5 4 3 2 1 Go

16 February 2015   4.30 PM      Cloudy      37 F

Yes, it’s the middle of February and the temperature is a balmy 37 F and is forecast to remain around there for the next week or so.  It’s fairly disheartening to be wandering around the dogyard in just a flannel shirt and to feel too hot at this time of year. (Edit to add – well, not just a flannel shirt, I have trousers (pants for my N. American readers) and boots on, too )

As mentioned in a previous entry, training was going reasonably well and the team were looking quite acceptable.  The 5 leaders, Kaz, Kalekh, Quiz, Ruby and Rosie have been doing a sterling job and all contribute different strengths to the front end. Prior to the cancellation of the Knik 100, Kalekh’s face ballooned to twice it’s normal size – and as suspected, he had managed to do something that had infected his jaw and developed into a delightful abcess. This ruled him out of the 100 mile race, so when it was cancelled, I was happy that he wasn’t going to miss it, and I wasn’t going to have to race  it without him. It is times like that when I realise the importance I place on particular dogs.

And so, with the cancellation of the Knik 100, I decided to enter the Earl Norris Memorial Sled Dog race, run locally in Willow.  Offering a different format this year, of 2 days, at 30 miles a day  (actually 31.2) – it attracted 15 teams and included a couple of serious sprint racers, several local Iditarod teams and a couple of recreational teams like myself.

our race team jumping and barking
They certainly seem ready to go

Right up until the moment that the starter began my countdown, I was fairly sure that something would happen to ensure my 100% cancellation to entry streak would continue. But it was not to be, and after 5 years in Alaska, I was finally on the race trail. behind my own dogs and enjoying the moment.(whilst repeatedly muttering under my breath – don’t fall off where anyone can see you) .

The beautiful and hard working Brooks
The beautiful and hard working Brooks

Over the years, people have asked me what kind of team we have – and I have given the following reply – we have a mid-distance team, being trained at ultra long distance pace but at sprint distance.  It was also fairly apparent within the first 10 miles that I hadn’t quite got the right approach to the race – as several teams passed me I was trying to work out what was “wrong” with their sleds – then it struck me.  None of them were standing on their drag mats and a couple of them didn’t even seem to have them at all. It was sort of nice to finally get passed by Lisbet Norris and her Siberians and to see that not only did she have a mat, but she was even using it to brake a little.

All in all, it was a great race, the trail was really well marked, I thought my dogs did everything asked of them and I was impressed by their behaviour both on the trail and whilst on the drops at the truck, before and after the race. It was a first race experience for every single one of them and they handled it all with aplomb. We even managed to finish in the Top 10 and grab the last pay out spot.

Kazek and Rosie leading our 10 dog team.
Kazek and Rosie leading our 10 dog team in the 2015 Earl Norris Memorial Sled Dog Race

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