Sunday, January 19, 2014

CB300 - Red and Black Team Wrap-up

The goal for the Red & Black Team during Copper Basin was to give the dogs a safe, positive race experience. I had no expectations for a specific finishing position, as my plan was to take more rest than just the mandatory 18 hours. This seemed important in order to make Copper Basin a good experience for the two yearlings, Lydia and Sandy, for whom it would be their first mid-distance race.

Photo credit Josh Turnbow

After resting conservatively for the majority of the race, this team blew me away by rallying into a 15th place finish. Though each run presented a fun, unique challenge (open water, tight trails, long, sleep-deprived hours), the run over the hills between Meiers Lake and Sourdough was by far my favorite. We had that magic that you get when every dog in the team is feeling 100%. It became clear to me at that point that not only was our team capable of taking it up a notch, but that the dogs (especially the little pint-sized spitfire, Lydia) wanted to race. I felt like I was driving a freight train, as we caught team after team and charged past them. Each passed team fed their excitement.

Every dog on the team brought their unique strengths and quirks to the table:

RANGER (aka “Ranger Danger”) is my main man. Being a sensitive guy, he is my happiness barometer for the team, and his leadership is inspirational to the rest of the dogs (and to me)! He successfully navigated ice bridges over open water, numerous passes with crazy teams, and kept his swift, bark-filled pace in lead for the entire 300 miles. What a dog.

Being one of the R&B dogs with the most race experience, DINGLE was my wisdom on the team during this race. He is as reliable as they come, a truly honest dog, and I was happy to have him along to help show the youngsters how to race (and perhaps more importantly, how to rest). “Ding Ding” ran about half the race in lead with Ranger, and then I moved him back to help keep the peace in the middle of the team.

VIPER is a solid race dog who gave some extra “oomph” to the front end of the team. His ability to run well in lead and in swing (and certainly anywhere else in the team) makes him a super versatile dog. Between his “vocal tendencies” and Ranger’s, the other teams certainly didn’t have to guess when the R&B team was coming!

I’ve said it before, but HONDA’s most distinguishing characteristic is his unflinching work ethic. He is trying to single-handedly pull that sled up every hill by himself. He gives 110% every single mile, and I have literally never seen his tug line go slack. He ran in lead with Ranger from Lake Louise to the finish.

LESTER has such a calm, steady presence. He may be the shy guy when it comes to strangers, but he is all business on the trail. Never aggressive with other teams and always positive, Lester made a fantastic running partner and mentor for Lydia.

Honda and Lester

LYDIA’s body may be pint-sized, but her heart is huge! It’s clear to me that this little gal is going to be one of the next rockstars of the kennel. She drives incredibly hard and isn’t intimidated by anything. She is confident, but not cocky.

PUD was the definition of team player during Copper Basin. He worked hard, rested hard, and did everything I asked him to with a good attitude. He runs well next to anyone, and is one of those dogs who you never have to worry about. What a stud!

As a two-year-old, OUTLAW brought his crazy energy and enthusiasm to the team. As a last-minute addition to the team, he really put his nose to the ground and did a great job. I think a small neighborhood could be powered with his energy if you could bottle it. All you have to do is point him in the right direction and let him rip!

BORIS really stepped up his game for this race. He’s had a strong training season this winter, and it shows. He’s one of the dogs at the kennel who’s more sensitive to heat, but he avoided any problems at Copper Basin by eating well (which kept him hydrated and less likely to cramp up). Boris finished the race just as strong as he started it. He’s one of the dogs that I’m especially proud of this year.

Boris and Mismo

With an oversized body that he hasn’t quite grown into yet, MISMO is an unlikely hero, but a hero he is! This young guy was definitely the cheerleader for the back half of the team. Even late in the race, when it’s normal for dogs to be a little less crazy, he was the one screaming to go. Mismo also does double duty as a guard dog for the team, always alerting us to anything amiss, like a moose lurking in the woods (or another team getting fed).

