Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another race weekend

Looks like we'll be getting another race in. We went and looked at the trail for the race this weekend in Walker,Minnesota and it looks ok. There will definitely be some challenging parts but it will be a great experience for our young dogs. It will be a mass start race. It starts on a lake and then immediately goes up a hill on to what I call "The Avenue", (like where the Rondy starts in Anchorage but you don't spend as long on the streets). So then after you leave the street you have 3 road crossings and a tunnel to go through. Then the teams are on a really nice wide snow machine trail. The 6 dog turn around is incredibly sharp, pretty much a u-turn in the trail. I hope everyone can hang onto their dog teams for that. Then it's the same trail back home, except the finish line is up on the streets instead of back down on the lake. Nathan will be driving the 6 and 10 dog teams from our kennel. I'm going to chicken out after seeing the trail plus we have a few hurt dogs. Electra hurt her back feet training here on Tuesday at Eddy's so it's best she has a few days off to heal. Loon is still out from his shoulder injury at Daaquam (BUMMER!) We will do better just putting all the best dogs in the 2 teams rather than trying to have 2 6-dogs and a 10, which was our original plan. I'm also going to offer to be trail help with our snow machine after the teams take off. I'm concerned about the teams on the streets where they won't be able to stop of course. It will be a super opportunity for us to see how our dogs handle that kind of race trail. It will be fun to see how they do.
I think today we'll train the few leftover dogs we have that will sit out this race weekend and then we'll head into town for a bit to have a look around. Love & Hugs to all our friends and family at home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A good day of training

We are at Eddy & Amy Streeper's place in Osage, Minnesota. We arrived here late last night (January 26th). We got all the dogs on the truck out for a training run today. The trail was real nice and in good shape. We ran the 2 main teams 10 miles and took the pups and "Loon" out for a short 4 mile run. As of the last drop Loon looks like he might be limping again on the same shoulder he hurt in Daaquam. We'll give him a good look over again in the morning. Hopefully he won't be out for long since he's one of our best race dogs. The pups are doing great with the traveling and harness runs. Today we ran "Guardrail" in lead with "Cinzia". He does super in lead for only being 8 months old. The other race dogs look like they might be starting to feel alittle better. On the last training run in Daaquam they seemed a bit flat, like maybe they had picked up a bug. No surprise considering how far we have traveled and how many other dogs they've been around. Nathan drove the teams today and said they looked alot better than the last training run.
Tomorrow we are going over to a town called Walker to check out their trail. They have a 2 day mass start race this coming weekend with 4,6,&10 classes.If the trail looks good we may stay and race it. The only down side is if we do that then we really have to boogie home on Sunday. We were planning to do some visiting with Hartum's and Saunderson's on the way back through. It would be nice to get another race in though.
We are having a great time here with Eddy & Amy. It's fun to hear all of Eddy's stories and just to talk dogs all day. Stay tuned tomorrow for our weekend plans. Hello to all at home, were hoping to bring the snow home with us!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heading Home

We are in Marquette, Michigan right now. We woke up to nice blue sunny skies although it's not very warm. I think it's about -5 right now.We are taking the drive home a little slower than what we did on the way to Daaquam. On the way up there we would sometimes drive for a day & 1/2 without stopping, trying to make up time lost from the truck breakdown.
We left Daaquam about 5AM, it was snowing and blowing all the way down the hill. Then we stopped the first night at North Bay, Ontario and then yesterday made it to here. The roads have been ok. We hit a pretty good snow storm when we crossed the border at Sault Ste. Marie. We had an uneventful border crossing which is great. The plan is to make it to Eddy & Amy Streeper's today and train there tomorrow. We are going to run over and check out the Casino here though before we leave town. Hope all is well with everyone back home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Final Day of 6-dog World Championships

I have to say, I'm glad it's over. I'm ready to get home now. Day 3 went ok for us. The trail was not as fast as yesterday. The wind was just howling too. I can't believe how hard it was blowing out there today, in some places it would darn near blow the sled over. I ran "Finch" & "Dewalt" in lead again today. Looks like we'll end up in 8th place overall, still the top USA team though. We may stay here one more day and train tomorrow morning before heading out. The training trails are super. It's a shame the race trails couldn't have been just as good. We are looking forward to getting home and doing some racing there as long as the weather gets better.
We will write more later when we have internet. Thanks to everyone back home for all their support. Happy trails!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 2 6-dog World Championships

