My team and I had a lot of fun on the Copper Basin. We thought that the Red Team wasn't quite as fast as the Black Team. But, we also knew that it could be a close race -- which it turned out to be!
We always want the Copper Basin 300 Red Team to be as competitive as possible. But, we also want to put some unproven dogs on the team to see how they do. This year we had Spark -- completely unproven -- and Lydia who has never finished a mid distance race. The remainder of the team was a combo of inexperienced dogs and extremely veteran dogs.
I'll start with the rookies.
Spark - was the least experienced dog by far and his learning curve was exponential. At the first three checkpoints, I had to physically lay him down in the straw to rest because he was far too excited. He wanted to watch all the teams come and go around him. At the final checkpoint, he actually sat down on his own but never laid down. Understandably, by mile 290 he was a tiny bit tired but still finished the race in fine form. I'm super happy about Spark's inaugural mid-distance race.
Lydia - she is by no means a rookie but she had never finished a race for us. Not only did she finish Copper Basin 300, but she was one of the main leaders from mile 31 to mile 290. Of course, Lydia is tiny but her desire to be in charge is large! I really liked having Lydia and Waylon in front because they set an incredibly fast pace that kept us in the thick of the race.
Nomex - Nomex is comfortable with his very awkward gait. Obviously it works for him because he just accomplished an amazing feat by finishing a competitive 300 mile race but… by golly, he is somewhat ugly to watch! Other than that, Nomex is strong, powerful and a fun faced dog. I could tell the power that he puts into his harness as the team pulled me up and over some very tall mountains.
Driver- I ran Driver and Nomex together all the time because they were my two big powerhouses. As opposed to Nomex, Driver's long-legged gait is slow gaited and lumbering - the complete opposite of his partner's fast paced pitter-patter. When I glanced back and forth between dogs, I could almost get dizzy! Driver can keep a very speedy pace however. He has a little bit of race experience under his belt, so at checkpoints he was savvy enough to rest appropriately. He came through with flying colors.
Dutch - I'd say I had two All-Stars and Dutch was definitely one of them. He never got a little bit tired - not even the last few miles. He was even doing his silly little "chatter" talk whenever we stopped, even after we finished. He started the race in lead, and finished the race in lead but he missed a few hundred miles in between. I really see how he is an educated "big dog" now. Dutch is going to be an important dog for us this season.
Sandy - I never saw her not pulling. She was in wheel, right in front of the sled so I was able to watch her adorable little fanny go as fast as possible. Whenever the team sped up, she never let up. At times, she is too excited and would wind her tug-lines in circles. If that was her only fault, then I can live with it. Sandy will be on some of the main teams from now on.
Chemo - at 5 years old he is as veteran of a race dog as they get. He still gets giddy at the starting line, but then curls up in the straw ASAP and snores as quickly as he should at checkpoints. He travels down the trail like a pro. He was spot-on during the Copper Basin. I have zero complaints.
Boondocks - It was fun to have four siblings one the team: Boonie and her three brothers Scruggs, Willie and Waylon. They are seven years old and could easily keep up with the fast pace of this race. It was a little bit surprising to me. Boondocks is the queen of sassy and is showed through out the CB300. She is smart enough to know when to rest so that she easily has the stamina to crank out the miles. It is fun to see her continue to succeed.
Willie - is a fast dog so the pace wasn't that hard on him, he has always been able to fly over the trail with very little effort and this race was no different. I think 300 miles is still just the tip of the iceberg for ole Silly Willie.
Scruggs - is slower than both Willie and Boonie but he's a smart boy who knows how to managed the trail and what the team needs from him. He is never too stressed about any situation and never overworks himself. Therefore, he is always there in the end. Scruggs is an even better 1,000 mile dog than a mid distance racer… so that's exciting!
Waylon - is just so cocky and proud of himself that it is fun to watch him running down he trail with a gleam in his eye. I know he's thinking "Yup, I'm going to win this race!" For that reason he was my other All Star this race. He liked running with Lydia as she has the same kind of confidence and character as he does. In reality, he's the closest thing SP Kennel has to a whippet. So I guess the fast pace shouldn't be hard on him (perhaps he needs a rabbit out in front!?!)
Scout - I can ask Scout to do anything and he will. When I needed someone in challenging situations he's the man. He'll easily pass around barking, crazy, rookie dog teams by dragging the team through deep snow and off the trail. Obviously he's still fast enough to compete.
SIDENOTE: One of the biggest obstacles on the CB300 is always the Gakona River crossing. During the mushers meeting prior to the race start, the trail breaker said "the first dog team that goes over my trail on the Gakona better follow my trail markers exactly or you and the rest of the 46 dog teams will go swimming." The braided river is actually several miles wide and has many spots with no ice and flowing deep water. The trail breakers have to zig and zag 180 degree turns on the ice in order to put in a safe trail and avoid water holes. Sometimes the trail that a snow machine puts in is not necessarily logical to a dog. I remembered this comment as we were the first dog team to cross the the Gakona River. Needless to say, I had Scout in lead. And - as far as I know - none of the 47 racing dog teams got wet in the Gakona River this year. Thank you Scout!
Both Allen and I want to thank the Copper Basin committee and all the volunteers for putting on one of our most favorite races. The start was drama-free, the checkpoints well organized and the trail fantastic.
This race also relies a LOT on a good handler team. A good result is more than just a good dog team and a good musher so we wish to thank our handler team of Wes, Chris and Mark for their hard work and getting us to the finish line. Thanks guys!
Chris (with Junior), Mark and Wes