A Mushing Valentine

As a special tribute to Valentine’s Day, this blog is dedicated to all the single peeps out there that are looking for their perfect, doggy, musher type.  Like many of us once did, that have already found our perfect doggy, musher types, you’ve probably filled your heads with gushy ideas of spending romantic hours on the runners with your honey and living a blissful life with dogs complete with moonbeams and sunshine.  I don’t want to be the one to burst your bubble, but then I sort of do; there is no such thing!  Sorry folks, but romance, moonbeams and sunshine rarely go together with dogs.   Yes, you get a bit of each at moments, but that dreamy blissfulness you have in your heads; it’s all a LIE!  Note; Call of the Wild didn’t have a spouse in it!

Let’s look at Valentine’s Day to demonstrate the fallacy behind your romantic visions.  Hallmark has blessed all the unromantic Neanderthals of the world a once a year “Get Out of Jail Free Card” with this over commercialized event.  It’s darn near fail safe.  You are reminded, starting January 1st, to not forget your honey complete with major guilt trips.  If you forget, you are not worthy of a relationship.   However, if you show up with the goods on February 14th; you are Mr. or Mrs. Dreamboat.   Any douche bag can manage this; right?!?   Well, that is correct except in the mushing world.  Us mushing douche bags seem to struggle with this holiday.

For starters, there are at least a handful of big races on Valentine’s Day across the country so chances are you and your doggy, musher type will be at one of these events.  Still, how hard could this be?   Well, if we examine some of the standard Valentine’s Day gestures of romance we start to see the difficulty.   When the commercial world starts sending out reminders on January 1st, you and your doggy significant other are ass deep in last minute training and prepping for the big race.  This is the only focus; there is no time or room for anything else.   Remember, most of us are also working a job to pay for the doggy illness so by January 1st we’ve used up a lot of our emotional and brain resources; we’re almost cooked.     Alright, so I’ve set the stage; subject doggy type is not thinking about February 14th and if a reminder slips in, it quickly gets put way down the priority list.

Now, life getting in the way can also happen in a non-mushing relationship, but then the significant other can usually save the day with the 11th hour purchase of flowers or candy.  In the mushing world this would be the same as a silk rose accompanied by a white, straw filled little bear with an “I Love You” heart and a “Made in Taiwan” tag hanging from his ass acquired at the local Speedway!   You should smile and appreciate this because where in the hell was the doggy type supposed to acquire a dozen roses in the middle of nowhere?    Even if they could be found, at perhaps the Walmart an hour away, they don’t do well in -10F below and are simply not practical.  Flower crumbles is the result.

Chocolate you say!  They could buy a box of chocolates; that’s romantic.   Yes, there is nothing more romantic than getting a heart shaped box of chocolates and then noticing that all the other spouses at the race have the same damn box, obviously purchased at the local Speedway!  It gets even more  romantic when you chip a tooth on one of those frozen bits at 3AM because you felt a hunger pang after laying in the straw with your dogs for several hours in -10F below.  Yes, I’m sure your love will appreciate the new haggard look!  After all, it was in the name of love that you lost that tooth.

Valentine’s Day becomes pure torture when all your non-mushing friends, if you have any after years of running dogs because those friends always seem to disappear, are posting daily about all their romantic weekend activities.  Here are a few; “My man treated me to a day spa; he’s the best!”, or “My gal is taking me to see the Red Wings; I found me a keeper!”, or “My honey surprised me with a romantic, candlelight dinner at Chez La Pukes; I love this man!”, or “My favorite dinner, football all day, my feet up and she’s treating me like a king; I love this gal!”  Flippen YUCK!   Yeah, I didn’t see a whole lot of those coming from my mushing community of friends.  As a matter of fact, I cannot think of one.   There must be a reason, right?!?!

There is!   Day Spas; yeah there are a ton of those in the middle of the woods.  Unfortunately, you are usually on the giving end and the receiver has four legs and is covered in fur.   There is plenty of massaging going around; just not on you!   There are also facials aplenty to go around; I particularly like my tongue washings when it’s below zero so the doggy spit freezes.  It becomes like a clay mask and requires tools to remove 36 hours later, but your skin is as soft as a baby’s ass; if it doesn’t get wind burnt to a crisp.

Sporting events; HELL, you are participating in one.  How much better could that get?  Front row seats and you know all the major players.  This is the stuff dreams are made of; right?!?!

thCA0XFX6UThe romantic dinner over candlelight is nothing compared to noshing on cold hot dogs in the light of a headlamp looking into each other’s eyes through the steam of your own breath.  It feels like a 50 Shades of Grey moment.  Suddenly, you have the mad desire to lean over and kiss your doggy type, but then you see the mass of frozen snot encasing their face and POOF; that feeling is gone, gone, gone!

I particularly like the “treating me like a King on Valentine’s Day.”   Every handler does this all season long; we don’t need Valentine’s Day for this special treatment.  We have dinner ready for our dogs and mushers.  We ensure they get plenty of rest.  The musher gets to do what they love all day and all night and sometimes for multiple days and nights in a row.  Plus, we willingly agree to the abuse and maltreatment that comes along with this thankless job.  We are the people behind the musher; the mere minions basking in the limelight of the movie stars.  Yep, we do this multiple times a year and it just keeps getting better!

How about jewelry; we all know someone that gets baubles on Valentine’s Day.   We get baubles too; lead dog baubles aptly named Ruby, Emerald and Gem!  Precious, valuable baubles to adorn our team!  These baubles get the white glove treatment because they are so valuable and Lord help you if something should happen to one of those jewels on your watch.

Last, but not least, we must discuss sexy lingerie.  Lace teddies, corsets, stockings and crotchless panties aren’t really practical in the mushing world.  If you’re brave enough to freeze your goods off, then go for it.  However, I’m pretty confident that will probably only happen once.  A teddy in polar fleece might be doable, but by the time you found it under 5 layers of long underwear; who cares!  Personally, I cannot imagine running with a corset on; its hard enough to breathe under all those layers wearing frankenstein boots let alone with your ribs all smashed together.  Stockings might be practical, but they could add a whole new meaning to the term, “quitters” when it comes to socks.  On the bright side, I do see a major benefit in the crotchless panties as these could be quite handy in a portajohn in -10 below.  I’m thinking low maintenance.

Now I’m sure there are some hopeless romantics out there full of youthful energy that refuse to buy into this dull rendering of mushing romance and I say, “Hats off to you!”    I’m sure you can make your relationship the most creative and romantic ever.   I would suggest that you start now carving all the frozen turds in the dog yard into little heart shapes for next Valentine’s Day!  As for us the rest of us; the hell with Valentine’s Day!turd


Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

We’ve been coming to Stage Stop for so long now that we actually felt like old timers this year.  So in the spirit of all the old timers, I thought I’d walk or gimp my way down memory lane.

Once upon a time, a long time ago in the year 2006, we came and ran our first IPSSSDR.  We were as green as they come; a bright, bright fluorescent green much like Ryan Redington’s attire.  Folks, that is green!  We had only been mushing for 2 years so we were still doing a lot of dumb newbie stuff.  We were fortunate that our mentors had guided us beyond some dangerously dumb stuff, but we still had a full arsenal of stupidity to unleash.  Our decision to come to IPSSSDR was, by far, the most overwhelming and life changing sled dog experience we had ever had or probably will ever have for that matter.