All the dogs looked real good this morning, so everyone will go again today. The plan is to try "Finch" up in lead with "Dewalt" today. They were my leaders back home for the 8 dog races. The hope is that she'll get them movin a bit faster than "Makita". Don't get me wrong, "Makita" is one of our fastest dogs she's just been running a lot further so she doesn't believe me yet that we'll be going short.
Day 2 went super for us. Finch & Dewalt were great in lead today. The trail has really set up nicely. It was so much faster today. I wish it could have been like this for the 8 dog. Looks like we have the 6th fastest day time but still in 7th place overall. I'm happy with that, especially since we weren't trying to be competitive in this class. My fellow Alaskan, Jennifer Probert was in 10th for the day and moved up to 12th overall. She had to drop a dog from yesterday. We are the fastest USA team so far!
After the race we went and trained all the other dogs. The training trail is so unbelievably nice. We just rode on the sled together and trained 2 teams. We threw the puppies in with the race dogs just so everyone could get to run. Have to go feed. Look for the final results tomorrow. Then we'll be heading home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day one of the 6-dog class

We decided to go ahead and try day one of the 6-dog class after carefully checking out the trail yesterday after the final heat of the 8 dog.
The team is "Dewalt" and "Makita" in lead, "Lani" & "Hula" in swing (yearling sisters and pups of Makita) and my house dog "Finch" and yearling "Dukker" in wheel. Not an easy choice to pick the team with so many good dogs just sitting on the truck. The weather warmed up so that's why we left "Kodo" out. He was a little behind on miles from an injury earlier in the season. After seeing how Makita paced herself today thinking she was running 15 miles (she led the open team both days at Ft.Nelson) I may have been better off with someone else in lead with Dewalt. Suprisingly however we are sitting in 7th place. I'm pleased with that especially since we are a bit over trained for this particular race and I expect if we have good clean run we may be able to move up a spot or two. Funny though, I was so focused on the 8 dog race, I don't really mind where we end up in the 6 dog. All the dogs looked real good during the run today. They were not even the least bit tired, not one of them was even panting after the run. Hopefully tomorrow they will realize how short of a run it'll be and get movin a little more. The trail is still real soft. It's not puchy though like it was for the 8 dog. I was a bit nervous that Dewalt and Makita might try to go the 8 dog trail but no problems at all there.
Tomorrow after the race if the training trail is open I think we'll have to get these other guys out. They are getting pretty wild sitting on the truck so much. Everyone is doing great with the loose dropping. We let everyone race around this morning for quite awhile. They were having a great time. Dukker was very playful and would run around with a stick or tree branch in his mouth with all the other boys in hot pursuit. Dukker also sends hug & kisses to his little buddy Chayton back home. He can't wait to see you again.
We are having to do two separate drops because we have females in heat and don't want to take any chances with breedings. It's easier just to keep them separate rather than harp on the boys the whole time they are out. Since "Scooby" is neutered he gets dropped witht the girls since he's boxed with "Chloe". He's the entertainment for the girls. They all like to chase him around. It's like he's the cute kid in the school and all the girls follow him.
Time to go take care of dogs. More on the race after the heat tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We came over to the trails today and watched the 8 dog class for the final day. I can't even begin to describe how hard it is to stand on the sidelines and watch. We hurt one of our main dogs who has raced every heat of all of our major races for a couple years now. The bad trail and his injury is the main reason we decided to pull our team out. He'll recover, just has a sore shoulder from punching through the soft trail. We did booger up some feet too.
Nathan and I decided to stick around and hope maybe the trail would get a little better after some dog team traffic. We still have the chance to race the 6-dog if we decide we want to. So after the race today we walked about 2 or so miles out on the trail. I really can't believe how much better it looks after 2 days of racing. It's still far from perfect. It's still pretty soft but not so punchy. When we were on our way walking back in, we ran into our fellow Alaskan musher Jennifer Probert. She was checking out the trail too. So we'll give it another go tomorrow. Just got the draw for tomorrow. Great both Jennifer & I get to start at the back of the pack. There's 33 6-dog teams that are supposed to start the race. All our dogs look good. The next big decision for us is which of our dogs will run the 6-dog race. Plan is to go with Dewalt & Kodo in lead. Dar will have to sit this one out. Not a good trail for a dog recovering from a muscle injury. He's pretty well healed but don't want to take a chance. Also thinking we'll take some of the yearlings, Dukker, Lani & Hula are the best. We'll have a look at everone in the morning and make the last minute choice then. Hugs to all back home. Thank you for your thoughtful words to us after our big disapointment in the 8 dog.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day 2 of the world championships will not be happening for us. A look over the dogs this morning and we decided not to continue. This choice was made based on what we think is the safest thing for the dogs. We witnessed a pretty bad injury to a fellow mushers main leader and possibly a career ender. That made our decision even easier. Although it was no where near an easy choice to withdrawl after all the time we spent preparing to get here. We always put our dogs first above even winning. Fortunatley for us all of our dogs that were hurt will recover and race again. More later on whats next for us.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day one of the world championships was pretty disappointing. The trail was absolutely one of the worst trails we have ever run on. Not at all what we expected for a world class race. I tried my best to keep the team slowed down to avoid injuries since we still have a lot of races left back home in Alaska. The 1st mile of the trail was super, real hard and fast, then about the next 8 miles was 8 inches of sugary powder down the center of the trail. The last part coming home was pretty good too. The edges were hard enough that the dogs thought they could run fast but just about the time you think finally the trail is better they would fall through. Then we had a bit of a finish line disaster. There were quite a few photographers and we were running down the river and to cross the finish line you have to get your dogs to go between these 2 orange fences about 6 feet apart. The only catch is there was nothing to sort of help you funnel into the 2 fences if that makes sense. So my guys decided since this photographer was waving at them, that must be where they were to go and headed straight there. Wrong! I couldn't get my hook to set on the ice DUH! I'm hollering for help but of course no one is going to help. I'm an American not a Quebec musher. So I set my hook the best I could and hoping for the best I jump off and run for my leaders to drag them over to the finish line. Well about then the hook pops and I watch as my dog team crashes into the fence ahead. Now they are in a ball as finally people jump over the fence to help. God knows how many people it took to drag my team backward and over the finish line. It is so disappointing to come so far and this whole event is so disorganized and the trail is so bad. They have known for so long they were holding the race here it's no excuse to have such a terrible trail for a world championship race. They can't use the excuse that the weather caused it because we trained here on Friday on the designated training trails and they were great. I don't know at this point if we will race again tomorrow. We'll have to see how the team looks in the morning and decide if it's really worth the risks to run a such a bad trail. What do we really have to gain from going on? We know we have a super team and lots of races on good trails still too come.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We finally made it! It's been pretty crazy since we left Ft.Nelson. The truck broke down in Ft.St. John. Ross & Tammy Suanderson along with Tammy's parents helped us get back on the road. Ross knew someone who was willing to give up a repair appointment for their vehicle so we could get ours in. If not for that we'd still be in Ft.St.John since all the shop said it would be at least 3 weeks. The only catch was that we had to get the truck to Edmonton,Alberta. We were told the truck should make it as long as we kept it full of antifreeze. We were told it had a blown head gasket.
So off we were to Edmonton. We got a late start so we didn't make it in to Mark & Brooke Hartum's until real late. So instead of waking their family up, we slept in the truck in their driveway and got up at 6AM to move the dogs over to their dog box trailer. Nathan then headed off to drop the truck off and i stayed with the dogs back at the Hartum residence. My battery is going dead so I'll stop for now and add more tomorrow.
8 dog race begins tomorrow, January17th. Dogs look pretty good. They will be happy to be out of their boxes and running I'm sure. Lots of unknowns here at this race it appears. Even the race marshall has some big concrens.
Hugs to all our family back home.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We Made It!!!

