Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Cure for "Cabin Fever..." the Yukon Sourdough Redezvous!! This end of February winter festival is supposed to chase away the winter blues. But I tell you, with the weather and snow we've had lately, I'd be totally OK with the whole year being like this. Seriously. Beautiful sunny days, BOATLOADS of snow (that is a lot, by the way, I knew you were wondering about that), LOTS of daylight, daylight, daylight, what more can one ask for??

Ok, so this picture of the dog lot does not show the SUNNY days and daylight, it was a pretty crappy windy day for a race actually. But we're tough mushers. We can race for 5 miles in that, nooooo problem.

How could you be annoyed with more snow?? Ok, we've had a lot of snow this winter, and I have to admit I was even saying "enough!"  But that was mostly because it took me longer to drive to town in the mornings to get to work and anything that comes between me and my sleep is not something I take to kindly...

Jon helps Laura bib up!!  The 6-dog sprint race went out first. There were nine teams in that race, good to catch up with all the local mushers and focus on something other than the Quest! (which was totally great and exciting and congrats to my "neighbour" 20km down highway, Sebastian for the WIN! I like him, he regularly has way more dogs indoors than me, we're talking like 15-20 at a time, amazing!)

Grey, one of Laura's leaders! She's a beauty, very vocal too!

Ronnie, another cutie.  I would describe her as "robust." If she was an early hominid, she would totally be a Zinjanthropus boisei or I guess as it's now referred to as Paranthropus boisei (see below).
See the resemblance? It's obvious! Or is that just me??

Anyhoo, check out Team Snow Pigs - my arch nemesis in the white truck flying his flag... grrrr.....

It's Esther and Loki!

I really just wanted a shot of my "scared" looking sled dogs hiding under the truck, but he would only hide under my arm while I was taking this photo.  Esther WAS under the truck lots, but the little bugger would pop out everytime I came near to get a picture because she was hoping for a pet!!!   I LOVE the animal rights folks who are so freakin' brilliant in their observations when they say that sled dogs hide under trucks because they're so horribly treated.  So please note above - freaky Loki who I enjoy beating regularly...

And here is the other Loki. And Esther who was also under the truck earlier. 

Just gotta be there for the right photo ops you AR bastards!! 

Ok, back to the fun!

Esther was soooo stressed she was pretty much catching a nap standing upright before the big race!

There was one *minor* mishap with my team and gear... I forgot all my lines. And racing with no ganglines, necklines, etc... is not an easy task. I remembered everything else and left those in the cabin in a heap on the floor, argh!  Thanks to Laura, I borrowed hers. But these things are never easy, I had about 5 minutes after she returned to unhook her dogs, steal her lines, hook up my dogs and me... and go!! Thanks to Dave, Heather and Laura for helping out! Or was Dave taking pictures? Ah, it was all a blur really.

Matt, my competitors' dogs. I love the skijoring group - the dog trucks/cars, the stakeout lines (bumper corners), minimal gear... very low maintenance.

Ok, most of us are low maintenance... Jon and his fancy ski package thingy. He even WAXES his skis, he's just that dedicated.

So I don't have ANY pictures of me on the run, in fact, opposite of me usually, I didn't even think of snapping pics on the run even though I had my camera with me.  I was working SO hard, as were the dogs, that we didn't have time for photos!  Plus, ok, I was really recovering from my massive wipeout in the first 30 seconds of the race!! We went down a slight bump to the river, and I almost made it but right at the last second lost an edge or something on the skis and flew into the DEEEEP snow on the side of the trail. I was stuck under like 3 feet of snow, the dogs were super fresh and yanking me to go. I was pretty sure my legs were going to rip off when Steve the race official and a photographer (wonder if he got any wipeout shots?? He must have been hanging around that section for a reason) had to help dig me out of the snow and hold the dogs so I could get up.  Crap that was brutal. I had a face full of snow flying off and melting as we got going.  I yelled a soggy "thanks!" and zipped off down the trail.

