FB Mushing

River going out into the ocean at a Pacific coast of Panama

Disclaimer: As per usual, this post may offend the highly sensitive.  “You probably think it’s about you, don’t you, don’t you?”   It’s not, so take a chill pill!

Do any of you ever read FB and go, “OH puleeze, let’s be for real!!”   I do constantly because it seems that it is full of only what folks want you to know and see and not necessarily reality.   If you ignore the political posts and other diverse topics, FB is like Polly Perky on steroids. Sure, every once in a while, you’ll get someone on there that tells us their life is total SHIT, but usually those folks don’t seem to have a moment that isn’t crappy and they complain so much that no one listens.  Those born with a crap spoon are a minority.  It seems we have one extreme or the other.  Life is super great or life is an

Fake - Inscription on Red Rubber Stamp Isolated on White.

outhouse.  The mushing world on FB is no different.   It seems there is a bit of reality missing from FB mushing.  We get our fair share of cute photos, puppy shots, podium shots, race winnings and video clips of teams loping.  However, let me tell you folks; for every cutsie, perfect post there is reality.  So I’m here to blow the lid off of FB mushing and get down to real mushing.  Let’s expose mushing “perfection” and urge folks to show the realness of what we do.  I want to see foibles and follies because they are funny and they make me feel better about all of mine. I want some middle ground reality; the stuff we all know exists.

You’ve all seen the the endless videos of dog teams running balls to the walls. The dogs seem perfect, the pace seems perfect and even the weather seems perfect and often the video is accompanied by the comment, “Perfect run today!” Even better is when they post the speedometer on the video so we can see the team moving at break neck speeds.  It’s all just perfect.  You start to wonder if your team measures up because they never look that good for 30 miles.  I believe this has become a new means by which to mess with your competition.   In the old days, mushers psyched out their competition face to face.  You could always avoid it by avoiding those that play the game.  However, on FB you’d have to quit going on FB …..Oh goodness, what a scary concept!

In reality, we all know those videos are shot in the first few miles of the run because even monkeys in harness can look like good sled dogs in the first five miles. We all know that at some point in the run, old Spot stopped to take a dump and the entire team bunched up and a tangle ensued.  The perfect musher ran up to solve the problem and tripped over his/her big boots and landed face first in the snow only to have the dogs pull the hook.  Luckily, the perfect musher grabbed the gang line and saved the day, but not without dragging through the poo first.  About 15 miles in, the team went flat like someone had slipped Tramadol in their food and the run was like watching paint dry.   Then there was Crazythe point when the team looked like a snake shimmying down the trail because so many of them were dipping excessively; as if they had never been watered.  The smile the perfect musher was wearing in the video became a tooth grinding grimace.  By the end of the run, the team was walking and perfect musher had become reality musher and proclaimed, “Sell them all!”

How about the endless pictures of puppies. Cute, fluffy, little puppies running playfully about or sleeping peacefully.  They are adorable and perfect!  Or are they?

In reality, the little terrors hadn’t slept all day and are finally down after peeing and pooping endlessly; which resulted in an hour long cleaning of their kennel for the 30th day straight.  While the monsters were trying to be herded about so the kennel could be cleaned, they were screaming and jumping all over, eating the musher’s hair and biting her hands until blood was drawn. When the cleaning task was finally accomplished, musher smelled like puppy pee and poo, had several bleeding wounds on hands and face along with a bald spot on the side of head.  Folks, this is the photo I want to see because this is reality!

Then we have the pictures of the immaculate kennel. Painted houses, no trenches, no dust, no mud, no poop, no pee posts or stains and everything is all matchy matchy; a sled dog’s Eden.

In reality, the perfect musher just spent three days repainting all houses and can barely stand straight up without severe pain and is covered head to toe in red paint. It’s the first time the houses have been painted in 6 years.  Perfect musher spent an entire day grading the ground until it was perfectly flat only to see trenches and holes form within a matter of hours after the photo.  There are at least 20-30 fly traps all over the yard and in reality the place smells like dead bodies are buried everywhere.  To add to the ambience, in the back of the kennel is the poop sled filled with at least a couple hundred pounds of fragrant butt nuggets.  The excruciating work along with the aroma has, of course, driven perfect musher to start drinking before chores were over just to alleviate the pain and smell.  It partybirdwas a bad idea when inebriated musher decided to haul the poop sled filled with hundreds of pounds of doodie to the back forty for dumping. Poor balance resulted in perfect musher becoming doodie covered musher.   Show me that picture!

Then there are those videos that proud mushers post of their teams and unbeknownst to them the team looks really bad. It’s like watching American Idol tryouts when the person thinks they can sing.  Now you might say that this does not fit in with posting only good things, but it does.   You see, the poster is oblivious that their team looks unflattering and is so proud they must share.  The non-reality comes when everyone and their brother starts telling the poster that the team looks great.  “Team looks great!”, “Awesome team”, “You’re flying”!  One might think they have this gig figured out if their team looks better than the ones everyone is oohing and aahing about.  One starts to wonder, “What in the hell does a good team look like?”  Wouldn’t it be better to say nothing than to lie and lead them down the primrose path confusing them and the rest of us?

The reality is you have a dog or two with tug lines dragging on the ground. The leaders look like they would rather be doing anything else and most certainly will when presented the opportunity.  The point dog’s gait is severely skewed and a chiropractor might be required.  I hope you’re only traveling a couple miles because it might take you all day.  You should really learn to be quiet because chatting with them the entire few miles has obviously caused them to stop listening to you.  Is that a golden retriever in your team?  Please, please find a mentor.

We’ve seen tons of pictures of mushers hugging, kissing and loving their dogs. It is so idyllic.  Tugs at the heart strings and the urbanites that don’t understand our sport just eat it up.

Do you suppose we could market the reality? Musher hugs dog and dog french kisses musher after just finishing his hot, fresh stool.  The “f” bombs that follow would most certainly have to be edited.  Dog jumps to be hugged, bashing musher’s lip for the umpteenth time and we get to see blood and gore everywhere.   How about the broken glasses from the paw across the face from Mr. Lovey Dovey when he wanted more attention?  Certainly, they’d understand the black eye from Ms. Exuberant that can’t wait to get in her box.  These are my reality!

In nearly all photos we never see poo. Why doesn’t anyone post themselves poop scooping?  What? Does everyone’s poo just magically disappear into PooLand not to be seen ever again?  For Kaka sake we even made a game out of poop scooping at Stage Stop, posted it and made it look fun as hell.  Folks all over the world want to poop scoop now.   Let me tell ya, the reality isn’t so alluring.

Reality videos would have to include the full bucket that gets dumped all over Timbuktu when musher trips in the one of many holes in the yard or when the musher straining to carry a brimming 5 gallon poo receiver in each hand across an icy yard slips and trips. Certainly, the artistry of scooping in winter should be captured on film.  It would be a slow motion video; like the victory basketball shot set to inspirational music.  Envision it …..The perfect flick of the wrist that sends the frozen poopsicle and shards of poo sailing through the air twisting and turning for a perfect landing into the bucket and all over the musher’s face.  Beautiful, don’t ya think?   I know that there are some of you artsy types out there that truly appreciate the joy of that very process; nothing is more satisfying then landing a perfect poo shot!

