So I bet you’re all singing Taylor’s Swift’s song, “Shake It Off” and changing the words to “Shake It Up!” just like me; aren’t ya? I can’t help it. This has been an exciting race and every stage is exciting to see who is going to wear that yellow bib. I don’t recall having the yellow bib tossed around so much. Just waiting for our turn to wear that sucker! However, today we had one of those WHAT IF runs. It seems that dog racing is nothing but what ifs.
What if I never had to bag that dog?
What if I had put the right wax on?
What if I hadn’t taken that wrong turn?
What if I had ran 12?
What if I had brought the other dog?
What if I used the other leaders?
Oh, and we mustn’t forget the ever famous, what if I had never gotten into dogs! Been there!
What if, what if, what flippen IF ………………………
We woke to 23F and 5 inches of new snow. Quite a surprise since the prior evening it had been 50 degrees and snowless in downtown Lander. The drive up to South Pass was nice and snowy, but not too terrifying. We were the first ones to pull in the parking lot. It was snowing and blowing, as per usual, on top of South Pass. What everyone didn’t know was what it was going to be like on the other side of the mountain. Would it be better or would it be worse?
SO HERE IT COMES ….. THE BIG QUESTION ……. WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT BOOTIES???? Well, we decided to go with 11 dogs and booty only the bad feet with the thought that the snow would not be damaging to the feet. Then we decided to use a peel and strip method and double booted some really poor feet. This way Bruce didn’t have to lose any time re-booting if they fell off. This plan worked brilliantly and all those dogs came in with boots intact and feet looking great. Unfortunately, we ran into a glitch in our plans that was completely unanticipated.
The team was very amped today and I took one or two for the team and paid the price physically. First, the biggest dog in the team jumped to give me a bear hug and I got what felt like a ten pound paw in the face. I felt like I had been punched by a human. Then Bruce led today with Sedona and Penny and, boy, are those two a pair of nut jobs. I almost got eaten alive taking them to the line they were so amped. Penny reached out and bit my arm in her excitement and then while I was running them to the line she bit the back of my leg. I turned around to reprimand her and got a full Penny in my face. She’s lucky that we were on our way to the chute or we would have had to have a chat.
So the glitch started almost right out of the gate; when Bruce noticed his point dog wasn’t on her game. Then a mile out that dog and another dog literally threw themselves down and started biting at their feet. Seriously, how does one anticipate that? They both ran West Yellowstone without boots and feet were in great shape. He got them going, but they did it again so he had to stop and boot them. The snow must have been balling up in their feet despite the fact that they were greased. He got them going and then the one that wasn’t running right from the beginning decided that she would rather be bred and started neck lining and turning to the male behind her. She’s in full blown heat, but has been running point with all the boys behind her with no issue, but nooooooo not today. Today, the floozy wanted sex. Really? Does she have no clue that we are in the race of our lives? So at 3 miles Bruce had to swap dogs around in the team and there went John Stewart right by him.
From there on out Bruce and John played leap frog and traveled together the entire race. Bruce tried to open up his speed on the downhill in an attempt to pull away, but it was to no avail. Bruce’s team was faster on the flats, but John’s climbed better and were slightly stronger in the deeper snow. The trail got hard and fast on the other side of the mountain and the team rocked it. Sedona, our oldest dog in the team and multi-year Stage veteran led with Penny like their house was on fire. When Bruce came in several mushers came up and asked us if we won because they thought the team looked outstanding out there. It was a sad shame that we lost so much time in the first three miles of the race because we were told that John and Bruce had the fastest runs from the 9 mile mark. We couldn’t help but wonder, What if……… I guess we’ll have to “Shake it off, shake it off!!”
In other news, Monica Zappa had a scary day today and lost her team while trying to switch dogs around. Thankfully, Jeff Conn was a wonderful sport and gave her a lift. They found the team a couple miles down the trail all tangled around the sled with a loose dog. I don’t have the details, but it looked like she had one dog with a bite in his/her shoulder. We are glad she and the team are safe. I nominate Jeff Conn for the Sportsman’s award today. Unfortunately, there is no such thing and so I offered him some beef jerky instead. It is moments like those that make you love this sport; knowing that mushers look out for each other is part of what makes this sport great.
Ryan and Dave turned things around and had some solid runs moving them up in the overall standings. Jerry Bath said his team is just flat right now. He’s scratching his head because he never even trained as slow as they are moving. He’s digging into his arsenal of tricks to see if he can pull them out of this lull.
So tomorrow’s stage is in Pinedale. It will be 43-46 miles and we were told there are 10” of fresh snow as of today. The groomers are out tonight so we hope it cools off and we have a hard fast trail.
Let’s shake it up!