Four months of training culminated this past weekend in the Midnight Run. I'm still processing a lot of what happened this weekend, but felt I owed it to some to publish some of the details of our race, what I learned in the hopes that the information can help other mushers, what went wrong, what worked, and what I would change.
Part One: Marquette to Chatham
This was our second Midnight Run, and we had trained hard from the cabin in the tiny mushing community of Deer Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan since October. The dogs had a solid 850 or so miles under their harnesses, and I felt confident that we could improve our standing from last year's next-to-last finish.
My friend Kathleen drove all the way from Minneapolis to mostly observe and learn as much as she could about a check point race; we met at the banquet and I introduced her to many friends I am proud to call a sort of extended family. As the race committee started the bib draw to decide the starting order for mushers, I said to Kathleen, "I just hope I am not first." Almost on cue, my name was called. I would be bib #1 for the 2013 Midnight Run - the first down the trail! Yikes.
The next morning at the vet check, I was pleased that all the dogs received a perfect score of health from the vets.
|Yearling, Tosh, is checked out before the race. All the dogs receive thorough veterinary care before, during and after the race to ensure they are healthy and happy|
Despite my nervousness, we had no problems heading down the starting trail in downtown Marquette. I love running along Lake Superior through the city passed the houses. People came out to support the race, camping by little campfires along the trail, wishing us good luck as we passed and it was cold as the temperature dropped and snow began falling.
I held my team back until we were out of the city and into the darkness of night. Once I let them go and took my foot off the drag pad, the Garmin Forerunner on my handlebar told me we were hitting speeds of 14-15 miles per hour. The trail was fast along the lake, and I put my foot back on the drag mat to hold them at a steady and conservative 10 or 11 miles an hour.
When we turned off into the woods to head for Chatham, the snow picked up. I could hardly see with the blinding snow in the beam of my headlamp. I love this part of the race. It's so fun to see all of my favorite people and their teams running in the woods at the same time and we chat as we pass each other. The dogs worked hard that first stretch, and I worked hard to help them, running up the hills and pedaling whenever we slowed.
I am not a "competitive" musher. All I ever strive for is a respectable middle-of-the-pack status. I beamed as we crossed under the arch into the checkpoint at Chatham far sooner than I expected, finishing the 45 mile leg at 1:58 a.m. We achieved the solid middle-of-the-pack standing I wanted. Click here for the checkpoint summary at the Chatham checkpoint.
My friend Mike Betz, Kathleen and I quickly fed the dogs and had our vet check as soon as we came in. The dogs all looked great and ate and drank well. We spread straw out, jacketed the dogs, rubbed feet and muscles and covered each fuzzy member of the team with a blanket for our five hour checkpoint. Then I quickly crawled into my sleeping bag for some rest. It was nearly 3 a.m.
It was very cold that night, and I didn't take my parka or anything off before bedding down. All the snow that fell during the first leg began to melt and drip onto my face and I suddenly shivered in the cold. I could not sleep. It seemed like I finally drifted off when Kathleen woke me at 6:30 a.m.
We walked some of the dogs to warm them before our take off time at 7:54. They again all drank well and we began bootying each foot. Everyone looked perky and ready as we headed for the chute to start the second leg.
|My team leaving the Chatham checkpoint as dawn broke Saturday morning|
The difference between our first leg of the race and the last are as opposite as black and white. There are many lessons the trail can teach, first and foremost is humility.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Chatham to Munising...