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.


Joe said...

They must pack some pretty wide trails down there. I don't suspect you'll suggest a mass start at Chugiak, eh? The race sounds like Toby McTeague meets Iron Will. I'm thinking about you guys...sending all good thoughts and vibes for your safety and good spirit.

YO said...

Oh my! Definite adventures. Pls stay safe. Keep those babies healthy. Looking for further word on progress. Hope someone is taking pics for you to send/show later.

sue said...

hey guys sorry so long. you know me. HOW do i work this thing??? but i talked to your mom and she fixed me right up. i am so glad you as blazing a trail through canada. i will call my sister donna tomrrow and see if they can make it when you race. work going great no worries. what an adventure. nathan you better have a good picture of jenn at that start. love sue

Sheila said...

Congratulations to you both for living your dreams - together!
The dogs perform as well as they do because of the love you two share with eachother and them!
Mush on! We are all so proud of you both. Way to represent Alaska!
Greg & SHEila at
All American Husky Rescue kennel

Mom said...

Jen & Nathan are on the last 1,000 of the trip - they haven't had a chance to blog like they planned due to lack of internet access. Feel free to email me at to get a more detailed update. I hear from them every day! Go Sundog Racing Kennel - bring home the GOLD!!

Barbara Johnson said...

I also hope to see some photos when you get back about the mass starts. It has to be a sight, but must also be a very frightning experience for the alaskan dogs not used to mass starts. Give those leaders some extra love and cookies.
It is nice to hear that you two are on the way to Quebec and the truck is running now... It is right?

Keep you in my thougts


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