That’s a Wrap: Winter 2023/2024
That’s a Wrap: Winter 2023/2024

That’s a Wrap: Winter 2023/2024

Mushing season for 2023/2024 didn’t go as planned.

The original plan was for me (Ilana) to run the Yukon Quest 450 and Vico to possibly run the Percy DeWolfe. Many of the StinkyPups running would be older dogs, between 5-10 years old. 10 is on the older side for a dog to run such a long race, but Haines is an exceptional dog. In 2014, 10-year-old Nikki ran lead for me in the Copper Basin 300 and she was amazing.

Early in the season, Vico told me that she didn’t want to handle for me for the YQ 450 due to the way she was treated when I ran the YQ 250 in 2023. Greg and I were surprised to hear this since that’s why we hired her– to be my handler for the season. We decided that Greg would handle for me and Vico would stay home and take care of the remaining dogs.

Training Woes

September was warm, so I was often running dogs early in the morning at 5:00am.

Early in the season,  7-year-old Athena developed a shoulder/wrist injury, and she was out of commission for the entire season.

In December, my go-to-girl 9-year-old Allie had a benign mammary tumor removed, and the bloodwork showed the beginning signs of kidney disease. I was devastated that she wasn’t going to run with me. We tried moving her inside, but she felt uncomfortable with the other dogs and didn’t learn how to use the dog door, so we put her back outside with her daughter Axel. We’ll try her inside again this summer.

Kia desperately needed a dental. We drove to Fairbanks for the surgery since we couldn’t book anything locally.  She had a lot of teeth removed, and we had a little scare as the vet noticed a lump on her tongue. A biopsy showed that it was nothing to worry about, and was probably from chewing on her Kong and biting her tongue.

Available for the potential Quest team were  Striker, Justice, Rev, Sniper, Kia, Amy-Sue, Haines, Axel, Snowflake, Yukon, and even though he probably wasn’t going to make the team, Chaos.

In late December, the dogs battled with kennel cough, even though they all had Bordetella vaccinations. We think either Allie or Kia caught it at the vets’ offices because the Stinkers had no other contact with dogs. The dogs rested for two weeks.

Training was tough because we were not on the sleds in our area until January 2024!  Usually, we’re on the sleds by the end of November or early December. We trained on the ATV and occasionally trucked dogs to South Canol Road to train on sleds. Running 30+ miles on the ATV isn’t much fun, especially when you have to do loops. As mushers, Vico and I switched off– I’d take them for one 15 mile run and then Vico would take the same team on the same route for another 15 miles.

We had a nice number of training miles on the dogs,  the problem was (and is) that the Stinkers are SLOW! This could be due to a) the age of the dogs (although 5yo Axel and Snowy aren’t the fastest dogs and they are the youngest) b) we have A LOT of hills in the area, and the dogs are slow going uphill and I tend to slow them down on the downhill to help prevent wrist/shoulder injuries.

In early January I took the team for a solo trip on South Canol Road to see how fast I could go with 10 dogs. We did okay, but not as fast as I would have liked. We were still a 7mph team.

We encountered more weather warm-ups which aren’t good for training,  and I decided that it wasn’t in the cards for the Stinkers and me to run the YQ 450, and that Vico should run the YQ 100. Vico’s team was Striker, Sniper, Rev, Justice, Kia, Yukon, and Snowflake.

With me not running the Yukon Quest, the door opened for Greg to run the 100-mile Montane ultra, which is a race from downtown Whitehorse to Braeburn. This meant that I would be handling for Greg and Vico since the race dates overlapped.

It turns out that not running the YQ 450 was a good decision! Due to the warm weather, all of the Yukon Quest races were shortened and started on land off of Takhini River Road.  The river was not safe for dog teams. For the 450 and the 250, the race was shortened again, and dogs were trucked between some sections.  The YQ 100, the race that Vico ran, became a 60-mile race. Greg’s race started in Shipyard’s Park and he ran the full 100 miles.

Vico did a great job with the Stinkers and encountered -50F temperatures! A big thanks to Jacob H. for loaning her a set of fabulous wolf mitts. She won the veterinary choice award in the 100-mile category.

Photo of dog musher
Vico at the finish of the 2024 Yukon Quest 100 — Photo by Gibzaweeda Fleur du Pays

Greg at the Montane finish
Greg at the finish of the Montane Yukon Ultra 100 miler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.