Our trip to the west started with a white knuckle trip on bad roads into the mountains making me question why we were doing this; not much has changed there.  It was the furthest we had ever traveled with the dogs and for two newbies 1800 miles into the mountains with 17 dogs was very stressful.  However, the drive was only the beginning of the stress as our first training runs were something that will permanently be imprinted in my brain.   I recall pulling into the trail head and seeing a bunch of other mushers there and I was immediately intimidated.   We were playing with the big dogs now.  For the first time in my life, I witnessed a musher free dropping dogs and my jaw was getting snow rash from dragging on the ground as I stared in awe.  There was Sam Perrino, a tall, athletic guy with long hair and native features, calmly amidst all his dogs preparing for the run.  He would call them one by one to the line and he effortlessly hooked them all up and then took off without a hitch.  I thought he must be some sort of Dog God.

Then if that wasn’t enough, in pulls Melanie Shirilla and Katie Davis with a trailer full of dogs.  I watched these two smaller women strong arm two dogs at a time, one in each hand, out of the trailer and then they each hooked up two 16 dog teams and took off without a hitch. These chicks were bad ass and by now, my chin was bleeding.

Thankfully, these teams pulled out before we dropped our snarling, loud and crazy bunch of misfits from the truck.  I was barely managing to unload one at a time let alone two at a time and we were only hooking up an 8 dog and a 9 dog team because that was all we brought.  The dogs were literally rocking the truck because they were banging so hard to go and it felt just on the edge of pure chaos.

We took off and I distinctly remember how slow they were crawling as the trail started as a gradual ascent.  I was immediately worried and wondered how they would ever do this for 7 days; not much has changed there either.   When we left the parking lot it was warm, but by the time we got to the top of the mountain I thought I had landed in the artic as it was bitter cold and blowing to the point of no visibility.  We could barely make out the trail markers and I was mildly freaking out.  Thankfully, we saw another musher that pointed us in the right direction.  The right direction was down the other side of the mountain.   This was when we newbies got our first major schooling.   We started the descent and it was a twisty trail with trees on both sides and banks that reached my neck.  I was on an old wooden Hall sled; which is NOT recommended for the type of maneuvering necessary on this type of trail.   I only had 8 dogs and was using everything I was worth to try and slow that team down and at the same time not get sucked into the corners.  The further we went the more speed we picked up until I was completely out of control.  It was a sharp 90 degree corner that got the best of me and I did a few barrel rolls before I lost the sled and the team.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had also wiped out on this corner and was waiting for me so he was able to catch the team.  In the process of this driving lesson, I had injured a dog and had to load him in the bag.   This did not sit well with him and as we continued to go down the mountain he wrestled enough to flip us and we were both dragging at a high rate of speed and I was unable to stop.  Thankfully, the husband saved the day again.   When we arrived back at the truck, we very quietly unhooked the dogs and pretended as if everything was ok.  Didn’t want to give the impression that we didn’t know what we were doing.  It’s all about appearances; right?  When we finally had a moment to ourselves, I looked at Bruce and said, “Holy shit, my legs are still shaking and look at my hands!”  I held out my hands; which, were quivering like a bowl of jello.  He laughed and said, “That’s nothing, I broke my ribs!”   Yep, the wipe out broke a few ribs and Bruce was about to start his first IPSSSDR with broken ribs the very next day. 

As if the training wasn’t intimidating enough, I’ll never forget pulling into the vet check and seeing all these mushers we had only ever read about; Doug Swingley, Charlie Boulding , Jacque Phillip, Sam Perrino, Grant Beck and Ken Anderson.  My poor chin.  I remember looking at Bruce and whispering, “What in the hell are we doing here?”  

The first stage back then after Jackson Hole was Lander and they had a campout.  After we somehow managed to get a 12 dog team to the line without assistance, a first for us, we then managed to lose the team in the chute.   Our first stage and I’m dragging from the gang line eating snow in front of everyone; perfect!   I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.  The second stage we lost a leader when her tug line broke; someone shoot me now.

Every stage was unbelievably stressful.  Back then they didn’t give you a booklet with maps and directions to the race sites or banquet; you were forced to figure this out on your own.   I recall getting up at 5AM in Kemmerer so we could sit at the gas station in the middle of town and then follow the first dog truck that came by.  By the time we got to Kemmerer we only had 8 dogs left we could run; something we’ve since learned you must avoid at all costs in Kemmerer.   It was a brutal, snowy day and when Doug Swingley passed Bruce he said, “I hope you packed a lunch!”   Then when Charlie came by he yelled, “The Iditarod is not this damn tough!”   Needless to say, they took the finish line down before my husband came in.  I was in a mere panic waiting for him wondering what in the hell I was supposed to do if everyone left and he never showed up. 

All the things Stage Stop can hit you with, plus some, we experienced that first year.  We accomplished our goal and we finished the race 15th out of 22 teams.   Bruce won the sportsman’s award for have a great, positive attitude throughout the race.   They must not have seen us screaming at each other in the dog truck when times got tough!

So to say, “We’ve Come A Long Way Baby!” is quite literally the truth.   We have come a long way and I can’t help, but laugh at our beginnings.   We have learned so much at Stage Stop and that still continues to this day.   There is nothing more gratifying than to be pushed and to witness your efforts come to fruition. 

On Sunday, we were in a serious race with JR Anderson for 3rd place and after we got the guys out on the trail Anna Anderson asked me, “Did you ever think six years ago we’d be racing each other for 3rd place?”   I laughed and replied, “Hell no!  That was just a dream back then!”   We are still feel very green in terms of obtaining that elusive 1st place, but I can honestly say that every year we get a little less green than the year before.

The race in Evanston was a nail biter.  We had 12 healthy dogs with the exception of some poor feet.  Now that the race is over, I can tell you what we were dealing with.  After Alpine, we had 8 out of 16 dogs with pads that peeled off.   By the last stage, out of the 8 with good feet 6 had splits.  So we had two dogs that left Evanston on solid, healthy feet.   So the booty issue was a no brainer.  You boot the bad ones or you risk them quitting on you.  So we did just that and we double booted feet on 5 dogs.  The trail was hard packed when they left, but the sun came out and was intense.  The heat was a major concern again and they sent a vet back out on the trail. 

Bruce said his start was a bit flat and the team took their time to get rolling.  To get the mileage in, the team had to climb a mountain, descend, turn around then climb back up, then descend and turn around and climb one last time.  There was lots of head on passing during these climbs and descents.   He could see the dogs were struggling with their feet on the first descent, but they only got stronger as the run went on.  Out on the trail, the mushers were sharing with each other where everyone was at so with 14 miles left Bruce learned he was about 6 minutes behind JR.  Upon hearing this, Bruce started descending faster than he typically does in a race attempting to make up time.  With 3 miles left to go he caught Bud Streeper and asked him, “Come on Buddy pull me in, don’t make me pass ya!”   At which point, Bud came off the pad and the teams averaged about 18 mph on those final miles.  This was enough to secure 3rd place.  Talking to JR later he was also descending faster than normal and in his efforts to catch Bruce managed to win the yellow bib for a 2nd time this season!

I have to say that we have always witnessed tremendous sportsmanship at this race.  The competitors here really love to compete and they do it without all the petty animosities that you often see elsewhere.  No one wants to win because the other guy had some fluky crap go wrong, they want their win to be the real deal.   As we were getting the dogs ready I ran out of foot ointment and had to ask the Anderson Team to lend me some; they did so without blinking.   I, in turn, loaned them our laser throughout the race.  We also helped Bud out with booties when they realized they weren’t going to have enough.  Everyone helps each other out to the line and back to the truck.  The camaraderie at this race is an awesome thing to be a part of.  It’s just one of the many reasons we keep coming back despite the rigors of the roller coaster ride. 