Then finally there are the numerous photos of the podium, the victory fist and the big trophy. Perfect mushers are smiling ear to ear along with their smiling crew and adoring fans.  The joys of placing in the top.   You can’t help but smile along with them.

However, there is another side to those photos and most of us have been there; the dark BabyTantrumside. Where is the guy throwing his red lantern at the back of the trailer because he came in last?  The musher that locks himself in his trailer because he can’t speak to anybody, where’s his photo?  The moody, crabby crew that is sick of the musher’s antics.  The fans that are yelling, “What the hell is wrong with you?”  The group shot of the team with jaws hanging on the ground, looking devastated.  Yep, there’s some reality.

So come on folks, we have enough “fake” news out there, let’s make FB mushing real. Let’s laugh at our insane reality.  We know you have lead dogs that poop, dogs that dip, dogs that don’t get along, leaders that don’t know gee from haw, the non-eaters and the non-drinkers, the loud dogs and the harness bangers.  We can’t be the only ones!  Join us in our truth!

“REALITY IS MERELY AN ILLUSION, ALBEIT A VERY PERSISTENT ONE.”

-Albert Einstein

 

Posted in Dog Racing 2007 | Leave a comment

Tame The Beast Or Be Tamed

demons

I often hear fellow mushers say that they just “LOVE training yearlings”!   I used to, but, frankly, I’m not feeling the “LOVE” this year.  This change has me feeling deficient.  What’s wrong with me?  What happened?  Why am I not in love witworking with the young dogs? Then it struck me like a ton of bricks, actually more like an exuberant yearling running at full speed and airborne, folks that claim to “LOVE” training yearlings have never met the spawn of (insert horror movie music) Penny!!

Penny2

Penny has instilled fear in all of our handlers and we’re all guilty of quietly avoiding having to harness and hook her up. She’s the sweetest, most loving dog until it’s time to run.  Then it’s as if someone flips a switch and she goes into the red zone of complete lunacy.  Lunacy involves a very nasaled, guttural, screaming noise that is really beyond explanation; one must hear it to understand it.  It’s like watching Linda Blair in the Exorcist without the green vomit.   It definitely sounds like someone is trying to kill her or vice versa.  Once she’s deafened you with her noise, the challenge becomes getting her to the line while she is twisting, screaming, nipping and flipping.   Judgmental types will say, “That’s your fault, you need to correct that; she’s a product of your poor training.”  Uhh huh …..well, to all of you judgy dog whisperers; bugger off!!  Some dogs are just possessed and she wins the prize.  Positive reinforcement training; I’m laughing as I envision her spitting out the treats and biting your hand.   Shock collar; you’d be wearing it by the time you were done.  Cesar Milan would have gone out of business with this project; what a fun episode that would have been.  Sometimes you can’t fight the obvious and so we have accepted our fate and surrendered to wearing body armor and hooking her up last after the short straw is drawn.  We call it survival.

As many of you know, we are gluttons for punishments so, of course, we chose to breed Satan. Who wouldn’t?  The drive is unmatched.  She’s a gee/haw leader, an eating machine with a great build, great feet and a pedigree to boot.  We coupled her with another intense driving gee/haw leader.  Guess what?  We created Satan’s spawn.  Ohhh, they look cute; which is part of the horror.  Eight furry cream colored cuties with blue eyes and two little brown oddballs.

“Even the devil was once an angel”

Little Lucifers

Before they opened their eyes and started walking they were the cutest puppies ever. Then the little demons started to show they had inherited some of mom’s traits.  The first obvious trait was their infantile rendition of the guttural screeching.  You can imagine 10 high pitched screaming meemies demanding everything.  “We want food NOW!”  “We want out of this pen NOW!”  “We want company NOW!” Satan herself even got sick of listening to them.  When we refused their demands, they simply took matters into their own hands.  Mom had to be moved to eat meals in peace and we quickly began walking them so that they just didn’t start walking themselves.

Many pups come out of the pen for the first time and take their time investigating and enter the big, scary world with caution. Not the little Lucifer’s!  They ran out like drunken revelers leaving the stadium after winning the championship game; guttural screams and all.  Walks were fun as they all frolicked and wrestled and they couldn’t get enough.  As they got larger, the frolicking and wrestling turned into a serious full body contact sport.  One would run and the others would chase and tackle and Lord help you if you got in the way.  This was when they discovered they really liked running fast and so they did.  They always stuck around, but there was not a wide enough berth to keep this energy reined in.  They needed to cover ground to burn off the energy.  Running them in the wheel wasn’t good enough.  It wasn’t fast enough so they would grab the panels, jump on the panels, run around the panels and basically cause chaos.  We realized then that this litter wasn’t going to be great free dropping material.  Wasn’t in there genetics to even consider it; they had their own agenda and we were mere pawns in the game.  We would release them from the gang line to run back to their houses and they would tour the yard, visit everyone, run under the fence to do a couple laps, return and visit some more dogs and then finally go to their house.  It was exhausting!

Early hook-ups were relatively easy; however, putting on harnesses was an entirely different story. It was akin to watching a pig wrestling match.  PigWrestlerAt one point, the handlers told us they required three of them for one particular boy.  Holy bananas, at that rate, we were going to need 27 handlers just to get this litter harnessed. This would require a bus to get to Stage Stop.

You’d think we would have all lost weight wrestling these beasts to the line all season, but I think we gained it all back in wine. The wine had become a staple to our diet just to deal with the stress and physical exhaustion of this process.  As the season went on and the howling, whirling dervishes became entranced with the love of the game, we grew weary.

As fate would have it, the rambunctious brats were also great sled dogs so inevitably they all began vying to make the 8-dog team for Stage Stop. On one particular training run in late December, I thought I’d try to put together my team for Stage Stop.  In hind sight, I was weary and this was a really dumb decision because the yearlings had just had two days off.  Time off for them is like trying to hand feed steak to a starving lion; someone is going to inevitably get hurt.  We hooked up 9 dogs that were in contention for the team and 5 of them contained satanic DNA.  The hookup was one for the books as we scrambled around trying to control the chaos.  It was like Blaze & Ember2herding cats, but really violent, loud, evil cats.  We had to run the siblings together as we learned early on that no one else in the yard wanted anything to do with the psychotic brats who lived down the street.  So Frick and Frack, much nicer names than what I normally call them, were put in wheel so I could control them better.  They were their usual selves and two very firm hands were in order just to put them together on the line.  Together they raise the decibel levels to a point where one can’t hear their self think.  The Alpha dog energy must be on level 10 to work with these two and I was bending the knob.  Then we put their dunder head brother in front of wheel with a sister and they proceeded to have a screaming wrestling match that looked and sounded like it might end in death. Harnesses were being chewed and gang lines were being yanked faster than we could correct the problem.  Any dog without satanic DNA on the team was either turned around in harness staring in horror or they were trying to get back to their dog house.  A harness tug snapped and I wrestled the screaming, greased pig in my giant parka and Artic Boots sweating and cursing profusely in an effort to re-tie and attach him.  The caption on that photograph would say, “Musher woman gone mad”.  Then a fur penis protector met its fate as it erupted into fox fur snow!  The floating fur somehow momentarily calmed the beasts, most likely as they pondered how they could get some more of it to destroy.  The brief reprieve found us just standing in silence wondering if we should laugh or cry.  Then standing before us, like a proud toddler, was Dunderhead (not his real name) smiling and wagging with the furry evidence stuck between his lips.  It was almost unbearably funny?Torch3

