Tragedy aside, Magnusson Racing had a mission to accomplish and it meant having to run 12 dogs in the Tahquamenon 63 mile race. We had 2-3 spots to fill on our Stage Stop team and all the contenders needed to go racing to see who would make the team. In addition, we had new leaders that had to try their hand in a racing situation and this race would be perfect with all the head on passing. Bruce left with 7 dogs that have never raced before and 5 veterans. In the parking lot before the race the young dogs sat bewildered watching all the chaos. Some were under the trailer, some were wide eyed and there was one that sat calmly trying to digest it all. Pre-race watering was a bit futile as they were too concerned with all the action. One had to wonder what sort of calamity was in store. With this in mind, just prior to leaving, Bruce spoke to some of his competitors and told them he had 7 dogs that had never passed in a race situation before. He apologized ahead of time for any chaos he might create and then told them he sure would appreciate their help if the dogs acted up. This got a good laugh and then the realization came that it would be a good training opportunity for them as well and so they all agreed to let the dogs know if they were acting unacceptably.
As they started hooking the dogs to the line, the veterans started screaming and cheering and soon the young dogs started sensing the excitement. By the time they arrived in the chute everyone had their “game on” faces and were screaming to go. The calm one, Perry, was screaming bloody murder and trying to chew through the gangline…..it had clicked and he understood!
The trail was super fast. Bruce had both feet on the pad trying to hold them down to 14 mph. The first pass flew by! On the 2nd pass the new leader thought he’d say, “Hi” and his veteran partner pulled him through. After 5 miles, Renee caught Bruce. From there on out, Bruce and Renee ran the entire race together passing back and forth 4 or 5 times. One would have troubles and the other would pass and so this went on for 57 miles. Bruce was still on the pad at 30 miles in. By mile 40 the dogs had run a perfect race. Bruce, on the hand, demonstrated his finely tuned dragging skills for the Holmbergs who took him off his game with a simple, “Hello”! Like a spry chicken he bounced up from the snow and back on the runners. Are you picturing this? Ok, so maybe it wasn’t a spry chicken, but more like a handicapped chicken.
Then the head on passing started and after 8 teams in a row, the new leader started to lose his head. The veteran leader was working her butt off to keep him moving by the teams. It became too much work for her and she started to wear down. Bruce stopped the team and gave her a pep talk, cheered her on and promised her foot rubs and a whole slew of other diva delights if she got back in the game. She so loves her diva treatments and so it worked! Bruce got everything sorted out and they started moving nicely again. He could see Renee in the distance and the team was within 5 miles so he called them up in an attempt to run Renee down. They gained on him and were chomping at his heels, but Renee’s team had enough gas left in the tank to not relinquish the lead. The two teams came across the finish within 10 seconds of each other.
It was a great race. Bruce learned what he needed to learn and also managed to confuse himself more as well. The young dogs ran 63 miles in 4:24 minutes, which is moving! We are excited to see how some of these dogs will perform out west. Next stop…..The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race in Wyoming. Be sure to follow our blog and watch the daily times at www.wyomingstagestop.org