Tuesday, January 17, 2017

CB300: Final Catch Up

And you thought a lot happened in the first half of the race!

I will jump to the end first. Please excuse the wall of text, I haven’t got to the photos or videos yet.

As a kennel we are delighted with 4th and 6th positons. It was a tough race - it was the Copper Basin 300, “the Toughest 300 Miles in Alaska” so we always expect the unexpected. After every race Aliy and Allen strip the race down and take an honest look at all aspects and outcomes. This race is no different, Aliy and Allen are looking at why our dogs slowed down at the end. It isn’t just as simple as carrying a dog made them go 5 miles and hour. They will ask questions: How did the race / rest schedule work? What do we need to adjust if we ever have those trail / weather conditions again? Was the preparation appropriate? How could things be better? They ask these questions whatever the result - good or bad.

We are the first to admit it wasn't a perfect race for any of our teams for a number of reasons and they will spend time dissecting it all. 4th and 6th is fantastic and Chemo, Scout and Kodiak still believe they are the winners even though they were in three different teams!

MEIERS LAKE - TOLSONA - MENDELTNA

So, let’s pick up where we left off - on the 70 mile trail from Meiers Lake to Tolsona then 60 miles on to Mendeltna. It seems like a lifetime ago!

The trail from Meiers Lake to Tolsana moves along the Alaska pipeline for a time then runs over Fish, Crosswind and Ewan lakes. At Tolsona we were much more sheltered from any wind that this checkpoint but the snow fell almost constantly.

The trail Tolsona to Mendeltna travels Tolsona, Moose and Louise later with BIG hills in between for 50-odd miles.

Mendeltna to the finish ran about 30 miles along the Richardson Highway - you can see the teams from the road and when Mark and I left we were able to see Aliy, Michelle, Paige, Allen then Ryne working hard next to the trail. One for the first rules of Fight Club - whoops - I mean “Handling” is to never never let the dog team see the dog truck until the finish line i.e. do not stop to take a picture else the team will think it’s time to get in the truck. It was hard to just drive by and try to ignore the fact your team is RIGHT THERE!

BLACK TEAM
The run from Meiers Lake to Tolsona was the Black Team’s run. When Aliy got off the trail she said “that’s an Allen Moore trail” and it certainly turned out that way with their run time through that section. The trail was “punchy” (punching through the soft snow) with lots of hills. Allen said the team did great through there and he was pleased with his run.

Own arrival the team enjoyed their snacks and settled quickly. Allen again slept outside with his team, deciding to forgo the trek to the Fire House (where they had camp stretchers set up for mushers to rest). He left Chippy with us as she had a sore tricep and needed some massage and rest. She was a bit put out that she had to leave the team but seemed happy enough to get into the truck and eat a few fish snacks.

They got out on time after five hours in the checkpoint ready to head 50 miles to Mendeltna.

Allen was pleased with their run through to Mendeltna. They came in strong and everyone was running well. With just two hours rest at the checkpoint everything needed to be precisely timed if we were to get the team out on time. We worked backwards from the leaving time to ensure Allen was able to fit everything in. Once he got his arrival routine completed Allen came inside for something to eat (meat lasagna) and a nap. We counted backward to allow time to get a meal for the dogs, get them dressed and ready plus time to get to the musher “check out” point - mushers needed to walk/run back to the check-in area to sign out of the checkpoint then fast walk/sprint back to their team to leave. A handler from another team sitting in the same room must have thought I was some sort of sergeant major barking orders at Allen - “so, allow x minutes to check out, you want x minutes to ready the team, x minutes to get your boots on and water thermos filled - if you go to sleep right now you have 17 minutes sleep. Go”. In such a short race even a couple of minutes over time and it COULD affect the placings. In a longer race such as the Quest or Iditarod it is not as critical, although in saying that, efficiency at a checkpoint is always desirable no matter how long the race is.

We got them out in time and for the first time all weekend handlers could just breath out a minute. We had now done all we can to help and support for the race - it was now all out of our hands.

RED TEAM
Aliy and the Red Team had also worked very hard on the Meiers to Tolsona leg. During the run Aliy decided to alter her rest plan and spend four hours at Tolsona with three in Mendeltna instead of the five and two scheduled. She left Sissy with us here with a sore wrist and mushed off into the night with Chemo and Spark leading the way in their green glow in the dark collars.

Into Mendeltna Aliy had an extra hour compared to Allen so was able to take a little longer with everything but was still super efficient getting it all done. The shorter the stop essentially just means fewer minutes of rest for the musher as most of the chores take the same amount of time whether you are staying two hours or six. We got her away on time ready for her run to the finish.

RED & BLACK TEAM
Boy those experienced dogs are great. Scout, Scruggs and Olivia are such pros, it was great for Chris to have such experience out front to help with the younger ones. Chris came in to Tolsona with icicles from his beard and was ready to head inside to thaw out after seeing to the team first. It was at this point on we didn’t see Chris again until the finish. I’ll get a team account from him later this week to fill in some details as I really didn’t get much chance to find out much about individual dogs or particular runs.

A SHOUT OUT

We’d like to say a word about the three checkpoints with hospitality.

Meiers Lake Lodge was a haven out of the shocking conditions outside. They happily made burgers and grilled cheese for us at 4am and were only too willing to help with whatever we needed. Free fudge or muffins? No problem! Thank you to the team out there who worked so very hard all night and all day.

Mendeltna Lodge was also amazing. All the food I saw being consumed looked to be very much enjoyed and my beef and vegetable stew with home made bread was to die for! There were so many treats and extras we could help ourselves to and for me, the best thing was the huge jug of water with fresh mint and lemon. I downed many many glasses of it. There was plenty of room for everyone to stretch out for some sleep and it was also a welcome haven. Thank you Mendeltna!