Once we were able to get the crazy train out of the yard; which was no easy feat, the antics continued until everyone got a little huffed up. I got a small piece of revenge when Dunderhead, who had to be put in a body suit since he destroyed his fur piece, pooped in his suit and was waddling uncomfortably down the trail in humiliation.   I relished in the moment until I realized it was me that got the raw end of the deal when I had to remove the suit and wipe his butt on the trail.  If it had not been for the sheer athletic brilliance of those dogs on that day, I might have sold every one of them on the spot.  It was humbling to think that we were so late into the season and these creatures seemed to have absolutely no line manners or self-control; where had we gone wrong?   Hmmmmmm, possibly breeding to Satan in the first place?  Nah, couldn’t be!

As it turned out 4 of the hyper-active imps made the team and I tempered the rest of the team out with more placid and calming personalities.   They have not tore apart the truck yet.  Key word, YET!  I am dreading that first hookup after three days off traveling.  Getting to the line at the race could also prove to be interesting ….. embarrassing …. MORTIFYING!?!?  Me and Laura will be prepared with an arsenal of techniques to avoid disaster.  Do you think it would look bad if I put bags over their heads and straight jackets on them?  Despite this, I realize that the reward of seeing them perform, provided their attention deficit issues don’t get in the way of that, will all be worth it and I too might be able to say I “LOVE” training yearlings by the end of this season.   Stay tuned ….. These guys seem to provide good material.

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Posted in Dog Racing 2018 | Leave a comment

Someone Throw Us a Life Preserver – The Pas Day 2

We woke this morning to 32F and sunny skies; a musher’s nightmare.  As the morning went on the temp kept rising.  We didn’t learn from the day before and decided to visit c115934_sMcDonald’s again.  It was encouraging when we pulled in and the parking lot was empty; surely there would be no wait.   There was no wait for food, but trying to get someone to open the locked bathroom was enough to bring out the Detroiter in me once again.  I vowed that there would be no more McDonald’s this trip or I was going to wind up in jail.

Anyhoo, after we grabbed breakfast we drove out to the trail to check the conditions and found them to be very icy and crunchy.  The trail had not been smoothed out after the previous days run and there were frozen chunks and paw prints all over the trail.  At that moment, the trail was going to be tough on feet, but there were still 1 ½ hours before start and temps were continuing to climb.  Temps were expected to go above 40F+ and overheating was a major concern.  It was obvious there was going to be no good choice or decision.  If you booted, you’d protect feet, but risk overheating dogs.  If you go without, you might hurt feet, but dogs will be cooler and able to handle the temps better.  We chose the lesser of the evils and hoped the trail would break down enough by race time so that going without booties would not be too much of an issue.   We the team selected and then we heard a rumor that there was a possibility there might not be a day three so at the last minute we switched things around with the intent of giving it everything today just in case.  We went through all the dogs and made another last minute switch as we felt that dog’s feet were already too sore to go without boots and he was a dog that ran a little hotter.

The team consisted of Sedona, Smoke, Pfister, Nickle, Dime, Euro, Kroner, Peace, Anders and Teller.  They were excited in the chute and that was very promising.  We doused a few of them with a pan of water just before take-off to hopefully prevent them from getting too hot.  We stole this great idea from Marco and Anny Rivest.  Bruce intended to hold them back a bit in the beginning and didn’t fly out into the mess right away.  Before the turn-around, they were already a few teams struggling.  At the turn-around he thought he was in 8th place and Bud & Lina were about 2 minutes ahead.  Going into the turnaround Bruce took a major crash to please the crowds and they obliged him with applause and some oohing and aahhhing.  It wasn’t worth the attention as he is now in considerable pain.

For the great majority of the race he was trailing Anny Malo and they passed teams and were moving nicely.  At about 30 miles, Bruce’s front end started to slow down and Anny started to pull away.  He stopped to try to snack with cubes, but they wouldn’t take them.  He then stopped to let them dip snow and move a leader.  In the process the leader got loose when his harness loop broke that Bruce was holding onto.  He ran about 300 yards up and was, thankfully, caught by a Kinsman at the road crossing.  He got that situated and the team started rolling again.  About 2 miles from the finish, a 2nd leader started slowing down.   He could see that there were obvious feet issues.  He caught Rachel about 1 ½ miles from the finish and brought them home for 5th place.

c674450_sThe team was moving decent when they came in and they didn’t appear overheated or exhausted, but their feet were a mess.  It absolutely sucked to see this and it sucked having had to make a decision with no good options.  From the looks of things, we may be done for the season, but we’ll re-evaluate in the next day or so before we make any decisions.

The temp reached 47F today and the parking lot was a swamp with at least a ½ inch of water over ice.  Since we were on a lake, I was starting to worry about sinking or not c409813_sgetting out over the embankment.  Here I was at a dog race and wishing for some muck boots, a life preserver and a canoe.   You couldn’t even joke that we were dryland mushing as there wasn’t a dry piece of land to be found!  Seriously, there is something wrong with this in the middle of February.

Trying to work on feet in this was virtually impossible and not effective.  After going through all the dogs, we had pretty much decided we were probably not going to run the third day as the conditions were not conducive to running happy dogs.  Thankfully, the RGO surveyed all the mushers and then made the decision to cancel day three.  It was a great decision, in our opinion.  The RGO did a fantastic job with what they had to work with and it is unfortunate that they were put in this position.  However, the decision was in the best interest of the dogs and we fully support those types of decisions.

We are disappointed that Mother Nature got in the way of another dog race, but we enjoyed the two days of racing and really appreciate how hard the Kinsmen work to put on a great race.  We will definitely be back in the future; (ahem) provided there is snow!!

