Can’t Win to Lose

Who’s ready for their daily dose of bad news. Seriously, I don’t know how else to describe what is going on now, because just when I think it can’t get any worse, it gets way worse.
Cole made it to Shaktoolik where she called to tell me what I had already known from watching the weather. The winds came up…in a major way. The mushers just ahead of her slipped up to Koyuk just before it got really bad, but Cole came in to sustained winds of 30 mph, and they were expected to keep howling through the night.
This would be dangerous at any time, but when combined with the temperatures which on the sea ice were already hovering at minus 20 to minus 30, well, this comes together to make a windchill factor that is somewhere around minus 50 to minus 60.
This is the danger zone for sure, but now Cole is faced with several tough decisions. If she waits it out, she doesn’t know how long that wait will be. A few years ago teams pulled over to wait out winds, and they built up to 50 mph and lasted for 2-3 days.
However, if Cole tries to drive into them, she is risking that the team may not be able to handle it. Mostly because her main leader at this time is pint-sized Penny, who while she still isn’t lacking in heart, just doesn’t have the body size to handle winds that strong. I have seen her literally picked up off the ground and thrown in winds this speed.
Cole has faced worse wind and colder temperatures, but it was with a much fresher dog team in 200-300 mile races, and with her full battery of leaders. Sadly, Cyder, Quigley and Keno, her largest and most powerful leaders, are all already home with me due to various maladies.
Again, adding to this situation is the fact the Cole is still on next to no sleep, so while these situations are dangerous to anyone who finds themselves in them, my fear is Cole may not have the mental faculties at this point to do what she would normally do if she were better rested.
The worst part, for me personally, is I fly out tomorrow to hopefully see her in Nome. I have to be up and on the road to the airport before she will even get into Koyuk (based on the times it took people who weren’t driving into the wind), so I won’t know until Acnhorage if she made it, or is out there fighting for her life and her dogs lives.
The only thing keeping me from completely peeling my skin of with worry is that Cole has been moving with four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey and his handler of several years Braxton Peterson. They are old neighbors of ours who Cole knows well. She said they talked in the checkpoint and agreed they all stood the best chances of making it safely if they moved together through the storm in a caravan.
Lance is no stranger to finding his way though way worse storms on the coast than this. He clawed his way through the one I already mentioned that pinned everyone down in Shaktoolik two years ago to earn a win, so if there is one guy in this race I’d like to see her move though this storm with, its him.
That being said, this is still the Iditarod and not Cole or Lance or anybody is unstoppable, as we already saw on the way to Unalakleet when four-time champion Jeff King scratched for the first time in his 22 year Iditarod career.
So, anyway, that’s all I have. I am literally terrified for my wife and canine family. If any of you are the religious types, please pray for her. If you’re the non-religious types, please keep your fingers crossed for her, because she and the team are going to need every ounce of luck they can get tonight.
All for now, and until I get to Nome tomorrow evening.

14 Responses to “Can’t Win to Lose”

  1. Susan Says:

    “I am literally terrified for my wife and canine family. If any of you are the religious types, please pray for her. If you’re the non-religious types, please keep your fingers crossed for her, because she and the team are going to need every ounce of luck they can get tonight.”

    YOU GOT IT! I’d call myself the spiritual type and am sending white light and positive energies in massive quantities. Family and friends are also sending.

    hugs to you, Joseph

  2. admin Says:

    O.K. a quick update. Cole calledf at midnight and said the winds had picked up further and the temps got colder. There really was no option to try and go through it. Teams earlier in the day made this run in 6-7 hours, the two team in front of her that got caught in the wind mid-way took more than 12 hours.
    It is incredibly hard to watch the lead she has spent a week working so hard to build slip away, but she just can’t risk the dogs safety and well being to try and earn a paycheck. She’s there with three past champions, Rick Swenson, Lance Mackey and Martin Buser, and none of them are leaving, so she really belives its best to just wait the storm out. She wasn’t sure when she’d leave at this point.
    In the meantime, she was trying to do the best she could for the dogs, but sounds like the wind is blowing their straw away and pulling at their coats and blankets, so while they’re off their feet for a lot longer than Cole had planned, they’re not really “resting” too well in the biting wind. She tried to stack up bails of straw and snow berms to block them as best she could.
    All I now at this point.

