Start burning the sage!! Lander was full of negative energy today and many of 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 to 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 said 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!!