Posted in Dog Racing 2017 | Leave a comment

Blizzard, Rain, No Snow – The Pas Day 1

c165781_sIn the past week, we’ve covered all the winter conditions that Mother Nature has in her arsenal.  As per usual, the Mushing Gods threw several wrenches into our winter plans and as per usual we bitched and made the best of it!   We were so excited that after Stage Stop we were actually going to get to stay and train dogs as opposed to flying home and then flying back again.  We drove back to West Yellowstone on Sunday after SS.  Trained dogs on Monday and then on Tuesday we were greeted by a hellacious winter storm.  Bad enough that incoming roads to West Yellowstone were closed as were several roads in Wyoming.  Suffice it to say, we decided to skip training.  Wednesday things went from bad to worse as the storm turned into a major rain storm; which continued into Friday.  You can imagine what a mess it makes when a little city with twenty foot high snow banks gets torrential downpours for three days straight.  There was water everywhere and even in our little cabin.  As the snow melted it came in under the door and flooded us a bit.  The worst part; we didn’t bring our muck boots.  We were able to resume training on Saturday as the temps dropped significantly and everything froze solid.  Perfect for trying to speed the dogs up except the trail was frozen chunks of snowmobile churned snow and we were down to the 11th hour.

In the next three days we sorted through the dogs and found out who would run in The Pas and who would not.  We found ourselves down two leaders, two core dogs and we had a bitch in heat.   We decided to pull five dogs from my Stage Stop team; two leaders and three team dogs.   This ruined our plans to run two 6 dog teams in The Pas as we were out of leaders.

We then drove like crazed mushers 1100 miles on crappy roads, through crappy scenery only to arrive to what appeared to be a dryland mushing event; there was NO snow.  Not exactly what we had planned on, but again we’re flexible and we were going to make the best of it.  We drove part of the trail the day before the race to look at areas of concern.  The biggest concern was the ability to hook down and what the trail was going to do to the feet.  It was very well groomed and maintained, but it was little ice crystals and patches of dirt.

Today, we awoke to temps around 17F and they were expected to be 40 degrees.  We arrived at the starting chute later than we would have liked thanks to the local McDonald’s and their very prompt service (note sarcasm).  Seriously, how long can it take to slap a rubbery egg from a tray, a piece of cheese and a piece of rubbery ham onto an English muffin.  NOT FOREVER!  They should feel lucky that I hastily grabbed my egg mcmuffin and left the building without harming the staff; especially after I learned they messed up the order to boot.  My Detroit side was coming out this AM!  Ooooh scary!

Anyhoo, breakfast in hand we arrived at the race site.  The team would consist of Smoke, Yona, Nickle, Dime, Grover, Teller, Anders, Kroner, Peace and Euro.  All the dogs were in great shape and ready to go.  We chose to go without booties out of concern for some slippery corners/sections and the potential heat coming later in the day. Bruce said the team was stroking it and he was on the pad hard trying to keep their speeds under control.  Bud and Lina passed him somewhere around 6-8 mile mark and were moving faster than he wanted to that early in the race.  Don Cousins and Rachel passed him and Robbie Turner was also ahead.  This group all ran together to the turnaround.  He could see the Streepers and kept them in sight.  He got by Robbie before the turn around and then got Don and Rachel in the turn-around.   As they came out of the turn-around, he passed Bud and Lina.  It looked like Lina was having some issues as she had slowed down a bit.  After the turn around the trail broke down and the pace significantly slowed.  Bruce ran by himself for quite a bit and then he caught Harry.   He and Harry passed by Richard.  At this point, he could see the front two teams and he was running in third place.  The team was gaining on the front two leaders.  According to sources, Bruce got to within a minute and a half of Tommy.  However, the Musher Gods threw us a curveball and one of Bruce’s leaders started having issues.   By the last three miles the leader was now significantly slowing the pace.  However, he was still moving at 14.5 mph and Bruce felt it was better to keep him moving at this pace to the end as opposed to bagging him.  It was in the last three to four miles that Buddy and Anny passed him and pushing him into 5th place.   The team was in a great mood when they came in.  Feet had a few nicks and dents, but they are in relatively good shape.  Tomorrow will hold more challenges as it is supposed to be warmer still and it doesn’t feel like it is going to get cold enough tonight for that trail to set c291079_mup.  We are expecting a slower trail.

Posted in Dog Racing 2017 | Leave a comment

One Second, One Poop, One Bowl

We’re number ONE, We’re number ONE!! Yep, but not in the sense you normally here this mantra.  Nope, we switched it up a bit.  We like to do that to keep things interesting.  That damn number ONE haunted us this past week.  First, my eight dog team lost by ONE second!  One darn second.  Do you know how many times you can make up ONE second?  Ohhh, let me count the ways! Just as I was getting over that defeat, I was forced to face another defeat when the handling crew including none other than Bud Streeper beat my handling crew in stage one of the Handler Games by ONE POOP in the poop scooping c167348_scontest.  I was ONE poop short of a win; how many people can say that?  It was humiliating.   I was struggling with these two defeats.   On day two I had to skip the Trivia Day to run dogs and it’s probably a good thing because as things progressed it would have seemed inevitable they would have beat us by ONE question.  Day three of the handler games only got worse as we were beat by this same crew by ONE bowl in Dog Bowl Curling!  Can you believe this? One second, one poop, one bowl; it feels so wrong.  No one can be this lucky or should I say no one can be this unlucky.

I had tried everything from talking smack to a little psychological warfare, but it was met with defeat. All my attempts to make that prize wagon of the Streeper’s a little lighter failed miserably. However, I am not one to give up so easily.  Let’s be real folks, it is just not right that they filled that prize wagon with not only the biggest race checks, but also the handling prizes to boot!  It’s prize hogging and I intend to put a stop to it!  I have tried the witchcraft; didn’t work.  We’ve tried getting religious; didn’t work.  We smudged; didn’t work.  I tried intimidation; didn’t work.  For Pete’s sake what the hell does one have c964913_sto do?  Bud suggested I take up knitting!  Well, Budster I just might do that and then I’ll pitch to make that a handler game and then I’m taking you down!!  SOoooooo get out your needles dude and start “purling”!!  Yeah, bet you don’t even know what that is!!  Ohhhh  Yeah!!  One purl, two purl ……

Ok, let’s talk about racing. In Kemmerer we woke up to temps in the twenties with overcast skies and no wind.  This was great news since we heard it had been windy all week.  We had some concerns about heat if the skies cleared up and the sun came out.  We decided to go with eleven dogs in case Kemmerer threw a curve ball at us in those hills.  The team was happy and raring to go.  We had some sore feet after Big Piney, but nothing too serious.  However, we were down to 14 dogs due to freak injuries and we had 4 dogs that we did not feel we could run back to back.  This situation stressed us a bit throughout the race as we tried to strategically rest these dogs and fully utilize what they could bring to the table.   The two dogs that were out of the race we had counted on to be everyday dogs for us and not having them threw a huge wrench into our plans.  Once we saw that the deficit was too big earlier in the race, we made the conscious choice to be conservative and try to just hold onto third place.   We intentionally raced conservatively as we knew that we were being held together by band aids and it could seriously jeopardize a top three finish if we really tried to race hard.  Sometimes, the smartest thing you can do for your team is assess your situation and make the decision that will bring the best outcome and not necessarily the win.  So the plan going into Kemmerer was to just be conservative and try to maintain 3rd place.  We left with Sedona and her son Pfister in lead.  She’s won this stage before and we wondered if she still had it in her.  She was backed by Chepi, Durango, Aslan, Euro, Dime, Grover, Jasper, Peace and Kroner.