Arrived on January 15th at Lac-Frontiere Quebec where we are able to rent a chalet from a local Quebecian. We are in a wooded area so it is nice not to have to deal with hotel arrangements. However, we have NO internet access at the chalet and poor cell reception too. Once we get settled we will go in search of a way to get in touch again!

Somwhere in ottawa

We are somewhere near Ottawa Ontario – about 10:40 pm Eastern time Wednesday night 14th of January. We will be dropping dogs here in a few minutes. We are about 311 miles from our “base camp” near Daaquam. We are tired of driving and the dogs are tired of riding in the truck, but all will be good soon. We are posting this via our webmaster because we still can’t get on internet to read all your messages. After we get to where we are staying we will find an internet cafĂ© and give you some good updates! Thanks for all your good thoughts and messages too!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ft. Nelson – Race Weekend – January 3-4

I survived my first mass start race. What an adrenalin rush that was!! Fortunately for me there was a quite smaller field compared to years past. I am sure the extreme cold weather had something to do with the lack of teams. I’m not sure of the exact temperature but it was hovering somewhere around minus 40 degrees (-40). Terry Streeper and I talked about how maybe a cut-off temperature would be a good thing, although after traveling so far it sure would have been a bummer not to race.

In a mass start race all the teams hook up at the same time and then leave their post when the green flag drops. The idea is that you want to be the first team to the corner where the big wide trail funnels into about an 8 foot trail. I was probably a little too conservative trying to avoid tangles and ended up in the middle of the pack. Teams were running side by side with another one ahead and sometimes 2 more right behind. When some of the teams try to pass, dogs are biting out at one another. It is quite a site to see and be in the middle of! Before the race began I had decided the most important thing, even above winning, to avoid at all costs hurting anyone, since this would be my team for the world championships. About 2 miles into the race, you exit the lake and are on a trail about 14 feet wide. That’s where I made my move both days. On Saturday I was 3rd off the lake and planned to chase the 2 lead teams at least through the turn-around point. After the ½ way point I let my team go. At one point while I was trying to get around the other 2 teams we were all 3 lined up – side by side - going down the trail. Finally one of the teams slowed to let me by but the other one wouldn’t give trail. Eventually we managed to pull away although not too far. My team did very well considering how close the other teams were traveling behind us. You have to have super lead dogs for this kind of racing – and I was real proud of Dar and Dewalt for the outstanding job they did. We crossed the finish line first and won the race!

