Fri 2-1-13 Vet Check and RACE START

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Headed To Trinity!

Friday morning I woke on time and even prepared some breakfast that I shared with Steve, who won the 100 mile Eagle Cap last week and had parked next to me.  I was enjoying my hot breakfast when the vets showed up for Vet Check, and I needed to help hold and comfort Lance, who was not at all excited about being handled by yet another stranger.  He was doing better though and even though he was spending much of his time underneath the truck, was coming out more readily to say hi.  The dogs passed their checks and I finished packing my sled.  I definitely had lost the “Rookie Bulge” from the last time I ran to Trinity (the amazing Ghost Town/Mining Town that is the checkpoint for the race).  I was very thankful that I had learned a few things anyway!  It was not an easy lesson to learn though, and I spent many-an-hour this season brainstorming how to spare every ounce and coming up with good systems for carrying necessary gear and being able to access them quickly, etc.  I especially was proud of my snack bag that hung on the handlebar and was very easy to get into, complete with trail mix in a bottle for easy eating! 


It was kind of odd because as I was readying the sled and figuring out what to wear on this warm day, I watched my dogs very happily laying out in the sun, and hoped they’d be rearing to go when it was time for us to hit the trail in the afternoon.  I was afraid I was seeing what I had seen on day two of Eagle Cap, they were simply tired pups and were quite content to nap.  They hadn’t run for a week, but still I had the sense that they may still be tired.  I saw some of them (especially Cicely) had lost weight, and I wondered how much of an effect that would have on this week’s endurance.   We’d soon see!

The Driver’s meeting went well, and I was thankful that the horrible nerves I had last week were gone now… I was on familiar trails with friends (even Doreen had come to see us off!  What a wonderful friend she is!), and was much more at ease in general.  I knew I had to still be prepared because even though there were no steep hills heading to Trinity, it was still an uphill run overall and I would probably need to help quite a bit. 

 I drew bib number 9 and waited for my turn to take off.  Our timing was great and we were ready just in time without harnessing or hooking up too early and having the dogs use up a lot of energy waiting to be released to run.  We pulled up to the line and I went and talked to the dogs.  They seemed okay but I was still afraid they were a bit “flat”. 

5-4-3-2-1 and we were off again!  We made the first turn (described in the driver’s meeting as a “sweeping turn” but felt more like a hairpin turn to me!) and were off down the trail, or at least we were running for a short time until we stopped for our “Community Poop-fest” which always happens no matter how many times the dogs have pooped while tethered on the truck or on a walk… they WILL poop again!  I’m happy to see them pooping more “in unison” instead of having to stop 6 different times, and happy that they do it away from the start chute so not everyone sees them, but there were enough photographers down the trail that caught a glimpse!

It was WARM, the snow was SOFT and we were all, as I had feared, a bit flat.  We slowly made our way towards the dreaded switchbacks and were passed by most of the teams that started behind me before we got to the top of them, which was okay because that fueled my team to continue climbing for a short while, at least as long as they were fairly close to us.  But then we were alone with nothing to chase and a team that was just trotting down the trail without a lot of enthusiasm.  I pulled out my coach’s hat and cheered them on but nothing seemed to be working well, so I helped them as much as I could.  This was, after all, a race!  I found my muscles were already tired before we were halfway up the switchbacks, and I wasn’t able to do much running.  With having to help them so much last weekend, I guess I was a bit “flat” too.  When we popped out on to the road to Trinity (more familiar and gradual trail), I hoped they would find their groove and step up the speed a bit as they certainly had last time we ran here, but every time there was any sort of gentle incline (not even necessarily a hill!) they would slow way down and I’d have to help.  I knew it was going to be a long run, but figured we’d make it alright, eventually. 

About two hours into the run, Cicely gave out.  I had learned from last week that when she’s done, she’s REALLY DONE, so I introduced her to her sled bag “throne” and continued to help the rest of the team get up the trail.  I wasn’t too discouraged until around two hours later, when I noticed Tozi, my big red wheel dog, was running “differently”.  His gait had changed.  There was a slight, inconsistent bob to his head, which was turned along with the rest of his body slightly to the right as he trotted.  I stared at him with HUGE concentration using my headlamp to shine right on his legs to try and determine what was going on.  I saw a slight limp, and then it was gone.  I tried over and over and over to see which foot he had just stepped on when I caught a glimpse of the limp but I absolutely couldn’t tell.  He crabbed (or ran a bit sideways) for a few steps, and then it was gone.  He bobbed his head, and that part was consistent.  I stopped several times to let dogs dip snow, snack them, rest them, let Cicely out to pee, and checked Tozi’s feet, shoulders, wrists and back, and nothing seemed to help him run better.  I switched sides of the gangline, thinking maybe he would run with more comfort on the other side, but that didn’t make much of a difference.  I knew we were close to Trinity which was good because I couldn’t carry both he and Cicely in the bag and she was still refusing to run.  I let the team go slow and helped as much as I could and we continued up the trail. 

Steve passed us with his strong, happy team, asking how we were doing.  I told him we were struggling but I thought we’d make it.  Then came Ema and some other officials on snow machines (I presume to check on us since we were now approaching 5 hours on the 25 mile trail which was slow even for us) and I told her we were doing okay.  She encouraged us with an “You’re almost there!”, which was just what I needed at that point…but after she was gone it still felt like still slowly trotted for another hour before getting there. 

FINALLY I saw the lights from the checkers at the gate into Trinity, but I really had very very little joy, only relief, that we could stop and rest… all of us.  They parked us and immediately the Vet (Ty) checked Tozi when I told him what I had observed, but after checking everything on him, he didn’t find anything abnormal.  I was guessing it was a front right leg issue, but really wasn’t sure. 

I stuck to my plan of pulling out a tarp to rest the dogs on so they would stay dry all night.  We can only use wood shavings due to weeds in straw not being appreciated in the controlled environment of Trinity, so when the dogs lay just on shavings on the snow and don’t move all night, they get up the next morning revealing moisture underneath them.  That didn’t seem very comfortable, so I decided to change that this year for my team.  It took a while but I got everyone’s bed made and was happy that they all looked comfortable.  Tozi too settled down to sleep and I didn’t disturb him after feeding to work on his muscles/joints.  I should have done so…was instructed to do so… knew to do so… but really wasn’t sure where to start because of the lack of findings so I just let him sleep.  I was more tired than I care to admit too and  got myself some food and drank some of Ty’s wonderful homemade wine to help relax my cramping, exhausted muscles, and went to bed.  I was too tired to say much and was “late to the party” anyway, so didn’t feel too bad about heading off to sleep.  I was so thankful that once again we had a BEAUTIFUL star-filled night out on the trail, but this year I didn’t feel very happy laying down next to my team.  I could only think that in a few short hours we would have to get up and run again… and I didn’t think any of us would be ready to go.

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