Wow – you’d think after all of these years, nothing would surprise me in Bethel. Wrong. Oh what a race we had for the Kuskokwim 300!
We started on good trail, snow covered river, no water of wind in sight. The actual race start found Dave & I side by side as our teams shot out of the double barreled start shoot. It sort of went downhill from there. Actually the first 100 miles weren’t too bad, but the wind definitely picked up. The last 25 miles into the village of Kalskag hiding behind my sled bag from the 40 mile/hr headwind. By the time we reached Aniak and headed out to the halfway point of Pike Lake, temperatures had soared to high 30’s and wind had increased to 50-70 mph. The above freezing temperatures, combined with the strong winds, made the snow quickly melt into giant puddles of slop. I intentionally was holding back to stay out of the inevitable stress associated with lead teams traveling in a group – which is what was happening just 20 minutes ahead of me with Rohn Buser, Ed Iten, Dee Dee Jonrowe and Hugh Neff. Pulling back into Aniak on the return leg, I really thought I might pull of another victory as these teams appeared to need a significant break as I headed out first with the wind at my back. Perfect. I was disappointed to have to drop Deets and Kerry, due to a difficult to diagnose lameness, but better safe than sorry. On the return back to Kalskag, the young Buser briskly passed me with a nice looking team. Shortly after, John Baker passed with an equally great looking team and my money was going to bet on him to be the ’08 Champion. Good thing I didn’t bet much. Somewhere in the mix Mitch Seavey showed up with a well run team that clearly was in a position to go to the front – which he quickly did on the run to Tuluksak. Ramey Smyth also made a push to the front and secured 2nd place. The closer to Bethel we got on the return leg – the deeper the water got. Literally crotch deep for 100 yard sections, with little – if any – marking able to withstand the conditions. I openly admit I wondered if training on the Denali Highway just plain didn’t offer conditions to be prepared for a trail such as this. My dogs did not like shoulder deep ice water for miles at a time. Other teams clearly maintained a better attitude. I’m not going to cry in my milk, and quite frankly don’t want to train to be in any such conditions – ever. Been there, done that. I believe I had one of the fastest teams in the race, and given a good trail there would have been a significantly different outcome. C’est la vie.
Our second team driven by Dave DeCaro did a fantastic job – considering it was just about the first race he’s ever been in. Much less conditions that he had never seen with me, and will probably never see again in his entire life. Dave executed our mantra “calm assertiveness” perfectly. And received ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (ROTY) for his efforts. Way to go Dave!!!!!!!!!
And a great big thank you to the Wasierski’s for hosting Dave & myself, and also to the many others that made our stay in Bethel so comfortable.
After the Kusko I had a pretty bad head cold (wonder why?). But off to Dubuque, Iowa I went for the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium Icefest. They treated me like royalty and packed their auditorium for each of my four presentations. An extremely well run organization.
This week’s first blog photo is one of Donna’s dog Peg (a.k.a. The White Flash!) at her recent Agility Competition in Portland, OR. Donna continues to work towards making the World Team tryouts which are held this year in Minnesota in May. Wish her luck!!
We’re off this afternoon for several days with the dogs. There are a few photos of us getting ready to head out: Solomon, Deets taking it easy, & Dave (ROTY!!)doing the bootie thing. If I told you everything that we’re gonna do… I’d have to kill you – & Carrie since she’s typing this – then there would be no more blogs…it would just get messy.
Books are supposed to be in our hands by next week ~ get your orders in – they’re going fast!
That’s all for now!
PS – Demi’s pups are plump and happy and they now have names! Boy – girl – boy! You’ll see the picture above of Dave, Jennifer & Jason all holding their namesakes!!