Previous part: Yukon Quest 2016: Dawson – Pelly (Part 5/8)
The run towards McCabe creek is smooth. First it is warm and uphill. Than it cools down and we travel from lake to lake than towards the power line. Than It is flat. It is fast and I need only 3h45 minutes to reach McCabe.
Mercedes and Russ are welcoming me. Russ ask me a few time if I need water for the dogs. I repeat him that I don’t need anything. My food is ready in my cooler. I just have to feed them. I do the job in the Checkpoint so my next stop either in a camping or a dog drop I am done quick. He is impressed. He tells me that I have the right attitude and that if I keep mushing that way I will catch up Sebastien. I did catch up again a bit on this run. I will cut a bit of rest but I am decided to keep running the way I do since Dawson. It allows me to run the dogs at good speed and have fun.
I am ready to go. The temperature is a bit chili. It is the middle of the night and we must have about -25 on the thermometer in McCabe. So I decide to bootee all the dogs. Here we go. A bit of jumble ice on the Yukon River. Than we go back on overland trails. The morning is coming and the temperatures are rising. I feel that the team is slowing down. I help them. They are enough uphills that I have to work and kick quite a bit. As I did remove my seat I can’t relax anymore from time to time when the trail is flat. It does get my knee to hurt. We arrive in Carmack. There we do not have many markers. At an intersection I don’t even see any of them. I than decide to take my chance and turn left. Lucky we are a few hundred meters later is a new Quest marker. We are back on the river for the last mile or so. I see the recreation centre. There is a crowd waiting for me. About a dozen people. Mel the judge is here. He smiles at me and tells me that I have been traveling fast since McCabe. It was not my impression but I am glad to hear that.
New big surprise Sebastien is there in the checkpoint. I do finally catch him. I guess that he will stay 6 hours. He has been there for four hours.
I do my chores and when I enter the building he is greeting me from a distance. Than we hug! I eat. We speak. It has been a while since I have seen another musher. It is nice to be able to share what we live on the trail. Now Seb will probably go in an hour but I will go sleep for four hours. I will rest the same amount as he does and hopefully catch up again in the near future.
I sleep in the gymnasium. There is a big window so we have a look towards the dog yard. I see
Seb leaving. Than I fall asleep.
When I wake up I see in the dog yard that Seb is back with his team. It is strange. At first I think he is back to drop a dog.
I pack my stuff and go down the stairs. The atmosphere is dark. Something is happening. I believe it might happen that Seb has a deceased dog. I didn’t ask yet but everybody is head down. Not much conversation around. I see my handler and they tell me that one of his dog died. He is somewhere in the building with vets and officials. I don’t know where.
It is sad. I hear that he will take the decision to scratch. At some point I would like to speak with him but I don’t know where he is. I would probably not know what to say.
Also I decide that it is important to not get to much involved. I still have 180 miles to go.
I go outside to change the plastic of my runners. I am focused on the task but I see Seb walking towards his truck. All his gears and dogs have been loaded in the pick-up. Again it is sad but what can I do.
I leave the checkpoint in the evening, just before it is dark. I have some fun on the Yukon river. The river is my favorite part in this race. The name of the race is heavily linked with this river. It is a shame to my point of view that we were missing some of the Yukon and some of the Pelly river. Even if I do have to go through jumble ice I enjoy it.
Then we mush on overland trail. Every time we cross a little valley we go for a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill. Never very long but it wakes me up. Than about a 20 miles of good trail, flowing. That is where I am a bit sleepy. I am missing some part of the action by sleeping in short intervals.
We reach Mandana Lake. As I have raced the Quest 300 in previous races I am on known territory. I know the lakes and their names. I know where there is a burn or where the trail might be tricky.
At the halfway point towards Braeburn I camp. Easy quick. Food is in the cooler. It doesn’t last long before I am sleeping. I decide to have a short rest as in Braeburn I will have 8 hours mandatory. The ideal would be to run straight through but I don’t feel like it. So three hours later I am on the go. A few more lakes. We pass Coglan Lake and from now on it is mainly trail on land. The moguls created by the snowmachines gives shocks on my knees. My left knee is in pain. At some point I have to put some weight on the handler bar, leaning on it. Maybe I should have kept my seat. Anyway I reach Braeburn.
Again there is a crowd cheering. The race marshal Doug Grillot shakes my hand as we arrive. I am checked in. It does not take long before my chores are done. After twelve days of racing it is just routine. I do have three or four vets checking my dogs. Half an hour later I enter in the lodge to receive a free meal. Steve the owner is there. I was checkpoint manager here in the past so I know the place!
As I am eating suddenly somebody kisses me in the neck. Surprise. I recognize Jane’s kiss. She drove to see me in Braeburn. Than the Japanese crew arrives. I receive a massage from the cameraman. It is kind of a rough and strong one, but it helps my shoulders and neck big time.
My plan is to feed the dogs twice here. Within four hours I will give them a second feeding. I don’t wait too long and go for a sleep. I get two hours and a half. Than I feed the doggies, eat some more food than go for another two hours of sleep. It is the middle of the day though. Anyway 4h30 of sleep is the max I had at a checkpoint for the all
race, except for Dawson.
After my last sleep I go for another meal in the restaurant. I am estimating the arrival in Whitehorse if it takes me ten hours. I would arrive at four o’clock in the morning . I think I will have a small crowd at that time of the night. I speak with the people around and we arrive to the conclusion that it would be good to have another camping to make it to the finish in between 8 and 9 am. I have no chance to catch up with any other racer so why not have a nice fun finish.