On the trail - Braeburn - Whitehorse
dinner I checked back on the dogs, specailly Marmot, and massaged
his sore wrist. Piano`s sores on his feet were getting better, so
did Libby`s cut, amazing with all that running. Tang was starting
to worry me, she lost quite a bit of weight. I decided to give her
a running partner in lead with good old Chevy. I slept for 4 hrs
in Steve`s bunkhouse, real bed…. Nice! About an hour before
leaving I gave the dogs a watery meal. I walked Marmot and decided
to take him. Now I might as well finish will all 11 of them. The
upcoming stretch would be a challenge. After only 2 miles we would
have to make a left turn instead of going right with leads home
to the cabin. After annother 20 and 30 miles respetive we would
have to pass our walltents for the tours. Annother 20 miles down
the trail we would come by a junction leading home to the main yard,
4 distractions. I trained this run from Braeburn to Whitehorse in
January, hoping the dogs would remember that, and not only having
going home on their mind.
Michelle left 30 minutes ahead of me. When it got time to hook up, the team was almost going nuts and barking to go. Not because they looked forward to annother 100 miles, but to go just 2 miles home. This shows how much is psychologal with them. Physically there are able to do this easily, but the trick is to keep them mentally happy. Much to my delight Marmot pulled right from the start. The turn after 2 miles proved to be of no worry, Tang and Chevy easly swung the team south and we picked up great speed, I had to ride the brake again. I defenitely did not expect that. I waited fot Thomas to catch up and we ran within sight. It felt very strange to be on the trail where I know almost every inch. At mile 23 we passed the walltent at Kynocks and the dogs went by o.k., but our speed dropped drastically. I let Thomas go by, hoping my dogs would chase. They did till we hit the trail to 57 Mile Lake , there it took me a lot of convincing and cooning to get them by, we were going at a crawl, Thomas with his 7 dogs easily pulling away on my 11 dog team. Again, it all playes in their heads. I think we were down to running about 6 miles per hour, the slowest for the whole race. The snow got very skimpy and after travelling in winter wonderland I really asked myself once more why I have chose Whitehorse as a home. Not without a reason the locals call it Banana Belt. I think after 7years living here, I got the point.
I snacked short before the turnoff to the kennel, hoping to perk up the dogs. Right at the turn we came to a grinding halt and the whole team swung west, home….., Tang and Chevy would listen to go left, but the rest of the team refused. I wish I would have barricaded this turn. I tried sweet talking them to go towards Whitehorse, but their minds were made up. I started walking right with Tang and Chevy down the trail. Micky, Marmot and Libby really not wanting to go. I thought fine, and put them all in the sled, as it had lots of room and still 8 pulling. Driving a bus eh? I kept on jogging with Tang and Chevy for about 4 miles till we came over a little hill and it went downhill from there. I put Libby, Marmot and Micky back out. But Micky started limping immediately, checking him he had a sore shoulder which I must have totally missed with focusing all my concentration on those turns. I felt sorry for him and put him back in the basket, I really wanted this young guy to finish happily. This whole episode did cost me a lot of time, Thomas for sure was long gone. And it was getting hot, very hot, but I opeted to keep on running to the finish.
Instead of running on a high, being very close to finish what I have dreamt about for a long long time, my mood was running on a deep low. I questioned, if it was right to push the dogs annother 40 miles to Whitehorse instead just going home. I for sure put my ego over that of my dogs with making that decision. We had a painstakingly slow run on the Takhini and the fact that I had to pass numerous of Franks tourist teams did not help the matter. Why can he not leave them off the trail why the Quest is going on, but maybe with him just getting home hinself he did not even know that they were there. I had to struggle to keep Mickey in the bag when he heared all those barking dogs. Some of the tourist teams where quite out of control and I was very glad I could haw Tang off the trail and bypass the whole group in some distance. Next we ran by Franks kennel, without trouble, but just to run into annother of his groups. That made me mad and I feel there is no excuse to having all your groups right on the Questtrail at a time when you know there are teams nearing the finish, specially having plenty of groups out myself during that time.There are other trails to mush on. Hitting the Yukon River I knew it would only be a matter of 1.5 hrs till we finish. It was a strange feeling, I tried to think about the past 12 days and wondered what would wait for me once getting home. It defenitely was very nice to get my mind of the business really forget about it. On the other hand, did the Quest fulfil my dreams? I wasn`t too sure, but that mostly due to the rugh last miles I was currently experiecing.
At the finish there was a huge crowd waiting, I defenitely did not expect that, but there were 3 Yukon Teams finishing within one hour. I put Mickey back in line and trotted with all 11 dogs towards the banner. There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowed and a pretty emotinonal moment for me. I was glad to see Jocelyne who waited to give me a big hug. I thanked my dogs, specially Tang, who ran each meter in lead, never once missing a step. I have always had a very strong bond to her, even stronger now. She was a gift from Cowboy Larry Smith from Dawson, some fine dogs he used to raise. I did not prepare myself for having to say a few words in a microphone and felt pretty stupid trying to come up with senseful answers. We fed the dogs and put them back in their boxes, the Yukon Quest came to an end for me. Within a few minutes I was sitting in my office and catching up on e-mails and other business stuff.
Looking back at the whole thing, now a few months later, sitting at our kitchen table middle of May, my perception is a lot different from right after the race. When questioned there, if I would run again, my answer was quick to come: No I have had my fill. Now with some time to myself and refelect I am sure I will go again,just not sure when. Looking at my running times, I feel I ran a nice race till Stepping Stone, than after loosing Brownie things fell somewhat apart, but mostly in my head, I should have been prepared for moments like that. Over all it ran a lot smoother than I anticipated, the trail was a highway this year, we were very lucky. Also the weather was nice, just being cold for 2 days at the beginning, but not once I had some real bad weather, no wind, no whiteouts.
The dogs surprised me, I for sure did not expect Chevy to finish as he loped most of the way. Also Mickey with being so young. The finishers were: Tang, Chevy, Wondar, Piano, Paws, Libby, Coon, Marmot, Herring, Otto, Micky. Skipper I had to drop in Angel Creek due to an injury from before the race, I should have taken my “ spare dog Ginger “ instead. Eman hit the wall after 300 miles in Slavens, working too hard. Brownie I dropped in Scroggy after some misunderstanding. It is defenitely true, that the dogs who make the 300 mile mark are most likely to finish. They get stronger and stronger during the run and used to the schedule. As for myself I was happy with my choice of Bunny Boots, my Snow Mantra Parka and ski pants. I was not happy with being in not much of a good physical shape before the race. I learned a lot about dogcare, which is a fact I like a lot about racing, so many knowledgable people to learn from. I really liked my Gatt Sled but have to learn to be less of a pack rat, it was good to travel with Thomas to see with how little he traveles. A special thanks to all the volunteers and vets on the race. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this journey possible, see you down the trail.