TWO RIVERS, AK – A couple weeks after the YQ300, I took some of our dogs and competed in a sprint race in Fairbanks. Since our dogs are trained to do longer, slower distance racing, I knew going into the race we would come in last. Think of a Boston Marathon runner competing in the 100-meter dash, the body is trained completely differently. It would be a good experience for the team and I, to try and pick up our speeds a little bit and do something different. I was so impressed with the team and learned so much from a short, 12-mile race, our team, that typically averages eight to ten miles per hour averaged sixteen! The dogs are incredible athletes, adapting so quickly to something new. And yes, we did place last!
Our final race, the Two Rivers 200, started on March 13. My mom and dad flew up from Gladwin to be a part of it, years of helping me train and race in Michigan have made them pros and great help around race time. This race starts off with a really hilly leg, followed by a couple of shorter, “flatter” runs. The last 60-mile run of the race has a lot of really steep hills and switchbacks to climb. At the start of the race, the temps were in the teens and 20s above, hot compared to our very cold winter. We started second to last (nine teams total in the race) and were third coming into the checkpoint. The team had done that run faster than any of the other teams. Mushers could decide how long they wanted to rest at the checkpoints during the race, but had to complete at least ten hours of rest total. Only resting two and a half hours, the team and I took off first for the second leg. Running into the night, the dogs were very happy with the cooler temps and looked awesome. By the second checkpoint, Will Rhodes, our biggest competitor, would make up several minutes on us. I was the first to take off from the checkpoint at 3 a.m., but was constantly looking over my shoulder for Will. At one point during this run, the trail split and there were no markers to direct us which way to go. The team ended up going the wrong way and after coming to a dead-end a few seconds later, I had to turn my team of eleven dogs 180 degrees back the way we came and get them on the right trail. I knew I had lost precious time. I later learned that a few other teams ended up doing the same thing. At the final checkpoint, Will would complete his mandatory ten hours of rest about fifteen minutes ahead of me. I knew it would be nearly impossible to catch him. Will has a very fast team and has won the Two Rivers 200 multiple times. The closest team behind me was Matt Hall, who has been very successful at distance racing. I knew I would have to watch behind me as I was trying to catch the team ahead of me. After a tough, final 60-mile run, we would finish in second place, seventeen minutes behind Will. I couldn’t believe how well the dogs had performed, once again! We had changed some things in our training and nutrition program this season and I was so excited to see our athletes at the top of their game. The best surprise came when I was awarded the Vet’s Choice Award at the finish banquet! Jeremy and I pour everything into our dogs and have been blessed with some awesome kiddos that we’ve raised from birth.
Thank you all, once again, for your prayers and encouragement. I know many of you follow us on social media, but I wanted to let those that don’t know what we’ve been up to. Although it’s not Iditarod, competing in these “smaller” races are just as exciting and educational for us. It allows us to test and train our team in hopes that we will do better in our next 1,000-mile adventure, hopefully again in a few years. Until then, we continue to do spring runs with the dogs as we still have feet of snow on the ground and it’s snowing as I write. Our winter and summer employment is solely based on tourism, so we are on hold with that right now...praying for the good that will come from this and soaking in the extra time we have with no pressure with our furry kids! We thank the Lord for such a fun and rewarding season with the team and look forward to the many adventures to come.