2010 Beargrease 8-Dog

Sadly I was not able to finish this years Beargrease:( Off and on this fall and winter I have been dealing with some pretty painful and limiting lower back issues. I would not have been able to train and prepare as much as I did (though still not as much as I would have liked) without the help of my dad with hooking up dogs ect. to save on my back. So a HUGE thank you to my dad for all his time and hard work! My back seemed to improve some in Jan. then regressed again just before we were to leave for the race. At that point I wasn't even sure I would be able to race as I could barely walk, let alone run! I saw a physical therapist in Ely on our way down and he helped me immensely with identifying the problem and prescribing stretching exercises to manipulate it back into place. It was still somewhat stiff/sore but not painful at this point so I was just hoping and praying it would hold up for the race. My mom and I were quite the pair, she was limping along on a mending broken ankle and me limping along with my back! lol I drew 3rd to last starting place so ALL but 2 of the mushers including the 30 marathon teams left ahead of me. The first part of the trail was pretty chewed up (and crappy from all the dogs pooping) with a trench down the hills from everyone's drag pad. It was worn down to ice so there was not much left for my track to grab so we sped down the hills a little faster then I would have liked, especially when there was soft holes at the bottom for the dogs to stumble into. Averaged 11.1 for the 35 mile run to Two Harbors with a 3:10 leg time. Had a few minor issues that slowed us some in the beginning but overall the team was running smoothly and powerfully. The vets checked the team and everyone was fine, dogs ate/rested well. When my handlers were walking my team out for the next leg of the race they were so powerful I couldn't hold them back! Definitely more powerful then last years team but also more younger dogs in the team this year too. I had been looking forward to running under the full moon but wasn't able to enjoy it like I hoped as I had the most trouble filled run I have ever had! To start with shortly after we took off Pirate was limping... I held the team back some to try and manage him as long as I could. Very likely he was injured from the chewed up trail in the beginning of the first leg though I never saw any sign of injury during that run and somehow the vets missed it too. Then my main leader Radar decided he was done leading and got balky on me. I have seen this coming all through training but was hoping to race him one more year since I was down to only 8 dogs due to some of my older dogs getting injured. So had to stop and switch leaders, thankfully Radar ran fine in point. (also had my water bottle freeze up on me early on so I was really, really thirsty and probably getting dehydrated the entire run!) After that I ended up stopping to load Pirate, who did not want to ride at first but then settled in and I was eventually able to cover him up completely in the sled bag. Unfortunately we had the excess weight of Pirate, who at least was my smallest male, through all the hills! Then my headlamp went out! I was trying lithium batteries for the first time and it burnt out my bulb in my new headlamp. I lost quite a bit of time trying to find my other headlamp in the dark (at least there was a moon:) feeling around and under Pirate... The dogs did great though even with the extra load they were still powerful and driving. Even though I probably didn't need to I was working my butt off in the hills trying to compensate for the extra weight of Pirate and taking deep breaths of cold air then after a while I suddenly was finding it hard to breath in air. Even when I wasn't working in the hills sometimes I would feel like I was struggling to suck in air. It was starting to freak me out as I have never had that happen before! I have been jogging and running up hills training myself for this race and its the 5th time I have raced it so I am not unfamiliar with all the hills. When I came to the hwy. 1 road crossing I thought for safety I should mention it to the two volunteers there just in case I had trouble in the hills the last few miles before the checkpoint, so they would know it was me that might be having problems and not just a dog problem or something if I didn't show up at the checkpoint. I was totally planning on continuing on but one of the guys called it in and then they wanted me to wait because they were sending out an EMT and a vet. I guess he said that is regulation that they do that. I was totally not expecting that! They were asking if I had asthma and all that which I don't of course and checked my pulse but then she took my blood pressure and it was high. I did still feel like it was tight in my chest for breathing a little so they were concerned and not wanting me to take any chances. I didn't want to take any chances either with not knowing what was going on... its only a dog race after all and it really isn't worth it if there is any chance something could be seriously wrong. So with their encouragement I decided to scratch. I found out later that I would have been withdrawn anyway since I had "outside assistance". At least that is what my handlers were told. Lesson learned - I will make sure I am in dire straits before doing that again! I want to point out that the volunteers who helped me at the road crossing were incredibly kind and thoughtful!! I do feel I made the right decision however. All it was I think was me just breathing in deeply too much cold air from working extra hard in the hills and maybe my trachea or something was starting to get frost nipped or something which is why it felt like it was closing off. I wouldn't have wanted to do any permanent damage by finishing the race knowing the hilliest section was still ahead. Also I would have had to drop Pirate with his sore should muscle, and possibly Haley as she had a slightly sore wrist, so would have had maybe only 6 dogs for the last leg. It was VERY disappointing to have to scratch with the amount of time and money spent preparing for and racing Beargrease but oh well, what can you do right? Sometimes it just doesn't work out. I was definitely the limiting factor for my team this year with my back and then the breathing issue so hopefully next year I will be healthy and ready to race! I want to thank my wonderful handling crew for all their hard work, they did a super job! I can't thank them enough for all they have done to help me last year and this year! Throughout all the different frustrating problems I encountered during that problematic run I just kept trying to find things to be glad about instead of looking at the negative so thank you to those that were praying for me during the race:)
... Talon-2006 (M) (L)
Talon was hands down the MVP for this race! This dog is a machine! Putting him up front is like hooking up a rocket to the front of the team! He is even more powerful then last year and never seems to tire! He ran lead the first leg with Radar as I wanted him to be exposed to all the crowds and road crossings/passing other teams and meeting snowmobiles. He did great! I had planned to run him in lead the last leg too as a boost but then when Radar quit I moved Talon up front with his mom, Sparr…
... Sparrow-2004 (F) (L)
Sparrow always does super and ran in team the first leg, then I put her in lead for the second leg. She was having to pull Radar along a bit at times when he was being mental until I finally put Talon up front with her. She always gives it her all and just goes and goes! A dog I can always count on to keep going no matter what, just tireless!!
... Xander-2003 (M)
Xander always works hard though not as fast as the others and is the strongest dog on my team! What a powerhouse in those hills!! He seemed a little more tired then the others at hwy. 2 checkpoint but then he is one of the oldest (and biggest) dogs in the team at age 6. Did a super job the whole time!
... Haley-2006 (F) (L)
Haley was a little spark plug the entire race! She was very focused and lopes and lopes! She was screaming to go while we were stopped at the hwy. 1 road crossing!