Dr. Lannie, Dr. Lannie – calling Dr. Lannie! You are needed at the Magnusson truck stat – they’ve got another weird one!
I was always taught you should take pride in your small achievements, as well as, your big ones. So we are very proud that, “We get all the Weird Ones” as Dr. Lannie told us this week! Leave it to us to provide the vets with something odd and interesting to keep the long waits stimulating! Today was one of those days and we hit the vets with a full arsenal of “Weird Ones”!!
We’ll get to all that after we fill in the basics. First, we woke to 4-6” of fresh snow in West Yellowstone and the temperature was around 22F, but it felt balmy. The trail this year started at the Airport as opposed to downtown West Yellowstone. I’m not sure, but I would guess it had to do with the lack of snow and inability for teams to stop on the main strip.
So I know that you’re all dying to know what the booty decision was today so let’s get that out of the way before we get to the “weird ones”; especially because the booty topic is so near and dear to my heart. Given that there was fresh snow, we felt that it wouldn’t be damaging on the feet compared to what conditions we had been running on and are likely to see in future stages. Therefore, we decided to booty only the bad feet and grease the rest. For those of you not in the know; greasing is using something like zinc oxide or Corona in between the pads to prevent the snow from splitting the skin in the dog’s feet. It was evident at the start today that everyone else had the same idea as many teams left without booties; some for the very first time in the race.
So let’s talk weird! Well, our original plan was to run with 12 dogs today, but you know how plans go when it comes to racing; they usually get messed up. When we aired the dogs this morning we took one of our big powerhouse males, Sigfried, out of the box and his head looked like the elephant man. The day before the race started, Sigfried came out of the box with an abscess on the side of his head the size of a golf ball. This atrocious growth had no ill effect on his attitude as he was quite confident that he should be the stud of choice to the two girls next to him in full blown heat and he was as happy as a clam. It’s my feeling that the two girls were a little turned off by his head mumps; however, he remained determined and was not phased by any bump on his head. I like that type of confidence!
At any rate, the vets had been watching him closely and we had been working on trying to get it to drain by applying hot compresses every night. Well, instead of draining it took a different direction and blew up his face. So the decision was made this morning that we had to have Dr. Lannie perform field surgery to lance the abscess. This meant that Bruce was down to 11 dogs instead of 12 for the day. The surgery was not a pretty sight first thing in the AM. Frankly, I was a tad nervous as they told me they normally put dogs out to do this procedure. Instead we just bear hugged Sig and Dr. Lannie masterfully lanced open his abscess. Thankfully Sigfried was a good patient because he is the size of a small pony and it might have been ugly if he was reluctant. It was obvious the relief he felt when the abscess spewed its contents. Good thing there weren’t many spectators there as it looked like we gutted a small animal when it was all said and done. Thanks to Dr. Lannie, Sig is very quickly returning to his handsome self. Unfortunately for Sig, the little ladies that have been carrying his weight for the past few days were too tired to pay him any mind so his quest continues – I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s never going to happen!
So if a dog that looks like elephant man wasn’t enough, then we had a little girl on Al’s team that has been off her game and not herself and the vets became concerned that she might possibly have pyrometria; which is a potentially fatal infection of the uterus. So now we are monitoring her closely and trying to get to a vet clinic that has an x-ray machine something that was not available in West Yellowstone. On the bright side her temp was not high and she willingly ate food; which isn’t in line with an infection. So we will make some decisions tomorrow when we are in Lander and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it’s nothing serious.
It was a stressful morning with all these issues, but I must say that it is an awesome comfort having such a wonderfully caring and highly skilled vet team to work with during this race. It is very stressful to be on the road with a sick or injured dog; however, I always know that this vet crew will do everything they can to help these dogs and to help get them back in the race. I know I speak for a lot of mushers when I say, we are so thankful to have them on this 8 day adventure with us. I lift my glass to the vet team!!
Back to racing. It was a mixed bag of team sizes today. We could see that the Streeper’s meant business today when all three teams showed up to the line with 12 dogs and no boots. Bruce’s team was in great spirits and they took off without a hitch. By the split times that had come in at the 13.5 mile mark it was obvious that Bud had turned on the turbo chargers. If my memory serves me correctly, he was about 5-7 minutes faster than the top five teams to this mileage. At the 33 mile mark Bud was still holding his lead and Bruce, Eli and John Stewart’s traveling speeds were all within seconds of each other.
Bruce started out conservative trying to warm the dogs up good. He said there was a ton of snowmobile traffic and 4-6” of loose snow on the trail. Several teams played leap frog with snowmobilers blocking the trail today much to their annoyance. Hellooooooo, we’re trying to race…..please move your ars!! At about 13 miles in, the trail started to seriously climb and they encountered about 8” of new snow. Bruce had to stop to boot a couple times as the snow was tearing off our booties and those particular feet needed protecting. The team was traveling fine and they started catching teams in the big switchback climbs. Bud caught Bruce about 15 miles in. Bruce had to stop and booty again and lost the chase. It was unfortunate that he had to stop so many times for booties ……..DID I MENTION THAT I HATE BOOTIES!!! He could see in the distance that Bud caught Eli and they started traveling together. When Bruce got to the top of the mountain the trail was very hard to find. It was drizzling rain and sleeting with a low cloud cover and fog. The team managed to work their way through this without issue and took off again when the trail got harder. They got back to the main trail and started the descent. The team was rolling nice and they passed Stacy Teasley and Monica Zappa. At the final 7 miles there is a huge climb that takes the zing out of many teams. Bruce’s team went a little flat; which forced him to work his butt off. After the climb, he caught Jake Golton and Eli Golton. At the finish, the team came in looking really good and checked out healthy. We have some dinged up feet from the previous stages that we are still working on, but overall we have a healthy and happy team. Knock on wood!
Bud finished first, John Stewart 2nd and Bruce 3rd. Today was definitely another shake up and we saw many teams move around in the overall standings.
After the race, we drove back to Alpine; which is a two hour drive. We will make the remaining 4 hour drive to Lander tomorrow on our day off. It is raining in Alpine, AGAIN! Frankly, it is a miserable mess and very unpleasant to work on dogs. We will stretch some dogs out at the trail head in the morning and hopefully find some dry area to work on feet. Tomorrow we drive all day to Lander and then we will have a parade in downtown. We will resume racing on Wednesday, stay tuned! The word is we can expect 30-40 mph winds on race day!