Goose Bay 120

For the second year in a row the Goose Bay 120 has screwed us, but at least it was only one of us this time. For those that don’t remember, last year Joseph ran the race with the A-team and was doing well for most of the race, running right around 5th place, until some snow fell. The trail wasn’t marked and there were no sled tracks to follow so Joseph lost tons of time and positions taking lots of wrong turns up and down trails until he found the right path.
This year, the race started about the same. For the first time ever, Joseph and Cole each took a team in the same race. Joseph had the A-team, while Cole took the B-team and puppies. We launched teams from a plowed icy parking lot where getting a brake to bite was not possible. Then we threaded through an outdoor patio, around a pile of pallets, to cross a paved road and take a hard, dropping turn down into a ditch. Poor Joseph had two people fall ONTO his team before he even had made it 100 yards, and he also flipped his sled when entering the ditch. Cole made it with few problems though.
The first half of the race went well for both, despite the that trail did a series of weird loops where the trail would cross itself, so musher had to pay close attention at the 4-way intersection to know when and where to take the right turns, since all were marked the same.
At the halfway checkpoint, a camp set up on Flathorn Lake, things began to take a turn for the worse. A storm blew in and brought mild wind, but steady snow. It fell the whole time teams were on their mandatory 8-hour breaks. Cole and Joseph made the best of it, they burst a bale of straw next to a sled, out of the wind, then spread their sleeping bags over each other and huddled together to stay warm and get some rest. Meanwhile, the checkers and trail markers/breakers for the second half of the race had brought out a jug of whiskey and got piss drunk while we rested our teams. A couple guys passed out and the others left on snowmachines seconds before the first teams to go put in trail for them. The drove through three feet of soft powder with no base, just throwing out markers along the way, but then between the alcohol they drank and the storm, they got lost out on the trail. They would go up a trail, realize it was wrong, then turn around and go to another, but they would leave the trail markers they left.
As a result, teams were wallowing through thigh deep snow, with the trail blowing in behind them, only to find that markers would end and there was no where to go but back.
This became such a debacle that after about 2 hours, the entire race field had caught up to each other and after several horrible head on passes, everyone agreed to get moving the same direction and work together to (at the time) go back to the halfway point and wring the necks of the trail markers. This was the most surreal experience we have ever had in a race. There were points when the entire caravan would dead-end and you could see the headlamps of 13-14 teams all in unison button-hooking their teams around in the soft powder. Dogs were getting tangled in the lines, hooks were pulling, mushers were getting pinned under their sled – it was nothing short of a fiasco. Joseph alone turned his team around no less than a dozen times.
Finally between a little bit of dumb luck and Joseph using a GPS for the first time ever (but forever from here on out), about half the field stumbled back onto the correct trail. The race resumed again.
Joseph did well, constantly switching positions with Rich Savoyski and Deb Moderow. A lot of peddling and ski poling was the only thing that kept him out front at times. He finished third overall, and got a sweet trophy, but divided his winnings with fourth place finisher Rich, because Rich had showed a lot of sportsmanship during the race by waiting for Joseph, Cole and other teams to make sure they were on the right trail and doing O.K., which cost him a lot of time in the end. Sadly, Cole took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up doing an additional 20 miles of trail, which was too bad because she was running in 6th place after the mess. In the end she came in 14th and received her first Red Lantern Award. She’s totally bummed. Joseph knows just how she feels since he had the same thing happen last season. It is tough to know you had a better team then where you finished, but there’s nothing she can do about it now, and after getting lost two years in a row, Joseph and Cole can’t say they will be going back next year. Too bad because the race is really, really fun when you’re not lost, and the people that put in on are good-hearted folks. The race just needs a little bit better marking and organization while running. If it gets it, this race will become an annual event for Joseph and Colleen.
Look for photos tomorrow, since we still haven’t downloaded them yet.

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