The first day of racing is now over. The skies cleared from last night and it got down to -10°F before the time the sun came up. The six dog class started at 9:00 am, so it had only warmed up slightly when the first team went out. There was still enough of a breeze to give you a chill if you were facing into the wind and my feet and cheeks got cold from standing around outside most of the day.
Andrea drew the fifth position last night, and the racers go off at one minute intervals from each other, so Andrea went out at 9:04 am, just a few short hours after we got up for breakfast. By 9:30, the race was over for our team. Andrea and the dogs had a finish time of 18 minutes even, which was 55 seconds better than her time on the first day last year. All the dogs did really well, and Andrea was very happy with them. She borrowed Elway and a yearling named Tsuga from her friend Bonnie, who was racing in the eight dog class. In the middle photo you can see Buddy and Elway in lead (closest to the camera), Piper and Koidern in swing (the middle), and Tsuga and Kiva in wheel.
18:00 was good enough for 20th place in a field of 30, but Andrea is only 3 seconds behind the 19th place team, and 4 seconds behind the 18th place team. With a good run tomorrow and some luck, she could move up a few places in the final standings.
Bonnie and her team did really well, coming in fifth place in the eight dog class. She ran a team with four of the yearlings from the same litter that Tsuga came from. The last photo on the right shows one of them, a dog named Salix, who flops on the ground after a race to cool off.
A good day of racing. We're relaxing before dinner, maybe catching some sleep before tomorrow, since it'll be another late night tonight taking care of the dogs.
The potluck and race draw are over (Andrea goes out fifth tomorrow, out of thirty teams), and while we were in there, the wind and snow picked up. There's drifting snow all over the place, and even though it's not all that cold out (around 10°F), this wind makes it feel pretty bitter. After the draw we got back to the motel and watered the dogs, which is what's happening in the photo on the right. They'll need to come down to go to the bathroom a couple more times before they (and we!) go to sleep for the night.
We've just arrived at the Snowshoe Motel, and the wireless Internet works as promised! It was an uneventful drive down to Tok, except for when we left the tailgate open after dropping the dogs in Delta Junction. As I sped up to integrate into traffic, three of our coolers slid out of the back, and our soda and beer cans sprayed all over the road. Luckily we noticed it immediately, and no beer was harmed in the incident.
We also stopped at Delta Meat and Sausage Company and I got a package of polish sausage for this summer, and some beef sticks for the races. They also let us feed the dogs in their parking lot, which was very nice of them.
We left Fairbanks at 12:15 and arrived at 16:20, which is almost exactly the timeline from two years ago. Tonight is the potluck and draw at the Tok Musher's Hall.
The Tok Race of Champions is this weekend, and we're on our way down to participate. Tok is the last race of the season for us, and because it's not in town, it's an entire weekend completely devoted to dogs and racing. The dogs stay in their boxes on the truck while on the road, and as a result, all of our focus is on their care. It's an exhausting weekend, but the community of Tok really puts on a good race, and it's fun to go on one last hurrah with everyone else in the sprint mushing community before the season ends.
The hotel we're staying at advertises wireless Internet, so I'll try to keep this updated when there's a free moment.
The first day of the 2007 Limited North American was a cold one, with temperatures in the single digits, and a howling wind blowing across the fields. Andrea and the dogs drew the ninth position, and passed the team starting seventh just before the final hill, which took away most of their momentum coming home. Still, the time was the best they've done on the 4.5 mile trail this year, and she was in sixth place, 1.4 seconds behind the fifth place musher and one second ahead of the team behind her. A good start, despite the pass.
It was about the same temperature on the second day, but the winds had mostly died down and it was bright and sunny at the track. We had high hopes Andrea and the dogs would be able to make up at least a second and advance into fifth place. Unfortunately, as the dogs were going out, Kiva got her right leg over the neck line and wasn't able to get it off. Andrea had to stop the team, run up to fix her, and then start the team off again. The neck line is a thin rope that connects one dog's collar to the dog next to her, and because Buddy sometimes hesitates when the race starts and Kiva is always rearing to go, the line between Buddy and Kiva wasn't taught, allowing Kiva to get ahead of the neck line and accidentally put her foot over it. Andrea's time on day two was 55.8 seconds slower than her run over the same course on day one and she dropped to eighth place.
The third day is longer, 5.9 miles, so there's an opportunity for teams to move up if they didn't have perfect runs on the first two days. Andrea was 1.6 seconds ahead of the team behind her, and 9.9 and 24.8 seconds behind the seventh and sixth place teams. The dogs had a clean run, took all the turns exactly as instructed, and they wound up with a total time of 51 minutes 15.9 seconds over the total 14.9 mile, three day course. That was good enough for eighth place in the race.