The dogs were flying, but we had about 7km to go in total and I think our longest run this year was 7.7 km. I hadn't skijored more than a few km's with the dogs. I forgot - training is a good idea sometimes.  I was hoping they could keep it up and I skate-skied my butt off to help them out. Loki and Ripper were awesome in lead and Esther was equally awesome. We hit a bit of ice then a bit of slushy overflow that slowed us down. Then we passed Jon and again, into the freakin' deep snow. Our pass went well, Esther veered over far enough to make me nervous, but let Jon and dogs pass ok.  However, I didn't pass ok as I once again fell in the deep snow. I rarely fall skijoring, so I don't know what was up this day. I was able to partly get up and the dogs kept going of course, so there I was on one knee. I had my left knee resting on my left ski, and my right leg was propped up as we zoomed down the trail. I was actually going pretty good like that and wasn't sure that I wanted to risk another wipeout by attempting to get up.  But it all worked out!

So we did the loop and were on the hunt, I knew we had made up some good time on Jon at that point, which actually shocked me. The dogs and I had a mission: catch that team!

On the way back we hit the overflow and did ok, then Loki was looking like he was slowing down a wee bit. I stopped to give them (ok, and myself) a fast break and we were off again.  We made it to the end, the finish chute was full of army cadets (who I just about fell in front of, damn I need to work on my equilibrium!) and lots of spectators. 

And Jon ended up winning and beating my by only twenty seconds!!!!!!! Wow, close race. Congrats Jon... it was great fun! :)

Esther wanders around after the race like she owns the joint. I swear she was acting cocky and was totally hyper and whiny like she was ready to get out and do that again.

We ended up with a medal (as did everyone, I think even the dogs in the howling contest got one) and $50!!! Woohoo! After paying $25 to enter, I come out $25 ahead! Ok, so I won't get rich on this racing stuff very fast... but it helps with the gas.

Assman gets a post-race stretch. Torture, pure torture to that poor dog... and you should have seen his tail wagging as he hung limply from Jon, ha.

My crew, good times, let's do it again eh? Maybe next year. One race/year is just about enough for us.

The craziness of Rendezvous! I have loads more pics on the day and the freight pull, stay tuned!

As I was driving, I was trying to get a photo of the three tired pooches in the back. They were totally passed out and slumped all over the back of the truck on their little doggie blanket and harnesses. This was the best I could do and after 3 flashes in a dark truck, I guess I woke Loki up. He doesn't look too impressed with me there does he?? Ha!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Prepping for the big race

Ok, "big" is relative. The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is putting on the dog races again this year in Shipyards Park. The skijoring and 4-dog race are a whopping 7km!!! The 6-dog is 11km, and takes place Sat. am at 11:00 with the skijoring race to follow. We're skijoring for cold hard cash. Or a piece of paper saying "yay, you raced!" or a medal (like last year) or... nothing.

So I went out training with the potential "race" team: Ripper and Loki in lead and Pooh Bear! Yes, that wasn't a typo, I was considering her in the race. Until we ran today. Note in this pic below she is ever so slightly looking off to the side??

Well that was pretty much symptomatic of her whole run. She is good when we are going as fast as her legs will take her, but once we slow down... oy! She starts getting distracted, jumping off the trail, slamming on the brakes(she was behind me a few times!), diving into the deep snow, etc. I think I made a huge mistake at the beginning though by leaving her loose while I hooked up the other two. I was going to tire them out a bit, plus my start is brutal and narrow for skiing. No room for snowplowing! So PB was a disaster and basically a little BRAT who wouldn't leave the Ripper and Loki alone. She was jumping ON TOP of Loki, growling and attacking Ripper (playfully though), if anything it was great training for them as they just kept trying to get around the little freakshow.

So I finally grabbed her and hooked her up. Yeah, notice also that the tugline in that photo is not the tightest ever....

