{Tsuga Siberians}
December 24th, 2008 - "Sweet Solstice"

Hookup - Leaders Wilson & Stump
Leader love.

Howdy all.
Here at 65 degrees latitude, the solstice is a big deal. As of last weekend, itís no longer getting darker day by day. While we still have plenty of cold to deal with, itís a huge relief to have the days begin to get longer. Sue and I have had less trouble dealing with the darkness this year than we did last in the Yukon, even though it is considerably darker here in Fairbanks than down in Whitehorse. I guess thatís probably mostly due to a bit of familiarity with it and the fact that this year we are living with electricity. At the darkest days here, the sun is only ďupĒ for a couple of hours and at that it barely gets above the Alaska Range to the south. You can see what youíre doing outside from about 9:30am to 3:30pm, but that includes lengthy dusk and dawn. Anyway, this northern side of the earth is slowly tilting back towards the sun, and we are grateful.
Mugs & Reba
Merlin & Trip

To celebrate the solstice last weekend, I took 12 dogs out for a 100 mile race right here in Two Rivers. As the field filled up to itís max at 30 teams, I saw some incredible competition lining up to race. There are so many very good dog teams around here. Even the names you (and I) have never heard of have some amazing dogs. I knew it would be very hard to place high in a race this short with so many fast teams, but we wanted to get the race gitters out of the way before traveling to the GinGin 200 this weekend. So I took Stump, Mugs, Reba, Wilson, Gila, Trip, Merlin, Logan, Jim, Ambler, Eliza and Hood out to race on trail that follows part of the same trail the Quest uses. We had quite a few friends running too, which made it a really fun atmosphere. Mike Santos and Judy Currier both used to run Siberians in New England and now both have very quick teams of Alaskan Huskies while living here in AK. Lance Mackey showed up with 4 teams to race. Former Quest champions Aliy Zirkle and Bill Cotter, and lots of Iditarod and Quest veterans were in the field, too. The race consisted of 53 miles out to Angel Creel Lodge, a four hour mandatory rest, and then a return on the same trail. Our run out was a bit hectic with a lot of passing going on but we did it in 4 hours and 32 minutes. The dogs ate like champs at the rest and were raring to go as we left the checkpoint at about 9pm. We passed Dave Dalton less than a mile out of the checkpoint and then didnít see another team for about 30 miles when our friend Mike Santos caught and passed us with his team of dogs mostly from Jeff Kingís lines. As his headlamp faded in the distance ahead of us, we cruised the last miles to the finish line to take 15th place with a second half run time of 4 hours 42 minutes. The dogs were happy and frisky at the finish despite having run a bit faster than weíve been training at. While they were checking my sled for the mandatory gear at the finish, I heard out of the darkness, ďDoc Lombard would be proud of THAT team.Ē Now if you donít know who Doc Lombard was, do a bit of research and youíll understand why tears of pride rolled down my check as the team followed Sue over to the truck for snacks, love, and a ride home to straw-filled houses.

Gila & Eliza, Jim & Logan, Hood & Ambler
Ready, Let's Go!

So, with Christmas presents to wrap, a race to pack for, a training run to sneak in today, and all the regular chores of the day ahead, Iíve got a lot to do before relaxing for a Christmas Eve evening with Sue tonight. We wish you and yours all the peace, happiness, and hope possible at this holiday season, and a very happy and healthy new year.

Aliy Zirkle & Sue with Zirkle the dog.

Take care Ė Mike, Sue and TeamTsuga.


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