Bruce went out slow and warmed them up. As soon as he let them, the team started rolling.  He struggled with one dog in the punchy deep snow as it was mentally wearing on him, but as soon as the trail firmed up he was fine.  Sedona was on fire and the team just rolled through the hills.  Much to our surprise Bruce came in 2nd place by ONE second over Dave Torgenson.   There’s that number ONE again!  The dogs looked good, but some of our power house boys were really tired as some were on their 6th day of running.   As it turned out the deep punchy snow played havoc on a few rear ends and we lost 3 key players for the next day.  Another huge disappointment.

Evanston was in the high twenties in the morning and it was snowing wet heavy snow. We heard that it was supposed to stop snowing by 8:00AM and warm up.  Pretty typical for this stage.  Bruce woke up sick and feeling like crap with a chest/head cold.  At the driver’s meeting they informed everyone that the trail was 5 miles of ice under a thin layer of snow right out of the chute.  Then there was 7 miles of plowed trail near the turn around.  So the teams were looking at about 17 miles of crappy conditions.  We went and investigated the trail out of the chute and nearly wiped out as it was extremely slippery. There are two huge climbs on this trail and some serious switchbacks so booting the dogs was a major concern due to the poor trail conditions and potential warm weather.  This was not an ideal situation on the 8th stage as there are always some sore feet and we had to know who would run on them as we didn’t want to hurt shoulders or anything else.  We decided to go with 10 dogs and stick with our conservative plan.  We had a good cushion, but we never underestimate any of our competition and knew we had to be very smart and not make any dumb choices.  We led with Pakwa and Fala and they were supported by Sedona, Pfister, Euro, Dime, Lumpy, Jasper, Peace and Chepi.  The team was revved up and ready to go.  This makes us so proud.  All week long folks kept commenting on how amped and excited our team was in the chute; which speaks to the aftercare we provide post racing and this makes my heart happy.

Bruce had problems within 3 miles when a leader stopped to take a dump and caused a huge tangle. He had two dogs come out of their harnesses and they had to be put back on.  This was, of course, on the icy section and his hooks wouldn’t hold and they kept dragging him down the trail until finally an official on the trail came and stood on his sled so he could get things in order.    He got going and noticed they were flat.  By the turn-around he could see JR had about 6-7 minutes on him and the rest of the pack was about even.  He just kept them moving slow and easy.  He was enjoying himself and having conversations with other mushers on the trail in no hurry.

Meanwhile, in the pits an official had informed me early in the day that Bruce was having trouble with a point dog before the turnaround. This left me with a pit in my gut as I started to worry and unlike my musher I was not enjoying the wait.  JR was the 2nd team in at about 1:50PM and then all the teams started to follow.  Nearly all the teams were in and still no Bruce.  I was in a shear panic as I kept looking at my watch.  It was now about 2:04PM and still no Bruce.  I suck at the math and even though Bruce had a large cushion,c165284_s I was freaking out that it was going to be down to the wire.  I HATE the last stage with a passion and this was driving me INSANE.  I started to prepare for the possibility of getting booted out of 3rd place on the last day.  My imagination was on overdrive.  Did he bag a dog, two dogs?  How could this happen?  Did he crash?  Is the team sick?  It was the worst feeling made worse by my wild imagination.  Everyone kept reassuring me that he had plenty of time, but I was having none of it.  I wanted to barf! Lannie even gave me a red M&M and told me to make a wish on it.  I’d never heard of this, but what the hell!  She’s probably still chuckling!

Just about when I had worn a rut into the snow I could see him coming in the distance. He didn’t have anyone in the bag, but probably should have put his point dog in.  However, he said that the dog really didn’t start having issues until about a mile out so he chose to labor in.  He was in a good mood and oblivious to the fact that he had given me a mild heart attack waiting for him.  There’s the difference between mushing and handling right there!  Despite the long wait, he managed to still finish in 5th for the day.

We finished in 3rd place overall and this was by far our most consistent and best race yet.  We managed 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 5th place finishes.   No one was more surprised than us as we didn’t come with a lot of confidence this year.  We were very concerned about our front end as we were lacking driving leaders and we were counting on a 10 year old.  We also knew that we were going to have to strategically run dogs as we didn’t have 16 everyday dogs and to top that off we were questioning some new training techniques that we had tried.  So it was a pleasant surprise for us to see it all come together; which helps build confidence going into next year.  We are still learning so much from this race and, believe it or not, it often feels like we have no clue what we are doing.

As usual the end of the race was bittersweet. We love seeing our Stage Stop family every year and we hate saying goodbye.  These folks are truly some of the greatest professionals in the sport.  I was blessed to share the trail this year with all of the mushers.  Someone said at the banquet that there is no other race they’ve ever competed in where you truly feel the camaraderie out on the trail like you do at stage stop and I have to agree.  It was the friendliest and coolest group of mushers I’ve ever encountered.  On the Driggs stage when we had to head on pass everyone, we were high fiving, chatting, giving tips and cheering each other on.  It really embodied what stage racing has meant to us.  We love the level of professionalism demonstrated from the vets, trail crew, race organization, mushers and handlers.  It is by far top notch. More importantly, we truly love this group of people and feel blessed to have the opportunity to come and spend 8 days with them every year.  It’s much more than just a dog race.

Congratulations to the Streepers for taking all the prizes! ONE day we intend to lighten your load!

 

 

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Throw Us A Bone

It’s been a busy two days so this will be a quick summary of the past two stages.  Pinedale is now somewhat blurry. It was in the low twenties and snowing.  The trail head was windy and blowing and everyone got their parka’s out.  Our game plan today was to be conservative and maintain.   We went with 10 led by Sedona and her son, Pfister.  The team was super excited in the chute and ready to roll.   Bruce went out conservative and

Illustration of three tortoises running and jumping with smiles

the team got stronger and stronger as the run went on.  At the end of the run the team just ate up teams to the finish.  The trail visibility was extremely limited due to the treeless landscape.  The only time he could see the trail was when they were in the woods.  He was happy with his run and the team looked good coming in.  They finished in 3rd place.  There were no great stories from the trail.

The big excitement today was in the pits. The Handler X Games started and the first stage was today.  It was a Super Pooper Scooper Challenge.  One member of each team was blindfolded and the team had to guide that person within a defined area scooping up 10 balls that were scattered about.  They had 5 minutes to scoop up as many as possible and then dump them into a bucket; easier said than done.   On my team, me and Laura Daugereau’s dad, Bill, were paired up.  He was blindfolded and I was the bossy one – go figure!  We were just cruising and got 9 balls out of 10.  We smoked the other team we were paired up with and thought we might have this in the bag.  Then the two other teams competed.  One of which had a Streeper on it!  I told Buddy if he beat us in the handler games, I would not be able to tolerate it.  Well, he beat us in the handler games and I’m not tolerating it!   This past week I have now lost a race by one second and a handler X-game by one ball!!!!  I am on edge.

