Yukon Quest 2016: Braeburn – Whitehorse (Part 7/8)

March 7, 2016

Previous part: Yukon Quest 2016: Pelly – Braeburn (Part 6/8)

So here we go for the last stretch. It is a bit emotional too. At this point my chances to finish my first Yukon Quest are very high. Not many mushers have given up at that stage.

The first steps out on the trail are slow. The dogs have to poop. They stop. They pee. They poo. We start and they stop again. And so. And so, … It takes them a while to finally feel ready.

The pace is going up and up. We are probably moving above 9 mph. A few rabbits are escaping in the forest. It turns the dogs nuts and the speed is going crazy in these situation. It is fun. It is so fun to see that these beast, these machines, are still charging in their harnesses despite 800 miles of racing in their legs! For sure I didn’t have the most aggressive racing schedule. But it is nice to remember that from the start my goal was to enjoy.

Also I did put Coffee back in lead with his mum Dona. It is unbelievable to think that 25 miles out of Dawson the guy was limping bad enough that I had negative thoughts coming to me. Now this is one more thing to enjoy. He is healthy. Dona had to take the stress of the lead by herself with some help from Scarlet. It makes her special.

Five hours into the run I mush past a shack not far from the trail. I decide to turn around and to camp there. Same thing again with a quick feeding and quick to sleep. I don’t have much good sleep as it is hard to get to a nice temperature with the stove. Either too hot or too cold. I should have just crash on my mat in the sleeping bag outside.

I calculate that five ours of rest would make me start again at 4 am. I am roughly five hours away from the finish line. So I would reach Takhini hot springs at 9am.

We progress in the dark on a known trail. We pass the overland to 37 mile lake. It mean we are close. Probably still one hour. It is enjoyable to feel close to the goal. Sometimes the adventure felt long. Some moments are fun, most of them. Inevitably they are some moments where you would enjoy to be relaxing in front of the stove at home. Luckily for me most of my first Yukon Quest has been enjoyed.

Now we leave the Dawson trail in direction of the hot spring. We follow the power line. Than we go into the woods. I know a bit this area as I did race the Cinnamon Bun Run last year. It will be soon over. I pay attention to put my bib on as the rule requires.

I see an opening. I start to hear people screaming. One more curve and this is it. There is no long straight so it comes quick. We pass the finish line at 8:55 am. Not bad.

Coming to the finish line, with coffee (black) and Dona in lead

Coming to the finish line, with coffee (black) and Dona in lead – Photo: Julien Schroder

The hugs are coming from everywhere. Doug Grillot shakes my hand. I receive a big hug from Virginie. Than it is hug after hug after hug. It was the right thing to do to schedule my arrival at 9am. I barely have the time to pet the dogs that I am busy with the medias. Lucky my dogs are, they receive a lot of attention from the handlers and the vets. Michael interviews me. Than the radio The Rush, the francophone television and finally the Japanese television.

On the finish line

On the finish line – Photo: Julien Schroder

Once done with the media I receive some more congratulation. But I decide now to focus a bit on the dogs. They deserve a meal but nothing is prepared. Virginie rushes to the hot spring to get some hot water to make them a soup. Felix, Emeric, Faustine help unload the sled, to put the dogs on the chains, … Everything go so fast when there is help available. Slowly the crowd disappears and it is just us and the dogs. Us means the handlers and me. The ones that I have to be very much thankful to.

The plan now is that Emeric, Faustine and Felix are going to Mendenhall to bring the dogs back home. I will follow them a bit but will go towards Whitehorse to have a shower, get some rest and than go to “Meet the Mushers”, a Yukon Quest meeting at six o’clock. At first I see them leaving the parking lot. I am alone, just by myself. I enter in the Subaru and turn the radio on. Some good music with good beat is playing on the radio. I really enjoy it. It has been two weeks that I didn’t listen to any music. Two weeks off the Internet. Two wonderful weeks with good memories.

The “Meet the Musher” and the finish banquet are two great events. It was nice to see more people, more friends. It was nice to celebrate. The banquet was the good place to thank the friends who helped me. This diary is another occasion to be thankful.


Final part: Yukon Quest 2016: Thanks! (Part 8/8)

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