2002-2003 race season

 

 

First dog sled race of the year: West Yellowstone, Montana

 

well... I just got back from the first big race of the year... West Yellowstone, Montana. I came in third out of 20 teams the first day in the 6 dog/10 mile race with a time of 39 minutes 51 seconds (in other words, averaging about 15 mph / under 4 minutes per mile) ....54 seconds behind the leader, 21 seconds behind 2nd place. Forth place was 2 minutes 6 seconds behind me.


I was running five, 1 year 8 month old dogs with one 7 year old lead dog to help make sure we got through.... she wasn't really pulling anything, just trying to keep up, but I needed an experienced dog with my new yearling leader. This was all the yearlings first race ever, and with all the 12 dog teams, there were literally several hundred dogs at the race. Basically this race was just to really to get the core of my team into a race and have a positive experience, so placing was just an added bonus.


Anyway, we passed about 9 teams from behind on the first day (the trail was exceptionally fast and hard because of a lack of snow)....and that was a pretty big deal.... my pups really hadn't had the opportunity to run with other teams, and, up to that point, had only begun to make it through head on passes with out a tangle.... chasing and catching is easy.... but slowly passing from behind is difficult when the dogs think the idea is to 'catch' the other team, not catch and *pass* the other team. Anyway, we caught a lot of teams and then pulled away from them strong.

The second day, I came in 2nd, but unfortunately I didn't do well enough to get second overall, missing overall 2nd place by 25 seconds over the 20 cumulative mile race. The second day was much cooler.... about 4 degrees F at the start. The second day the first three teams were so fast, we past the last 3 teams that we leaving the start, head on, which wasn't supposed to happen, but pretty intense.

 

 

2nd sled dog race of the year: Leadville, CO

my dogs swept them 2 days in a row in Colorado! 10 dogs 15 miles. It was cold the first day (-4 degrees F) and bright blue sky. The trail had been groomed the night before and had set up hard and fast. My dogs exploded... we passed four 10 dog teams from behind and 2 head on... we passed eight or nine 6 dog teams head on as well. The coolest was a half mile from the finish, I came up behind two 10 dog teams.... one was chasing the other and had finally got along the side of the other team but stalled, so the teams were running side by side. All of a sudden, I call up my dogs to pass and they surged ahead and blew through, right up the middle.... 30 dogs coming into the final straight away within sight if the finish line! And then I called the dogs up again, and we just left them behind.


The second day was on a different trail. A bunch of 6 doggers went out in front of me, one minute apart, then 5 min between them and us... I went out in first of the 10 dog teams... passed maybe three 6 dog teams before the turn around and then another 3 on the way home, plus seven 10 dog teams head on, one of which I passed going down a mountain full on the drag but still flying.... it was Clint Hallam, behind me in second place... so I knew how far away he was from me, which was a pretty cool feeling because I knew all I had to do was keep my team together and have a clean run home, and it was mine. Granted is wasn't as big a race as West Yellowstone, but if anybody had a faster team, they should have shown up.

 

 

3rd sled dog race of the season: Steamboat, CO

well, I just got back from race number three.... 3rd place. Not bad, but not great... it was supposed to be 10 dog 18 miles but then they decided to add an extension loop which bumped it to 24 miles, which we really weren't ready for... then it snowed 8 inches and the groomer was broken, so we went out on a loose trail, which didn't help me any. And it was steep as well.... GPS said 1800' vertical, and at 9000' elevation, that is a pretty serious climb. Plus it was hot, in the 20s-30s F, which was hot for both the dogs and me (who was trying to run up the mountains in full gear behind the dogs.) Anyway, we got schooled by the two distance mushers I beat in race #2...Clint Hallam, the #1 musher did it in 1h 43min, #2 Ray Gordon @ 1h 51 min, and me @ 2h 7 minutes 25min off pace, which was pretty lousy. The next day, it snowed another 4-6 inches and the groomer was still broken, and it got a little sunny.... I drove in a T-shirt and gloves. My dogs ran faster than the first day and the other 2 were were slower, but they both still beat me again, so I ended up staying in 3rd... or the guy who lost to the guy who lost. but, hey, that's racing.

