“Please state your name and emergency.” “Yes, IPSSSDR race crew calling. We have a musher and a handler that are sitting at the finish line rocking, hugging, crying and completely unresponsive. Please send an ambulance immediately to pick them up; they need immediate psychological help.”
The only thing missing from today’s run was the ambulance, men with the white coats and two straight jackets; one for me and one for Bruce. I am done with the intravenous crap; it doesn’t work. Serious therapy is required at this point. The emotional stress of this is overwhelming; I actually contemplated taking one of the dog’s Prilosec today so that I didn’t hurl waiting for Bruce at the finish line. At one point, I asked Frank, the Race Director, when they would send a search and rescue team. Damn they even started taking down the Finish line and that hasn’t happened to us since our first year here.
It was about 26 degrees and snowing rather heavily when we arrived at the race site. There was 4” inches of fresh new snow, which thrilled the crap out of us; NOT! The race had cancelled the Kemmerer stage this year as the community was unable to come up with the money to participate. The alternative plan was to run the Evanston leg forwards and backwards. So today we would be running the leg backwards. This meant there would be some long down hills and dogs with questionable front ends needed to stay on the truck.
Our dogs were full on into the virus this AM and we felt like we were duct taping a team together. We came up with 9 including two fresh leaders, but we were holding our breath, crossing our fingers, legs and we were doing mini-prayers for two of them. The team was led by Sik Sik and Sparrow and supported by Rocky, Sedona, Spit, Kaloof, Stella, Utah and Perry. They were ready to go, but the edge wasn’t there. To make matters worse, Bruce wore the unlucky parka that I told him to never wear again. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize he had it on until he eventually showed up at the finish line for the pity party. I think I’m going to burn that ugly thing.
Bruce’s team shut down almost immediately and went into crawl mode. They were in good spirits, but they just had nothing in them. He would call them up and they would pick it up for a bit and then shut back down. The bug we had thought was a 24 hour deal just won’t go away and came back with a vengeance and now the entire truck is working through it. The dogs are pushing food through themselves so fast you can actually see undigested tissue in the stools from the meat. They are losing weight rapidly as they are not absorbing anything. We’ve never seen dogs poop so much in our lives and the smell will practically knock you over. We discussed treatment with the vets after Lander and the decision was made to not treat with metronidazole because it was passing through in 24 hours and they were still eating and drinking, plus we just had a blazing run. However, it wasn’t until yesterday that it became apparent the dogs weren’t actually kicking the bug. Unfortunately, it’s now too late in the game to recover from this. The vets now believe it could be giardia, most likely from the warm, wet weather we had dealt with when we arrived in Alpine. We always treat for giardia just before race season and know that we arrived clean and must have got it here.
So I did the agonizing wait at the finish line wondering if he would ever get there. When he finally arrived the dogs were yapping like fools and they were all on the line and I thought, “For crap’s sake, at least look sick.”
So Bruce and the flu crew had the most miserable ride ever and he had a lot of time to think and contemplate the agony of this sport. All the months of training, time, money and exhausting effort to see it completely go down the drain in a couple of days is pretty hard to stomach. We have certainly learned a few things this race, but the part that we really wanted to confirm was unable to be accomplished due to the team’s health. There are so many variables in this sport that can go awry and every race you learn how to eliminate some of them. However, when you get blind sided with a bug you cannot confirm your training, your nutrition or your dogs. We’re beyond pissed that we feel like we still have all the unknowns we had before the race and no way to confirm them. There is no other race that we participate in that draws this level of competition or pushes the dogs to these limits and so anything left on the table remains there until next year and that is a hard pill to swallow at the moment.
We are left with the dismal prospect of what to do with the rest of the season because racing is really unappealing to both of us at this time.
On the upside, Aaron Peck had a blazing fast run and we have a serious race tomorrow between the top three. Bruce and JR were in awe of Aaron’s team as they charged and loped up steep hills like they were on fire. Beautiful site Aaron! We are excited to see how this race is going to pan out. Buddy is in the lead, but not by so much that he can afford a mistake. The Beck brothers have also turned up the heat and are throwing down some blazing runs making the top five a true battle. Lots of things can happen on this last stage and it is known for having tons of bagged dogs. The leg starts with an hour climb that seems to go forever. This can be very draining for tired teams plus it is supposed to be warmer tomorrow. I’m thinking of asking if they’ll let us hook our team to the snowmobile. Ok, can’t blame a girl for trying! I think Bruce better wear the running shoes and shorts though to help the team out. We are hoping to just finish tomorrow and have no expectations at this point. Ryan Redington wore the dog hat today so that he was part of the team; it worked for him.