Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't put your ash near the dogs, please

Nothing could top the news of Rich finishing fourth in Goose Bay 120 yesterday. Not even a volcano erupting close by, showering the Mat-Su Valley with ash. (More on that in a minute)

Here are some results for all you Goose Bay fans.

1st) Jason 'I'm not my brother's shadow' Mackey

2nd) Carmen 'Came out of the woodwork' Perzechino

3rd) Joseph 'Not afraid to call out the Iditarod' Robertia

4th) Richard 'I'm not grumpy when I place in the top 5' Savoyski

5th) Gus 'I don't know what to say about him because he's mildly vanilla' Gunther

6th) Debbie 'Sparky' Moderow

Other people from 7th through 13th included Elaine something from Wasilla, a colorful character named Jesse Bebee, Wayne Curtis and his beautiful Siberians and Tom Someone-With-An-Accent who was running Kathleen Fredricks' dogs.

14) Colleen 'Doesn't seem right for her to be back here' Robertia

Sue Allen scratched about 15 miles into the race.

So, the confusion came after teams had their eight-hour layover at a makeshift checkpoint on Flathorn Lake. A storm moved in and with it brought strong winds and falling/blowing snow. Visibility was very limited and the trail had blown in. Trail stakes either weren't there to begin with on the outbound trail or had blown away/gotten buried, so teams were floundering though sometimes-waist deep snow (that's neck deep for the dogs) to find some inkling of a packed trail. Some teams went back to the checkpoint and according to one musher at the finish line 'The whole race got lost.' Trail breakers went out on snowmachines but unfortunately they a) didn't know where the trail was or was supposed to be either and b) had been drinking whiskey for a while.

Dangerous, foolish and frankly, appalling, I know.

Eventually up to 12 of the remaining 14 teams were lined up in a convoy trying to find the trail in the dark, in a storm. They would go up one way, realize that it was the wrong way, send word down the line to turn around and would turn, in unison, 12, 12-dog teams 180 degrees and head back. That's no easy feat even when you've got a tired dog team and conditions are good, so imagine how it was for these teams who were fresh off an eight-hour break and in a storm on fresh snow where it was impossible to hook down. According to Jason Mackey and others at the finish line, they had to do this synchronized turning many times before Rich finally spotted the correct trail and told the others. They took off and spread out. Jason and Carmen shot ahead both vying for first, but Joseph and Rich ran together for a lot of it along with Debbie and Gus. The trail was still confusing even as day broke and the winds died, but Rich and I train on these trails, so Rich knew the way and would wait for Joseph to make sure he was on the right path, too. For this, Rich got the unofficial sportsmanship award. I was so proud at the finish banquet when Joseph, who finish third, recounted Rich's helpful actions and then handed over some of his race winnings so that he and Rich had equal amounts. I was so proud!!! My heart was bursting and I haven't seen a smile like that on Rich's face in a while. Way to go, baby!

Rich is still sleeping as he didn't get any on the race and he was pretty amped up after the banquet so we watched a movie. (Cold Creek Manor, perhaps one of the worst ever.)
Rich's finishing team was: Ku, Rohn, Capiche, Bully, Drake, Omar, Steven, Jerry, Stanley, Crush and Pete. He dropped Sipsi at the halfway because she wasn't having fun. The dogs came in strong, tired and with absolutely no injuries. This, with the exception of Jerry and including either Hazel, Strider or Doyon, will be my team for next week's Taiga 300. (I'd like to thank Arctis LLC at for the shout out and sponsorship.)

Mount Redoubt erupted yesterday but Big Lake is east of the fallout zone so luckily we haven't had any ash raining down on us, but it is all around us in Willow, Wasilla, Talkeetna and Skwenta. Let's hope it doesn't happen as the dogs ingesting those particles is obviously very bad for them.


I have some (hilarious) video of the debacle at the race, but I have to edit it down a little. Stay tuned.