It's hard to believe that the 2017 Copper Basin weekend has come to an end. Wow. These dogs. I just keep saying wow. The dogs were INCREDIBLE. I'll be honest, going into the CB, I had planned on taking the minimum rest of 18 hours but otherwise, I had intended to keep them slow and steady to prepare everyone for the Yukon Quest in just 2.5 weeks. We weren't going to race at 10-11 mph, and I had anticipated a solid, middle of the pack finish. Mother Nature played in our favor and dumped snow, slowing the trail and turning a 7.5 mph pace into a competitive, winning speed. If we hit 9 mph (which is a normal cruising speed for most dog teams), you were FLYING during this year's Copper Basin. Glancing at GPS's, most mushers recorded speeds between 5 mph and 8 mph, which is why a 32 mile run took us 4 hours and 30 minutes, and that was a fast time!! Looking back at our run times, we ran a 73 miles in 8:05 then rested 5 hours; ran 32 miles in 4:30 then rested 4 hours; ran 68 miles in 8:06 then rested 6 hours plus our differential of 16 minutes; ran 50 miles in 7:16 then rested 3 hours; and finally ran 60 miles in 9:45 to the finish. In other words, the dogs slogged through the challenging conditions with wagging tails and unbelievable energy!
Cartel- Little Cartel ran in lead the entire 305 miles. She was fast, focused, and defied many assumptions that a little dog isn't the best at breaking trail. She's not loud and flashy (and loves her nap time), but when the time comes to pull the hook, Cartel is ready with ears perked and a fire in her eye.
Ham- Ham co-led with Cartel for the majority of the race until just outside of Mendeltna on the final run into the finish line. Passing teams, breaking trail, slamming his harness to rally the team- Ham is a true leader. His only fault is that he takes on too much responsibility. Leaving Mendeltna, I could tell he'd given 110% for the last 240 miles and had little left in his energy reservoir. Ham moved back into the team and still worked more than his fair share all the way to the finish.
Katy- Katy ran the majority of the race in swing, and continually pressed the pace urging the team to go faster. Like Cartel, she's a tiny little spitfire and proved that trail breaking isn't just for the big dogs. Loping almost the whole race, Katy just wanted to go faster! Whenever we arrived at a checkpoint, Katy loved to lick my face as I took off booties and massaged the dogs around her.
Perm- Perm once again proved why she's the mom of our most recent two litters. Perm never gets tired! Whenever it was time to leave a checkpoint or we stopped for a quick snack break on the trail, Perm would start her high pitched BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK. There's no stealth mode when Perm is in the team.
Niagra- Niagra was beyond rock solid. Like her brother Ham, she was always harness banging and ready to run. Leaving Mendeltna, she was leaping into the air and putting on quite the show! Last year she ran the entire Copper Basin in lead for Maliko, so it was comforting to have her in the team and know that she could step up into a leadership role if need be.
Jana- Jana and Drummer are my little porky sisters that seem to gain weight even when burning 10,000 calories a day racing. She was strong, healthy, and led the final 30 miles into the finish line. Jana prefers to lead on hard-packed fast trails, but she ramped it up for the CB. Jana's shyness did cause a slight issue when she balked at the finish line. She thought it'd be crazy to run into the mass of screaming people with flashing lights in her face. Can you blame her?
Boone- Boone was a last minute add to the CB team because she's one that likes to watch her figure (aka a picky eater). Boy was I glad she was on the team! She was an enthusiastic hard driver who really stepped up on the final run when Ham needed a break. I was already day dreaming of her crossing the finish line in lead, when she took a misstep on the trail and fell through an air pocket in the snow. When she hopped back up, her wrist was sore, so she finished the race in the sled bag (much to her displeasure). Not to worry- she should be 100% soon!
Rucu- As always, Rucu was a powerhouse. He was paired with Lefty the entire race since they're about the same size and watching them work together was mesmerizing. They seemed to gracefully float across the snow. He ate everything, pulled everything, and made sure to throw in his Rucu torpedo face bump every time I walked by.
Lefty- Lefty was the youngest on the team, but with a Copper Basin, Quest 300, and Iditarod finish already on his resume, you couldn't tell that he was any less seasoned. Of all the dogs in the yard, Lefty has one of the fastest recovery rates. After just a couple minutes of shut eye, Lefty was always up a ready to go. He's not much of a cheerleader and rarely barks at hookup, but with his tail held high and bold posture, it's obvious Lefty is excited and ready to go.
Supai- Like his brother Rucu, Supai has always been on the team. He's a bit goofy and trots with his tail straight in the air like a red flag waving around, but his enthusiasm and jovial attitude always gave the team an energy boost. Every time we'd stop, Perm and Supai would join forces and bark, bark, bark. He's another one that I'm pretty sure gained weight on this race.
Drummer- Drummer ran in wheel the whole race and was the perfect sled dog. She ran, pulled, and ate then ate, pulled, and ran some more. She rarely makes noise and is rather shy, but she loves her job and is always ready. Like Supai, Drummer gained weight on this race.
Fez- Fez ran in wheel with Drummer until I dropped her in Tolsona. I was so disappointed to leave her behind (and Fez wasn't happy either), but unfortunately, I think there are still residual effects from her porcupine encounter a couple summers ago. The same wrist quilled by the porcupine started to be a little stiff, and her opposite shoulder developed a tightness to compensate from the discomfort of her wrist. Her energizer bunny attitude and hard driving little trot were sorely missed.
A big thank you to my wonderful handlers Gunhild and Derek (who were runner up for the Golden Rake Award, which goes to the best handler on the race). Also, thank you to Maliko and Shaynee for helping to care for the dogs left behind. Thank you to my mother for updating the blog!
In addition to winning first place, I was overwhelmed with emotion to learn that I was also awarded the Vet's Choice Award and Sportsmanship Award. I don't think weekends can go much better than this last one! Thank you to all the friends, family, sponsors, and dog lovers that make this possible!!
I'll try and post more pictures and video over the next couple days. Amanda Gecas will be running a team in the Two Rivers 100 starting on Friday. Saturday the Yukon Quest food drops are due. Sunday is the Yukon Quest vet checks. Time to rock and roll!