Old Paths Church at the finish line once again was fantastic. It feels like home, you know once you reach Old Paths you have made it. They had cook pots of chilli and about 4 different types of soup, exactly what everyone needed. Thanks to the hard working team there also.

We were also lucky to have along for part of the race some folks from Verizon, one of the kennel’s lead sponsors. William, Pepsi, her husband Larry and their two sons enthusiastically helped in every way they could. Goodness the gusto in which that team could rake up the straw was astounding and so very very appreciated by us. Raking straw to my mind is the worst part of the whole thing. Their positivity and interest was infectious and lifted our mood. Thanks team! Go Team “SPK Verizon”

Sincere thanks also to the CB300 Board and Volunteers. CB300 remains one of the kennels favourite races!

14 comments:

Steve Parker said...

Sounds like an incredible experience for all. Great work dogs, mushers and handlers. Two Rivers races next.

Lourdes, VT said...

Thank you, Moira for this thorough and interesting account of the last part of the race! Both Red and Black Teams did a superb job!!! Hope Chris and his team are good and resting right now! I'm proud of you all!!!

Beth Metcalf said...

Thank you for all the analysis and statistics. I would like to know overall, how long does it take for the humans and the dogs to recover from the race? This was our first race to follow and I devoured every blog, video and picture. Following the tracking pin on the CB 300 website was exciting. Congratulations to Allen, Aliy, Chris and all the dogs! Go SPK !

Dawn Engler said...

Yay SPK. Great job, great race. Thanks for the update Moira! Go Team Go

Charlene&Lisa said...

What a thorough post--thank you. It was obviously a tough race for all, what with the conditions we were hearing about. Great race SPK. Behind you all the way....thank YOU for leading the way in sportsmanship, taking care of your fans, and love of dogs.

Charlene & Lisa
Erie, PA

A-town's Becky said...

Thanks to so many who make this race such excitement for those of us watching from home. You're amazing, and we are so spoiled!

You are appreciated!

Nessmuk said...

I love posts like this....never apologize about too much text...we love it!

I don't know what gave me more of a chuckle....the "Fight Club" reference, or "17 minutes of sleep....go"...you guys are simply AMAZING!!!! That 2 hour rest in Mendeltna must have been crazy!! 17 minutes of rest...how do you do that!!! That run the Black Team had to Tolsona was amazing....that really gave us all an insight of what this squad could do!

No doubt Aliy and Allen will be dissecting the race....reflection is a great way to learn and adjust for next time! I wouldn't expect any less from SPK!!! Got to love the CB300...I appreciate this race more and more each year....one tough little race, ever changing and always exciting!

Looking forward to some more SPK CB300 2017 "Race in Review" stories and pictures. Hope you all had some time to catch your breath today!

Toni Tadolini said...

Thank you for the detailed run down. We armchair mushers can really get a feel for what it is like to be on the crew! SPK is the best in terms of dog care, planning and logistics...and then there is life! Go SPK!

Margaret said...

Oh, Moira, what a gift for writing that you have!!!

The choice of descriptive phrases for reading doggies minds was wonderful! Chipper for one, being led away, unsure at first she wanted to go...

And big leaders Scout, Chemo and Kodiak sure they had each won the race.

Just the right words for describing the stormy weather perfectly ..."shocking conditions"

All in all, what a riot - from the Handler Team we get the low down on the cuisine! Down to just how perfect every little detail of the WATER was. Couldn't you almost SMELL the burgers and grilled cheese?

Cindy Schaus said...

SPKennel is a competitive kennel in a competitive sport and in any sport there is the "after game" review/analysis We would expect nothing less. I would think that there is always the unknown fact of Mother Nature. It's hard to truly know what she will bring.

Love the comments on Chemo, Kodiak, Scout, Olivia and Scruggs. I had to smile when I pictured those dogs continuing on with determination to do their job well....and then there was young Rodney curled up sleeping in the bag. He will develop their mental and physical strength in time. Much in the same way human pups do.

Moira, I think the handler from the other team that was watching you tell Allen is time schedule was probably making mental notes on how to get the job done! Thanks so much for the details.

Barb, CO said...

Thank you Moira. I love the insights about the teams but also really like hearing those little fine grain details that go into making the race so meaningful, the food, the water, VERIZON straw-rakers family! You rock! One thing I hope to learn more about in coming days is about how the dogs go into the sled? I was surprised that Rodney was fast asleep.

Kathy said...

Moira-what a race in review description. I truly do not know how you
all do what you do with little or no sleep and mushers too. Mother
nature can be tough like it evidently was.
Love the comments also on Chemo, Kodiak, Scout, Olivia and Scruggs.
I'm sure they know how great leaders they are and Olivia what can
you say--SUPER MOM!!
I am so PROUD of SPK and a Big Thanks to Verizon for their help that was given. I love my Verizon Phone and never have had any problems in over 10 yrs. Thanks for your support of SPK from a fan!
Go-o-o SPK!

Marilyn cozzens said...

Thanks Moira,for such a excellent review of final part of CB300. SPK did great with 4 & 6, carrying dogs and weather conditions. Thanks to handler crew and help of Verizon crew.

Pepsi LaMar said...

We would like to thank Allen and Aliy for allowing us to be a part of such an amazing experience. The passion, love and leadership that are demonstrated from the interactions with their dogs, their team, other competitors and spectators are second to none. It inspires the inner being in all of us to serve others with a giving heart.

Moira, Wes and Mark were the backbone of this race. There endless efforts to keep on pace with Allen and Aliy were exceptional. Smiles, determination and camaraderie are the true essence that make up the SP Kennel family.

We will cherish this experience for a lifetime.

Larry and Pepsi LaMar