Stage 7 & 8 – Bittersweet

Sorry for the delay in blogging.  Many of you have e-mailed asking for updates and I have slacked off due to the craziness of the past 2 days.  I left off with our status the morning of Stage 7.  Well, we sat around till nearly 10:00AM waiting for news and the final decision was to cancel Evanston and a run a 3 mile loop at the local golf course to appease the community.  It was a tad ridiculous because the weather was bad enough and it was such short notice that barely anyone showed up.  So we were all wondering who we were entertaining.  They decided not to count it and split the day money amongst everyone.  Bruce and Doug Swingley had a few bets going on, but we’re not really sure which one was the final bet.  Bruce bet Doug that if he won he got Doug’s team and if Bruce lost he got to keep his team.  Doug’s bet was that if he won, he got both purses and if he lost he got to keep his purse.  We were told Doug won by :30; however, there’s no confirmation so all bets are off!  There were alot of very disappointed mushers at this event because at least two of them had made it to the starting line before the emergency meeting was called and they had perfect weather and what appeared to be a great trail up on the mountain.  Tempers were flaring when we learned the alternative plan.  There was a real race going on especially among Sam Perrino, Bruce and Doug Swingley who were all within 7 minutes of top 5.  That stage was long enough that anything could have happened to turn the tables.  However, the organization was being especially cautious due to the Mark Stamm incident and the intentions were good despite the fact that it really impacted the outcome of the race.  The sad part was that by Noon that day the weather had broken and we all had to make the drive to the starting area anyway for some community activities.

Stage 8 turned out to be another unorganized mess.  There were apparently problems and noone knew where we were racing until 10:00AM.   We all waited for word and then caravaned the 1.5 hours to Park City.  They crammed us into this tiny parking area and we all sat around and waited to hear what we would be doing.  15 minutes before the start we were told the mileage and trail conditions — talk about tension.  We hooked up 10 and intended to just let them rip.  Indigo and Mary led the stage and Tanya, Mikka, Blizzard, TJ, Oly, Toppi, Billy and Shiner made up the team.  They were so amped that Bruce could not keep the team at the starting line until the count down sounded.  10-9-8-7 … and Bruce is on the pad, brake and dragging the snowhook as they are dragging him down the chute.  When he let them loose they just screamed out of sight.  Then Bruce managed to go the wrong way on a “Y” loop only to meet everyone head on.  How embarassing!  He immediately told the officials when he came in what had happened and the mushers affected were all agreement that they didn’t feel he should be penalized.  They thought that if he had the fastest time and had to head on pass everyone that was fair.  He wound up tieing for 1st place with Jacques Philip, but they gave it to Jacques becuase he was the first one signed up.

In summary, it was an incredible race that challenged everyone mentally and physically, most especially the dogs.  We do not train for those type of conditions so we were very impressed with how this team performed and more importantly how the leaders all kept their heads in some of the most grueling conditions.  We really got to see what these dogs are made of and it was a blast getting to sneak into the top 5 amongst this caliber competition.  We got alot of feedback from many of the mushers on how impressed they were with the team and what an improvement we had made.  We literally got to run with the big boys on several occassions and were able to see that our team has the speed to do this, but there is still a little tweaking to be done in conditioning.  These truly are some of the best competitors in the world and it has been a pleasure running dogs amongst them.  I cannot say enough on what a learning experience this race is.  Talking to some of this year’s rookies you hear how much they learned and what an awesome experience it is.  If you want to learn dog care, team management and make some really great friends nothing beats the Stage Stop!

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