Gin Gin 2011

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Highlights

  • Zipper on snowsuit broke.
  • Lost team.
  • Scratched. Ran 100 of the 213 mile course.
  • Frostbite on six fingertips.

The Team

  • Chevy & Nikki (Lead)
  • Maude & Zeus (Point)
  • Snowball & Moe (Team)
  • Ahab & Shrek (Team)
  • Spike & Luke (Team)
  • Capella & Phanty (Wheel)

The Story

The race began with a mass start for the women’s division at 11am and men’s at 11:30am, December 28, 2011.  I was one of the last women’s team to leave the Meiers Roadhouse parking lot. As soon as we got onto Paxson lake (around 1 minute after starting) Phanty’s collar fell off and I needed to stop the team to re-collar him. Stopping the team immediately after starting is a difficult thing to do. My hooks wouldn’t hold the team, but somehow, after several tries I was able to stop long enough to run up to wheel position and put on Phanty’s collar and untangle the rope from his hind legs.

Around 5 miles into the race the wind started blowing and we hit deep snow. Two teams were ahead of me stuck in the snow and I was behind another team that was waiting. It seemed like we waited quite a long time for the teams stuck in the snow to take off. Once they took off they got stuck again. The women were polite, and waited for each other. There really wasn’t anywhere to go because the snow on each side of the trail was deep.  Soon the men caught up to us and they weren’t so polite. They plowed passed us, making more tangles between the teams that were stopped.  I noticed one of my leaders run away. We were stopped for so long that Maude, positioned in point, chewed the lines. Since I was already stopped with no where to go, so I left my sled to run after Chevy. He came to me when I called and I put a new line on for him. Then Nikki, my other leader ran free. I ran after her, caught her and put on a new line. The men kept passing. Finally the women in front of me got unstuck and mushed on.

Once we got off of Paxson Lake, we were on a nice little up/down section that went through spruce. Shrek vomited. Then he vomited again, fell down, twitched his feet and stood up. I had already experienced this with him and had brought him to the vet.  The conclusion was that perhaps he was working too hard and when he vomited he had some kind of vagus nerve response. I decided not to drop him at Paxson Lodge (18 miles into the run). If Greg had been there, I would have dropped him, but I didn’t see Greg and figured that Shrek would be okay. It was hot out and the dogs were working hard mushing through deep snow.

We turned onto the Denali Highway and all was well– for a little while. I’m using a tail dragger on my sled— it’s a device that hooks onto the back runners so that you can store gear on top. Some how when we stopped for a 30 second break, I pinned my right foot under the tail dragger and couldn’t get my foot out. I was worried if the dogs took off I’d break my foot. I spent between 10-20 minutes trying to unpin my foot and finally freed it. We started going and the wind picked up. I felt a draft and went to zip up my zipper and noticed that my zipper on my Apocalypse Design snow suit was broken. F#$%^&K! I had an extra parka packed away– if I didn’t have that with me I’d have to scratch right then and there.

We mushed along for several hours and came across a team in the ditch. Some snow machiners were helping her out. Right when I came up behind her she was out of the ditch and took off (this was Lance Mackey’s handler’s puppy team– and man those pups were fast!)  I snacked the dogs a couple of times and was counting miles to the hospitality stop, looked at my watch and was pretty well on target. The hospitality stop was at 42 mile Denali Highway. I went into the ditch at around 36 mile. I tried and tried to push the sled out of the ditch, but it was too heavy. I took everything out of my sled, pushed the sled onto the road, and repacked. Off we went, only again to go into the ditch. This time I wasn’t so lucky. I tried getting unstuck without taking everything out, but it didn’t work. Once again I took everything out of my sled. I was on the downslope side pushing the sled out of the ditch and the sled freed itself and the dogs took off– without me.  All I could do was walk after them and hope they got hung up somewhere. I was very worried. I walked around 1/2-3/4 a mile when I found them waiting for me. I turned them around, untangled everyone and mushed back to our gear. I turned them around again, untangled everyone and souped them– they were very hungry, and repacked the sled. Then we mushed on to the 42 mile hospitality stop. I arrived at around 10:30pm.

I was surprised to see so many teams there since I wasted two hours getting stuck. I tended to the dogs (took off booties, put down straw, started to boil some water– I spilled heet on my fingers). When I walked into the hospitality cabin my fingers tingled. This is normal for me, so I didn’t think much of it.  A couple of mushers told me that “everyone was still hanging around because there isn’t a trail.” Then I heard from some other musher that “it took Brent Sass five hours to mush twenty miles because there wasn’t a trail.”  I did the rest of my dog chores, ate some junk that was in the hospitality cabin and went into a cabin where mushers were sleeping. They weren’t sleeping though, they were talking about the trail that wasn’t there. A couple of mushers who had previously run the trail decided to go forward. Lance Mackey’s handler said she was headed back to Paxson. That left Simon and myself. He was planning on turning around and I was still undecided. I walked over to the lodge to see if I could get details from anyone, but nobody was awake– it was around 4:30am. I decided that for the safety of myself and team, I’d scratch. Since there wasn’t a sweep, and the last teams that took off for Apline lodge left hours ago, I’d be way behind everyone. I just didn’t feel safe thinking there was no trail, no markers, and possibly going into water if I couldn’t see where the trail was.

Simon and I mushed back to Paxson. I’m not sure what time we left, maybe around 8:30am.  I arrived a little after 1pm. Greg was waiting for us! We were very happy to see him.  That’s when I noticed my fingertips were not only very numb, but also gray. On each hand, my thumb, pointer, and index fingers had frostbite. Greg packed everyone and everything up and I warmed up inside Paxson Lodge, and then we headed back to Fairbanks.

It’s a good thing that I scratched because I wouldn’t have realized I had frostbite.

Overall we had a good time and learned a lot.

Frostbite
Ilana & Dog, Paxson, AK

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