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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Seeley Lake 200 Sled Dog Race - Part 6

Once over the pass, things improved. We were back on the trails we had used in training. As we went past the trail that led back to the dog yard, I had to stand on the brake until they turned left, away from the yard.  I had moved several of the dogs around by this time and had put my two best leaders, Toro and Gator back in the lead. Toro had tried to head home and I was getting ready to set the hook and go to the front to turn them when Gator leaped into the air and jumped over Toro taking the team down the trail away from the turn for home.

At 6:30AM we stopped to snack the dogs and give them a rest. There was significant ground fog as we climbed the hills around Lincoln for our final descent into town. The fog left a pattern of ice crystals on everything, the dogs, the sled and my clothes. John hollered at me to pick up the mat brake and pedal up all the hills. The dogs were tired and needed all the help they could get. On the shorter, steeper ascents I had to get off and run behind the sled, pushing it up behind a team that was worn out and kept looking back at me as if to say, “Are we there yet?” Had I not been driving them forward with my own efforts to keep the sled moving, they would have laid down and quit. Doug had told me stories of teams who laid down and refused to go any further. One team had caused a well know musher to be rescued from Mt. McKinley.

I no longer checked my watch. If we made it, we made it. It was out of my hands. The dogs and I could not go any faster. I had to trust that our efforts would be rewarded by success. As we neared the finish line, I saw Doug standing there with some others, but did not see a finish line and kept moving the team forward until the leaders were past Doug. He asked where I was going and I told him I did not see a finish line. He yelled at somebody to paint a line behind me. I had finished the race in 42 hours and 3 minutes. Had I been 15 minutes later, this race would not have qualified. One down and one to go.

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