Later I took out Harris and Esther and I was reminded how much more professional Esther is! She is a superstar, hard worker and focused. The only drawback with her is her shyness. It's either her for the race or PB who will probably try and visit EVERYBODY on the side of the trail because she can't get enough human attention. Either way I think I'll bring both for the ride and decide on the fly! It'll be good fun for all of them.

She was pulling pretty good in this video, but near the end you can see her slacking a bit - well, we did slow down! And there was a *slight* uphill!!!

Aw, at least she's cute.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Josh in Carmacks

Here's a video of Josh Cadzow coming into Carmacks. It was very exciting to see him (anyone really)after traveling up the highway 200kms, seeing no one in Braeburn and/or Carmacks, except for parked teams. Woohoo.

Josh pulled into Dawson a few hours ago - halfway!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Braeburn and Carmacks!

So a spur of the moment decision on my part (and Laura's), had us heading to the next 2 checkpoints on the Quest trail. We didn't think the race could go on without us, really...

Sorry to the Ramstead fans - didn't get ANY shots of the teams or mushers! Unfortunately, they scratched, so we were off to Carmacks! I wanted to stay to watch our friend, Martin leave in the 300, but we were also torn, thinking the frontrunners of the Quest were getting into Carmacks soon. Well, we were about 1.5 hrs off on that one, and arrived in Carmacks to see, well, nothing. There was a HUGE gap between mushers. Little, Buser and Kleedehn arrived first, but the other sneaky buggers camped out on the trail and then blew through the checkpoint as it was getting dark. I mean, how dare they??! We are trying to get some sweet photos here y'know.

However, we DID see young superstar Josh Cadzow from Fort Yukon, Alaska come down the river though, that was pretty cool. And then saw Sebastian and Hugh come in and leave. It was dark and we were getting cold, and if I stayed any longer I was going to grab this adorable little stray fluffy husky and throw him in my truck! He was wandering around saying hi to everyone, man he was cute!

Here we go!

En route to Braeburn, driving by Fox Lake on a beautiful day!

Braeburn checkpoint, home of the gigantic sized... well, everything.

The YQ300 musher board at Braeburn.

Quest marker! We were getting excited, yep.

The trail to Carmacks

The media dudes on the bridge asked us as we start heading down the trail "where are you going?!?" Um, down the trail! Do we actually NEED a more defined destination?? We thought it was pretty obvious, however they were getting annoyed having been waiting on the bridge for over three hours and asked us when the next team was coming. They weren't happy to hear that we were as clueless as them. Welcome to a long distance dog race! The waits will only get longer as the race goes on, so good luck with that.

The media coverage is crazy this year with about three full-on film crews following the race. One German crew came in with Hugh (as they are following him and a couple other mushers) and had their HUGE lights and sound equipment all over the place. They are apparently following the race on snowmachines, in helicopters and planes - it's madness!

Ok, Laura is starting to get bored...

Or she is just REALLY easily entertained:

Ooh! Lookit! The shadow totally moves at the same time I DO!!!!

This is my favourite pose. Looks like she's doing some kind of interpretive dance - Jazz Hands on the Yukon River at twenty below.

Uh oh, mishap on the trail...

Yikes, that's gonna hurt in the morning.

Quest mushers are notorious for not looking where they're going.

Yep, we're definitely getting bored after a couple hours and no mushers to be seen! Arghhhh!

Pretty ice on the river, which Laura referred to as the "butt crack ice formation"... sometimes you just have to nod your head and move on when your friends come out with things like that.

A team! A team!! Yay, we were SO freakin' excited. It was Josh Cadzow! I have a video of this so stay tuned for that.

So we waited around for another hour and didn't see anyone. As the sun was going down, we were really starting to get cold, and decided to head back to the rec centre in Carmacks.

Sure enough, not 1o minutes after we got there, Sebastian shows up!

Sebastian's team waiting for him to get his crap together.

