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February 12, 2007 - “Greenville 100 Race Report”

100 Mile Wilderness Sled Dog Race banner

Everyone getting ready to go

(Check out more photos and news at MooseheadNews.com )

Hello Again. I’m back, just like I said I’d be back… We’ve had a pretty eventful bit of time since Eagle Lake and I want to catch you all up. We are just back from Greenville, Maine where Sue and I both ran the 100-Mile Wilderness Sleddog Race. First though, I want to tell you what we’ve decided on for the rest of the season. It was very tough to do, but last week we withdrew our entries from the Beargrease Races in Minnesota. The reschedule date was going to make running two Can-Am teams impossible and one difficult. Also, they still don’t have much snow and we ran the risk of not even getting our 300+ mile qualifier done there. In the end, we figure Can-Am is the best training we can do for the most dogs in the kennel. I will now have to finish a 300+ mile race in Alaska next year before the start of the Quest. Since we were planning to do this anyway, it’s not a problem, it will just put a lot of pressure on that race, which will likely be the Copper Basin 300 in mid-January 2008. I look forward to the challenge of that race, considered to be one of the toughest mid-distance races anywhere. What better training could I have a month before I set out on the “World’s Toughest Sleddog Race”??? The 2007 Yukon Quest is underway right now, so we’ve got less than a year to finish getting ready!!! The Quest web site has good news stories and race updates going, if you are interested in checking that out. Also, our good friend, Jeremie Matrishon is running, and currently LEADING the Yukon Quest 300, which mostly follows the first 300 miles of the big race!!! GO JERE!!!! You can bet I’ll be hitting “refresh” on the race updates page more than a couple times in the near future… By the time you read this, maybe Jere will be the YQ300 champ. That’d be really cool. As for our racing for the rest of the year, our focus is 100% on having our teams and ourselves as ready as we can be for the Can-Am, starting on March 3rd.

Ok, now to catch ya’ll up on what we’ve been doing since Eagle Lake. Since Peter had come over from Scotland to handle for the Beargrease that was then postponed, he had some time to kill before he could arrange a flight back to the UK. So of course, we went to camp and ran dogs. After Eagle Lake, a few shorter, happy, stress-free runs were just what the teams needed. Peter, Sue and I all had some nice little 20-mile jaunts around the Stratford hills with 8-12 dog teams. Thanks for all the help, Peter!!! The next weekend saw Sue and I busy squeezing in some longer runs with both of our teams on each end of the Stratford Race weekend. The race is put on as a fund-raiser for the Stratford Nighthawks, the local snowmobile club that maintains the trails we train on. Our new club, the North Country Mushers, works in conjunction with the Nighthawks and we offered a 15-mile beginners class and a 30 miler for up to 12 dog teams. It’s a whole lot of work to set up and run an event like this, especially when you get 6 inches of new snow the night before the event!! I really want to thank Jim Lalla, Bob and Rhonda O’Hearn and my Sue for all their hard work. I was honored to serve as race marshal, but it’s definitely a whole lot easier to go run a dog race than it is to put one on!!

Sue's Team:













Mike's Team:













A couple more training runs in nice cold temps led us right in to the Wilderness 100 this past weekend… Sue and I decided to pretty much run what will be our Can-Am teams at this race through the Maine woods. The race starts on Moosehead Lake in the town of Greenville and runs over to Brownville for a two-hour layover and returns. It was pretty much the same trail as two years ago when I ran the inaugural event here. Last year the race was cancelled due to lack of snow and since I left my entry in, I became bib 1 and first out on to the open lake for 5 miles of following wooden stakes across snow-machine-packed trails that ran in every direction. Once a few teams have put down a scent trail, it gets easier for following teams, but no dog teams were in front of my team. Just a sea of white, with a row of wooden lathe set in the ice arcing around the first point, and out of sight. Maple and Stump in lead, for sure, and behind them I had Gila and Trip, Logan and Romeo, Wilson and Hawkeye, Hood and Curly, and Jim and Gecko. Sue was leaving as bib 11 with Kobuk and Mugs, Lotus and Moon, Reba and Eliza, Isis and Squiggle, Merlin and Esther, and Cassin and Ambler. After all the work to get there, it’s always such a relief to hear the countdown in the start chute. Finally, just me and the dogs and miles of marked trail. The dogs did great following the trail except around one windy point where they wanted to head for the shelter of shore. With that straightened out, I got off the lake, on the trail, through a group of driveways, across a road with Police and traffic cones showing the way, and then on to smooth snowmachine trail. The team rolled along and it wasn’t until I’d started up the one, big climb about 12 miles into the race that Matt Carstens reeled me in and took the lead. The team got a nice pull up over the rest of the mountain following him. I enjoyed the view for just a second before dropping off the other side of Blue Ridge. A few more miles down the trail, John Osmond and Steve Collins passed us. When John, who marks the trail for this race, stopped to snack his team up ahead, I knew we were halfway and I told my guys to “take a break” which is our command to relax. They all chowed their snacks except Stump who didn’t look quite right to me. A few more miles down the trail, after re-passing Steve, Stump really let up and I switched him for Hawkeye. I had already taken Maple out of lead in favor of the faster Gila. So now I had two pretty inexperienced dogs up front, but they kept us moving along nicely in to the checkpoint after only 3 hours and 43 minutes. They said it was 48 miles, but I think 42 is much more realistic. I began the checkpoint routine as soon as we were parked. 48 booties off. 12 mouths fed. 12 bodies given beds of straw. 24 wrists rubbed down with liniment and wrapped. Two runners with new plastic for the return trip. One sled repacked. One vet checked with about dropping Stump. One cheeseburger. Two waters. One change of clothes and boots. A quick check with Sue about her race so far. 24 wrist wraps removed. One Stump led to a friend’s dogtruck for the easy way back to Greenville. 44 fresh booties on. 11 tuglines rehooked. (All in less than 2˝ hours.) Ready to go.

