Solstice 100: December 17, 2011

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Greg ran the Solstice 100 on December 17, the first race held by www.trdma.org this season. Weather was excellent, with lows of -10F, and highs of 5F during the race. Trail conditions were excellent, with only very small areas of overflow or open water, and nothing that got our feet wet.

The race started at Pleasant Valley Store in the Two Rivers area of Fairbanks, around mile 23 of Chena Hot Springs Road. The trail started towards the west, and did a loop around Jenny M. mountain. Then, it turned east along the RatStack trail, headed across the Mullen Slew, onto the Baseline trail, and eventually crossed CHSR at mile 27. From there, the trail approximately parallels the road, to Angel Creek Lodge. At the Lodge, there was a required 4-hour break, then the trail returned in reverse (other than taking the loop the same way around Jenny M. as in the start of the race. But otherwise, a reverse trail). Total mileage was 50 miles each leg, for 100 miles.

I drew #7, so started at 11:10 (there was no #6, and start intervals were 2 minutes). Within 90 minutes, all but one of the other teams passed me. But even so, I was happy with my time and team. I arrived at the Lodge at 5:26 pm, for a run time of 6:16, average speed of 8 miles per hour. On the return leg, the average was around 7 miles per hour: I departed at 9:26 pm (after the 10 minute time adjustment for my start time), and got to Pleasant Valley Store around 5:15 am – just under 7 hours. Two other teams had decided to stop along the trail to rest, so I did not end up being the last finisher.

The starting team was:

I made a few small changes to the team ordering along the way. The biggest was shortly before the road crossing, after 22 miles or so: Wayne had stopped pulling, and stumbled a few times. We just got him from another owner, and since then he collapsed or nearly collapsed on two prior runs, after 24 and 40 miles (despite having been trained for those and longer distances all season!). So, I put him in the sled after he stumbled several times and got dragged a bit (he also had some extensive diarrhea). He was content to stay there for a couple of hours, then managed to jump out of the sled. I tried him again in the team, and he only went a few more miles before starting to stumble again. So, he rode in the sled the rest of the way to the Lodge, and didn’t accompany the team on the return leg.

While getting ready for the return trip, Phanty yelped and had sensitivity in his front left wrist. It seemed like a sprain, so we pulled him from the team too, and returned with 10 dogs. In the last 25 miles or so, Nicky was getting overheated and tired, and kept diving into the snow at the side of the trails (which is not very good lead dog behavior!). Eventually, I moved her back in the team, where she pulled somewhat but not that well, and moved other new dog Maude to the front. This was maybe Maude’s first lead dog experience. It took her a little while to figure things out, but eventually she ran fine. It was clear that Chevy was,¬†and is, our strongest leader. He led for the whole 100 miles.

Dogs were strong throughout. They settled into a steady pace, and just kept going. I’m proud of the gang, and think they are Super Dogs. When Ilana or I run a marathon, we’re pooped and ready to take the rest of the day (or two). On December 17, the StinkyDogs ran nearly 4 marathons, in back-to-back pairs. Amazing!

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