“I MAY NOT BE AS GOOD AS I ONCE WAS, BUT I’M AS GOOD ONCE AS I EVER WAS.” ~ Toby Keith
Back home safe & sound from the Copper Basin 300. What a great weekend to start the race season! Good snow, lots of friendly competitive mushers, well-trained teams, and 300 miles of some of the most beautiful trail in the world.
Our 12 dog team performed flawlessly, and our race plan included a new twist that I am convinced helped with our victory. Race rules required that we take an 8 hour mandatory layover at one of the checkpoints – and 10 hours additional layover at any of the checkpoints (in 30 minute increments).
In hopes of calming the dogs’ inevitable early race enthusiasm I chose to take my first required rest just 22 miles after starting the race in Glenallen. I stopped 30 minutes that would count towards this mandatory rest as I watched the teams sail by and cock their head wondering what the heck I was up to. My experiences have taught me that getting the dogs in a good routine at the beginning of the race is imperative to a top performance – but I have never stopped so soon after a race start. The dogs actually were pretty well behaved and they all ate. This is a big deal.
After the 30 minutes of unorthodox race rest we took off for the Wolverine checkpoint another 25 miles away and took another 90 minute rest break. The dogs ate again, booties were replaced and I had a burger. Definitely “bankers mushing”. From there we headed to the Sourdough checkpoint where I shut the team down for the full 9 hours and 15 minutes that were required of my mandatory rest. A good nights sleep for me and the dogs and off we went into one of the more difficult sections of the trail enroute to Myers Lake.
As the sun began to brighten the horizon, I could tell that many mushers had had trouble by the confused tracks in the snow. I was really glad to be there with a little daylight to help. This run pretty much cinched my chance for victory. The dogs were so great! Steering left and right around obstacles that could certainly have caused tremendous delay. Stumps, trucks, pipeline pilings and 180 degree turns in the trail. The dogs were sailing and I was smiling from ear to ear.
We continued on taking two more short rests: one at Myers Lake and one at Paxson – where again the dogs packed away some groceries. After having a pretty much flawless race to the Chistochina race checkpoint, the predicted good weather for the Copper Basin pretty much went to crap. High winds started blowing snow in swirling, gusting tornadoes erasing virtually any sign of the trail for which I now had to negotiate. Three time Copper Basin 300 champion Allen Moore used the situation to his advantage and chipped away at my lead.
By the time we got to the last checkpoint in Glenallen, just 23 miles from the finish line, I could see Allen and his championship team a quarter mile behind me and gaining. It all felt very reminiscent of the All Alaska Sweepstakes.
But alas, this outcome would fall in my favor. Again my leaders were flawless – with some complicated turns and obstacles as we wound through the communtiy of Glenallen. They didn’t miss a turn, nor hesitate a second. I’m pretty sure I did say a couple bad words when around one corner in the trail one of the race officials had his truck parked smack dab in the middle of the trail while marking a path on each side of the really big truck.
He was aghast that we had arrived so quickly and that his vehicle blocked the very path that he was in charge of securing. If he heard what it was I was saying he didn’t let on and he quickly negotiated my team around his rear wheels bumper and snowplow and another bullet had been dodged by my race effort. From there the dogs found overdrive and we soon outdistanced Allen’s team for a victory at the Tolsona checkpoint, where just 48 hours before I had stopped the dogs for their first snack break of the race.
We’ve changed our plans and I won’t be going to Bethel for the Kusko 300. We are however considering adding a team into the Tustumena 200 next weekend. Stay tuned for more excitement from Husky Homestead!
PS – Check out some pictures below from the weekend…. More pictures of the race on my Facebook page!