  3. admin Says:

    I take on thing back, the folks that got caught in the wind took about 9 hours, not 12. Bad math. Sorry.

  4. Susan Says:

    I’m so relieved. Glad they’ll wait it out.

    Currently there are 14 folks hunkered down at that checkpoint.

    nice mention of Cole here: http://iditarod.com/mittens-and-ski-poles/

    maybe I can go to bed now…don’t need to stay up and keep watch over the team.

    hugs to all.

  5. Martha in Juneau Says:

    She’s in good company. She’s been in good company, and will remain in good company – I’ve been glad to see that with all that’s going on. Another hurdle, a tough race overall, and she keeps making the right decisions.

    I am sending thoughts of safety, perseverance and guidance for the team. She’s surrounded by experience and has plenty of good sense. They will be OK!

  6. Donna Schmidt Says:

    Prayers all around!! Consider yourself surrounded in love and prayers Cole!!
    I’m also glad to hear she’s going to wait. In the end safety is what’s most important.
    Travel safe Joseph, hopefully she can make it to you in Nome soon.

  7. Mary Lowell Says:

    My heart is in my throat every time I read these updates! I am so glad she decided to wait it out. My prayers are on their way to all, and my fingers and toes are crossed for good measure!

  8. Jerseykat/Janet Says:

    Joseph you know Cole and the team has had my prayers (and everyone here) since the start. Bad news on the weather front but like everyone had noted she’s hunkered down with a group filled with experience. The latest update shows the Busers both pulled out at 0530ish. But Lance and Rick are still hunkered down. Rick is running with 15 dogs still and he’s not moving so it’s for the best. I’m glad she’s hanging back with them. Have a great trip to Nome!

  9. Susan Says:

    Here’s the Weather Channel:

    Shaktoolik: Bitterly cold. A mix of clouds and sun with gusty winds. Dangerous wind chills may approach -35F. High -1F. Winds ENE at 25 to 35 mph.

    the Busers have been out for about 4 hours and are at mile 730 (17 miles from Shak). So they are averaging 4+ mph. They have 25 miles to go to Koyuk. (maybe 6 more hours! That would be a 10 hour crossing. Rough.

    I assume Cole sent drop bags to Shak… but I wonder how much food is left for this unscheduled long stopover? Sorry, just one more thing to worry about!

  10. admin Says:

    O.K. in Anchorage now and looks like Cole is still there. Going on about 15 or so hours of rest at this point. She called me again this morning, just before the Busers left, but said she felt it was still too windy to take off in. Looks like Jerry Sousa went too, the first position this storm has cost Cole. He was HOURS behind her until this. So hard to watch.
    Also, I saw Susan posted the weather. The thing to remeber is those temps come from the village themsselves which are often situated at a higher and warmer spot than where the mushers are when on the ice, so it’s good to go ahead and subtract 10-20 degrees from whatever they say the raw temperatures are.
    More when I nkow more. Gotta board a plane.

  11. nancy mullet Says:

    I will not only pray for everyones well being, i will also ask God to still the winds so no one is in jeopardy. Expect a miracle! Have peace in your heart and trust that your wife and dogs will be well.

  12. Susan Says:

    Well said. My online quilt buddies are all sending guiding energies. (and don’t think we are a bunch of old biddies! on of my buddies is Libby Riddle’s sister Jane)

    There’s a good Jeff Schultz pix of Cole and team from 3/11, but I don’t yet have the link.

  13. Martha in Juneau Says:

    Wow, there is a pile o’ teams in Shaktoolik. It’s going to be a busy trail to Koyuk when the weather clears. Hope everyone is careful – no tangles, bites, broken sleds. Be good to each other out there, be safe, be well.

  14. Martha in Juneau Says:

    They’re out, on to Koyuk! 8 teams are all within minutes of each other – Colleen right behind Lance Mackey. I hope the time in Shaktoolik rested Cole and the team so they can enjoy some of this coast rather than fighting it the whole way. Go 42! We are in front of you, and behind you, in spirit!

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