Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chugiak 50 - Heat 1 (20 Dec 08)

The team consisted of Bear, Luna, Gabby, Amizette, Timber, Mae, Thursby, Lasar, Hawkeye, Tolby, Cyphers, Alli and Velma.

This race is 25 miles each day.

Mary gets everyone fed, watered and collared in the morning. We load the dogs and double check all of the equipment and off to the track. We arrive at 11:30 and get the dogs dropped and watered by noon. The race starts at 1PM. As I sign up there is only one other musher entered. The musher is Christine Roalafs and I see her and her handler out at the trails at least once a week. Christine is fairly new to distance mushing but has a 200 miler under her belt from last year.

I talked with her earlier in the week about this race and told her my plans were to run the 25 mile heat (with about 35 pounds of weight in the sled), feed the dogs and then go out about 3 hours later for another 25 mile run. She asked what my thinking was and I explained that, my focus is getting ready for the Knik 200. Since the club asks those not racing to train in another area or come out after the race is over, I wanted to take the opportunity to utilize the trail close to home , get some race experience for the dogs and support the club. I am still on the night rotation due to work. The back to back runs will help condition the dogs recovery system and will get them used to what they will see on the Knik race, although the distances will be longer. Since Christine is running the Gin Gin 200 on Dec 27, she said she would do the same.

The driver’s meeting started at 12:45 and Christine and I are the only ones signed up for the Chugiak 50. The Chugiak 32 (16 mile heats each day) is being held simultaneously with our race. There is a junior musher entered in the 6 dog class and Wayne Curtis signed up for the Purebred class.

The timer counts down and off we go. The dogs are in chase mode and I am standing on the drag with both feet. I look at my GPS and we are hauling ass at 16.5 MPH. Way too fast for distance dogs. At about a mile and half into the race, I catch a glimpse of Christine and won’t see her again until we drop onto Clunie Lake. The junior musher catches me around the 3 mile point and we coordinate for a good spot to let her pass. She is pretty quick with her 6 dogs. About a couple of miles later, Wayne comes up and I let him pass. The team is still in chase mode and I can’t get them to settle into their pace. I think I pulled a calf muscle by standing on the drag. You would think the 35 pounds in the sled would have helped.

I follow Wayne around Clunie Lake passing him once and then getting re-passed. I want to stay behind and let the dogs catch their breath. The pace is still too fast, but the team needs to learn this and compensate. After 9 miles, I stop the team and give them a breather and let Wayne get further ahead. The desired affect was achieved. The dogs settled down and now we are running the pace I want. I just hope they have enough gas to maintain this pace. They get a little slower and I give them a few rest breaks, mostly to roll in the snow and cool down.

We finish strong with a time of 2 hours and 57 minutes. Not too bad for their first race.

Mary helps get everyone fed and 3 hours later, we are back out. The team had the trails all to themselves. It was quiet and great. This run took us around 3 hours and I had everyone back in their kennels by midnight.

Christine took a fall getting onto Clunie Lake and hit her head. She opted not to go back out.

I hooked up Bogey and Zia for this run. Zia didn’t race because she is in season and that’s just asking for trouble. Bogey is recovering from a shoulder injury and isn’t at the 25 mile distance yet. I coordinate with Mary to meet me to drop Bogey off after 10 miles and I keep Zia for the whole 25 mile run. By having Mary meet me on the trail, I don’t have to take the dogs back to the truck. It’s very demoralizing for the team to go to the truck to drop a dog off and then have to go back out.

This run took us around 3 hours and I had everyone back in their kennels by midnight.

No comments: