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!