Big Piney was in the single digits in the morning and we got word that they had 80 mph winds and blowing snow all night. We were oblivious in our cozy little motel room.  The c209379_sroads were plowed and we arrived to the trail head in good time.  Last night’s wind storm only became obvious when we saw the bathroom.  The wind had filled the entire bathroom to the roof with snow and you couldn’t even see the door.  This was a problem.  Dan Carter, Sandy Bath, myself and Elizabeth Chapman got to digging.  We dug until the smell overwhelmed us!  The ventilation in the bathroom had been completely blocked with snow and the airless room was probably explosive when we finally opened the door.

The forecast was for 4 inches today and in the low twenties. The snow was dry and windblown.  We went with 10 dogs led by Pakwa and Fala.  The team was excited again in the chute.  Bruce’s plan was to be fairly conservative again today.  At this point 3rd place is his to lose so he can’t make mistakes.  Going after the Streepers with their current lead could prove to be an effective way to blow up the team and let 3rd slip through our fingers.  After he got out there he realized the hills were much bigger than he recalled and twelve dogs would have been helpful.  I got a chance to go out on the trail today with a team of spare dogs and the 4 miles I saw were pretty wicked.  The trail was wind blown and very difficult to see.  The trail had a base, but it was punchy in areas and had at least 6 inches of slippery sugar snow on top.  The wind was whipping something fierce.  It was going to be a tough day for the teams.  I was glad to be a handler!!  Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!!

The team ran well and looked good coming into the finish. Bruce was happy with the team’s performance.  We finished in 3rd place.

As for the handler games, Liz and I let down our teams as we had to run dogs so we withdrew from Trivia. Thank goodness because the Streeper team won today’s X-Game stage as well!  As I said before, I would not have been able to tolerate it!  I would have hadc409049_s to protest or something.  Geez, throw us a bone!  I’m sure they pull that damn trailer just to haul all their prizes; where else would they put all their winnings? I’m going for broke tomorrow with dog bowl curling.  It’s on!  I’m going to win this damn X-game if it kills me!  There will be one less prize in the Streeper Prize Hauler!!

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We Need To Smudge This Place

Start burning the sage!! Lander was full of negative energy today and many Printof the teams suffered as a result.  I’ve already had enough so I’m not taking any chances.  I’m going to build a bonfire with sage and I’m going to smudge all the way to the end of this darn race.  I will be carrying a smudge stick, there will be sage burning from the back of my truck and I might even smoke the crap – can you do that?!?  Whatever it takes!

We woke up to about 16 degrees, but by the time we reached the trail head it was already over 30 degrees. It was going to be a warm one as the sun was out and shining brightly.  Beautiful day for the handlers not so much for the dogs.  Hydration was a concern and dogs not tolerant of the heat.  We went with eleven as it looks like our dog that was injured in Alpine is most likely out for the remainder of the race.  The team was Pakwa, Fala, Lumpy, Dime, Aslan, Euro, Kroner, Grover, Cache, Durango, Chepi.

So the bad energy became apparent when JR Anderson left his truck for the chute. Here’s the visual.  We are all parked in a parking lot up against a 3-4 foot high bank of snow.  You must hook to the front of your truck and go up the bank and climb a little higher to the trail and then turn left to the chute which was about a football field away.  On JR’s way out as they were on a very steep cambered hill one of his handlers fell off the runners which caused JR to spill and drag.  During this, the sled broke a stantion.   He screamed toc410390_s his handler, Elizabeth, that the sled was broke.  Elizabeth, who had been running for her life to stay in front of the team as it careened out of control now had to run back to the truck and very quickly come up with a way to save the day.  Her quick thinking is something out of a MacGyver episode.  She saw a poop scooper with a removable handle and grabbed that, a roll of electrical tape and some duct tape.  She then ran all the way back to the chute; which nearly killed her.  She somehow ran a half marathon in 5 minutes in 8000 feet elevation.  Can you say, “Superstar”!  In the chute, JR remained as calm as a cucumber, so I was told, as they quickly taped the poop scooper to the broken stantion.  Then off he went on his newly designed Super Dooper Pooper Sled and we all said a prayer that he would make it back in one piece.

Minutes later it was our turn to the chute and the dogs were absolute beasts! Flipping and spinning and barking and screaming.  We were delayed getting in the chute because two dogs flipped right out of their harnesses.  Something we had never seen either one of them do.  We had to have 4 people helping us in the chute because the dogs were so crazed and we had already had to put harnesses back on the two dogs.  One dog in wheel was out of his mind and had to be held.   In the craziness of the start, Bruce’s snow hook fell out of the holder and was bouncing wildly as he screamed out of the chute.  Thank goodness he didn’t snag one of the school children and take them for a wild drag. That would have been a story. After the teams left, we were like, “Holy Crap; what just happened?”

The wait was delightful today as we all, except the Anderson crew who were busy searching for spare sled parts to repair the Pooper Sled, basked in the sun and enjoyed a rather calm day at the trailhead; which is a rarity. Just before the teams were supposed to arrive the wind started kicking up and I was quickly reminded of how this trailhead usually is.  Lina was the first team in and her team looked good.  Then JR and Bruce came in butt to butt about 7 minutes later and we all let out a sigh of relief.  JR had made it back alive and the Pooper Sled was still taped together! When I spoke to him he c283070_ssaid he had a wild ride.  There was a crazy downhill section that brought to quick realization that his bridle was pulling off the stantion on an angle; which affected his steering.  This made for a wild ride as he careened down the mountain hitting speeds up to 20 mph.  His brake was useless due to the broken stantion and the sled swung wildly due to the poor steering.  He used everything to keep the sled upright as he knew if he crashed the sled it would break in half.  Somehow he did it and has achieved a whole new level of sledding!

Bruce had a decent run, but it wasn’t flashy.   The trail was in good shape for the most part and hard.  There were some wind-blown sections though that slowed things up.  Up to the half point the dogs ran exactly how we had trained them and he was happy.  After half way they started to slow down from the heat and we fell off pace.  Several other teams were also affected by the heat.  Jerry Bath fell way off pace as he had to alternate between bagging two dogs affected by the heat.  Jeff Conn felt his team had really felt the heat.  There were other teams that had bagged dogs as well.  Comments from mushers in the parking lot were along the lines of; “My run sucked.” “It was an adventure.” “It was slow.” and “They were flat.”

So despite the lovely weather, the day was a bit of a downer for the great majority of teams.   We look forward to some cooler weather tomorrow and there’s a rumor we can expect another hard, fast trail.  JR has his sled issues resolved as we lent him our spare one; we figured he is more than capable of driving it without hurting it since he kept the Pooper Sled in one piece!  He just better not kick our ass on it!  Wink Wink!!

