Crunch – Crunch started the race in lead with Katy. At the starting chute, just as I was about to call “ready!”, Crunch dove into a gaggle of children and I could tell was having a wonderful time. Derek ran up to straighten Crunch out so the children wouldn't be taken out by his enthusiasm when asked to go. I can always count on Crunch to be a goofy, happy cheerleader. He was very driven and did a fantastic job overtaking teams. At the first checkpoint – Red Eagle Lodge – Crunch felt we hadn't run far enough yet and spent his rest time barking at other teams. At all of the following checkpoints Crunch ate and rested very well. Leaving Sourdough, I decided to give Crunch a break from leading and moved him into swing with King Louie. He continued to drive forward from this position. Starting on the last leg, he began to try to bed down if we stopped on the trail but would jump up and lean into his harness when asked “ready?” He finished the race with a wagging tail and smiles all around.
Katy – Katy started the race in lead and remained there the entire race. She passed teams beautifully with enthusiasm and sometimes a little sass – if another team was getting rowdy during a pass, she had no problem barking back at them. Katy ate well and is a pro at resting in checkpoints. She maximized her sleep and was always ready continue down the trail when asked. At one point, we accidentally turned the wrong way down a trail until I saw that the “X” that marks a wrong way had been knocked down. The team had turned down the trail but my sled was still partially in the intersection. I asked Katy to “gee”. She would have to pass the entire team to turn us around. She was hesitant – a little unsure of what I was asking. I called “gee” again. When she turned back and looked down the correct trail I called “good, good! Yes! Gee!”, Katy plunged forward with enthusiasm and brought our team around in the correct direction. We had no tangles, and I didn't even have to get off my sled to turn us. Good girl, Katy!
Boone – Boone spent half of the race in swing with King Louie. She can always be counted on to be a hard and enthusiastic driver. At Sourdough, I switch her into lead with Katy. She stayed in this position until the finish. Due to her constant hard work and enthusiasm, Boone makes a great leader for a team that might be getting a little sleepy. She's not the greatest at lining out, however. On the last leg of the race, if we stopped to snack or fix something in the team, I often found Boone wandering back to me and asking for cuddles. I would have to line her out and then sprint back to my sled yelling “ready!” to keep her up front. Throughout the race, Boone ate exceptionally well and was, unsurprisingly, a fantastic sleeper at checkpoints.
King Louie – Louie spent the entire race in swing. As an up-and-coming leader, I wanted to help boost his confidence being in front of the team without having the mental drain of leading, as this was his first longer race. Louie did a wonderful job in swing, driving consistently and smooth throughout the race. Toward the end of the race, I put a pair of leggings on him to help prevent snow buildup on this legs. This was the first time wearing leggings for Louie and he spent some time trying to shake them off before settling in. Louie acted like an old pro in checkpoints and bedded down to rest very quickly.
Wingman – Oh Wingman. Wingman was the class clown of the team. If something silly is happening, you can generally expect Wingman to be involved. He's a great cheerleader and his enthusiasm for running seems never ending. Even when he's tired, he's quick to rouse and get the team going, which is a great help later on in the race. He ate wonderfully and was a little slower to settle down at checkpoints but would eventually rest. I decided to drop Wingman at Point Lodge, the last checkpoint due to a wrong step onto ice that caused one of his wrists to become inflamed. He is a ridiculously hard driver so I figured it was best to let him heal up because that boy doesn't know how to take it easy.
Vanessa – This was Vanessa's first longer race. Vanessa was a strong and consistent puller throughout the first half of the race. Toward the end, her tug started going slack occasionally but she would pick back up and dig in. She ate moderately well at checkpoints – eating most meals – and ate the majority of her trail snacks. A few notes about Vanessa – She hates wearing clothing. While running, she could get over her displeasure. At checkpoints however, she would not move once I put a jacket on her. Once the leggings were put on, she stood stock still with her little legs stuck in different directions. It was as though she had short-circuited a bit. I also have to give Vanessa the best pooper award – She can poop mid-run and not even miss a step. She finished the race pulling hard and with a wagging tail.
Uno – Sometimes when a dog is doing super well; pulling hard but not overworking themselves, not getting distracted, not getting tangled, eating well – they blend into the team. You know they're there, but they're not at the forefront of your mind. You're not worried about them. This was Uno for the entire race. She was exceptional and I was so happy to have her on the team.
Nile – This was Nile's first longer race. He did an amazing job. His tug was always tight, he drove forward hard and ate very well. On the last leg of the race, when some of the dogs were starting to get a little goofy from being a little mentally tired and having new leggings on, Nile remained serious and driven. About 15 miles from the finish, I noticed that his gait changed a bit. I checked him over. He was starting to develop a slight rub from his harness. Moving him to the other side of the gangline relieved the pressure and he resumed his easy trot. Great job, Nile.
CJ – CJ is an old pro. She pulled consistently for much of the race, taking breaks as she felt she needed to. During the second leg of the race, my sled became lodged on a tree that had broken from a previous musher. She was running with Amelia at this time. Amelia's harness broke and CJ somehow managed to clip her tug onto the line, which unclipped her harness. CJ is a playful goofball, often with an air of mischievousness. As I replaced Amelia's harness, I looked around for CJ. She was nowhere in sight and my sled wasn't in the greatest spot. We would definitely be crashed into by another team coming around the icy corner. I hooked Amelia back up and moved the team forward down the trail to a safer spot calling for CJ. I finally saw a white smear racing through the woods. She popped out in front of the team with a look of wild pleasure. It took me a few minutes to convince her to be hooked back into the team. She manged to unclip herself at one of the checkpoints as well. I'm not sure how she does it. Her antics often make me laugh and shake my head. During the last run, CJ took many breaks. She reserved her energy and pulled hard only during the steepest ascents.
Amelia – This was Amelia's first longer race. Amelia is one of those dogs who drives so hard she will overwork herself if I don't make her take a break I never once saw Amelia's tug go slack – uphill, downhill, beginning, middle, or end, she was one of the hardest working members of the team. Nothing seems to phase her, she's so incredible driven and focused. Coming into a checkpoint, she would eat her meal then curl up under a blanket and sleep. Amelia looked awesome coming into the finish.
Wombat – Wombat was similar to Uno during this race – I didn't have to worry about her at all. She was always pulling, always happy, she ate well and was just overall consistently fantastic throughout the race. Great job, Wombat.
Badger – You have to be on your toes with Badger. I call him Boopin' Badger because his enthusiasm often has his muzzle trying to collide with my face as I bootie, harness, unhook, or do anything with him. This was Badger's first longer race. He was a hard working boy for the majority of the race. During the last leg, I noticed that he started to get a little goofy. He was trying to play with his partner, bouncing along the trail boopin' them with his muzzle. I checked to make sure he didn't have any rubs or obvious soreness that was causing him to act silly. I found nothing and gave him a encouraging “good job” pats and we continued down the trail. If he started to act silly again, all I had to do was say his name and he would start focusing again. Badger finished the race strong and happy.
The entire team looked fantastic and happy coming into the finish line. I couldn't be more proud of these dogs. Good job, buddies.