We had a blast racing our friend JR and the best part is at the end of the day we hugged and life was still good.  They have a great dog team with a great driver and crew; it’s a bonus they are also friends.  its-about-competition-and-having-fun-with-friends

We’d like to thank our crew at Magnusson Racing.  It takes a small village to prepare two teams for IPSSSDR and everyone’s hard work truly paid off this year.   We couldn’t have managed this without the hard work and efforts of Al Borak, Kat Manderfield, Gerhardt & Al-Jo Thiart.    I’d also like to mention that Al and Kat did a great job getting those young dogs through a very tough race.  On the last day, Al had 11 on the line and they were all barking and screaming to go.  We are very excited about the future of these young dogs.

 Most importantly, a big thank you to our dogs; they never cease to amaze us. i-love-dogs_design Here is a breakdown of how many stages these dogs did.   We come to tears when we think of our veteran, Sedona, who gave us 7 stages at 8 years of age and she led the majority of them.  The dogs that had 5 or less stages had more serious feet issues and were underutilized as a result.  Every dog on that team is healthy outside of their feet.



















































Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

Too Much Sex – Not Enough Focus

Yep, I thought that would get your attention!  Well, in just a couple of days we’ve managed to earn our redneck stripes and in the words of Honey Boo Boo “I can redneckognized a horny crew when I see one!”  I’m talking dogs; not people.  Good Lord, a horny musher could possibly be a handler’s worst nightmare.  One would have to learn to booty without bending over!   Okay, enough of that and back to the dogs who are having a love fest and the people; not so much.  That’s right the crew on one side of the truck is out of control and they aren’t shy about it either.  This truck is a traveling sex act right now with every point dog that we have being in heat.  The boys are practically strangling themselves trying to get to all the floozy girls on the truck and they’re howling like they are going insane.  Meanwhile, the floozy girls are all taking turns humping each other and those that aren’t are just plain crabby.  The minute those girls are aired, they are all waving their butts and flagging their tails like they’re in some sort of floozy parade; swish, swish and then they scream.  Swish, swish and scream! 

With all the humping going on it can get a bit tense trying to keep all those hormones in check.  Well, last night I made the mistake of moving one dog and turning my back for th1PT8EP9Fa split second.  Low and behold what do you know; we have a breeding!  Fanfreakingtastic!   There is no worse feeling then seeing that and realizing that you aren’t getting them apart.  I wanted to murder one or both of them.  Hmmmmm, that would have solved the pregnancy problem.  Ok, not being serious; don’t get your panties in a wad over that dramatic description of how I felt.  I would never murder my dogs for being horny and floozy; I would just imagine it.   Needless to say, when I realized that we had a tie the “F” bombs flew. 

So the kids did the wild thang for 30 minutes; that’s right 30 minutes!  Noooooo, it couldn’t be a quickie; it had to take forever.  This does wonders for one’s patience at 11PM at night.  The post coitus moment turned into a moment of great marital discord amongst the humans.  You see, there had been previous discussions about moving the girls way out harm’s way so that no one would make a mistake.  Husband disagreed and I, of course, made the mistake.   I’m sure everyone at the motel heard our not so calm discussion because I later discovered that our motel room window was open while we were having it.  Lots of laughs!!   At some point, I was flying home and never returning to Stage Stop; EVER!  NEVER AGAIN, NEVER! However, I quickly realized I had no way to get from Big Piney to Jackson Hole in the middle of the night?  I call that, “Handler between a rock and a hard place!”

Ok, so you’re wondering why so dramatic?  Big deal, everyone has an accidental breeding now and then.  Hard to travel with so many dogs and not have an accident.   Well, there’s more.   Recall the dog that the vets thought had pyrometria?   Well, turns out she is actually pregnant.   We had thought the pregnancy had been handled, but much to our surprise; it wasn’t.  So now we have at least 2 puppies on the way and they should arrive while we are traveling.  How special? (Note sarcasm)  Now do you redneckognize what I’m talking about?

So our focus is a little messed up right now.   Pinedale was a disaster for us despite the standings.  The temps were in the low 20’s and they had 10” of fresh new snow.   The trail had been groomed the night before.  We hooked up 12 healthy dogs and they were raring to go in the chute; this was going to be our day.  It was led by two of our best.  At about three miles (which appears to be our unlucky number) one of the leaders started crying and was not moving right.  Bruce checked his booties because he knew he had sore feet and found nothing.   He checked extension and found nothing.  He thought maybe he was cramping.  He got the dog going again, but he was off the entire run.  He left him in lead because he thought he was carrying a pace still better than any other leader he had in the team to replace him with.  The trail was loose and punchy in certain areas and the wind picked up the second half forcing the teams to drive into the headwinds. 

The team came in somewhat dejected with a couple sore dogs.  The leader appears to have overstretched and has a sore bicep.   Worse than normal, we are struggling with very sore feet right now; which is a result of not wearing booties in Alpine.   The course snow damaged pads; which are bit more difficult to repair quickly.  We are working on the feet multiple times a day trying to repair them as quickly as possible, but this is feeling like a losing game.  I’m lazering, I’m massaging, I’m putting magic potions on them, I’m gluing and I’m just flat out praying.   Many teams are in a similar boat as us, but that doesn’t make the situation any better.

The bottle was shaken up again today with John Stewart taking the yellow bib and we saw the overalls do some shifting.  We are starting to feel like we are on a gravel hill and slowly sliding backwards.  We can feel the pull like someone has us by the legs (probably JR) and we can’t shake them; yep definitely JR!! 

We came to Big Piney all re-energized.  Sometimes a little marital spat helps get rid of the bad juju and you can start fresh.   Now we are like newlyweds; ok, I’m exaggerating.  We were confident in the team we put together and had 2 fresh leaders.   We heard the trail was punchy in sections and the race told us they would be checking to ensure there were no gimpy dogs going to the line as they wouldn’t make it in the trail conditions and it was too hot to have to carry dogs.  Everyone was dreading what was to come.   It was 32 degrees when we arrived and it felt warm.   The team was in good spirits and we felt confident.  I don’t know why that’s even relevant because it rarely predicts the outcome.  Bruce had troubles immediately out of the chute with his point dog, but he managed to get her going.  After she worked through it; she stroked it, but managed to add to slowing them down for a brief period.  Then the team just went flat out in the loose trail.  They were running very uncharacteristic of themselves and not like we had trained.   This, of course, has us scratching our heads trying to figure out the problem.  We certainly never train in this type of heat and that could have been a factor, but to dispel that notion when the team hit the hard fast trail; they rocked. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of that type of trail to make an impact and we wound up in 9th place pushing us further down the gravel hill.  On the bright side, the marriage is solid and there are some happy dogs on the truck and WE’RE GOING TO HAVE PUPPIES!!   If I sound a little insane; perhaps I am.   You have to be to endure this rollercoaster.

Ryan Redington proved that surviving the rollercoaster can often pay off considerably when he took first place today.  So far in the race he’s seen last place and 1st place.   He’s gone from wanting to go home to sporting a yellow bib.  Way to go Ryan!  

Never before have we seen the yellow bib switch hands so often.  There have been a lot of teams on the roller coaster this year with huge ups and downs.   Two more days of racing left and we’re hoping that we are on the upswing.   Tomorrow is Kemmerer and they announced that they were shortening the course to 37 miles due to the heat they are expecting.  The majority of mushers were glad for the decision.  Stay tuned; the bottle is shaking! 