I must go smudge now!c272058_s

 

 

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The Recovery – Alpine Episode 3

c1034083_sI woke up on Sunday morning and I felt GREAT! It was amazing.  The Drigg’s trail must have scared the shit right out of me as I had no symptoms.  It was going to be an amazing day.  I was fired up and I had John in my sights.  I knew this team could do it and I just had to manage them properly.  I could taste the win this morning and I had my game face on.  I have never been this calm before a race start and it was awesome; why can’t they all feel like this?  I pulled out my secret weapon and led with Yona and Smoke, Anders, Magnus, Teller, Nickle, Nero, Jax.  It was about 3 degrees this morning and anticipated to get to 30 later in the day.  I hoped the trail was not 6 inches of sugar as it had been the Thursday before the race.

We took off and the trail was all groomed and you could still see the groomer tracks. The team was fired up and started cooking.  I was doing everything to keep them around 14.5-15mph.  For me this was amazing as I had never raced in the mountains and I couldn’t believe they would climb over 15.5 mph.  I was thinking, “Holy beans, I’m on the pad going uphill!  Should I be doing this?”  I stuck to my plan though and then as I neared the turnaround I

saw Liz coming on the return.  I’m a mathematical num nut and cannot calculate time in this manner so I had no idea how far apart we were, but it appeared I had gained a little on her.  Then I made the turn and not long after I saw John.  It seemed really close, but possibly he had gained on me.  I knew I had to make my move.

Then I let the beasts out of the cage and they responded accordingly. These dogs love to roll and they do it effortlessly.  Smoke was brilliant and kept us hard on the right side right on the groomed track so we had hard, firm footing underneath and Yona was on a mission.  Every time he saw a team, c505435_she put the after burners on and we charged right at them.  It was truly awesome to be a part of this team as they ate up the trail. I kept my mouth shut, kept a close eye on them and let them do what they were trained to do while keeping the wheels on the buggy.   We started picking off teams and then I saw Liz and I knew we were cranking.  We rolled past her and kept going.   I have this thing when I’m racing that I NEVER look back.  My focus is forward and I refuse to look behind me.  So we were running for all we were worth and for all I knew John was on my tail.  We got to no man’s land and there was a team and I had a mild panic attack as I knew they didn’t have to give me trail and we were very near the turn off to the finish line.  Thankfully, Dave Hochman is a real sportsman and gave me trail just before we had to turn.  Unfortunately, the turn is not such a brilliant situation as the man trail goes straight to the parking lot with all the rigs and they turn you off right in front of the parking lot to go a ½ block to the finish.  I was the first one back and there was no one manning the corner.  There was no lathe just a few fluorescent sticks.  So as I’m flying towards the turn there is a guy and a dog in the trail.  I yelled, “Heads up”.  They start running towards the parking lot and guess what my dogs wanted to do as I barreled into and through the sticks.  Run to the parking lot as our truck was right near the edge in viewing distance.  Thankfully, disaster was diverted as we got back on trail and headed to the finish line.  A handful of teams behind me also had a similar problem including both the Stewart teams.  Not a great way to have to finish when teams are so close in the standings.  I hope they return to stopping the time before the turn next year to avoid this sort of unfortunate mess.

I was very proud of my team and the young dogs did fantastic.   We won the day and lost the overall cumulative by ONE second!  If only I had pumped or ran a few more of those hills the day before, if only I hadn’t stood on the pad so hard on some of those downhills, if only ……………..

I sucked up all the good juju today as Bruce didn’t have a great day. He and a few other teams decided to boot today as we are highly cautious of the Alpine trail due to what it has done to our feet in the past.   He left with the mother son duo Sedona and Pfister in lead.  For those of you that don’t know, Sedona is 10!  She is a total phenom that can’t figure out she is getting older.  We swore she would not make the team this year and she blew our doors off and put herself on the team again.  We decided to put her in lead to keep the pace down a bit, but apparently she was on fire.   They team stroked it to the turn around and Bruce figured Lina only had a minute on him and he was happy with this especially given he was booted and she was not.  Right after the turn around at mile 31, Bruce had a dog suddenly just crumple and go down.  He had been running perfectly and saw nothing.   It became apparent he would need to be carried and so he bagged, of course, a 62 pound dog for the remainder of the race.  That team worked their butts off and he was thankful that the trail had held up pretty decent or he could have been out there for a while.  The dog is ok, but they think he might have miss stepped or something and it affected one of his vertebrae as they were able to duplicate the crumpling and ironically it is right where a harness pressure point is.  They were able to adjust him, but they want to monitor before we decide if he can go again.  It was one of those unlucky, tough breaks that we seem to know so well.  Surprisingly, Bruce still managed to pull of 4th place.  However, he has some work to do to in the overalls to get back up in the standings.

We have a day off tomorrow and then it’s off to Lander. Stay tuned!

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The Explosion in Driggs – Episode 2

There I was at the race start trying to shove a bagel and peanut butter down dizzymy throat so weak I kept dropping the bagel and covering myself in peanut butter. I washed it down with Gatorade hoping for a reprieve, a brief glimpse of feeling better.  It was not to be found.  I slowly went through the motions of getting ready.  I had no energy to talk to anyone and had to sit periodically as I was very dizzy.  This was serious and I was wondering how stupid I was to take a dog team out in this condition.  Should I scratch?  Should I hope for the best?  I didn’t know what to do.  Like the true Finlander I am I kept pushing forward.

zombieThen I puked behind the trailer; not once, but three times. What the hell am I doing?  By now it was time to hook up dogs and before I knew it I was at the starting line with my Sons of Anarchy crew.  The name should say it all.   They are a bunch of bad asses and I just hoped they didn’t give me grief.  Leaders: Penny, Yona, Nickle, Magnus, Teller, Eva, Nero, Anders.  It is all very fuzzy.   Thankfully, the fresh cold (1 degree F) air woke my butt right out of the stupor I had been wandering around in and I was able to focus.  I knew though that I was going to be useless on that sled going up the hills, but I was going to make the best of it.   Right out of the chute the team climbed a steep hill and I was thankful it was right out of the chute.  I didn’t have to wait long before we encountered more.  The first hill I attempted to pedal quickly overcame me with exhaustion so I had to just allowed the dogs to work.

Bruce told me the trail was not technical and it was beautiful and easy. Lesson One – Never listen to husband!  As we started rolling along, it was gorgeous and I was really enjoying the twisty, rolling trail through the woods.  Then just as I was relaxing and enjoying life; it changed.  We had rolled nicely up some descents and as the saying goes, “What goes up, must come down” and so we did; hard and fast.  The trail suddenly became technical and I was doing a little wrenching on the sled to keep her upright.  This made me forget all about my physical problems as I focused on not rolling it.  To make it more exciting, we started to meet all the teams head on coming from the turn around.  We’d be flying down the switchbacks only to curvy roadcome around a blind corner to meet another team on the return trip on the wrong side of the trail.  At one gradual decline, I saw Lina Streeper coming up hill and she yelled, “There’s a really steep corner coming up Monica!”  I’m thinking, “Oh shit, this one required a warning!”   Yep, she was right.  We came down fast and for you flatlanders sometimes you are cooking 17+ mph while on the pad only to have to come off so you can make the corner.  It takes your breath away!    Apparently, there were a few teams that spilled and rolled in this section.  Then after what I’ll now refer to as Lina’s turn, I came to a complete “U” in the trail.  That was fun!  We used to rate scary things by their butt pucker factor.  Well, I had no worries about my bowels letting loose as things were puckered at about a 7-8 during this section. There was nothing getting through there to my delight.

