as those who hadn't eaten milled around, ate and drank.

    Then it began to rain...

    I debated about cutting my rest short, after I got everything packed up to keep out the rain...and decided to do it. I think I stayed 3 and 1/2 hours, rather than my intended 4. But I figured the dogs and I would rather not sit and get soaked...We left quite well, with all 11 happy dogs!

    This is something I've been thrilled with the last two years - the dogs never balk at leaving the checkpoint. Perhaps it's a bond of trust we've forged, perhaps it's just their attitude at the time, but whatever it is: I love it! To have them barking and pulling out is awesome. All season I've told myself not to judge them in the first 30 minutes after we leave the checkpoint, as they warm up, but they have seemed just as strong the first 30 minutes as they are later - at least, that's what I've seen this year.