Each day of racing is counted as a separate race, so if you have one bad day, you can make it up the other day. On Sunday we were next to last getting off the lake, someone ran into my leader real hard with their sled so I just hit my breaks and let everyone go by. I figured I would pass them all on the wide trail after we got off the lake. One day of racing wasn’t worth winning and not having my leaders for Quebec. We had quite a bit of trouble getting the other teams to let us pass. I hear from my friend Lina, who was also racing, that sometimes you really have to be quite nasty to get those other guys to let you get around their team. By the time we made the turn-around point, I had caught and passed all but one team. I was steadily gaining ground on her but just ran out of time to overtake her. So we finished 2nd for the day by 14 seconds! We were quite a way ahead of all the other teams. On the 2nd day I raced Koto and Dewalt in lead because Dar had a knee injury from before we left Alaska that was bothering him.

Nathan ran the open class with all the yearlings. When we arrived in Ft. Nelson we discovered that the open would be running 15 ½ miles and not the 14 miles we had planned on. It was a bit far but we decided to make a go of it and just try to get them all around and keep them on their feet. Day 1 he took Nora and Makita in lead and Day 2 he took Hula (a yearling) with Makita in lead and about ½ way he switched Shey in lead and moved Hula back. He took all 13 dogs both days. It was so cold we had to put the fleece belly bibs that Nathan’s aunt Sue made us before we left on almost every dog! Thank goodness for the hairy huskies we do have! All the dogs survived it just fine – some of the yearlings were pretty tired at the end of the race Sunday, but it will only make them better for next year. Nathan is glad there wasn’t a 3rd day.

The Streeper family put on an incredible race. They did a fantastic job on the trail and were very helpful to everyone. Debby Streeper and her helpers made an excellent dinner for all the racers on Saturday night. On Sunday night we all gathered at the Streeper house for leftover dinner and a recap of the race weekend. Despite the extremely cold weather – we are still glad we came and raced. It was a great experience and really nice to see all the Streeper again. Next stop was Ft. St. John where Ross and Tammy Saunderson live. More to come on the Dog Truck Repair saga.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Update January 6th 2009

Jen & Nathans' truck blew a head gasket in Ft. Saint John. They had to limp the truck into Edmonton to get the work done on it (8 hours away) since no one in Ft. Saint John could get it in before January 20th. They do not know how long it will take to get it fixed - while they are hopeful
they will still make it to Quebec, they are entirely at the mercy of the repair shop (and availability of diesel engine parts) in Canada, so there is no way to be sure now. They are hoping to be able to stay with a musher in the Edmonton area since they cannot leave 30 dogs on the truck while it
is being repaired! We will update as info comes in.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Well we rang in the new year sleeping. How boring I know, but it was a long trip over here to Ft. Nelson and we didn't get much sleep on the way but we made it. Monday night we had to leave the truck running all night long because it was so cold in Tok. It's hard to sleep good when your truck is outside running with all the precious cargo (dogs) in it. Then we had to sleep in the truck Tuesday night because all the gas stations in Watson Lake were closed when we got there about 11pm. So we waited until they opened at 6am, then we off again. The roads were pretty good for the most part. We saw lots of wildlife. We saw Elk, Deer, Buffalo, Lynx, and Fox. We have pictures but they're back in the hotel room so we'll try to add them later.
We wanted to make it to Ft. Nelson in time to train on Wednesday but since that didn't happen, we did a short run today just to let the dogs strech out. It's very cold so that helped make the decision to go a little shorter. We trained 2 teams and both ran 7.5 miles. Everyone looks good. The trails at the Streeper kennel are real nice and all of the family is so wonderful to us. A big thanks to Buddy for taking time out to show us the trail today so we could train. Looks like Nathan will run the open with mostly the yearlings, and Terry Streeper has me talked into running the 10-dog. I'm not to sure about it though since it's a mass start race. I'll most likely only have 8 dogs left to run. If our leader "Dar" is healed up & ready to go he should be a real bonus to my team. He got bit in the knee during one of the very rare dog fights we have in our kennel. We ran him today & if he still looks ok tomorrow he will lead my team along with our newest superstar "Dewalt". Nathan is planning to take "Makita" & "Nora" in lead for his team.
Happy New Year to everyone back home. Thanks for all of your support. Love & Hugs to our families, especially Chayton & Kasey (our nephew & niece).