We're just back from the Copper Basin 300. It was a crazy weekend with lots of challenges, time with some great friends-both two and four-legged, a great many positives overall, but not the ending we wanted... Congrats to my many friends who had their own highs and lows on this race. Kyla and Cody get a special shout-out!! NICE!!!!
With the Yukon Quest dropbags needing about 24 hours of effort a day to get done right now, I don't have time to tell the whole story just now, but I'll try to cover a few bases quickly-
Our team was the subject of Donna Quante's film camera this weekend as she was telling the story of the Copper Basin 300, in part by following one team - TeamTsuga! Once it's done, we'll post links of how you can get the movie...
Our team that started had all finished the Quest at least once, with a very noteable exception of Isis. This was her first race since she finished the Can-Am 250 in 2007 on Sue's team. This was her test for Quest and I'll cut to the chase; she passed with flying carpets!!
I dropped Ambler at Sourdough after his left triceps had stiffened up. I'm positive I could have massaged it to the point he could have continued, but with Quest less than 3 weeks away, I opted to be safe rather than sorry. He is moving without any limp in the kennel now and will be in harness again this weekend.
The rest of the team acted and ran like the veterans they are. I was VERY proud of our dogs this weekend.
The Copper Basin trail always has it's challenges and this year was no different. We saw numerous spots with overflow water that was deep, not just a little wet on top. Wet feet at -20 has it's charm, and the dogs need more care with icing on their boots, too. This is just part of crossing this beautiful country, although it's not the best part... The weather was pretty darn nice and I think we only had a range from -25 to around zero. Very comfortable for mushing for dogs and ME. I had more trouble being too warm than cold.
At Sourdough checkpoint, our last, I left with 11 dogs, that I had given a bit of extra rest beyond our mandatory to make the stop a bit over 4 hours. They had all eaten a full meal when we first got in, just before 9am. We left in the afternoon sun and I knew the first miles would be slow with the temps as warm as it had been all race. We were leaving in 18th place in a field of 51 mushers. We were the only Siberian team in the race. With friend, and driver of very speedy dogs, Jodi Bailey, right behind us, I expected her, and maybe another team, to pass us on the last leg to Paxson. At worst, I figured we had 20th place. I had said, and had heard said by several others, that a top 20 finish in this field would be a huge accomplishment for about any team.
The first miles out of the checkpoint are on the road that runs along the pipeline. It was plowed and fast, but wide open to the sun. I enjoyed the view and knew we'd pick up the pace once the sun got down a bit. I stopped a couple times within the first hour to let the dogs roll in the snow to cool down. They all looked happy. In a narrow section of bush trail that had very soft snow, Mugs squatted to pee and stumbled a bit. I thought it was the soft snow. She ran another half-mile and her back end gave out and she fell to the snow. She looked at me when I got to her, but she was weak and pretty limp. I knew she was in trouble and needed more help than I could give her. I was pretty sure she was going through sled-dog myopathy, and it's as serious as it gets. A million thoughts ran through my head as I loaded her in to the sleeping bag in the sled and got moving to find a place to turn around because I knew it was too far to go forward. Just then, I heard a car in the distance, and remembered that this was the only spot on this leg where the trail gets near the highway. Once up along-side the road, I waited for traffic. As I waived my arms frantically from the ditch, I realized the first truck coming by was Sue and TJ!!! It was a bad spot (a whole other story) to do it, but we decided loading the whole team and sled right there to get us all out of there and to the vet staff at the checkpoint was the best thing we could do. Once up at Meiers Lake, we had fast action from the vets who gave her really the only thing can help, which is a flush of the system by pumping a lot of fluids in to Mugs. I can't say enough about the help of Sam, Karsten, Tabitha, and Nina- by phone. Mugs has recovered, and is really enjoying her time in the house.
When something like this happens, it's impossible for me not to feel responsible and wonder what I could have done differently or better. It is hard on confidence. I've thought my way all around this and have tried to move on in head, but if timing hadn't worked out so well, I fear the outcome could have been much worse. This is extemely difficult for me. I would risk my life for these dogs, I somehow need to accept that they would do the same for me, but I'm not sure I can......
We're glad to have the support of the vet staff, race organizers, other mushers and handlers, and especially our friends on all of this. We've been told time and again there was nothing else we could have done, but is there??????
We will move forward.
We are deep in to Yukon Quest dropbag prep.
TJ is here and helping for a few more days. He had quite a weekend handling his first race in Alaska. I hope the experience helps his dogs, down the trail. He followed me around 30 miles of Two Rivers trails yesterday, with Stump and Moon in lead. Now for that 800 pounds of meat that still needs to be cut and bagged!
Gotta get busy-