This may be the world’s longest blog because I keep running out of time to post it so you are getting three stages in one!  
We arrived in Kemmerer and it was 39 degrees at 6:45AM.  This was not good.   There was concern amongst everyone for the welfare of the dogs.  They had already shortened the course, but decided to allow teams to drop a dog at the 7 mile mark either coming or going along with a time penalty.  They sent a vet out with our snowmobile and a dog crate on the back.  We were thankful to have an earlier start.

We had 10 healthy dogs; the majority of which required booties due to feet issues.   In the chute the team was just amped.    The trail was relatively hard with some punchy sections.  It was by far the best trail Bruce had ever seen in Kemmerer.  The wind was a real issue with 60-70 mph cross winds at the top.  There were several times Bruce almost got blown off the trail.   Several times the team was blown on the wrong side of the markers; however, they handled it amazingly well and charged right into it.  About 7 miles in, Bruce had to pull a leader out and switch things up.   He had several great passes, but had a very difficult time finishing the passes with Jacob Golton and Al Borak who were running together.  Eventually, he broke free from them and cruised on in to capture the yellow bib!   WAHOOOO!!!

Tomorrow we have our work cut out for us.  We must have a clean, fast run and be sure not to bring any questionable dogs.   The normal trail has been changed due to logging and so they have improvised with a figure 8 trail requiring the teams to complete three steep climbs with three descents.  This will include lots of head on passing in these areas as well.   The temps are supposed to be in the mid-forties, but they are telling us it will be winter at the trail head.  We’re looking for all the positive mojo you can send our way for a successful run tomorrow!   Stay tuned

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

What If

So I bet you’re all singing Taylor’s Swift’s song, “Shake It Off” and changing the words to “Shake It Up!” just like me; aren’t ya?  I can’t help it.  This has been an exciting race and every stage is exciting to see who is going to wear that yellow bib.  I don’t recall having the yellow bib tossed around so much.  Just waiting for our turn to wear that sucker!   However, today we had one of those WHAT IF runs.   It seems that dog racing is nothing but what ifs.

What if I never had to bag that dog?

What if I had put the right wax on?

What if I hadn’t taken that wrong turn?

What if I had ran 12?

What if I had brought the other dog?

What if I used the other leaders?

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the ever famous, what if I had never gotten into dogs!  Been there!

What if, what if, what flippen IF ………………………

We woke to 23F and 5 inches of new snow.  Quite a surprise since the prior evening it had been 50 degrees and snowless in downtown Lander.  The drive up to South Pass was nice and snowy, but not too terrifying.  We were the first ones to pull in the parking lot.  It was snowing and blowing, as per usual, on top of South Pass.  What everyone didn’t know was what it was going to be like on the other side of the mountain.  Would it be better or would it be worse?

SO HERE IT COMES …..  THE BIG QUESTION …….  WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT BOOTIES????   Well, we decided to go with 11 dogs and booty only the bhelper-dog-hyperbole-and-a-half-i4ad feet with the thought that the snow would not be damaging to the feet.  Then we decided to use a peel and strip method and double booted some really poor feet.  This way Bruce didn’t have to lose any time re-booting if they fell off.   This plan worked brilliantly and all those dogs came in with boots intact and feet looking great. Unfortunately, we ran into a glitch in our plans that was completely unanticipated.

The team was very amped today and I took one or two for the team and paid the price physically.  First, the biggest dog in the team jumped to give me a bear hug and I got what felt like a ten pound paw in the face.  I felt like I had been punched by a human.   Then Bruce led today with Sedona and Penny and, boy, are those two a pair of nut jobs.  I almost got eaten alive taking them to the line they were so amped.  Penny reached out and bit my arm in her excitement and then while I was running them to the line she bit the back of my leg.  I turned around to reprimand her and got a full Penny in my face.  She’s lucky that we were on our way to the chute or we would have had to have a chat.

So the glitch started almost right out of the gate; when Bruce noticed his point dog wasn’t on her game.  Then a mile out that dog and anotVectorToons.comher dog literally threw themselves down and started biting at their feet.  Seriously, how does one anticipate that?  They both ran West Yellowstone without boots and feet were in great shape.  He got them going, but they did it again so he had to stop and boot them.  The snow must have been balling up in their feet despite the fact that they were greased.  He got them going and then the one that wasn’t running right from the beginning decided that she would rather be bred and started neck lining and turning to the male behind her.  She’s in full blown heat, but has been running point with all the boys behind her with no issue, but nooooooo not today.  Today, the floozy wanted sex.  Really? Does she have no clue that we are in the race of our lives?  So at 3 miles Bruce had to swap dogs around in the team and there went John Stewart right by him.

From there on out Bruce and John played leap frog and traveled together the entire race.  Bruce tried to open up his speed on the downhill in an attempt to pull away, but it was to no avail.  Bruce’s team was faster on the flats, but John’s climbed better and were slightly stronger in the deeper snow.  The trail got hard and fast on the other side of the mountain and the team rocked it.  Sedona, our oldest dog in the team and multi-year Stage veteran led with Penny like their house was on fire.  When Bruce came in several mushers came up and asked us if we won because they thought the team looked outstanding out there.  It was a sad shame that we lost so much time in the first three miles of the race because we were told that John and Bruce had the fastest runs from the 9 mile mark.  We couldn’t help but wonder, What if………   I guess we’ll have to “Shake it off, shake it off!!”

In other news, Monica Zappa had a scary day today and lost her team while trying to switch dogs around.  Thankfully, Jeff Conn was a wonderful sport and gave her a lift.  They found the team a couple miles down the trail all tangled around the sled with a loose dog.  I don’t have the details, but it looked like she had one dog with a bite in his/her shoulder.  We are glad she and the team are safe.  I nominate Jeff Conn for the Sportsman’s award today.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing and so I offered him some beef jerky instead.  It is moments like those that make you love this sport; knowing that mushers look out for each other is part of what makes this sport great.

Ryan and Dave turned things around and had some solid runs moving them up in the overall standings.   Jerry Bath said his team is just flat right now.  He’s scratching his head because he never even trained as slow as they are moving.  He’s digging into his arsenal of tricks to see if he can pull them out of this lull. 

So tomorrow’s stage is in Pinedale.  It will be 43-46 miles and we were told there are 10” of fresh snow as of today.  The groomers are out tonight so we hope it cools off and we have a hard fast trail.

Let’s shake it up!

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

It’s All About Monica

th14JAQ270The theme song at Stage Stop this year is “Monica, Monica bobonica, bonica fonica fo fonica fe fi fonica Monica!!!!”   Yep, it’s the year of the Monicas.  It’s all about MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!   Never before in my life have I been any place where there were so many Monicas in one spot.  There were (4) – (yes I counted them) Monica’s in West Yellowstone yesterday plus there was a Veronica!  In my world, that’s pretty darn cool.   Growing up I was the only Monica in school until I reached high school and then I shared the name with one other gal.  I rarely run into Monicas; we’re special!  

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the uniqueness of my name.  I was jealous of all the girls named Kathy, Anne, Renee and Lisa and couldn’t figure out why my mom picked something so weird.   It didn’t help that the name was fodder for all the brats that wanted to tease, “Hey HarMonica!”  Then there was the fact that little kids could never pronounce my name.  They have to reach at least 6-7 years old to be able to pronounce it correctly.  It always comes out as “HAmonica” or “monka”    It wasn’t until high school when I really appreciated that my mom didn’t give me a name that a ton of other chicks shared.  Unfortunately, there were downfalls to having a unique name in highschool.  When someone mentioned Monica, everyone knew who they were talking about; it was hard to be anonymous.  A Kathy could get away with just about anything because there might be 50 Kathys that could be the culprit.   Not me; it was me or one other gal.

