That’s right. WOW. (All capitals letters that time.)
Mark and Bridgett brought the Yukon Quest dogs home to SP Kennel yesterday evening. It was a delight to see them. They snuggled into cozy straw beds in the dog barn. Each stall opens with a doggie door so they can do their business when ever they desire. They have eaten and rested, been massaged and petted. We have whispered congratulatory “ohhhs” and “ahhhss” in their ears and rubbed their butts.
Then today, we harnessed them up and hooked up the team. Time to go on a slow 2 mile stretch out run -- less than 48 hours from crossing the finish line. And WOW. I mean WOW!
All fourteen of the 2016 Yukon Quest 3rd place team members are awesome. (Although... I haven’t actually seen Allen yet, I hear he, the 15th member, is doing well.)
See for yourselves…
I am amazed that these 14 dogs just ran 1,000 incredibly competitive miles and are now back at home -- healthy and happy -- and ready to run. That's right… 14 dogs. Felix has recovered from his gastrointestinal issues.
Crossing the finish line with 13 dogs is huge. As I look back through the Yukon Quest data I find no team in the past 5 years to have finished with more than 12 dogs. (The YQ website didn't have any data for last year. Although I know Brent finished with 12 dogs I don't remember if anyone finished with more than that. Let me know if I missed someone.)
It is, of course, a testament to Allen, his skill as a dog musher and a racer and the fact that he cares. He puts booties on dogs when they need booties, he medicates dogs if they need medication, he rubs down muscles and wraps wrists and blankets dogs and puts on wind breakers and feeds them snacks on a schedule and urges the team. Many of you may be saying… "Well, of course he does these things." But, no, you are wrong. These are not givens and to take magnificent care of 14 dogs for the first 500 miles and then 13 dogs the next 500 miles is a BIG DEAL. A really big deal. And I saw it first hand while watching this dog team today trot down the trail in Two Rivers while over 40% of the Yukon Quest teams haven't even finished yet. Am I proud?! Why yes. Shouldn't I be?
The public and the media doesn't get much drama, stories, poetry or tears from Allen. What they get is the 'real deal'. That's Allen. You can bet that he is trying run the best Yukon Quest possible and I can guarantee you that he is always trying to win. He did his absolute best this year. Hugh Neff has a truly amazing dog team and Brent Sass is incredibly dedicated to his Yukon Quest dream. Placing third behind these two teams is excellent.
This is the first year that Allen has raced in the Yukon Quest and I have not greeted his team at the finish line. I, like many of you, sat at home and chewed on my finger nails and pressed refresh every few seconds.
I was at the starting line, then I saw his team on the trail camped before Two Rivers Checkpoint and again camped at Mile 101 as I was racing the YQ300. I then went to Dawson for the 36 hour lay over. I said my 'Good Byes' to the Black Team as they left Dawson to climb King Solomon's Dome and I left to go conquer our Iditarod Food Drops.
As you can imagine, SP Kennel is a whirlwind of activity right now. So, this year I choose to leave the Yukon Quest handling duties to professional handlers and head home. Trust me, I am a very poor handler. Ask anyone. Ask everyone. I pance, get cranky and pop more Prilosec than is reasonable even for a Wall Street stock executive. There is really no need for me to be standing at the final 3 checkpoints, eye balling everything and anything that Hugh, Brent and Allen do. I am truly no benefit in that situation because a 'calming influence'… I am not. I LOVE being there (although my belly doesn't) but such was not the case this year.
I "watched" the finish like many of you. Three of us sat around the kitchen table watching the tracker at SP Kennel (Wes & Wendy couldn't make it over in time because they wouldn't leave their tracker unattended for the 5 minutes to get here!)
When the Black Team crossed the finish line we did a celebratory "Hip Woo". We had cupcakes (those of you who know me, know that I don't eat sugar… but I had a cupcake.) I had a beer (those of you who know me, know that I don't drink during the mushing season… but I had a beer.) I know… now you are all worried that perhaps I SHOULD have just stayed in Canada. Well… don't worry because: I'm headed back. That's right.
There are many festivities in Whitehorse this week surrounding the Yukon Quest and, plain and simple, I want to be part of it. It is time to celebrate the awesome 3rd place finish of our dog team. So, put all the other stuff aside… get off the phone, unplug the computer, enough sponsor obligations, sled rebuilding, Anchorage commitments, Iditarod planning… I'll have no more of that. Time to go celebrate with Allen!