Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You most definitely can not push a rope

Updated 4:30 p.m.:

John and Zoya decided that because this year's race was so hard and the fact I finished, they would list me as an official finisher. Even though I came in last, I finished strong with more confedince in myself and my dogs than I ever thought possible. And I will get a shiny red lantern for myself.

Hi all,

Just a quick note to say that I finished the Gin Gin Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Officially, on the website, I'm marked down as a scratch, but I finished the 200 mile course. The officials decided I had to scratch because I had used someone else's dog food at the checkpoint as I stayed there a long time to let the dogs rest. They felt that qualifies as outside assistance which is against the rules. So, this will not be marked down as an official finish, nor will it count as a qualifier for the Quest. BUT, I feel totally qualified anyway, because as I'm sure you all read on the website, the winds on 13-mile summit were gale force and I was out in 45 below cold for 24 hours. This was by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I've never been so scared, so cold, so tired, so emotional or so determined in my whole life. The dogs came through like champs with only a few minor sore points and a little frostbite. We made it, whether the officials want to acknowledge it or not. We fucking made it. And it has changed me. I know now that I can do anything, ANYTHING, I set my mind to no matter how fucked up things get. I have a lot of people to thank. Thanks to my sponsors for helping me get to the start line. Thank you to Dan and Jodi for your kindness, friendship and support. Thanks to Tamra for helping me get to the start chute and to Hugh and Juho for making me smile on the trail. Thanks to Iris Sutton for helping me off the side of the mountain. Thanks to an anonymous musher for letting me follow his team out of the wind. Thanks to Ed, Alan and Susie at Maclaren Lodge for your kindness and hospitality, for which I never would have made it out. Thanks to Jenny and Audie at Denali Highway Cabins for keeping Sam company and helping out. Thanks to Sebastian for sending his handler out to make sure I was not dead. Thanks to the new and oh, so improved Paxson Lodge for your kindness and hospitality. Darren Lee, you saved me, thank you.
Um, I'm sure I'm forgetting some people but to all who even just gave me a smile or asked how I was doing, Lance, Judy, Tamara, Aliy...thank you. Thanks Ken, for giving me a big thumbs up after the wind storm and for telling me to keep my chin up when it was dragging on the ground.
Thank you!!!!
Thank you to Dr. Love and Theresa Daily for making me laugh while I was crying.
Thank you Sam, for your support and worry. Thank you Rich for your advice, your two fantastic leaders and most of all, your wind suit!!!
I loved this race and I hated all at the same time. I am much better off as a dog driver now because this was so hard.
I have to go. I'm heading south with the dogs for a week or so because it's 50 below at our house right now and the dogs need a warmer climate to recoup. Full recap and race photos to come.

Friday, December 26, 2008

'Twas the night before GinGin....

And all through the house, Jillian was having a freaking conniption fit!
Doesn't rhyme, but you get the point. We're leaving in one hour for Paxson and the start of the GinGin 200, a 200-mile dog sled race which I will be competing in. It's my first 200-miler and a qualifying race for the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, so saying that I'm nervous would be such an understatement that I, I, I...well, it's an understatement...
Capiche is out with a shoulder injury and I've had to borrow two leaders from my BFF Rich. Ku and Rohn are Iditarod veterans and they add a lot of depth to my team. I'm relieved to have them. The rest of the team is: Bully, Hazel, Hitchcock, Sipsi, Summer, Doyon, Crush and Pete. A good mix of ages and experience, strength and drive. We hope. I just need to finish this race. (Cue disclaimer) I'm not competitive, so even if I'm last, that's OK with me. I'm saying all this more for myself, not for you all. I still have photos to post and most likely more from the race. Stay updated at or
I could go on and on about the team and how beautiful it's going to be and how I'm looking forward to the challenge and being on the trail with a myriad of champions, but I'll save it. I have to go the bathroom. Again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Still livin' but you know I'm not denyin'

OK, seriously, bear with me here folks. I got back from the Sheep Mountain race and went into the White Mountains for a 50-mile run. I'm heading out again tomorrow for a few days of back-to-back 50s before giving the team a few days off before the big race next weekend! Yikes! I think I'm ready, though, as far as what I'll need for 200 miles in the mountains. I broke down yesterday and bought a $100 table saw to cut meat. I know a meat saw is the ticket, but I have no money, so the table saw will do for now. It took me most of the afternoon (and a whole lot of swearing) to assemble the damn thing but I finally got it running and cut up a bunch of beaver and fish. I must have ingested some of the raw-meat dust because I woke up this morning with, er, stuff, gushing out of all, er, exits. Not pretty. So my trip to the Whites has been delayed until tomorrow. The dogs are in good shape, though I'm a little worried about my leader situation. Capiche has been having shoulder issues and Bully has been putting the brakes on for no apparent reason. He's fine in the team but lately has no interest in leading. I've been using Kat, Doyon and Sneaky Pete as my backups and though they do well up front, they're having passing issues. Sigh. I don't know what to do. I guess we'll see how she goes. I have a ton of photos from the past month, which I will put on the blog when I get home on Tuesday, I promise!
OK, must go finish packing the truck.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Never trust a big butt and a smile

Hey. Remember me? Well, I'm back. Sorry for the delay. (It seems like I've been apologizing a lot lately.) I just spent two weeks in Big Lake training dogs and it was fantastic. They have lots of snow there and great trails. And it's warm...and by warm, I mean not 20 below F like it is here. Some days it was a little too warm and so I did a lot of night running. I trained with my BFF Rich Savoyski out of Greg Parvin's house. The trail jumps right onto the Iditarod route with lots of twisty turns and white-knuckle downhills. The dogs did great and we put in over 200 miles in under two weeks. Not bad for me. We did back-to-back four-hour runs and bumped them to fifty miles, which took me about six hours with a short snack break. We added some shorter runs in the mix to keep things fun. Bully and Capiche stayed in lead for the majority of the time but I did try some younger dogs up front too. We got a lot of practice head-on passing with some big guns like Ryan and Ray Redington and Cim Smyth. (Is that Cim?)
We got practice breaking trail and saw tons of overflow...some knee deep! The dogs just bombed through it all like champions. I couldn't be more proud of them. I took 14 dogs down with me (Bully, Capiche, Sister, Hitchcock, Strider, Brady, Hazel, Drake, Pete, Kat, Summer, Sipsi, Crush and Doyon) and still have to narrow the team down to 10 for the GinGin 200 which is now just a couple short weeks away!!! I feel a lot more confident in my camping skills and checkpoint routine and also in massaging and taking care of the dogs' feet. Even though I was away from Fairbanks, the cabin, Sam and the remaining dogs, I feel like this was the best decision I could have made for the team and my sanity. I'm actually not freaking out about the race now.
I'm home for tonight and then take off again tomorrow for the Sheep Mountain 150. I'm handling for Ken Anderson, who was fourth in Iditarod this year, and covering the race for the News-Miner and Mushing Magazine. Should be fun. There are some really top teams in this, the first race of the season, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I'll be home late Sunday or early Monday and then it's back to long runs with my team in the White Mountains to get ready for GinGin. Watching the dogs progress like this is why I love driving dogs. It's hard sometimes, but we push through together as a team, and at the end we're all exhausted and fulfilled. I love this job!
PS. I would like to thank the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for their sponsorship and also Lou Ann Savoyski in Minnesota for making me the best dog jackets I have ever seen for a super great price. Your support means more than you can ever know.