Spring mushing is the best in Alaska. Last weekend, Michele and Nicole ran a 10-mile race in Knik and had a blast!
It was the first race that Michele had run for more than 13 years and the first time she raced against and with her little girl.
I (Robert), was supposed to run the Nome Sign 40 race but decided late on Thursday to let the girls run and have some fun.
We wanted to test out two new dogs we got from James Wheeler, whom we got the Kasilof Crew from two summers ago. The new dogs, Valdez a big 70 pound male and Pearl a small black, shy female hoped to make it on the team and this would be their time to shine!
The race started early so we packed up the two teams of six dogs and headed for the lake. The race is one of the most low-key races in the Valley. You meet on the lake, hand the race marshall your cash and pick up a bib. Dale, was there to give us a hand hooking up and seeing the teams off.
The musher meeting was held on the lake and Michele and Nicole picked bib 4 and 6 with the hopes of having someone in the middle to give us four minutes to get the second team on the trail.
Michele was running Vela-Cession, Scarlet-Pearl, Bodhi-Trapper. We got the team hooked up and away she went. Within 30 seconds Michele’s team was heading down the ice road towards someone’s backyard. We quickly got her turned around and on the trail and on her way.
Nicole was running TyTy-Rasp, Aussie-Gabby,Valdez-Ragnar. Nicole started second in the field and left quickly down the trail with Robert and Dale leading her out. Her race was a combination of passes and rock-n-roll as she made her way down the 10 mile trail. Having just finished the Junior Iditarod she was pretty confident on the runners, even though she was using the Sled Dog Systems sled for the first time. After the race she said it felt like a rocket with the light sled and no weight in the bag.
Nicole came in with the other mushers and finished in the middle of the pack.
Michele here: We meandered around the historic town of Knik, past the Dog Mushing Hall of Fame. The trail was icy and fast and it was quite warm. We crossed the road, up a hill and hit the moguls. It became quite a ride! At about mile 3 passes were starting to happen. At the turn around Barb and Ramey Redington were there to help us out. There was a beautiful view of Sleeping Lady (Mount Susitna) and that is were I met up with Nicole.
Nicole was rocking out to her music on her iPod and passed me in quick order. On the way back I switched out leaders and now had Bodhi and Cession in lead. This was the first time Bodhi has ever lead in a race and Cession had only lead for Robert a couple times in his sprint races earlier this season.
As we saw the lake Bodhi’s tail was flying’ high. I could see Robert and Dale as I got closer and closer and I said, “Bodhi take me home to Daddy!” He saw Robert and picked up speed.
We finished strong and waited for the last team to come in. As it turned out Michele and Nicole finished fifth and sixth with Nicole beating her mom by just eight minutes.
What we learned:
Michele here. 1. We are still struggling to find the right mix of leaders. We have plenty of team dogs but a dog team is only as good as their lead dogs. This summer and fall we will be training up several lead dogs to hopefully make our teams complete.
2. I wasn’t prepared for all the moguls! I am used to the nice groomed trails of the Haesseler-Norris trail system. My poor ankle took a beating!
3. I loved racing with and against my daughter. This is the first time I had ever run with Nicole in a race since way back when she was three years old and running her first race, a 100-yard dash with her dog Tamaya.
These low key races are excellent for getting new dogs out to experience the race vibe. I think Valdez and Pearl proved themselves enough and we just may keep them. I am saying, they just may have a chance, quoting one of my favorite movies of all time.
Most likely this is the last race of the year for Team Ineka and now our focus shifts to next year. We hope to start the season with entering a few of the shorter races like the Aurora 50-50 and the Alaska Excursions 120 in December. That is if Mother Nature blesses us with good snow!
See you on the trail!