Day 17: Alaska ~ World Championship Day 1

UserJessica DohertyTime2013-03-15 22:32:18

Friday, March 1st 2013 World Championship Day 1

I woke up real early and watered the dogs. I then gave a call to Dr Dawn Brown. She called me right back and she would be making a drive to Fairbanks this morning and would stop at our cabin with some JUMBO nail caps she had...

Well, the Jumbo were the ticket. Dawn pulled up, dropped her dogs, and then came in and promptly glued on the entire nail cap. We had to use super glue as the nail glue was not in good form any more.

All looked good, Dawn left and we left too shortly after for the race site. We got there fairly late, maybe 10:30. I didn't realize that the 2-Dog Skijor had started. We missed the Men's division.

The first thing I did was go look at the lineup to see who was in front of me. The Australian Philip Friedlander who was running Greg Sellentin's team and Christian Taveau of France in front of him. We leave at 1 minute intervals. The possibility of a pass was there, so I decided 100% that yearling Emma was not to lead. Tim was going to be Eli's partner for Day 1 World Championship.

We met quite a few people and talked a lot to Jacob Witkop who was handling for Kourosh Partow. Brian talked especially a lot to him. I met him at the Bristol QC Dryland race and Kourosh was parked next to us.

The 4-Dog started at Noon. We helped Jay Olmstead and Lily Stewart to the start line. I had scratched from the 4-Dog as I was short a dog and leader. My bib draw was #1 in 4-Dog. I wished I was running as I have 3 good dogs not racing today because of Ada's injury but on the other hand it's hard enough trying to bring one good team to the start, nevermind two. 6-Dog was our choice and I hope it was the right one.

I was worried we would not have enough help to the start line. Our team is pretty wild, and one of them likes to nip people hard in the excitement of it all. So I made the rounds and we got plenty of help so each dog had a handler, which was perfect.

At 30 minutes to start, I need to focus and all the side conversations have to stop for me. Focus is the name of the game and I can't forget a small but important detail because I am talking too much!

I am bib #8 and running my 2004 Danler Hornet. I think I bought this sled the first year the Hornet was produced. I remember I raced it then and a lot of people bought them the following year.

We are now in the chute. Jocelyn took over for Sherla holding Rose as Rose nipped her like I warned. Rose is my favorite dog but she is very hard to read when she is on the line. She has got me good a few times and Brian too. She looks calm but is really bursting inside with excitement and if you are not looking you will be nipped by her in whatever spot she can reach ~ and she usually leaves bruises. Unfortunately that is how her excitement comes out. A little hellion I call her.

1 minute is being counted down. We're as ready as we can be and we'll see what we do here. Hopefully the runner wax is right, it's blue TOKO S3 Hydrocarbon and I put it on 3 weeks ago in prep for the trip. I have my Video goggles on and my GPS.

5,4,3,2,1 ? GO ?

I figured I would keep my mat down as I did not know the trail and I did not want my point dogs to overrun the leader lines or their neck lines at any point, so I was little cautious. My point dogs are faster than the leaders so I have to pay attention.

In addition to watching the dogs, I watched the GPS pretty good throughout the run. The dogs were traveling FAST for the 1st 3 miles. I tried to slow them a little after 2.5 miles but that did not work out too well, but they eventually settled into a good pace after 3 ? 3.5 miles. I tapped on the mat a bit here and there when I would see them go over 23 mph to let them know to ease up a little. We have to run 6.6 miles here, not 4!

I really did not know what to expect. Tim and Eli, the leaders, I have run in 2 snow races in their life ~ in 2010 as yearlings. The winter of 2011 I had a bad back and did not train or race after December and the winter of 2012 was a total bust where we got barely any snow, mostly ice the whole year. Trails were non-existant. For the other 4 dogs ~ Lefty, Rose, Dean (siblings) and Emma (yearling) ~ this was their first snow race. I mean, I know they are good dogs, but I have never really tested them other than in Dryland competitions.

I think the trail was a treat for them. We don't have trails like that back home. The dogs rarely have an opportunity to run like that on such a nice trail. The dogs ran without error.

