Wyoming Stage Stop (IPSSSDR)
This season the snow conditions were so bad in AK we decided to drive all the way to Wyoming to race! While they had a low snow year in the west as well, conditions in the high country were perfect for mushing. The scenery in the Rocky Mountains was absolutely beautiful and the dogs loved running on trails they had never been on before. We were the only distance/Iditarod team to show up among the 15 competitors, among a stacked field of world-class stage teams (including three Streeper teams). We didn't expect to win, only have a good time and get some good training on the team. We ended up finishing 13th place overall for 8 days of racing, with our best finish 9th (two stages) and never once earning a red lantern! Some great leaders emerged in our team, who kept the team racing along at 13-14mph for 40-50 mile runs. The only down side of the trip was that our dog truck struggled to make the 8000 mile trip, landing in the shop three times and nearly catching fire once. She made it, but it was her last long trip.
Goose Bay 150
On our way home from the Wyoming Stage Stop, we passed through Knik, where they were holding their annual race at the Tug Bar. This race is one of the funnest, low-key events in the state and always draws some top-notch competition. Trail conditions were icy in places and soft and punchy for most of the way. We each took a team and had to hustle the night before to get two sets of mandatory equipment together (thanks Lisbet for borrowing us snowshoes)! The race turned out to be more like 180 miles with one checkpoint, so it was two 90 mile runs with an 8hr rest. The dogs did awesome, Tim took 2nd place and Monica was seconds behind for 3rd. Cim Smyth was the race champion finishing about an hour ahead of us. Amazingly, it was Dweezil's first race ever! He gave it his all and was dog tired by the end but did awesome and loved every minute.
This year's Iditarod was another one for the books. Starting with the alternate route that began in Fairbanks and traveled to Huslia for the first time in history. We got lucky that the extremely mild winter traded itself in for a foot and a half of fresh snow just days before the start. Then winter really made up for lost time by brining cold, lots and lots of cold. The first night dropped to -20, the next night -30, by the time we were half way into the race we were hitting -60 in spots. The extreme cold, coupled with the long distances between checkpoints on the alternate route made for a very challenging race. Myslef or the dogs had never been in anything that cold in our lives! We survived it and the warm up was a welcome relief. However in just 24 hours the weather took an extreme turn, now we were mushing in 30 degree temperatures with 40mph winds and no visibility. While the coast was a challenge to navigate, Blue Steel stepped up as a single leader and got the team to Nome in 12days 13min 0sec, more than a day faster than last year. Despite our faster pace, we took the same 47th finishing position as last year. In many ways the trail was much safer (we didn't even crash once), but the weather conditions were more challenging. And while we didn't plan it, my trail buddy, Lisbet, and I got to spend lots of time traveling together again. She helped get my team going when things were down and we traded off breaking trail for hundreds of miles after that. We had our struggles, but by the time my 12 dog team and I made it to the finish line, we couldn't wait to get back on the sled and do it all over again!