This week I learned for the first time what it must be like to be a Kathy, Anne or Lisa and my heart goes out to these gals.  They might have gotten away with everything in school, but they certainly paid the price for it.  I have discovered that it is a little wearing to constantly hear your name being called and it’s never for you.  To tell the truth it’s making me a little bat shit crazy.  I’m spinning around like a top answering every time I hear, “Monica!” only to discover no one is calling me or sometimes I cannot see who yelled it.  I must look like a fool, constantly yelling, “What? …… I’m over here! …… Yeah ….. Just a minute” and there is no one talking to me. 

Worse than this is hearing your name in a conversation.   This has occurred so often that I’m starting to be paranoid, “Are they talking about me?   What the hell did I do now?  Holy crap, am I supposed to be hearing this conversation?”   As if I don’t have enough to worry about; now, I have to deal with paranoia and the spinning problem mentioned above.  All the spinning is making me dizzy and I’m already a blonde so go figure!

Then this many Monicas is actually causing marital discord.   My husband will be in a conversation with someone else and say something like, “I was talking to Monica about the Iditarod.”   I, of course, interrupt and chime in, “No, you weren’t!”   To which he replies, “Yes, I was.”   I argue, “No, it was never discussed.”   His nostrils start to flare, “How the hell would you know?”  My nostrils flare, “I would KNOW if I was having a conversation.”   It’s at about this point the aggravation sets in and it’s realized the conversation was with another Monica.   Then we’ve had a few conversations that go something like this, “I was talking to Monica.”  “You didn’t talk to me.”  “I know, the other Monica.”  “Which Monica?”  “That Monica!” and he points in some direction and I see THREE flippen Monica’s!  Yes, this has become a bit wearing on the patience.

I’m thinking we might have to start calling ourselves Monica1, 2, 3 and 4.   There must be a unique identifier for each of us.   If not, I might rebel and have to start using this to my advantage and stirring up some trouble, “Yep, I heard Monica did it!”  Would be kind of funny; don’t ya think?  

However, I suppose I’ll be good since its only 5 more days and after that we can all return to our uniqueness where we are the sole Monica’s in our universe!  In the meantime, Cheers to all the Monicas and Veronicas!!  YOU HAVE THE COOLEST NAMES I KNOW!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

You Get All the Wierd Ones

Dr. Lannie, Dr. Lannie – calling Dr. Lannie!  You are needed at the Magnusson truck statthey’ve got another weird one!

I was always taught you should take pride in your small achievements, as well as, your big ones.  So we are very proud that, “We get all the Weird Ones” as Dr. Lannie told us this week!  Leave it to us to provide the vets with something odd and interesting to keep the long waits stimulating!  Today was one of those days and we hit the vets with a full arsenal of “Weird Ones”!!

We’ll get to all that after we fill in the basics.  First, we woke to 4-6” of fresh snow in West Yellowstone and the temperature was around 22F, but it felt balmy.  The trail this year started at the Airport as opposed to downtown West Yellowstone.  I’m not sure, but I would guess it had to do with the lack of snow and inability for teams to stop on the main strip. 

So I know that you’re all dying to know what the booty decision was today so let’s get that out of the way before we get to the “weird ones”; especially because the booty topic is so near and dear to my heart.  Given that there was fresh snow, we felt that it wouldn’t be damaging on the feet compared to what conditions we had been running on and are likely to see in future stages.  Therefore, we decided to booty only the bad feet and grease the rest.  For those of you not in the know; greasing is using something like zinc oxide or Corona in between the pads to prevent the snow from splitting the skin in the dog’s feet.  It was evident at the start today that everyone else had the same idea as many teams left without booties; some for the very first time in the race.

So let’s talk weird!  Well, our original plan was to run with 12 dogs today, but you know how plans go when it comes to racing; they usually ge20150202_082514t messed up.   When we aired the dogs this morning we took one of our big powerhouse males, Sigfried, out of the box and his head looked like the elephant man.  The day before the race started, Sigfried came out of the box with an abscess on the side of his head the size of a golf ball.    This atrocious growth had no ill effect on his attitude as he was quite confident that he should be the stud of choice to the two girls next to him in full blown heat and he was as happy as a clam.   It’s my feeling that the two girls were a little turned off by his head mumps; however, he remained determined and was not phased by any bump on his head.  I like that type of confidence! 

At any rate, the vets had been watching him closely and we had been working on trying to get it to drain by applying hot compresses every night.   Well, instead of draining it took a different direction and blew up his face.    So the decision was made this morning that we had to have Dr. Lannie perform field surgery to lance the abscess.   This meant that Bruce was down to 11 dogs instead of 12 for the day.  The surgery was not a pretty sight first thing in the AM. Frankly, I was a tad nervous as they told me they normally put dogs out to do this procedure.  Instead we just bear hugged Sig and Dr. Lannie masterfully lanced open his abscess.  Thankfully Sigfried was a good patient because he is the size of a small pony and it might have been ugly if he was reluctant.  It was obvious the relief he felt when the abscess spewed its contents.  Good thing there weren’t many spectators there as it looked like we gutted a small animal when it was all said and done.  Thanks to Dr. Lannie, Sig is very quickly returning to his handsome self.  Unfortunately for Sig, the little ladies that have been carrying his weight for the past few days were too tired to pay him any mind so his quest continues – I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s never going to happen!

So if a dog that looks like elephant man wasn’t enough, then we had a little girl on Al’s team that has been off her game and not herself and the vets became concerned that she might possibly have pyrometria; which is a potentially fatal infection of the uterus.  So now we are monitoring her closely and trying to get to a vet clinic that has an x-ray machine something that was not available in West Yellowstone.  On the bright side her temp was not high and she willingly ate food; which isn’t in line with an infection.  So we will make some decisions tomorrow when we are in Lander and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it’s nothing serious.

It was a stressful morning with all these issues, but I must say that it is an awesome comfort having such a wonderfully caring and highly skilled vet team to work with during this race.  It is very stressful to be on the road with a sick or injured dog; however, I always know that this vet crew will do everything they can to help these dogs and to help get them back in the race.  I know I speak for a lot of mushers when I say, we are so thankful to have them on this 8 day adventure with us.  I lift my glass to the vet team!!

Back to racing.  It was a mixed bag of team sizes today.   We could see that the Streeper’s meant business today when all three teams showed up to the line with 12 dogs and no boots.   Bruce’s team was in great spirits and they took off without a hitch.  By the split times that had come in at the 13.5 mile mark it was obvious that Bud had turned on the turbo chargers.  If my memory serves me correctly, he was about 5-7 minutes faster than the top five teams to this mileage.  At the 33 mile mark Bud was still holding his lead and Bruce, Eli and John Stewart’s traveling speeds were all within seconds of each other.

Bruce started out conservative trying to warm the dogs up good.   He said there was a ton of snowmobile traffic and 4-6” of loose snow on the trail.  Several teams played leap frog with snowmobilers blocking the trail today much to their annoyance.  Hellooooooo, we’re trying to race…..please move your ars!!  At about 13 miles in, the trail started to seriously climb and they encountered about 8” of new snow.  Bruce had to stop to boot a couple times as the snow was tearing off our booties and those particular feet needed protecting.  The team was traveling fine and they started catching teams in the big switchback climbs.  Bud caught Bruce about 15 miles in.   Bruce had to stop and booty again and lost the chase. It was unfortunate that he had to stop so many times for booties ……..DID I MENTION THAT I HATE BOOTIES!!!  He could see in the distance that Bud caught Eli and they started traveling together.   When Bruce got to the top of the mountain the trail was very hard to find.  It was drizzling rain and sleeting with a low cloud cover and fog.  The team managed to work their way through this without issue and took off again when the trail got harder.  They got back to the main trail and started the descent.  The team was rolling nice and they passed Stacy Teasley and Monica Zappa.  At the final 7 miles there is a huge climb that takes the zing out of many teams.   Bruce’s team went a little flat; which forced him to work his butt off.  After the climb, he caught Jake Golton and Eli Golton.   At the finish, the team came in looking really good and checked out healthy.   We have some dinged up feet from the previous stages that we are still working on, but overall we have a healthy and happy team.  Knock on wood!

