Wendy and I had a great time at the Copper Basin 300. I was shadowing Ray Crowe, Allen's handler, trying to watch and learn from him what it takes to be a good handler. Wendy kept the SPK Dog Log and "Facebook" posts as up to date as she could. We certainly hope you guys appreciated it and felt informed throughout the race.
Here are some things I learnt from Ray during this race:
- Get to the next checkpoint early and choose a truck parking spot that is
easy to get out of. If someone parks in front of you and you can't get out
you can be late to the next checkpoint and mess up your musher.
- First thing is walk the incoming and outgoing trails at the checkpoint.
Identify where the food drops, straw, hot water (if any) are so you can
relay this to your musher.
- If you are able to choose a dog parking space and spaces are not pre-assigned, identify which places are away from other dog teams, close to time checkers, close to food drops or water, close to the exit trail. When the musher comes in you can quickly determine their parking preference and lead them to the right spot.
- If melting snow for cooking is required, find the best snow
- Record the official arrival time and help the musher keep track of mandatory
rest periods. If there is no checker stationed at the checkpoint exit, make
sure you know where they are plenty of time before the musher wishes to
checkout. Musher's usually must check out in person but they don't need to
waste time hunting someone down.
- Note changes in trail routes and conditions and make sure the musher is
aware of anything important.
- Track run times, rest times, and dog count of key competitors and brief
- Don't forget why you are there and don't let yourself get distracted.
The most technically challenging checkpoint on Copper Basin 300 that we encountered was the Sourdough checkpoint. The food drops were easy to identify however there were no trail markers and we could not identify where the outgoing trail was. The timekeepers checkpoint was far up a hill and nowhere near the food drops and just as far from the musher's sleeping cabin. All these factors were key in determining the best parking spaces for our mushers. Parking the dogs near the food drops would be easy for the mushers since they wouldn't have to carry straw and heavy food bags up the hill. However parking the dogs near the checkers would enable the mushers to make a time efficient exit. In the end, it was not an issue since the trailbreakers and dog teams could not make it through from Meier's Lake.
My big bungle of the race was back at Paxson lodge the previous evening. Knowing that Allen and Aliy would soon be checking out, I went to find the timekeepers so that they would be aware that someone was shortly coming to check out. The checkers had moved down to the other end of the runway since Allen and Aliy first came in and that is where I found the checkpoint officials. I let the checkers know that mushers were soon coming to checkout. I then went and informed Allen and Aliy where to officially "sign out". BUT ... apparently once Allen got there, he was sent somewhere else to checkout. Aliy did the exact same thing 30 minutes later! In a race where mandatory rest is recorded in 30 minute increments, there is no rest credit for wandering around for 10 minutes trying to find a checker. Considering that the 2011 Sheep Mountain 150 was won by only 20 seconds, you can see how important it is not to send your musher to the wrong place to check out. Opps!
All in all, it was a great educational experience and I feel pretty well prepared for our next race this weekend.