Archive for February, 2009

We Did It!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Cole and her team crossed the finish line at just after 5 a.m. on Thursday morning to officially complete her first Yukon Quest. She finished in 12th place (in the money…yeah!), with 11 dogs — one of only three teams in the race to finsih with that many dogs. She also came in ahead of her own schedule, finishing the race in 11 days, 17 hours and 47 minutes. Her finishing team was Penny (who led to the finish as well as most of the race), Oaky, Nuk, Butterscotch, Crumb, Waylon, Goliath, Zoya, Zoom, Squirrel, and amazingly Arrow — the dog from the Kenai Animal Shelter that had never raced before this Quest. Cole’s team looked great at the finsih line and several race officals complemented her on their appearance and performance, since Cole logged the fastest time to the finsih from the final checkpoint, covering the 44 miles in 5 hours even. Sorry no photos of the finish now, but we just can’t find a laptop with the right equipment to download. We’ll try again soon.

The End Is In Sight

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Sorry so long since the last update. We have been in some remote villages without consistent Internet access. Since the last update, Cole had dropped a few more dogs. She left two year old Hank at Slaven’s after he hurt his rear foot in the jumble ice. He was flown out and has since been getting antiboitics and painkillers, and he is doing much better now. The veterinarians rechecked him yesterday and said he was nearly back to normal already. Cole said the jumble ice was really something, but her sled and new runners stood up to challenge.
Then at Central Cole made the decision to drop Cyder, her largest and most mature dog, and one of her main leaders. He has hurt his shoulder while on the long run on Birch Creek. At the checkpoint, he was still pulling like a dog possessed, even on three legs, when the vets walked him to assess his condition, but ultimately Cole thought it was in his best interest to leave him behind. This leads the bulk of leading on Penny, who has already led more than 800 miles of this race, as many of Cole’s younger leaders have just become to burned out to be out front. They are still pulling good in the team, but being in lead seems to be just too much pressure with so many miles behind them.
Last night Cole completed the crux of the Quest. She made the long, arduous climb up Eagle Summit, and in a mild, yet still challenging wind storm. She moved in a group with two other mushers, a Brittish and a Jamacian musher. The three have been moving together for several hundred miles now, not by consicous choice, but becuase their three teams seem to be evenly matched for speed. Cole should be into the final checkpoint sometime this evening, where she will have to take a mandatory 8-hour break. Then all that is left is the 44 mile run to the finish in Fairbanks. Hopefully, she and the dogs will still have the steam for this final push.

Still More Pictures

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

After nearly freezing in the tent in minus 20 degree temperatures before Cole arrived in Dawson, we knew we had to get her a warm room to recuperate from so many cold miles on the trail, so we found a room at this Victorian Inn. It ended up being awesome.
The place used to be a brothel, so the owners have continued with a similar theme by putting up old black and white images of ladies of the night. Here are some in the room.
Here is Cole in the “parlor” when our host invited us to partake in an evening port.
After all the hardwork of cleaning Cole’s camp, Joseph enjoys a few minutes of relaxing. Handling is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

Many, Many Pictures

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Here are numerous photos from our stay in Dawson. I’ll briefly explain them as best I can.
This first one is the dogs under their tent in the Dawson camp. They took to sleeping under there remarkably fast.
Here’s a pic of the whole camp, including the sign Joseph made to perk Cole up when she came in.
This one illustrates one of the parts of the race that has been the most unusual for Cole — the intense veterinary (red coats) and media (with camera) attention.
Heading onto the mighty Yukon River — Cole leaving Dawson to head to Eagle.

The Second Half

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Cole left at 12:33 today (three minutes late. DON”T ASK) to start the second half of the race, which reports indicate will be the more challenge half, due mostly to some wicked jumble ice just outside of the Eagle checkpoint. There also are reported snow storms close to Fairbanks so some of the mountain passes above treeline, especially Eagle summit, may be a bit nasty. Cole still has 13 dogs though, one of the larger teams in the race at this point. They all checked out healthy after another intense veterinary check. Zoom and Waylon are a bit thin, but they are the biggest, so they are always tough to keep weight on. Arrow also came in with sore front feet, but many massages later and they seemed to be as good as new when she left today. The only real problem is Cole left at just afternoon today, and the sun was shining bright and the temperature was unseasonably high at nearly 30 degrees F. The dogs were not too happy about that. Cole left in good spirit though, thanks to all the thoughtful messages people sent her. She wanted me to be sure to thank everyone for taking the time to write. it really perked her up to know so many family members and friends are pulling for her. Well, time to make the long drive back to Alaska to meet Cole at Circle, 300 miles for her, but around 1,000 for me and our friend Laurie. Al;l for now. Will try to post the many amazing photos of Dawson when next I can.