Bud finished first, John Stewart 2nd and Bruce 3rd.  Today was definitely another shake up and we saw many teams move around in the overall standings. 

After the race, we drove back to Alpine; which is a two hour drive.  We will make the remaining 4 hour drive to Lander tomorrow on our day off.  It is raining in Alpine, AGAIN! Frankly, it is a miserable mess and very unpleasant to work on dogs.   We will stretch some dogs out at the trail head in the morning and hopefully find some dry area to work on feet.  Tomorrow we drive all day to Lander and then we will have a parade in downtown.  We will resume racing on Wednesday, stay tuned!  The word is we can expect 30-40 mph winds on race day!img030


Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

Shake It Up

cabincartoon_99X109Stage 3 was in Driggs, Idaho and it is the first time Driggs has been a stage in the IPSSSDR.  It is a cute, little ski resort type town.  The town welcomed us with open arms and provided some great food in a fantastic facility.  The mayor was there to greet us and it was very exciting to feel the town’s enthusiasm for our sport.   We booked a little cabin that became comically cozy, well at least in my opinion.  It’s always tough traveling with others, but even tougher when you’re all forced into a tiny cabin when you’re tired and under racing circumstances.  I thought it was quite humorous that we had to climb on Al’s bed and step over Kat’s head to get to the bathroom and that if we needed our luggage, the cot had to be lifted up.  After a few of these moments, you had to giggle or you might cry. 

We survived the night and can say we know each other just a wee bit better than previously J It was 15F degrees this morning when we arrived at the staging area; which felt exceptionally cold since we had all been thinning our blood in the warm temperatures out here this year.  We are quickly becoming soft.  The staging area was basically a road that dead ended and at the end of the road was a huge hill.  We all lined up along each side of the road trying to stay on the thin patch of snow/ice that ran the length of the road, but only on one side.  The snowmobile would definitely be needed again to get to the starting chute.  We were pleased that we got there early to get a spot right in front of the starting chute; however, this wasn’t such a premium spot when it came time to leave.

So like Alpine, the snow here was crystallized ice.  I walked up part of the trail and talked to the trail boss and he said the trail would be the same the entire way except that above 6500 feet it looked like winter, but there was no new snow.  So we decided that our plan today would be to boot the dogs no matter what; for whatever that was worth. We figured, there were a lot of stages ahead and to further hurt feet could jeopardize the race.  Given the potential hazards and all the climbs and descents we knew that this stage would be determined by how conservative or otherwise one wanted to be on the descents.  After talking with others we learned that JR and Jerry Bath were going without boots.  All the Streeper teams were going to boot and so was Dave Turner.  Laboda & Redington had a mix of booted and non-booted.  Al Borak and Monica Zappa booted only the rears.  The rest I never saw.   I must say it was very nice having the booty decision done immediately after we arrived as opposed to dragging it on for hours on end.

Bruce left the chute with Bud Streeper on his tail.  Bud caught and passed Bruce at about 20 miles when his team went flat in some softer snow.  The team was flat for about 3-4 miles, but was able to keep the chase.  Bud stopped his team and Bruce passed again.  At this point the trail got firm again and they kicked in another gear.  Bruce finished about 1 minute in front of Bud.   Bruce said the trail was beautiful, but had some dicey areas on it.  There was a section about a mile long where the trail ran around the mountain and there was cliff with a sheer drop off on your right.  Bruce ran his hard right leader; which was good for the head on passing, but a bit unnerving running tight along the cliff.   The trail had about 5 miles of switch backs with a few aggressive corners.  One in particular, Bruce found himself in the trees.   They did some head on passing in the switchbacks, but it was in a section where you could see the other teams coming.  He made it through without issue and was pleased with how the dogs ran.  Everyone was happy and healthy; which is a great feeling.thCC15PKE2

Al’s team came in first today and the young dogs looked great.  He had a nice run, but felt that all of our snow training was actually a disadvantage on the hard fast trail today.  The teams haven’t seen hard trails like this all year. 

We often refer to the Stage Stop as a roller coaster that you must ride and survive the dips and rises.  However, this year it has been more like putting 15 mushers into a bottle shaking it up and dumping it out onto the table to determine the finishing times.  So far each day we’ve got dumped in the bottle, tossed around a bit and then thrown out to surprisingly different results.  I keep hearing Taylor Swift singing, “Shake It Off”, but the words are changed to “Shake It Up”!  I’m not sure if this is better or worse than the roller coaster yet.  I’ll let you know in about 5 more days.  In the meantime, let’s shake it up!

Today, JR Anderson and Jerry Bath shook things up by taking 1st and 2nd place respectively.  Congrats to both of them on their awesome runs. Whoop Whoop!!  Then, if that wasn’t enough to stir things up, the Streeper’s 3rd team driven by John Stewart took 3rd place!  Great run John; you must be a dog whisperer!  Bud and Bruce finished in 4th and 5th place today.  They had a nice chat while out on the trail; turns out they are planning on organizing a race in Nebraska mainly because it is FLAT!  I’m still trying to figure out how Bruce had the breath to even have a conversation.  After speaking with most of the mushers, they all had uneventful decent runs.  Ryan Redington had a bad run having to bag his favorite dog and Dennis Laboda bagged the largest dog in his team.  Jake also had a bad run, but not sure what went wrong.  Hang in there guys, you’re getting tossed in the bottle tomorrow and who knows where you’ll get thrown out!

After the race we weren’t allowed to leave until all the 8-dog teams came in, but basically we couldn’t get out anyway.  I quickly regretted having arrived early as it meant we would be the last to leave.  Leaving involved having to back our gigantic rig down the road to a turn around.  I was thankful that it was an out and back so that I wasn’t expected to demonstrate my backing up skills.  They are entertaining at best.  The wait seemed like forever and the crew got to see what happens when Monica isn’t fed.  I am incapable of patience when I am existing on a ½ of stale croissant that I found in the truck.  It was about 2PM when things started moving and by then I was seriously irritable.  We were all standing around talking about how hungry we were when John Stewart spotted a bag of meat Jerry Bath left on his truck and he ran toward it yelling, “Food, Food, Food!”  It was quite hilarious and I was thankful for the levity.  It didn’t last long though, but I still managed to hold off and resist directing traffic.

It’s snowing in West Yellowstone right now and actually looks and feels like winter; what a concept.  So now we have fresh snow on the trail.  I think we should start talking about bootying tonight! 

Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

Decisions Decisions

Alright, I hate to beat a dead horse, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about running Stage Stop after ten years it is that I HATE the constant decision making process about whether to wear booties.  I actually prefer the process of bootying over the process of deciding to booty.  Hell, I’ll stand over a 100 dogs and booty before spending an hour vacillating on whether or not to put the damn things on.   It is the most irritating and frustrating process and gets to the point of hilarity when everyone is running around trying to decide what to do.  You ask someone and then you wonder if they are telling you a load of crap and then someone asks you and you wonder if they think you’re telling them a load of crap. 

