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Friday, January 21, 2011

Montana January 2010 Part 12

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It was 35 degrees outside and the footing was treacherous. There had just been enough rain during the night that the ground was covered with a sheet of ice. According to it was 7 degrees warmer here than it was on Signal Mountain. Initially John had said that we would run the dogs at 10AM then come home and do chores. When he went outside he changed his mind. We would do chores this morning and run dogs this afternoon, once the sun melted the ice. If we had run the dogs on ice there was a chance they could have injured their feet. In a race you have no choice but in training you do.

We got up to the yard about 1PM and got ready to go. I had three yearling females who might chew on their harnesses so I always got the other dogs harnessed and on the line before I harnessed these three. Tenille, one of my here yearling females, was not interested and pulled out of her collar after I had put her on the towline. I tightened her collar, put it back on and got ready to go. John was waiting for me to leave the yard. As we started out Hobart turned left and headed for his doghouse. John ran over, grabbed his neckline pulled him back onto the trail and yelled at me to get going before he had a chance to do that again. In the confusion, Nona had slipped out of her collar again and then managed to back out of her harness. She was running loose around the dog yard. I wanted to stop and get her but John screamed to get out of here. I was not using my track/drag. It is a piece of thick rubber with metal studs driven through it that drag on the ground to slow you down when you stand on it. I had secured it to the handle bar so that it would not slow me down. As we dynamited out of the dog yard I was out of control. The brush bow glanced off a tree as we rounded a corner and we went flying down the shoot to the first turn. As the dogs made the 90 degree turn the left the sled veered right into the deep snow throwing me to the ground, hard, on my bad shoulder. Only then did I realize that I was not wearing my shoulder brace. My hat flew off but my new sunglasses stayed on. They had survived two falls. I would use them for the race. I had jumped up, righted the sled and started off down the trail when Nona shot past me. She ran to the front of the team and caused so much confusion that I had to stop and untangle six dogs. But first I grabbed her and put her collar and harness back on her. They had been dragging and flailing around since we left the yard. I had planned to secure them at the first available opening on the trail. In my haste I had put her harness on sideways and had to take it off and redo the whole thing.  John had pulled up behind my sled and was waiting as patiently as he could. What would have taken him a minute or two had taken me five minutes. When I got back to my sled the track was down. I thought John had released it. I did not realize that the force of the fall and dragging behind the sled in the deep snow had ripped it from its securing strap. We would run 14 miles to Keep Cool Lake and back. 

As we rounded a corner on a downhill with me standing on the track to slow the team down, it happened. The right runner ran off the road over an embankment dragging me and the sled sideways and pulling the wheel dogs into the deep snow. I had to wrap my arms around the handle bar and dig with my feet to push myself up the sled taking the snow hooks with me to dig in at the front of the sled to keep it from sliding down the hill. At least that is how I had envisioned it. Actually, when the right runner went over the edge the increased drag forced the team to stop long enough for me to get off and pull the sled back up, onto the road. I have read about some places on the trail in Alaska where my scenario actually could happen.

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