Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Race of the New Year: 2013 West Yellowstone Fun Run

New this year, was the West Yellowstone Fun Run.  It was a one-day, 35 mile, 10-dog team race that was run on the Madison Arm trail in West, which is totally flat and regularly groomed.  Many teams that were entered in IPSSSDR had already arrived in West a couple weeks prior to acclimate their dogs and themselves to higher elevations that would also be seen in the IPSSSDR.  The Fun Run was a race that these teams could enter in as a little bit of a IPSSSDR warm-up so they could see how their teams were doing in training compared to other IPSSSDR competitors.  I figured Dad and I would enter with two teams and just run it for fun, since I didn't expect us to be very competitive against stage stop teams on such a flat and short trail, but I didn't expect what would happen next.

coming across the finish

That morning it was a typical freezing cold West Yellowstone day at 38 degrees bellow zero.  We had driven down the night before and stayed in the hotel right next to the trail head, so we quickly gave the dogs their pre-race meal and ran back into the hotel to warm back up.  Maybe about 45 minutes later, we met at the trail head again for the pre-race meeting to receive our bibs.  I was to be the first team, Dad second, and four others behind us who were all stage stop mushers, including multiple IPSSSDR champion Bud Streeper and Bud's second team being run by Swedish musher Lars Lindh.  The other two teams were stage stop veteran Jake Golton, and a sprint mushing pro from Alaska, Jeff Conn.  Considering the line up, I was going to be happy with our teams placing last and second to last.  We had been training on this trail and I knew that my team was fast, but I didn't think they were fast enough to beat teams that have been trained specifically for speed their whole careers.  But, like I said, the dogs were ready to be unexpected.

It was still REALLY cold, so every one agreed to push back the start time by one hour to let the sun come out and warm up a bit.  When it got close to start time, Dad and I set up our sleds and got our teams out to harness and boot.  I was going to run the best team, and Dad would take more of the puppies.  Ziva would have been on my team, but she hurt her foot running in the yard at home before the race, so she was going to have to sit this race out and I would take Ra in my team and leave Dad with 9 dogs.  This was the team breakdown:
Jenny's Team
Bella - Jasper
Emmett - Alice
Khufu - Super Cub
DiNozzo - McGee
Kaycee - Ra

Rob's Team
Cessena - Otter
Tut - Embry
Newman
Leah - Paul
Quil - Seth

heading back to the truck

All the dogs were harnessed and had their booties on, so it was time to race.  Because Dad was leaving right after me, we hooked up our teams at the same time.  With two teams of excited dogs hooked in front of it, the truck and trailer were rocking back and forth to the point of making me a little concerned that the dogs might start pulling it down the trail.  With all the dogs hooked up and ready to go, I hoped on the sled and pulled the release.  We shot off down the trail as I tried to control the speed and excitement by putting both feet on the brake with all my weight.  After about 100 yards the dogs calmed down a little bit so that I only had to have one foot totally on the brake.  Though it was a little cold for me, this was perfect temperatures for the dogs and they were blazing down the trail.  I kept their speed down for the first 5 miles, and them let them go at the speed they wanted to.  Since we had been training longer distances, I knew they would be able to keep a fast pace for this comparatively short 35 mile run.  The dogs were doing very well and kept up this very fast pace through the whole course.  I kept expecting the other teams to pass me, especially Buddy, but no one ever did!  About half way through the course was a straight section that I could see at least one mile behind me, and I didn't see anybody.  I was first across the finish line with a time of two and a half hours, no one had passed me.  I got in and pulled off the dogs' booties and gave them fresh water to drink before feeding them a good meal.  The rest of the teams came across the finish line while I was taking care of my dogs, and with looking at my watch and doing times in my head I was sure I had beat most of them, but knew that Buddy and Lars's times would be close to mine and wasn't sure who had the faster time.  Dad arrived last across the line, about half an hour behind me which was about the same time difference between our teams that we had been having in training.  He was very happy with his run which was a good thing and was excited to tell me that he had kept up with Buddy for a little while after he had passed Dad.  Dad took the boots of his dogs and gave them fresh water as I unharnessed my dogs and put them back in the trailer.  I then went and fed the dogs in Dad's team their meals and helped him put them in the trailer.

With all the dogs put away, we got the official results from race organizer/timer/trail boss/do-er of everything, Charlotte.  I had placed second and less than 2 minutes behind Bud Streeper!  Lars was only 30 seconds behind me in 3rd, followed by Jake, Jeff, and then Dad.  I was amazed at how well my distance team had done against these fast stage teams in a one-day sprint race.  Dad did awesome with his team too, only having the 9 slower dogs and being 100 pounds more than me, but still being only 30 minutes behind my time with the "A Team".  Here are the official race results:
Conditions:
Race start moved to 11:00am due to cold (-38F at 8:00am),
 -6*F at race start, groomed trails
35.2 miles
 Place Name Total Time
1 Buddy Streeper 2:28:56
2 Jenny Greger 2:30:40
3 Lars Lindh 2:31:08
4 Jake Golton 2:33:30
5 Jeff Conn 2:37:31
6 Rob Greger 3:02:18
  
me and Bud

 I think everyone had a great time, and it was especially exciting for Dad and I since my Mom, Cara, was able to come with us for this race.  She was going to drive back home with her car after the race was over though, and Dad and I were going to stay and do another training run the next day.  Fortunately, it was much warmer the next day so the long 50 mile run we did was not miserable for us humans.  It was a good run, and mostly fast except the 5 miles of trail that no one had been on that we had to break out.  This was slow going for a while, but it was good for the dogs to have some variety and work their low-end power muscles that haven't been worked for a while because of the speed training we had been doing.  After this run, we packed up and headed home, a two  and a half hour drive that we have become very acquainted with since West Yellowstone is the closest place for us to do training runs.  Mill Creek is only one hour away, but we can only do an 18 mile run there.

evening shot from our training run

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