After training in Alpine before the race, we were FIRM on our decision that we were going to wear booties.  There was NO doubt in our minds and we vocalized it.  That’s right, NONE!  Then we came to the race.  Then we looked at the trail.  Then we listened to others and THEN we were so flippen confused and distressed we had no clue what to do.  So THEN we took a survey.  If you’re going to make a mistake, I guess make the same one the majority is going to make. 

The day we trained we were looking at a trail that had seen two days of rain and lots of snowmobile traffic.  The snow was basically chewed up ice chunks and it looked like it would be killer on feet.   Then we ran 2 ½ mile on Friday in downtown Jackson Hole on similar snow and shredded the booties.  When we arrived at the race site the trail had been groomed the night before and was solid, firm and fast.  The concern was brought up that booties on that surface would cause more potential injuries.  Plus once it broke down it would shred the booties and you could have more issues. The consensus was to grease and only wear boots on dogs with hurt feet.   So like sheep, we did just that and crossed our fingers.  Needless to say, everyone probably thinks we were telling them a load of crap because one minute we were wearing booties and the next minute we weren’t.  Nope, we’re not full of crap, just easily confused.

The race started out with some serious excitement.  The parking lot had very minimal snow and lots of dirt.  Getting the teams to the line was an issue and we were thankful to have our snowmobile with us.  Others weren’t so lucky and a little trouble.  As we were hooking up, all of a sudden, we see Stacy Teasley come flying by at a high rate of speed dragging on the ground behind her team and quickly heading towards a couple of parked vehicles.  It was frightening to watch and I’m sure I sounded like one of those bystanders at the scene of an accident, “Oh my gawd, Ohhhhh Ohhhhh Stop her, Holy crap!”  They managed to stop her and she avoided injury, but I’m sure it shook her up.   A little later word got back that the first corner was a doozy and teams were wiping out.  Just a little excitement to add to pre-race tension.

Bruce got to the chute and around the first corner with no issues.  He said the trail was fast and he basically had to control his speed for 50 miles.  At one point he let off before the half way point and the team was climbing at 16.5 mph and he had to shut them down.  At about 20 miles he noticed his point dog had a little blood on the trail so he stopped to boot her.  Bud Streeper, who had left right behind him caught and passed him.  They traveled nose to butt for about 1 ½ hours.  Bud then stopped for something and Bruce passed him back.  They traveled where they could see each other, but there was some distance.  Bruce then had to stop and boot another dog and Bud caught up to him.   However, Bruce was able to slowly pull away and make up about a minute in the last 9 miles.  At about 6 miles from the finish Bruce passed Jerry Bath who was having a great run.  Bruce’s team finished with steam in the tank and in good spirits.  We didn’t have any injuries, but there were a few sore feet, but nothing  major.  The team finished in 2nd place, which was a great feeling!

Al spent the day all alone.  He never passed anyone and he never got passed.  He had to stop and booty a few dogs and took some time to put a yearling in lead and give him a shot.  The young dogs handled the run beautifully.  They were a little mentally tired when they came in, but in good spirits when we dropped to feed.  He had one dog that he carried for a little while, but was able to put him back into team.  Al finished in 13th place.   The goal is to get those yearlings through this race happy and healthy and Al’s just the guy to do it!

Tomorrow we race in Driggs.  It will be a 30 mile out and back and both the main stagers and 8-dog class will run the same trail.  Apparently, the trail climbs for the first 10 miles and then it loops back and comes down the same 10.  We’ve been told they will be on a plowed driveway at some point and on active logging trails.  However, the fun part will be that they can expect to do a ton of head on passing and they will be doing some in the switchbacks.   Should prove to be an interesting day!

Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

Things Are Getting Wierd Around Here

th98YA5P54 Well, we are nearing the 11th hour before GO time at the big race and at this stage of the game we are breathing a huge sigh of relief.  Why?  Mainly, because we’ve made it this far without any major issues. Knock on wood!  Anyone that has done this gig will understand; as the process can make a person very superstitious.   Like right now, I’m freaking out that I might be jinxing myself by even talking about it.  No bad juju….NONE! 

The things that can happen when you’re on the road with 36 dogs for 4 weeks is mind boggling and it always seems that weird things happen just hours before the race starts.  How is it that you can have a great dog that makes it through endless miles of training back home and then you get out here and the dog is injured in the first 12 mile run?  Yeah, we don’t know either.  Your dogs are all getting along great and then BAM a major fight ensues.  Dogs all go in the truck healthy after your last run and then BAM; mysterious injuries show up as the dogs come out of the box.   Mushers and handlers are perfectly healthy and then BAM; someone gets the flu. BAM; musher slams head in a bear proof dumpster and sees stars for a week.  Yes, this happened to Ryan and, thankfully, he’s all good now! BAM; dog gets toe stuck in door,  BAM; dog cuts itself on who knows what, BAM; dog is struggling with altitude sickness, BAM; dogs catch a bug, BAM; dogs have mysterious lumps, BAM; dog swallows a booty or chews a harness or something, BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM!   This is stress folks and it starts to make you weird.

Weird as in, I wouldn’t think twice about wearing a rabbit foot necklace!  I have banned certain jackets and I’m fully in support of wearing the same underwear every day; IF, and only IF, it is your lucky underwear!!  I find myself talking out loud; not sure to who.  Frankly, anyone that will listen and spread good juju will work.  For crap’s sak20150126_160728 (2)e, the Streeper team posted a picture of themselves cleaning the truck with the caption, “A clean run, starts with a clean truck!”   So guess what we did?   We cleaned the damn truck!  Unfortunately, we noticed today that due to the rain and mud it is a total mess again.  So now I’m freaking out that we better clean the truck again.  Thanks guys for putting that craziness in my brain.  Now, I get to spend my hours of handling time performing, “Wash ON, Wash Off!” 

After you live with your crew for a couple weeks in close quarters; everyone startSkull-Knife-ZHK-1001-s getting a little weird.  The other day Kat was admiring a knife in the display case that had a handle with a wing and skull and cross bones.  Then she looked at me with a strange look in her eyes.   Holy hell, thank goodness we have separate rooms right now and I can lock the door!

Husbands get weird; not wives just the husbands….. trust me on underwearthis!  Mine has a fluorescent yellow or lime green stocking cap and a fluorescent orangepajamas ball cap that he insists on wearing with his ugly grey/green parka.  He loves this disaster ensemble.  I think that he believes it might be akin to lucky underwear or something, but for me this mismatchy ensemble is more like unlucky underwear and; therefore, I must hide it.  However, if I hide it and it really is lucky ….. then what?!?!?  I told you he was weird!

Teams that have beaten us in the past wear spandex leggings; now the guys are looking at one piece suits apajamasnd you can see the question marks floating above their heads.  It’s scary; real scary!  This morning, Al was admiring a one piece fleece pajama looking thing that he thought would look great with the logo on the back!  Holy hell; now we’ve got handlers carrying skull knives and wearing pajamas to the races!  However, this fits perfectly with the glow in the dark husband that thinks he’s still in the eighties!  It’s hard being the only non-weird one in this group.  Not a single one of them understands why they can’t step on cracks in the ice, why they mustn’t look at black cats, why they have to circle the truck 2x before getting inside, why you shouldn’t walk under a ladder or lay your hat on a bed and they really don’t get why if you dream of lizards you have a secret enemy.  Man, why do I have to be the only normal one around here?!?!?