Sue's team resting at the checkpoint

Mike's team resting at the checkpoint

Well sort of. With Hawkeye, who has only led a few times in his life, running with Gila who isn’t really a command leader yet, we had a bit of trouble getting out of the checkpoint. Hawkeye thought it’d be nice to go visit some folks watching us “leave.” After sorting that mess out, we got started back to Greenville with several teams right in front of us and several more right behind. I knew I was going to have to work hard to even maintain my position so I opted for the faster but far less experienced leaders. I still had Maple in reserve, but I thought Hawkeye and Gila would set a faster pace if I could keep them on the trail. That proved to be harder than I imagined. Hawkeye showed his inexperience and turned us down several side trails and squirrel paths. Each time, I set the hook, ran to the front, stretched the dogs back out and showed them the correct trail, every time wasting precious minutes. When they were on trail, we were making great time, especially as the sun set, the snowmobile traffic died down, and the trail began to set up. We slowly gained on a team over at least ten miles. I could tell it was Steve long before we caught up to him. He stopped at the base of the big climb and we went by. As I ran up the hill to try to pull away, I saw another headlamp just below and realized a team was coming on fast. We crested the hill and cruised back down the other side. On a mile and a half pond crossing a few more miles down the trail, I could see one headlamp in front of me and two behind. I kicked a little harder. Come on guys, let’s go! After Hawkeye tried to drag us the wrong way at the road crossing, we dropped down on to Moosehead Lake with 4 miles to go. Hawkeye was too inexperienced to get us back home in the dark across the open lake. I had to stop and switch Maple up for him. Doing this, John Osmond who we had closed up to, pulled away and Lev Shvarts came on by with a clean pass as I resnapped tug lines, neck lines and flashing red leader lights on collars. Maple knew why she’d been put back in to lead and immediately surged ahead and we repassed Lev. With still a few more miles of lake travel to go, I set in to a steady rhythm of leg kicks to help the dogs as much as I could. Up ahead, I saw John’s team off the trail and could hear him pleading to his leaders to gee back to the trail. He got them back on the trail just ahead of us and pulled away again. Then his leaders started off on another side trail and we pushed past him. A quick check behind me showed Lev was only a couple hundred feet behind us. One little mistake and he’d shoot right by. Then I saw another team just ahead. Where did that come from?? This musher (later found out it was Amelie Aubut) was off the trail to the right and Maple started to follow her! I begged Maple to haw back to the trail and then there was a single snowmachine track that headed back to the main trail. Haw. Maple took it. Phew. That took us by Amelie and kept us just ahead (28 seconds!!) of Lev to finish the race in 7th place. It was a very exciting finish, although I’m not sure John or Amelie would have used “exciting.” They both finished a few minutes after me. The crowd assembled at the finish had really enjoyed watching all the teams finding their way across the dark lake to the finish chute. I was very glad to have taken the time to switch Maple up to lead. There is just no substitute for experience!! The winner, Matt Carstens, met us in the finish chute with the race marshal, Shawn Graham, and a bunch of handlers and spectators. We had finished only about an hour after Matt.

As soon as I had the dogs’ booties and harnesses off and had given them a snack and boxed them, Sue came to the finish line, about 50 minutes behind me in 12th place. She had a good run, never saw another musher, and gave her puppies a nice easy run home just like we’d planned. Four of her dogs had never raced before at all and they did very well. Kobuk was once again her superstar, leading the whole way and keeping her out of trouble on the lake. Another shining star for Sue was Moon, who in her first race, led most of the way home, only giving way to the experienced Mugs when she hit the lake. I was very proud to see her team loping into the finish chute. She later reminded me that this was her first time racing 12 dogs. She has come so far, so fast as a musher, I sometimes forget that she is still pretty new to the racing end of this whole thing after spending so much time handling for me! All her dogs did super, with the exception of Squiggle who she dropped in Brownville with an upset stomach. As of this morning, Squiggle and Stump both seem fine, but we are starting them on an intestinal antibiotic to make sure they are rid of whatever bug they caught.
A few more race notes: Now all the puppies have finished at least one 100-miler. Molly sat out this race because she’s in heat. Zirkle sat out because she won’t be going on Can-Am. Jim has STILL finished EVERY mile of racing I’ve ever done with our dogs!




Sunday morning they have an awesome awards breakfast and we went early after being too tired to feed ourselves after finishing Saturday night. The Plum Creek timber company both allows use of their land for the race and gives a $5000 purse that paid all the finishers. Another local promoter of the race put forward some money that was awarded to a “best kept team.” It was voted on by the race marshal, veterinarian, and organizers. I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed when they called my name to come receive that award. I could only say “thank you” and shake the hands of the donors. I wanted to be able to say something smart like how humbling it is to be recognized in such a great group of mushers who I really respect and admire. But, the cat got my tongue and I walked back to my seat with my eyes kind of tucked under the bill of my baseball cap. We’ve worked hard to do all we can for our dogs and it’s fantastic to have it show up to others. The ride home was uneventful and the dogs and mushers were more than a little glad to be home in time for dinner Sunday after a successful weekend of racing.

Now it’s time to finish preparations for the Can-Am. We’ll put a few hundred more miles of training on the teams and be ready on March 3rd to send two teams down Fort Kent’s Main Street and out on the 250-mile trail. We can’t wait...

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