I was very thankful I took leaders that stayed to the right, as it gave me a measure of confidence on so many blind corners. I had one exciting pass as I came down the hill and there were two teams coming up; one on my side and another on the other side.  The team chose to hug the right even closer and we blew right through them.  Whew!  Then just as the trail came down I realized all those people going the other way coming up were running and pumping with 10-12 dog teams and soon that was going to be me with an 8 dog team.  I knew it was going to suck.

We made the turn around and started to climb and it sucked. I had to help the team as some of these were steep.  Unfortunately, I was a useless lump of flesh that day and my best was barely an effort.  I was definitely the weak link.  I kept wondering why I had signed up to do this.  Despite the tough climbs the team had spunk in them and when we started rolling back they were ready to run.  I allowed them to open it up a bit, but cautiously kept them under 16 on the downhills.  They did so well on the climbs out that I was shocked at the down hills on the way back.  When I knew we were close I let them open it up and the team was hitting 17.5 mph with ease and I was impressed.   They stopped the time at the top of the first hill thank goodness because I cannot imagine racing down that thing to the finish.

After the race was over I felt a ray of hope that I might have crested the hill of my illness as I was no longer dizzy and I was starving. I very cautiously got a sandwich on the drive over to Alpine and then I waited …… the suspense was torture ……. No rumbling ….. bonus ……..No need for the bathroom … bonus …… please let this be over!!    At the end of day 1, I was 3 minutes behind John and only 20 some seconds in front of Liz.  It was close, but I really had my work cut out for me to make up 3 minutes on a 28 mile trail the next day.  The question was, “Would I be able to function on Sunday?”

Bruce had a great run and was very pleased with the dog’s performance. His superstar Pakwa had a great day and was the team’s throttle.  He realized as he was going down the hills that his “non-technical” explanation was not going to go over well with me; “OOPS!”.  He finished 20 some seconds behind Lina and only a couple minutes in front of JR.  It was a very close field.  Leaders: Pakwa, Fala, Lumpy, Dime, Aslan, Euro, Peace, Jasper, Guru, Durango, Kroner, Chepi.

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The Build Up – Episode 1

Disclaimer: The next few episodes are full of toilet humor.  Pure redneck, disgusting, in poor taste, toilet humor.  If you don’t find that amusing, I highly advise you seek entertainment elsewhere!

As per usual we stayed in West Yellowstone for a couple weeks just prior to the race to get the dogs acclimated. This year we stayed out of trouble with the law so I had no material to work with; hence no blog!  Seinfeld was able to write hilarious bits about everyday mundane life, but I, unfortunately, have a hard time being inspired with nothing to work with.  However, I was not to be disappointed and material soon came forth like a tsunami!

We left West Yellowstone for Alpine on Wednesday and I had been feeling a little off, but figured it was just the altitude. By evening I had no appetite and I relished the idea of less food = weight loss.  This was quickly replaced by the thought, “Please God, help me!”  There is nothing worse than getting the flu while you’re on the road, except getting the flu while you are racing on the road AND sharing a room with a stranger.  Yep, that is about the worse and I lived to tell about it.  Anyway, back to the tsunami.  After returning from dinner Wednesday night my intestinal track started rumbling like stomach achereally bad plumbing in an old house.  It was gurgling, burping, growling and moaning and dreaded what was to come.  Then like an over shaken pop bottle the gates of hell broke loose.  So much fun when everyone is only 3 feet away in the same room.  I was mortified.  Relationships quickly reach a new level in these situations.  The three of us quickly became close as we had to discuss my condition in great detail every day.  “Do you guys remember what the hell I ate that was red?  Please Think!  I had to have had something red either that or I’m bleeding internally!”  Despite the fact that I was visiting the throne every 5 minutes like I was waiting to be knighted, I didn’t feel too poorly.  I quietly hoped it was something I had eaten.

It wasn’t something I ate. On Thursday morning my predicament was a bit worse and I had started feeling poorly.  However, we had dogs to run; the show must go on!  We ran in to JR Anderson at the trail head and he graciously tried to doctor me up with an assortment of pills and oils.  I smelled great, but still felt like doo doo.  The day progressed and so did my predicament.  I forced myself to eat as I hadn’t eaten anything since Wednesday.  This was a mistake!

Thursday night did not include much sleep as I lay coiled in pain. I wondered if JR had tried to poison me.  By morning I was a mess both physically and emotionally.  It was the start of race day and I was unable to leave the commode for any length of time.  I couldn’t believe it; I had worked all season for this race and now I was going to have to scratch because I was stuck on the shitter.  It couldn’t be happening to me, but it was.   I bawled like a baby to Bruce not knowing what to do and looking for some sympathy.  He consoled me in the best way he knows how (very similar to someone patting you on the back with a broom and saying, “There, there!”) Unfortunately, he didn’t make me feel better, but he calmly said stay in bed a few more hours and we’ll head to the vet check later than normal.  He ran to get some Ammonium AD as the Pepto was useless.  Those precious couple hours and the new drug enabled me to get functioning.  I wandered through the entire day on Friday like a zombie sipping my Gatorade and trying not to spread my cooties.   In a pure act of stupidity, that afternoon I daringly ate a cup of tomato soup and some bread.  Another mistake!

By the grace of God, my system allowed me to make the 3 hour drive to Driggs before it had a major meltdown. We pulled in around 11PM and I was exhausted and running completely on fumes.  As if it knew we had made it to the motel room the plumbing started shaking a rumbling like nothing I had ever heard.  Bruce and Liz were afraid for me as we listened to the prelude to fartingmy volcanic eruption.  The tomato soup and Ammonia AD must have had a chemical reaction!  Now if I thought the first bout of this illness was embarrassing, the 2nd bout was beyond explanation.  This motel had paper thin walls.  We could hear folks next to us and above us and the bathroom was like an echo chamber and boy did I make the walls vibrate.  I tried to be discrete with the old run the faucet or the vent trick, but quickly discovered it was futile.  The 2nd round was going to be a noisy one.  When I made a 5 minute appearance from my new office and encountered Bruce and Liz laughing followed by, “Gee, have a little gas?!?!”  I decided I had reached an all-time low.   At that point, I didn’t care anymore and there would be no holding back.   And there wasn’t.  All night long I sat alone (sort of since half the hotel could hear me) in a cold bathroom with paper thin walls sobbing and playing my butt trumpet.  It was a solo, I never want to repeat.

On Saturday morning I was now lacking nutrition, fluids, sleep and a sense of humor. I was cooked and very worried.  I knew I had to have fluids and something to eat in order to get through this race.  I ate some more AD.  By now there was nothing left to pass and even the anal acoustics had subsided, but I was so weak I could barely stand without feeling like I was going to pass out.  Should I race?

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