The Promised Photos

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Here are the images of Cole and the team at McCabe Creek dog drop. The frosty faced dog is Crumb who has just been a complete animal this whole race. her and Zoom are the first ones standing and chirping when it is time to leave a checkpoint. These photos are good, but for a really good amazing photo of Cole, check out the Fairbanks Daily News Miner’s “Yukon Quest Special Section – photo gallery.” The was a vertical drop about a team’s length long. The photographer from the Newsminer camped out in front of it an got an awesome action shot of Cole. There are a few other nice pics too. Check them out. The Yukon Quest site also has a couple good ones of Cole in their Gallery from McCabe, including one of her snoozing in the straw with a tired Goliath nearby. I won’t be able to post any of Cole for a few days. She is currently on her 200 mile leg and not due in until late tomorrow night (Wednesday night). I built her Dawson camp today all day long. it was a bit back braking, but nothing near as hard as what she was likely enduring at the same time. I’ll take some pics of her and the dogs in the camp, but probably won’t be able to post them until I make the long drive to Circle, back in Alaska, after the camp site gets cleaned. Until then.

Dawson Bound

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Sorry for the absence. Finding a free computer isn’t always easy. Cole just pulled out on her long 200 mile run to Dawson, but both she and the team were in good spirits.To update, Cole made the run from Breaburn to Carmacks on schedule. While Eagle Summit is the crux of the race, and there are daunting legs like the one she just left on, the run to Carmacks is known as one of the most arduous of the race. It winds through narrow forest, has steep drops onto the Yukon River and then lots of jumble ice once down on the river. Sadly Kawlijah took a bad step along the way and hurt his shoulder, so Cole had to drop him in Carmacks. She was sad to see such a hard worker go, but since he was the youngest dog in the team, it meant she could worry less about her speed and rest schedule. From Carmacks she ran to McCabe Creek with no problems, rested briefly, then continued on to Pelly. With Kawlijah gone, Cole was able to run a less conservative race, and had reeled in several teams in front of her, moving from around 26th place up to 21st. Sadly, in Pelly that work was for nothing. We had new runners built just before the race, but they were not sanded quite as smooth as perhaps they could have been. Wanting to change runner plastic for the long haul ahead, Cole began to switch them out, but this task, which should have taken about 10 minutes, ended up taking an hour and a half. The teams Cole passed on the way to Pelly again got out in front of her while she fiddled with the runners. It was frustrating, but just one of many hurdles that can happen on a race this long. Cole isn’t giving up on reeling in these teams later in the race. She has run a very conservative schedule. As such, she has a lot of rest on the dogs, so they are still raring to go when leaving each checkpoint. Cole also has a huge team of 13 dogs still, while several teams not too far in front are starting to dwindle. So perhaps on the way to Dawson or maybe on the way to Fairbanks she will improve her standings. She said her primary goal is just to finish the race, but her secondary goal is to finish in the top 20. Hopefully, she will be able to do it. Time will tell. All for now. I’ll try to post more photos in Dawson.


Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Cole made it into Braeburn, the first checkpoint, at around 1:30 a.m. this morning. All dogs were happy and healthy, as determined by the veterinarians who were very thorough in their inspection. Which was good because a few mushers were not so lucky and had to drop dogs due to a hard fast trail for the first leg. So far, this has been the most “structured” race we have ever done in regard to protocols. Upon entering the checkpoint, rather than Joseph catching the leaders and parking the team, a swarm of race volunteers descend on the dogs and then transport them to a parking place. it is a little awkward for some of our guys that are shy of strangers, but so far nothing too eventful upon arrival. Cole’s departure was another matter entirely. After eating one of the world’s largest hamburgers (see photo) and catching about an hour and a half of sleep, Cole went outside in the minus 25 degree F temps to prepare her dogs to leave. This usually entails putting booties on, reattaching their tug lines and stowing away any last minute gear. Unfortunately, the dogs altered her plan this morning. Because Cole is running Kawlijah, a yearling, she is moving slower on the trail and taking longer breaks when off the trails, so as not to burn him out before his sled dog career really begins. However, for the 2, 3 and 4-year old dogs in the team, the rest is a little too much. As soon as Cole bootied her leaders this morning, the entire team jumped to their feet and went crazy. Half of them didn’t even have their tug-lines on yet, and the leader hook (which goes of the front of the team while their resting to hold them out straight) was still in place. Yet, somehow our energetic group of dogs pulled through both hooks and nearly took off down the trail Cole luckily dove to the sled and was able to bring the team to a halt, but not before a bit of a tangle was made(see photo), She sorted it out quickly, but the dogs were just too energized to trust the hook holding long enough to finish booting everyone, so she just grabbed the bag of footwear and headed off down the trail. She said she would run a few miles to take a little steam off them, then stop and finish booting them then. She also likely will have to alter her run rest schedule slightly. This is the tricky part of distance racing. Too little rest and the dog could burn out either mentally or physically, but too much rest and then can really be a bunch of uncontrollable monsters. Time will tell what Cole will do next, but she should reach the Carmacks checkpoint sometime this evening. Until then think positive thoughts for us.

Photo Attempt

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Here is Cole leaving chute.
Cole whispering to Cyder just before leaving.
Our training run in the Yukon just days before the race.

She’s Off!

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Just a quick post since I’m on someone else’s laptop, but Cole did make it off and out of the chute on time today. It was an emotional morning for her, particularly right before she left on her 1,000 mile journey. With tears of excitement in her eyes, she went up and down the line whispering words of hope and encouragement into each dogs ear. Then they blasted away not to be seen again for at least 12-14 hours. Will update again when I can, but check the Yukon Quest website for up to date info and photos of Cole. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner also does a great job of covering the race and may be worth checking out on the web. All for now.