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 McDonald’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.
The 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 getting 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!!