Just after the 12-mile turn off, the trail goes through a huge open area and turns very punchy for about a 1/3 mile. So punchy that I was worried that we might have a problem traveling as fast as we were. I slowed them down in that section when I saw Eli struggle in front a bit. We got through that without a problem but I hope they groom after today's race is done so that section sets up better for tomorrow.
In the 3rd part of the run, we started to see the Australian #7. It took a while to pass him between the woods trail and that he didn't slow so the pass went on and on. It was clean pass although long as the teams ran together for a ways, then I pulled away but Dean was distracted and looked back at that team for a little ways. Soon after, I saw bib #6, Christian Taveau. I stayed behind him past the 2 S curves then I saw the opening ? Eli was looking for my direction and I told them to do it ? they moved forward like a train and we had a great pass as #6 slowed nicely to let me get by. NOW we could see the finish across the field. OMG ? the dogs had kept this insane pace up the whole way! For real?! Now let's bring it for the finish! Go, go, go Buggies! You can do it! I pulled the mat up for the 1st time in the run and started kicking. We came into the finish real strong. I was so proud of the dogs. Whatever the time or placing, I would be happy because the dogs really did a fantastical job here today.

At the finish line, they scanned the dogs for their microchips, then we moved out. I took out a cone coming back to the truck, that was kind of funny. At the truck, the dogs did not look especially tired. All drank and I fed them shortly after the run, all eating fine. Tim's Nail Cap stayed on so that is great. I have 2 more Nail Caps in case it comes off but it's better if it stays on so he doesn't do any further damage to the nail. Rose got one fissure today on a back foot, I bet in that punchy section in the field. Dean and Tim had existing fissures on their front feet that opened up a bit more but they toughed it out. I usually treat them with various topical ointments but with the doping rules, I didn't use my usual Pellitol because I was not sure if one the active ingredients, Resorcinol, could possibly give a positive doping test. Probably not, but I wasn't taking any chances. I have other things I can use on their feet for just these 3 days. In general, their feet are in pretty good shape anyway, so it wasn't too much of a concern for me.

Like at most races, I had not drank or eaten anything since the night before. I just can't think of that till it's over.

Kourosh Partow came over and congratulated me and said I was far ahead of Ami Gjeston, who was certainly one of the people I was watching as she has been winning almost all races in Alaska for the past several years in the 6-Dog. I asked him who was 1st and he looked at me and said ?you.? I was FLOORED.

Once the dogs were taken care of, we walked over to see the times. WOW. 17.01... Ami Gjeston was 2nd at 17.43. The time gap was really surprising to me. I had my mat down today and the passes held me up a little bit. I wonder if Ami had a clean run? Even more surprising though was the actual time of 17.01. That would mean close to a 23 mph average. Something didn't quite seem right to me. I made note that Bib #6 and #7, the guys I had passed, had times that made sense in comparison to mine. The differences were correct. I will look at my GPS data closer and the video and all the times a little closer later. Right now I need some food and drink.

We missed a lot of the 8-Dog as we were busy taking care of our dogs and there really was no break in between classes at all, at any point, so very little downtime between helping other teams and getting ready yourself.

We talked to so many people this day. Lots of folks I had never met. It was really nice.

At 4pm, there was a Team USA meeting at North Pole Hotel. This was mostly to discuss the day and any issues that needed to be addressed. Most of the concerns were in the 4-Dog where the trail was not fenced off properly at the 6-Dog trail junction and 1 team went down the wrong track. Several others almost made the same error. I'm not sure how this happened, isn't anyone assigned to do a final check over the trail before each class? I guess I'm pretty glad that I scratched in the 4-Dog because I was Bib #1, there had been no trail viewing and I'm fairly certain we would have made the same error.

After the meeting, Kelly McGrath, her Daughter Samantha and Brian and I wanted to go get some food. We headed to a place called the Elf's Den in North Pole which looked a bit sketchy when we got there, but the food turned out to be pretty damn good. We spent a lot of $ but I got a Ribeye and that was friggin good. Brian got Chicken Parm. We were starving. Just as we started eating, Jocelyn Bradbury and Grace Baily came in and pretty soon Scott Baily and Jeff Brannen followed. That was fun having the crowd there and we sat at 2 round tables next to each other.

After dinner, it was getting pretty late now and we still have to water our dogs. Back to the Cabin, we watered everyone and attempted to get on Facebook, which worked a little bit but kicked us out everytime I tried to look at a picture. It is really challenging to get on the internet at the cabin but once in a while it works. There were so many people congratulating us and showing their support! It was so encouraging... I was thinking that this is pretty awesome.

Now I still have to look over all the times and look at the video and my GPS. I am really tired right now. We'll have to figure this out in the morning as my brain power is gone for the night. All we know right now is my GPS said 6.42 miles; time 18.05. I had started it a few seconds before the start and stopped it just after the finish. I also know that the time differences between me and the guys I passed, Bib #6 and #7 were right. We both go to bed a little unsettled because we know something is not right with the times.