 

4th sled dog race of the season: Laramie, Wyoming

...a 2 day sweep and a blue ribbon for me and the dogs this weekend out in Laramie, WY:) 10 dogs, 18 miles, 2 days in a row... first day's time was 1 hour 7 minutes... which was about 10 minutes faster than #2, Dawn Breedlove, a known musher who came all the way from Minnesota. She told me that night at the bar that she hadn't been passed in 4 years of racing.... we left her stunned, and behind, 9 miles out ...and she never saw us again:)


Unlike race #3, last weekend, the trail wasn't mountainous even though we were around 9000'.... hilly, yes, but no massive mountains. And no deep snow either... the trail was hard and fast.... and my dogs just ate it up. If everything was against me last weekend, everything was in our favor this weekend. As far as the next race, there is a 10 dog, 25 mile (x 2 days) next weekend in Dubois, WY, just North of the Grand Tetons. It wasn't on our schedule this season, but it wouldn't be bad to do.... a whole bunch of other drivers than on the circuit I've been running. The trail would be more like the Steamboat race, but since my dogs have seen that type of trail already, they are much better prepared mentally and physically for that type of run. But honestly I could use a weekend off... it is exhausting to run these and then drive 8 hours back home... then unload and unpack... basically it is 4 days of constant work, up late and waking early.... plus the stress of racing just uses me up.

The next race on my calendar is 2 weeks from now at Glenwood Springs... 22 miles and a 1500' mountain pass that you need to go up and over, turn around and go back up and over again. Then the following weekend is a race in Ashton, Idaho which is the oldest race in the lower 48. 8 dogs, 30 miles (x2days) which I wasn't planning on running but supposedly it is the biggest race of the year.... you run right down main street with a huge Iditarod size crowd. here is their site:
http://www.ashtonidaho.com/dog.htm
So the thing to do would be to race every weekend... or take next weekend off and just do some long training runs.

 

5th sled dog race of the season: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

well, even without Gypsy Dog (injured), and me sick with food poisoning, we set a new track record in the Glenwood Springs, CO 'Defiance Race' with a first day time of 1h, 40min, 8sec for a 22 mile mountainous course...running 11 dogs in the 'Open Class' (Open = as may dogs as you want to run.)

Basically I had promised to do a 'meet the musher' appearance from 4-6 on Friday at my town's Winterfest celebration.... so I started driving @ 75mph @ 6:15pm and got to the race site at 1:30am.... woke up in the dog truck before dawn, a few hours later, sick with food poisoning(?) I puked a few times ...then dropped the dogs and watered them by 6am (3 hours before they would run.) Then I sat in the front seat wrapped in my sleeping bag and fought with myself deciding if I was going to run. I felt terrible, plus no real solid sleep. I had just convinced myself that I wasn't going to go out, and instead just go back to bed and then drive back home (and I was ok with that) ....then my better side spoke up, "So, Sissy, you are are just going to pack up and go home, just like that?" ...and so the arguments began....but, as always, I settled the brawl by flipping a quarter... first flip, Tails.... 'I don't go out'.... 'well, there you go' ...'flip it again, Sissy'...Heads... 'I go out'... 'flip it again'...Heads... 'I go out'... 'flip it again'...Heads... 'I go out'... 'flip it again'...Heads... 'I go out'... 'flip it again'...Heads... 'ok, can't argue with 5 in a row... get your butt up and dressed'... 'yeah, I didn't come all this way to turn around and drive back'... 'yeah, me neither'....'maybe I'll just go back to sleep'... 'shut up and on the count of three open the door and be ready for the cold. Just stand on the runners, don't worry about running or peddling. The dogs aren't sick... wouldn't be fair to them to not let them run.'

...So I hit the ground in auto-pilot and went into my routine. Other people came and helped me harness and get hooked up and off the line. The trail was pretty hard and groomed but still a little choppy from snowmobile use... so it was pretty fast, but not crazy fast. Dogs looked good but I knew we had a good sized mountain coming up so I was wondering how they would look coming home. We passed three teams by the top and never saw them again. The trail was pretty intense at times.... sharp drop offs going into blind turns and more drop offs... and with 45+ feet of dogs in front of you, you can't even see your leaders. Anyway, I really enjoyed it... all sorts of terrain but a hard well packed trail. I also felt much better after the adrenaline started pumping. But I didn't think I would break any records.

 

 

6th race of this season: Ashton, Idaho


well, it wasn't pretty.... but we came in 3rd overall out of the seventeen, 8 dog teams in Ashton, running 68 miles (34 miles 2 days in a row) in 6 hours 24 minutes and 10 seconds.... about 12 minutes off the 1st and 2nd place times ...but only 36 seconds away from the guy in 4th. Trail conditions were wet and warm with deep snow the first day (I came in 5th) but faster and harder on the final day (I came in 2nd.) Click here for the time sheet

 

Conclusion

So, for the 2002-2003 race season, that was three 3rd place finishes and three wins (including a new track record in Glenwood Springs, CO in the Open Class.) We were also the Colorado Mountain Musher's overall points leader in the 10 dog mid-distance class, winning a gold medal.

Next Year, I hope to run the 8 dog Kamchadal International Sled Dog Race, an IFSS World Cup event, which will take place on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, March 25-28, 2004. If you have an interest in sponsoring us, please click here.

 

 

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