There I was at the race start trying to shove a bagel and peanut butter down my throat so weak I kept dropping the bagel and covering myself in peanut butter. I washed it down with Gatorade hoping for a reprieve, a brief glimpse of feeling better. It was not to be found. I slowly went through the motions of getting ready. I had no energy to talk to anyone and had to sit periodically as I was very dizzy. This was serious and I was wondering how stupid I was to take a dog team out in this condition. Should I scratch? Should I hope for the best? I didn’t know what to do. Like the true Finlander I am I kept pushing forward.
Then I puked behind the trailer; not once, but three times. What the hell am I doing? By now it was time to hook up dogs and before I knew it I was at the starting line with my Sons of Anarchy crew. The name should say it all. They are a bunch of bad asses and I just hoped they didn’t give me grief. Leaders: Penny, Yona, Nickle, Magnus, Teller, Eva, Nero, Anders. It is all very fuzzy. Thankfully, the fresh cold (1 degree F) air woke my butt right out of the stupor I had been wandering around in and I was able to focus. I knew though that I was going to be useless on that sled going up the hills, but I was going to make the best of it. Right out of the chute the team climbed a steep hill and I was thankful it was right out of the chute. I didn’t have to wait long before we encountered more. The first hill I attempted to pedal quickly overcame me with exhaustion so I had to just allowed the dogs to work.
Bruce told me the trail was not technical and it was beautiful and easy. Lesson One – Never listen to husband! As we started rolling along, it was gorgeous and I was really enjoying the twisty, rolling trail through the woods. Then just as I was relaxing and enjoying life; it changed. We had rolled nicely up some descents and as the saying goes, “What goes up, must come down” and so we did; hard and fast. The trail suddenly became technical and I was doing a little wrenching on the sled to keep her upright. This made me forget all about my physical problems as I focused on not rolling it. To make it more exciting, we started to meet all the teams head on coming from the turn around. We’d be flying down the switchbacks only to come around a blind corner to meet another team on the return trip on the wrong side of the trail. At one gradual decline, I saw Lina Streeper coming up hill and she yelled, “There’s a really steep corner coming up Monica!” I’m thinking, “Oh shit, this one required a warning!” Yep, she was right. We came down fast and for you flatlanders sometimes you are cooking 17+ mph while on the pad only to have to come off so you can make the corner. It takes your breath away! Apparently, there were a few teams that spilled and rolled in this section. Then after what I’ll now refer to as Lina’s turn, I came to a complete “U” in the trail. That was fun! We used to rate scary things by their butt pucker factor. Well, I had no worries about my bowels letting loose as things were puckered at about a 7-8 during this section. There was nothing getting through there to my delight.
I was very thankful I took leaders that stayed to the right, as it gave me a measure of confidence on so many blind corners. I had one exciting pass as I came down the hill and there were two teams coming up; one on my side and another on the other side. The team chose to hug the right even closer and we blew right through them. Whew! Then just as the trail came down I realized all those people going the other way coming up were running and pumping with 10-12 dog teams and soon that was going to be me with an 8 dog team. I knew it was going to suck.
We made the turn around and started to climb and it sucked. I had to help the team as some of these were steep. Unfortunately, I was a useless lump of flesh that day and my best was barely an effort. I was definitely the weak link. I kept wondering why I had signed up to do this. Despite the tough climbs the team had spunk in them and when we started rolling back they were ready to run. I allowed them to open it up a bit, but cautiously kept them under 16 on the downhills. They did so well on the climbs out that I was shocked at the down hills on the way back. When I knew we were close I let them open it up and the team was hitting 17.5 mph with ease and I was impressed. They stopped the time at the top of the first hill thank goodness because I cannot imagine racing down that thing to the finish.
After the race was over I felt a ray of hope that I might have crested the hill of my illness as I was no longer dizzy and I was starving. I very cautiously got a sandwich on the drive over to Alpine and then I waited …… the suspense was torture ……. No rumbling ….. bonus ……..No need for the bathroom … bonus …… please let this be over!! At the end of day 1, I was 3 minutes behind John and only 20 some seconds in front of Liz. It was close, but I really had my work cut out for me to make up 3 minutes on a 28 mile trail the next day. The question was, “Would I be able to function on Sunday?”
Bruce had a great run and was very pleased with the dog’s performance. His superstar Pakwa had a great day and was the team’s throttle. He realized as he was going down the hills that his “non-technical” explanation was not going to go over well with me; “OOPS!”. He finished 20 some seconds behind Lina and only a couple minutes in front of JR. It was a very close field. Leaders: Pakwa, Fala, Lumpy, Dime, Aslan, Euro, Peace, Jasper, Guru, Durango, Kroner, Chepi.