Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mushing 20 - March 14, 09

The Chugiak Dog Mushers Association held there annual Mushing 36 race and this year added a Mushing 20 race. Around the third week of Feb, I started looking at the race calendar and thought about entering at least enter one team in the 20 mile race. Mary said she would like to try the 20 also. As long as my shoulder would holdout, we could give this a try.

In previous posts I was training 2 eight dog teams. Mary picked her team and I made one modification to help add a little more balance between the teams.

The race was scheduled to start at 6PM. This would allow for the temps to cool off.

Mary was still feeling sick from the day before. I left the decision to race upto her. When it came time to pack up and leave for the trails she said she wanted to give it a try.

This would be her first 20 mile race with a portion at night. She had done a 12mile race a couple of years ago, but the terrain was flat and all day light. The Chugiak trails have some hills to them and much better scenery.

My team consisted of Bear and Mae at lead, Amizette and Cyphers at swing, Alli and Tolby at team and Lasar and Hawkeye in wheel.

Mary's team consisted of Bogey and Luna at lead, Zia and Gabby at swing, Velma and Apollo at team and Thursby and Timber at wheel.

There were 6 mushers signed up for the 20. This consisted of 3 Siberian teams and 3 Alaskan teams. Two of the teams were juniors (under 18) running sprint teams and the third was a musher who has run some distance, but lately more of the sprint races. I drew bib #3 and Mary worked a deal to have bib #6. She likes to go last.

While getting the dogs ready before the drivers meeting I drank a great deal of water to help keep me hydrated. Little did I know this would come back to haunt me.

The way the 36 mile course was laid out, there would be potential for the 20 milers to do head-on passes with the 36 milers. It's a good thing we train for head-on passes at every opportunity.

The 36 milers left first and then the 20 milers. 2 miles into the race mybladder checked in. At about the 3 mile point, I caught and passed bib #2. About a mile or so later, bib #4 caught me and my team did a good job at staying with him, despite my best effort to slow them down. A couple of miles later bib #5 came up and I let him pass right after we got onto Clunie Lake. It was abeautiful sunset with the mountains and the moon coming up and I still have to pee. A little over half way Bib #2, who was pacing me after I passed him, decided he wanted to take a turn up front. I let him pass and rode my drag. It is easy to get lured into a false sense of speed when your team is chasing the team in front. When it's your turn up front your dogs settle into their pace. I figured I would ride the drag for awhile and let my team rest before passing. Just before getting off the lake, his team stopped. I thought he stopped to let me pass, but would find out later he stopped his team so one of his dogs could poop. Either way my leaders went by his team and we stayed in front for the restof the race. I never did see Mary enter the lake and this conerned me. Oh yeah, I still had to pee.

As we headed inbound, I saw a bald eagle fly across the trail and land in a swampy area. You could't see him unless you watched him land. When we went through the culverts I asked Greg Rhyne how Mary was doing and he said she is still racing and is fine. That's good news. I built up a little spacing between Bib #2 and myself, so I planted the hooks and went up to the front of the team and rubbed snow on them. As I finished with the wheel dogs and thinking about trying to pee, there was bib #2. I pulled the hooks and off we went. The little rest helped the dogs. After about a mile, we did our first head-on pass and it went smoothly.

We came out on the inlet and a great view of Denali (Mt. McKinley), Mt Foraker and Mt Hunter with a beautiful sunset to top it off. The moving water from the inlet didn't help my bladder situation. We did 2 more head-on passes before getting off the inlet. I wanted to build in a little more spacing so I can plan another quick rest with the dogs and try to relieve myself. About 15 miles into the race there is a spot with a hard left turn and a short climb. I had rested the team in past training runs and this would allow me to hear anyone making the turn and climbing the hill. I hadn't seen or heard bib #2 in awhile, so I amthinking this could work. I could cool down the dogs and releive my bladder. I get the hooks planted, rub snow on all the dogs and am almost at the point to take care of myself, when I heard a very loud Haw command followed by 2 more Haw commands. Oh well, zip up, jump on the runners and pull the hooks. If I could stay just enough in front of him where he can't see me, I could make this work.

After 2 miles, I am feeling good with the continued spacing that is being built in. As we descend a little hill and get ready to climb the next, standing broadside smack in the middle of the trail is one of those 4 letter words. That's right the moose magnet strikes again. This time it's a cow and of course she has a calf just off the trail about 10 feet. This being a race, I decided not to bring Uncle Ruger. With the trail support on snow machines and the rest of the mushers, am I really going to see a moose?

I get the team stopped and very quickly take inventory of what I have to fight off a moose stomping. Hmmm, one headlamp and a leatherman and quite possibly a pair of soiled pants if I pee myself. So I said to myself "self, what would MacGyver do in a situation like this". Well no duck tape or paper clip, so I start yelling and screaming and stomping toward the moose like a raging lunatic. I figured one of 2 things will happen. The moose will want nothing to do with this and exit stage right or charge me and stop me into the ground. Although the second option wasn't a good one, it would give me the opportunity to pee. The moose selected the first option and walked off the trail. Meanwhile bib #2 caught up to me. I told him about the 2 moose. When they were far enough offthe trail, I told him I would start up the hill and if it were safe, I would wave him up. This worked out as the moose kept walking away from the trail. After the team kicked into a higher gear we soon lost bib #2. We shot down onto Beach Lake and I kept peddling. As we exited Beach Lake, bib #2 entered. We went up Heartbreak hill and peddaled are asses off to the finish. I thanked my team, watered them, gave them a snack and made a dash for the outhouse. All is good in the world.

My time was 2 hours, 27 minutes and 36 seconds. Not bad for 3 weeks of training. I did some math in public when we got home and the time was good enough to meet SDO time criteria.

Mary came in about a half hour later. She told me she got sick and her lead dogs came back to the sled to clean her face. She also waited for 3 teams to do their head-on passes with her and then she took off. She said she saw 2 wolves in the treeline while she was on the inlet. Her time was 3 hours 10 minutes 30seconds. Not bad for her first 20 mile race with the last 5 miles done at night with only her headlamp while being sick. When I get her account of the race, I will post it.