What a fantastic group of dogs I had on the Red and Black team!
VIPER and PUD led the team out of the starting chute. I intentionally chose really solid leaders as I knew that the trail would be going directly past the kennel... twice. While this could have been a challenge (“What?! We’re not going home for snacks and rub-downs?”), my team flew by the kennel without a glance. This was probably due in part to VIPER’s obsession with turning haw (gee would have gone straight home). He’s a very left-handed dog, which comes in handy in precisely these kinds of situations! PUD is such a reliable leader because of how tuned in he is to his musher. I was really happy to have him up front with VIPER.
WAYLON ran in solo swing and was, as usual, a rock star. His enthusiasm and unique bark-talk always make me smile. RANGER and HONDA ran behind him, with RANGER barking the entire race, as usual. RANGER’s barking is actually really helpful at a race, because it lets a team I’ve caught up to know that I’m there and waiting to pass. HONDA was so steady. I kept an especially close eye on him as he tends to overheat more easily than the other dogs, and the forecast was calling for temperatures as high as 15 degrees. He had no problem, however, and gave 110% the entire race.
BORIS and OUTLAW rounded out the middle of the team and provided some serious power along with MISMO and FANG behind them. These four guys are kind of like having a little rocket booster in your back pocket. They are such hard workers! TUG and PEPE brought up the rear. These two are so consistent, and work really nicely together. They are the dogs that you never notice, because they are always doing their job.
I was especially impressed with the two-year-olds, OUTLAW, MISMO and PEPE, who have limited race experience. When we pulled into the checkpoint, everyone had a big meal and got a fluffy straw bed. While the veteran race dogs immediately curled up in their straw for a nap, the two-year-olds sat down but remained alert, excited by all the non-SP dogs and the general race energy of a checkpoint. They eventually relaxed and laid down for a power-nap, but were (of course!) the first ones up and screaming to go as teams started pulling out for the second half of the race. Gotta love the bottomless enthusiasm of the youngsters!
Our run from the checkpoint to the finish was so smooth. The temperature had cooled, and I decided to move RANGER and WAYLON into lead. These two guys are such strong drivers and set a nice, brisk pace. Having RANGER up front is almost like driving a car, in that you can turn exactly how you want, whenever you want. He is SO alert to his musher! I trust him completely. With the cooler weather and a solid first run under our belts, I decided to let them have a little more speed for our run to the finish line. And they delivered! We had a flawless run under a bright moon, and crossed the finish line sometime around 2:20 a.m. We turned and ran the six miles home, had a snack and rub-down in the yard, and everyone was sound asleep (including me!) by 4:00 a.m. What a day, what a team!