BONITA proved to be an excellent choice as a buddy for Sandy on this race. She has such a beautiful, easy lope and is a steady worker. She knows the drill at checkpoints, and is always one of the first to curl up and rest when we stop. This was a great influence on Sandy, who was initially reluctant to lay down and miss any of the action (Sandy would actually fall asleep sitting up, her forehead slowly drooping down to touch the snow). The two ran the entire 300 miles together.

I am so, so proud of SANDY! From a dog’s perspective, I can see how a yearling’s first mid-distance race could be intimidating. New challenges on the trail, camping without their comfy houses, and no knowledge of just how long we are actually going to keep running... But, in good faith, Sandy worked absolutely as hard as any of the veteran race dogs. She ate like a champ, learned to rest when we stopped, nose-bopped her buddy, Bonita, every four hours or so (the dog version of a high-five?), and seemed to put her trust in the team. I couldn’t have asked more of any yearling! She certainly has a promising race career ahead of her.

As a Copper Basin rookie myself, I’m thrilled with how the team did and am honored that these twelve dogs let me call the shots for 300 miles. They made the whole experience as smooth and enjoyable as it can be. I also want to acknowledge the Copper Basin volunteers and trail crew, who did such an outstanding job with marking the trail and making it clear where to go. Thanks to them, I was able to enjoy the challenges of running dogs through the Alaskan wilderness that are inherent to the endeavor, instead of worrying about trail markers. They made this race a truly authentic experience for our team.


Bogey said...

Wbat a great write-up. The affection and respect you have for this team shows through in every sentence and every paragraph. You'll be giving the SPK veteran mushers a run for their money in the near future! ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all on the R&B Team, 2 and 4 legged for awesome ("Woof, woof")performances all!!!

And thanks for the terrific wrap-up report - you did SP Kennel proud!!!

Great job Meghan and Mr. Ranger/Danger!!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome teamwork!
I think Sandy's happy little snow covered face at the end, said it all for the dog team.
The dogs enjoyed the race!
It's nice to hear how much you enjoyed your adventure.

stormy said...

Way to go,Mehgan!Thanks for the wonderful synopsis of your race,the team etc!Go Red,Black & Red and Black SP teams and doggies!

marilyn cozzend said...

Thanks Meghan for such a thorough & great write up for the R & B team. It is evident you have a wonderful bond with the dogs. You blew away some veteran teams with your 15 place finish. Great job!

Anonymous said...

awesome story Meghan! loved how positive you all stayed, heard a few negative stories and big challenges. It seems like SP mushers and doggies were ready for it!
great race for you and the pups!
padee Santa Rosa CA

Nessmuk said...

Awesome run and wrap up's an important role you are playing with the young future superstars of SPK! Your doing a GREAT Job!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Meghan for this heart-felt summary of each team member's performance! Loved the "nose bop" part, especially!!!

The freight-train analogy was also excellent!!! Enjoyed your summary so much!

P.S. And when put together with Red Team and Black Team summaries, I am totally ready to follow their next challenges!!!

Charlotte said...

Great write up Meghan! we were following along with you. we were so excited to hear about all the dogs but especially Pud. It always makes us happy to hear that he raced well and helped the team,

Dawn E said...

Thanks for the update. You had an awesome race!

Linda Toth said...

Thanks Meghan - good details on all the hounds and especially good to get a window into the older youngsters as well as the younger youngsters. Great race.

Leanna said...

Thanks Meghan for the "rest of the story" re the race and the dogs. I enjoyed hearing how Lydia and Outlaw did. Being a fan of these two youngsters helps make following the teams even more enjoyable.

Lourdes, VT said...

Absolutely wonderful write up Meghan! Thank you much for sharing your wonderful adventures with us!

Amarok said...

Meg's you always could manage each dog to their best! We are so excited and proud of you! Hugs! So is the big I next year?

Holly Freeman said...

Thank you Meghan for giving us the down low on your Copper Basin experience. I loved how you sensed the team was reading/willing to give more at the end of the race and took them up a notch or 2. Congrats on your finish!! Excited to watch you progress as a musher. You are a wonderful teacher/mentor for the youngsters.