And my camera was rapidly dying. The batteries mysteriously died even though I was inside just before this and they were warm. I found out when I got home that I put my wee camera inside my vest pocket with the video ON and managed to tape 28 minutes of our conversation inside the rec centre - most of which cannot, and should not, be repeated here! It is hilarious though and I will blackmail my friends with it to use to my advantage in the future.

And that was about it for our Sunday adventure. Five hours of driving for a few teams, some sunshine, cold weather, icy roads, the smell of dog crap and a whole lot of fun!!! Yes, we entertain ourselves in weird ways up here...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yukon Quest 2009!

Wow, it's been a LOOONG day! After volunteering for both the Quest and Quest 300, sled bag checking, handling, security, I'm wiped!! Oh and thanks to Michelle Phillips for driving her team the fastest to the start chute (and almost the farthest away) of all drivers. Us dog slaves tried desperately to hang onto the gangline while running and sprinting and tripping in 14 layers of clothes and huge boots while running on soft, rutted snow. Good fun!!! Oh yeah, that was great fun, seeing if your feet can keep up after handling 20-some teams to the start line already. For the record, I did not wipe out! But it was damned close as we neared the starting chute.

First thing this morning:

It was -75 out. Ok, maybe not.

So it looked like it was about -50 at 9:00am, but it was only about -30C. Then the sun came out and it was quite nice. Although everyone who was standing around was frozen. I don't know if it got much warmer than -20C. Keeping up with the dog teams was my plan to keep warm! It worked, I felt like stripping by team #25.

Everyone's gearing up.

Simi and Laura pretend to be cold. Or delirious. No, they really were delerious.

I think this is at Jerry Joinson's team - what a nice guy!

Jon Little's harness/gangline system that I totally want to use. One line, less hassles!

I met Jon way far back in 1999 when I traveled up to Alaska, looking for a kennel to handle for. He had only done one Iditarod then, but had big dreams and was fully obsessed with racing. He has a pretty small kennel of 20-something dogs and now, a family of four! I haven't seen him since then, but it was great to catch up again. What a great guy!

Josh Cadzow, Gwitch'in Nation represent!!

Some beautiful dogs were on the trail today - these guys don't look too wound up yet.

I took some video at the place we affectionately called "The bottleneck":

Lotsa lines

Guess who's truck that is? Two points for you!

The Jamaican musher, Newton and his own personal camera crew, who really seemed to be annoying and getting in his face a *little* too much.

Newton heads out on the trail! Probably quite relieved to get away from the madness that is the Yukon Quest start.

Ah, I have no idea who this is, it's all a blur now...

Um, Sebastian... needs no explanation really. He looks really stressed eh?

Martin's handlers, looking totally calm before the start. They must have done this before.

The Countdown!!!!

The Quest 300:

Karen and Mark Ramstead in the Quest 300, how cool is that dog truck?!?!

Here's a wee video, just after their group howl, too bad I missed that!

Bootying 'em up. They seemed like a pretty calm lot of dogs for the most part. The veteran teams really stand out!

Ok, these guys of theirs were a wee bit excited...

Good ol' Gerry, my old neighbour/cabin builder. Good luck Gerry!

Susie in her first Quest 300, running a team out of hers and Hans Gatt's kennel.

Had to get a shot of Carter, Jack and Harris' brother!! He is the spitting image of Jack, except darker. Same big square heads! He was running lead in the 300 in a team out of Frank Turners kennel - with Thomas ?.

This was one beautiful big dog on Bill Cotter's team.

Our buddy from the Junction - Martin Jahr. Go Martin!!!!

Leading the last team up to the chute. This might have actually been the 1,000 miler... yep! Just checked, Normand Casavant.

I'm tired and a wee bit weak from all that running today... so it's off to bed for me. Good luck to all mushers!! Also to the somewhat under-represented people the race couldn't go on without - the handlers!!! :)