Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mandatory 24 Hour Rest

We’ve been running since Sunday afternoon, the official re-start of the Iditarod. Woofie Monster and I are taking the mandatory 24 hour rest period in a little hole in the wall called Don’s Cabin.

That's about thirty miles south of the ghost town of Iditarod.  Once gold was discovered in the area surrounding Iditarod, a thriving little gold town bloomed to nearly 30,000 people. Once the gold ran out twenty years later the miners left taking most of the buildings with them. Today, no one lives there. Too bad the government didn’t do bail outs back in the day. Imagine what Iditarod could be now. Grown bearded men wearing Levis and plaid shirts sitting around the river banks collecting monthly checks? That's not what any self-respecting Alaskan could tolerate.

Although Woofie Monster and I have garnished no respect for being out here among the elite mushers of the world, we do play by the rules. Well most of them anyway. So we will rest.

For the Woofie Monster the break is much deserved.  His little paws are tired and sore, but thankfully he has been wearing the booties I got for him. At first, he was a bit taken aback with the idea. But I reminded him that this race is not a romp in a Chicago dog park.  When he saw other teams wearing booties of neon green, shocking pink and a more conservative black, he agreed to wear black. Honestly, he looks no tougher. He’s still a house dog bred for existence in the family packs of humans, not for trotting and loping long endurance miles like the Alaskan Husky.  Nevertheless, the pup is faring well, despite a bit of homesickness. 

Our toughest challenge has not been weather or daylight – or lack there of. Our natural equipment has kept us warm and on trail. The abilities to see in the dark, and sniff out bacon drifting over forty miles of frozen terrain have kept us in contention and ahead of all other cat teams.  (Don’t bore me with the details that there are no other cat teams on the trail.)  

The biggest challenge is getting enough food. Fuel, that is. Always a problem at home in the kitchen, getting enough food is amplified when the dog is running and possibly burning 10,000 calories in a day. He keeps saying he is an elite athlete and he needs the protein.

We’ve had drops from @bicdelou  but bad weather grounded all air craft until just a few hours ago.
Jeff Schultz's amazing photo

We had a little incident crossing a ice bridge over Dalzell Creek. After the leaders had crossed the packed bridge the under-footing was compromised. Woofie Monster  found himself chest deep in the stream.  I scrambled to the tippy top of the sled looking for a quick exit toward a more stable stream bank. At that moment the water sounded like a wild raging flood. But the shock of the icy water did not deter Woofie Monster’s forward momentum. He kept pulling and we popped out the other side. A quick shake off and a few wide-eyed stares at each other and we mutually acknowledged we survived. Woofie Monster asked me to check on the hedgehog’s condition. Finding the spitty dog toy safely dry (sort of) we continued on the trail.

It is a good day to rest.  The winds have been blowing like stink and the trail has been a little deep.  The masses rested in the tiny town of Takotna.  FYI: One of the largest TV satellite dishes I have every seen is located in this town. It’s so big it could draw in alien TUNA.

I don’t understand how or why some dogs run away from their sleds. One dog ran from the Jamacian musher, Newton Marshall. Despite an attempted round up the canine by the trail committee the dog disappeared and the poor chap had to scratch from the race. Among the rookies give credit to a young Norwegian who has boldly moved within the top 12.  Go Joar Leifseth Ulsom. The 26 year old won the Nadezhda Hope Race in Russia, considered the toughest race on the Eurasian continent. Watch him!

The biggest challenge is yet ahead. Blasting winds off the Bering Sea. I might have to put rocks in my pockets to keep from blowing away.  Oh, got no pockets!

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