The handler team has arrived in Meiers Lake Roadhouse having got all three mushers onto the trail from Chistochina checkpoint.
Before I describe the day’s events I understand there has been some worry and/or speculation about Quito not leading out this morning. Don’t worry – she is just fine!! Allen had been tossing up whether to start with Kodiak for days and decided this morning that, as he was starting Bib number 37 and was likely to have to pass a number of teams in a short space of time between the start and Chistochina, he wanted to see if some “youthful exuberance” would give him an advantage in chasing and passing. He and Aliy obviously think very highly of Kodiak and he wanted to give him an opportunity to prove himself. He passed the test with flying colors! Quito is still the superstar and there is no need to worry, there are still plenty of miles left in this race.
Right before hooking up the teams we harness and booty the dogs. The temperatures were mild so we didn’t need to put jackets on anyone.
Spencer has his mandatory gear checked by a race official
Allen discusses the lead pairing with Scout; Aliy harnesses Biscuit while Pepe has something to say (Outlaw is uninterested)
The start at Glennallen was, as has become typical for the Copper Basin 300, a well-run machine. Parking spots were laid out logically and the volunteers hooked up each team to a “rhino” – a four wheeled mini jeep type thing that really anchors the team from behind the sled. Handlers are then able to maneuver the team across the road from the parking area to the start line with ease. Thanks to Derek for helping us, with all our teams leaving in fairly short succession it was a bit of a handling challenge.
All three SP teams looked enthusiastic leaving the chute; dogs and mushers alike!
As the final teams were leaving town it started to snow – that “fat” fluffy snow that sticks to everything. It sure was pretty though. For the next few hours the temperatures hovered in the high teens / early twenties F.
The trail from Glennallen to Chistochina follows the road for some miles so handlers and spectators are able to watch teams go by to see how they are going. We managed to miss all three of our teams but we tend not to stop anyway, preferring to get to the checkpoint to get the lay of the land before the teams arrive.
This trail crosses several creeks and rivers such as Bear Creek, the Golkana River and the Gakona River but all were reportedly dry with no open water to speak of.
At the Red Eagle Lodge at Chistochina the team parking area was laid out in a kind-of herringbone design with each “bone” holding three or four teams behind one another. These then lead out to an out trail and was very well thought-out. We parked both Allen and Aliy’s teams away from the main busy throng to ensure good sleep for the teams.
As you know by now Allen and the Black Team rolled in at 3.45pm with a run time of 4 hours, 35 minutes. As they pulled in, cheerleader Scooter was really going to town; telling all and sundry how great the team is. It probably sounded like barking and howling to most. Allen reported having a good run with most of the passes going well. There is a race rule that states that if the team behind you calls “trail”, the team in front must stop to let them go by. (The exception to this is what is called “no man’s land” which is right at the end of the race where it’s all on!).
Allen was fairly self-sufficient at the checkpoint. He got some warm dog water from the lodge to make the team their meal, but other than that, he stayed with his team the whole time. He made extra water by melting snow in his cooker, made himself a freeze-dried meal and even slept in his winter sleeping bag right next to his team. Seems they all got a great rest!
After five hours of rest and a warm, nutrient packed meal, the team was rearing to go. Allen said Kodiak did so well in the first leg that he decided to leave him in front with Scout for the start of the next leg to Meiers Lake.
Aliy and the Red Team arrived only 21 minutes behind Allen at 11.06 with a run time of exactly 5 hours. She had switched out Scruggs and Waylon for lead at some point – Waylon adds a little “attitude” when in lead. She said her run was great and everyone did well.
Aliy snacks the team after arrival into Chisto while the Black Team beds down
Aliy spent a couple hours in the checkpoint that was fiercely warm with the famous sweet rolls and other goodies on offer. When I saw her she was asleep ON TOP of the woodpile right next to the fireplace. Despite the hustle and bustle of the checkpoint she was fast asleep and enjoyed some good rest before setting on the 73-odd mile run from Chisto to Meiers Lake.
The Red Team also took 5 hours rest here although we had some difficulty keeping the team in place for the last 20 minutes. We parked Aliy behind Allen, which has advantages when the teams are resting: they are near their mates and seem to rest more comfortably. BUT when Allen’s team pulled out we need to enlist the help of Scott Smith’s handler Jeremy to help Moira stand on the sled brake and snow hook while Ray and Aliy negotiated with the team to stay put. Thanks Jeremy!
Spencer and his youthful team made the run in 5 hours, 55 minutes. They made great time in the sticky snow. He made particular mention of Violet and Chena, saying, as they are smaller they didn’t sink down into it and were superstars on the run. Everyone else did very well also and he was happy with how they coped with passing and being passed. His team was parked among many other teams at the checkpoint but they did bed down for a while and all of them ate really well. The older pros Lester, Viper, Beemer and Puppet showed them how it’s done.
The Red & Blacks left the checkpoint at 10.45pm (official time to be confirmed) after about six hours rest. A head’s up for those following Spencer’s tracker: He will be running a very conservative race plan for the youngsters and is likely to stop to camp along the way on the longer runs so don’t be alarmed if his tracker suddenly stops for a few hours. It’s all in the plan. He packed some straw with him to bed the team down and will prepare a light meal for them making it a nice, positive experience for them. Spencer himself is doing a great job!
The handler crew is going to catch some rest now before mushers start arriving and I’ll update you again once there is something to say and/or when I have internet coverage. In the meantime, Macgellan will keep his knowledgeable eye on the trackers and times to give you more insights.
It doesn’t look like I am going to be able to upload videos at this point in time so I may have to do a catch up at the end. Sorry ‘bout that but I will try to keep the photos rolling in.