Monica 8-dog Pro 43 miles Tahquamenon Falls 1st place 2:58 course record!
Bruce 8-dog Pro 43 miles Tahquamenon Falls 3rd place 3:07
3 dogs from RPM Kennel ran on Frank Holmberg’s 1st place 12-dog Pro 63 miles 4:27
I can think of no other way to describe the run I had this past Saturday at Tahquamenon Falls then to steal a phrase coined by Sharon Curtice, a multiple race champion. It was like I was on a magic carpet ride! Now truth be told, at times that magic carpet was flying completely out of control and I was just hanging onto the tassels, but it was magical none-the-less. We knew the team looked good, but you never know what anyone else has up their sleeve until race day and we were completely blown away at the way these dogs performed. When I was going to the chute I was unable to slow the team down despite 5 or so handlers. Jerry Papke jumped in and grabbed the sled to help. He replied, “Holy cow girl you’ve got some real horses here. You are in for the ride of your life.” I remember nothing after that……. I think I left my body right after the thought, “What in the heck am I doing behind these maniacs!” crossed my mind. The power was unreal. I’ve been training those dogs and it always amazes me how they step up their game on race day and I was blown away at the power they came out of the chute with. After a mile though my leader, Maximus, seemed a little unfocused and I worried that I made the wrong decision. However, the minute we got into the woods, he turned it on big time. Every time we saw a corner, a twist, a wooded section or another musher he turned on the turbos and we just flew. Thank goodness I got to drive the Husky Creek sled because I was taking corners well above the 15 mph at times and my old wooden one would have had me doing barrel rolls. I was exhilarated, but had brief moments of fear as we ripped through the forest. I had nothing but clean passes (all 20 or something) and those other mushers were just awesome as they followed every form of passing etiquette. It was a relief because I was passing in sections I might not have otherwise simply because I couldn’t hold them back. It was as if someone was calling mushers ahead of me, “Please pull over there is an out of control musher coming down the trail at excessive speed. Please pull over”
Despite this amazing run I wasn’t sure how I was doing until I realized I had passed Pete Curtice. I caught a team just as the musher was getting back on his sled and he took off. We followed him and the team was striding along nicely, but it just didn’t look like Pete from behind. After watching the team for a while I was almost convinced it was Pete just from what I remember about the dogs and how they were moving. We were running pretty closely, but I was making huge gains on the hills. I absolutely did not want to pass him and then be in a situation where he was going to have to pass me back so we hovered around for a few waiting for confirmation that we needed to go. Then Maximus just decided it was time to move turned on the turbo and we called trail. Once I completed the pass I realized it was Pete and I suddenly thought, “Holy cow, you just might have this…….as long as you don’t screw it up!” So I kept mentally telling myself, “Just keep moving along like you have been, don’t push them until you have to. Just keep the pace, you don’t want him to catch you in the end. Hang on and don’t fall of the damn sled. Clean passes” It would be horrible to hear my mental replay……they might actually throw the white coat on me and lock me in the padded cell. I crossed the last 5 mile crossing and the Nowaks yelled, “Bruce is 5 minutes ahead.” I laughed, but didn’t think I could catch him with just 5 miles to go. However, we hit No Mans land with 1 mile left and he waved to me. I really started driving the dogs then because he promised he was going to kick my butt and that I would never catch him. It was a sight to be seen as poor Bruce pumped and ran furiously trying to keep his promise; looking backwards the entire time. Meanwhile, I was kneeling down on the runners trying to prevent wind drag and we just kept gaining. We were the first teams to cross the finish line and we both came cruizen down the chute one after the other much to the surprise of our handler Mark who wasn’t expecting us for another 20 minutes or so. I just barely missed passing him, but it didn’t matter. It brought tears to our eyes as both of those teams strode down the chute full on and then stopped at the truck ready for more.
So Jerry was right, “It was the ride of my life”! I hope every musher can have one of these in their lifetimes because it is beyond words. I certainly enjoy the scenery, but it’s an entirely different rush seeing it as a green and white blurr!! I’ll save the scenic cruises for training days 🙂