Previous Part: Yukon Quest 2016: Fairbanks – Two Rivers (Part 1/8)
My second run starts in the dark. It takes me two hours to reach the first checkpoint of Two Rivers. My intention is to not stop. I check in. I can just see Virginie and we clap hands as I check out! Thanks to her and Felix to do the travel to Two Rivers, knowing in advance I would go through, but just be there in case I have to drop a dog. Lucky we are, we go through with fourteen!
On our way to Rosebud, we go through some water. Some sharp curve on right angles. I am always amazed to see how well the dogs handle that. At one point, as we start to go up, I see a headlamp far in the landscape, at a way higher altitude. That is where we start to climb. I take my coat of. It is not cold and I don’t want to sweat too hard. At different spots it is quite steep, but the last peace is really extra steep, as predicted. I have to put my feet sideways to maximize the grip. The dogs are giving everything. I do one break in the middle. I am happy that the team is focused and looking forward. Here we go we pass Rosebud Summit, followed by Rob Cook. I turn off my headlamp to see the northern lights. I enjoy the moment.
A few steep downhills and we go down into the forest. We are back into wet trails. At some point the trail is poorly marked and it takes some instinct to look right to see the markers and understand where the trail goes. Too late my 14 dogs did engage in the wrong trail, straight ahead, barely blocked and not marked with a cross. I
do get my leaders and pull them in the right trail. I end up with a master tangle. Rob Cook is waiting patiently behind. I hear him asking “what is happening” with the English tone!! There is simply no space for him to go by, so I hurry up. In the stress Donna end up to be loose. She usually never listen and is a hard one to catch. The big surprise is that she does listen this time. It releases a great amount of stress. First I don’t want to loose her. Second it is simple, if I show up at the checkpoint without her I could get disqualified!!! Happy end. Back on the runner enjoying the race.
A few hundred more meters and I have to fix a few more things around the line. I let Rob go by. I am now following him. His headlamp must be approximately one million lumen. At some point I am thinking waouw this is bright over there, we must be arriving to the checkpoint. I am desperately chasing a mobile checkpoint !!!
The checkpoint of Mile 101 finally shows up after 8h of run, 5h50 from Two Rivers. It did seem long to me for the mileage that we covered. It is time for a long brake. I rest 6 hours. Ninie has some issue on her front right wrist. We decide with the vet to give her a chance and see what it will feel like after the rest.
There is a little food shack where volunteers prepared something to eat. I am sitting next to Rob Cook and Michelle Phillips. I eat and drink a good amount of water. It is important to have a good hydration and eat to have energy. Before leaving every checkpoint or camping spot I will always be sure to have both my thermoses full (hot water or soup) and have snacks and frozen meals.
Back to the dogs I check Ninie. Bad news. Her wrist didn’t improve. The vet say that I could try her to Central. But as I know that Ninie is
sensitive to that wrist I prefer not to gamble with her health. I don’t want that issue to become a chronic problem. This is quite upsetting to drop your best leader so early in the race. There is still Dona as a leader of that caliber. I do have still Jo, Cute, Mega, Coffee and Mad who can go up to the front. Not bad.
Coffee is going to lead with his mum Dona from now on. We are moving towards Eagle Summit. We are above tree line and progressing towards the mountain. We arrive to the bottom and it climbs up and straight, with quite a steep grade. Not as bad as Rosebud but the challenge will be more on the other side going downhill. Anybody who does a bit of hiking will find that it is not a big deal, no reason to scream about it. But from my point of view I feel proud of what is happening. The dogs are going forward. They lean in the harness. No hesitation. I trust them. If the leaders would turn around it would be a messy situation. One more reason to never ever teach a U-turn with a command, or to let the dogs think that it is an option.
Well we reach the top. I stop the team and remove nearly all the tuglines, except the four in the front. This way I have way more control in the steep downhill. It is only about 400m. But there is the trench made by the first teams. It was important to stay up right on my runners.
At the bottom I stop again and attach the tuglines back. Here we go through a downhill trail towards Central. There are few mining equipments on the sides. A small run and here I am in Central. I feel like I prefer to rest in central before heading to Birch Creek. I park the team and do the usual procedure. Than I realize that I have only the sets of booties from Mile 101. I did
plan to go through central and didn’t include any set in Central’s food drops. Oups. It means that I will have to dry the booties somewhere. Same as I do at home.
Meanwhile I do have a good meal at the restaurant. I have a chat with Josh Horst (former race manager and now Sass’s handler). I try to go for a nap, but I am not successful. I decide that it is better to go for a camping and find some sleep there. Before I go I check on my runners. Big surprise to see that there is actually no plastic left below the pads where I stand. I carefully remove them and place brand new ones. I was basically sliding on aluminum for a while now.
As I begin to slide I feel the difference right away. I understand now why I was so slow and it seemed the team had to work hard all the time. Now it is flowing, the
dogs are more at ease. And I instantly reach an other level of happiness while feeling the glide!