Yep, we are all wierded out at the Magnusson Racing truck and seriously ready to get this thing rolling; so we can get back to normal … HA!!  As you know, there is more weird to come in the next 8 days so stay tuned.thF8K6H0VM




Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment

I Think It’s Broke

They say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  Well, who ever said that was, most certainly, never a musher.  That’s because, more often than not, crap is always broken in our world. Our motto is more like, “If it ain’t broke, you’ll be screwed soon so get ready!”

There have been times when I wondered why we didn’t choose a sport that required less tools; like ice skating.  Oh gawd, imagine the stress of a broken skate lace.  Do you remember when Tanya Harding broke her lace at the Olympics and was crying with her leg up on the side of the rink?  Puleeze, that was some drama.  I’m tainted and cold; I just can’t empathize.   When a musher breaks his/her sled, if he/she survives in one piece, they better get creative real fast or they are usually stranded in the middle of nowhere with some very tonyarambunctious teammates threatening to break some more shit even if it means bones.  Yep, that’s something to cry about.  Can you imagine a musher dragging into the checkpoint then throwing their sled up on the table all whilst crying hysterically and demanding someone to fix the problem?  This horrific scene, which would certainly be the end of the sport, would be followed by having to watch the musher’s coaches scurry around trying to fix the sled to get them back on the trail.  Nope, I can’t imagine this either.   I prefer our  reality of seeing sleds arrive in checkpoints with a wide assortment of broken parts repaired MacGyver style with duct tape, string or wire and an assortment of miscellaneous items that proved to be useful in the repair.  We are the true MacGyver’s; the real deal.  The TV MacGyver is practically a hack compared to many mushers I know.  We are forced out of necessity and limited funds to tap into our ingenuity to make things work.  This is not on an occasional basis, this is on a daily basis.  I would have loved to see Tanya duct tape her skate together; now that would have made for some good TV.

Have you ever heard of a figure skater being behind in training because of a broken skate lace or a golfer that fell behind because his golf cart broke?  Nope, never heard it.   Have you ever heard of the ice rink not freezing?  Me either, but holy hell if that Zamboni breaks!  I have heard that there was no snow on the ski hill before, but then they just made some …. boo hoo!  I’d like to see them work that snow machine on our 50 mile trail.   Wouldn’t that be sweet!   Certainly, I’ve heard of the ski hill being icy, but that just makes them better skiers; ask any Michigander!   I’ve never heard of the slope being ruined because the cat hunters drove their trucks up and down it and if they did; they’d just pull out the snow machine maker and big groomer.  I’d love to see them ski on some of the conditions we are forced to take a dog sled on.  Nothing more exhilarating than running a trail rutted 12 inches deep with frozen ice, mud and minimal snow being pulled behind a team of maniac dogs that don’t really comprehend “Whoa” even though you’re screaming it!   Speaking for myself, I am not capable of making a video like Jeff King produced of last year’s Iditarod.  Mine would have been more like, “Oh shit, Holy Shit!  F’n Whoa! Oh my gawd, f’n stop …. STOP….. I said, fricken STOOOOOOPPP! 

You little mother f’rs I SAID F’N WHOA!!”   You would then probably see me dragging face first, muffled (thankfully) and then the camera would bust and go black.  Yep, that video would have been really edgy; you would have felt like you were there dying with me!  Nope, not ashamed to admit it either!  Just being real.

In mushing, even our clothing breaks!  I’ve never seen a golfer’s game affected because he had a broken zipper on his fly (would be entertaining, but not game threatening), but I have seen where a broken zipper on a parka in below zero weather can be real problem.  I own a jacket that cannot be unzipped.  You pull it over your head; problem solved.   Have you ever seen a gymnast show up with duct tape on her body suit because she had a tear?  Nope, never seen it.  However, many of us mushers are walking patchwork quilts of duct tape and glue; it adds character, especially when it’s your boots! 

Character, now that is something that evolves when your vehicle breaks.  When the hockey team’s bus breaks, they either get on another one or they get off and wait while it is being repaired.  Not such an easy task when you have 36+ dogs traveling with you.  You just can’t tell them, “Guys, we have to send the truck to the shop so grab your gear, disembark and entertain yourselves for a couple hours.”  No, that typically doesn’t work.  To make matters worse the dog truck almost always breaks just as you are leaving for the race or, better yet, during the race.  This is when you learn true patience and the art of staying calm.   No bigger punch in the gut than that sound of the engine trying to turn over when it’s -26F and all you get is WHIIIRRRRR, WHIIIR WHIR COUGH SPUTTER …… SILENCE.   Nope, that sucks.  We’ve seen teams have to disembark their truck and get on someone else’s to make it to another stage/checkpoint etc.  Talk about a chaotic nightmare.  Rarely, do the hockey team mates come off the bus bloodied because they had to sit next to a different partner in a strange bus.  No, this rarely happens, but it does in mushing!

I’m hard pressed to think of a team sport where the competition doesn’t continue even though a team mate is broken.  Football players are broken all the time; they just pull in an alternate and the game goes on.  However, when a musher is broken or the only gee/haw leader in the kennel is broken or the main handler; it’s likely you’ll not be going anywhere.   On the bright side, our sport hasn’t resorted to bashing in our competitors knees with crowbars; which we’ve seen in the violent sport of figure skating.  Mostly likely because the sport is silently violent by its pure nature.

What does silently violent mean?  Well, the most common and least discussed type of “broken” in mushing is when you have a broken musher or a broken handler.  This occurs from a long laundry list of activities required in the sport and the last being actual racing.  The sport is designed to tear the body up.  Unfortunately, the sport doesn’t allow the luxury of sitting on the bench and taking time off to heal so rarely do we stop working unless we are somehow monitored and forced to do so.  Nope, we are a collection of hunchbacked, bruised, fingerless and gimpy athletes that just keep on ticking.  You see, the hockey team still gets fed when the captain of the team is benched, but not in mushing.  Try feeding 20+ dogs when you’re bed ridden from the flu or when you have a bulging disk; now we’re talking fun!  I can’t think of a sport where your teammates drag you behind a rope on a road either or where crashing into trees is a regular affair.  We are a chiropractor’s dream.   My chiropractor thinks I’m just the bomb.  He told me I was the subject of their family holiday discussion!  “Holy crap, your shoulders are so tight; have you been wrestling elephants?”

Now you can imagine how mentally tough it can be when everything that you require to be successful at your sport is broken.  This is what leads to broken attitudes.  We start out optimistic and we ride the slippery slope to desperation and despair and sometimes land in bitterness. If someone doesn’t throw you a lifeline before you hit bottom, you’ll likely get out of dogs.  Hence, the high turnover in our sport.  It’s a tough gig mentally and sometimes you just want to punch Polly Perky in the ole chopper!  Most of us have that energizer bunny problem though and we just keep ticking with jaws dragging on the ground until we get that next brief uplifting moment that carries us through to the next mental beating.  It’s the little things that get you through; trust me.quit

We’re getting through this year with the thought that we have all the broken stuff behind us.  The tally of broken crap at our kennel this year was as follows:  we had two broken ATV’s, a broken snowmobile, a broken groomer, a broken truck, a few broken (injured) dogs, broken refrigerator, broken freezer, broken doors on the trailer, broken hooks on the trailer, broken window on truck, broken vent on trailer, broken wiring on the trailer (several times), a couple broken handlers, a broken plow truck, some broken snow hooks, but the worst was the broken internet (a necessity for working mushers).  Whew, and this was all before the racing season started!

On the bright side, we managed through all of this without a broken marriage (believe me this happens)!


Posted in Dog Racing 2015 | Leave a comment