Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Canadian Challenge - "I Don't Want the F'in Red Lantern!"

It has been almost a week since the mushers crossed the finish line in La Ronge and my memory is losing details as time slips by.
Photo Credit: Jessica Fielding

In La Ronge while Randy and his crew were taking their 8 hour rest there were a couple of scratches that happened.
Stefan and Kyle.   I heard that Stefan was due to a young team and the same for Kyle.   Kyle said he saw some injuries beginning and didn't want them to get worse.  Although a hard decision to make, especially when it is after you have made many sacrifices to get to the race, it is also an easy one to make when it comes to the well being of your dogs.

Greg also scratched with his decision also based on the well being of the dogs.  I cannot speak for Stefan as I do not know particulars but for both Greg and Kyle, well any musher, who chooses his dogs over placement in a race I have a lot of respect.
Both Greg and Kyle from what I understand saw potential problems before there were any and decided to not wait.   I only hope if that was me in the same position I would have the same foresight.

Back to the race.

So, where was I?

Ah yes, the best ever lasagna was eaten at Grandmothers Bay.
We had about a 2 hour wait before Randy arrived and shared the space with good company.  Sarah and Todd, Jillian's handler and husband, along with Jim Williams, Sarah's husband.
You may recognize the name Jim Williams as it is the name attached to most of the pictures I have been using.
Jim is an incredible photographer who was following the race and all the mushers in order to capture some incredible pictures along with some great video.
While waiting for Randy I had the privilege to check out a ton of his pictures and videos.  A great way to pass the time.

Randy got into Grandmothers Bay at 6:13 leaving 4 minutes later.  Click the link here and you can see the video of his arrival.
The dogs were all running well and Randy decided as they were only about 2 hours from Stanley Mission where he was to do a mandatory 5 hour rest he would just keep going.

It takes a musher approximately 2 hours to get to Stanley Mission.
It takes the handler and driver approximately 2 hours to get to the same location on twisty curvy narrow roads.  Good thing the winter conditions were mild and we didn't have a storm to contend with as has happened in the past.
As it was I had just enough time to set up the drop chains and pull out the straw.   Word on the street, uh, trail ,was Randy was just about here.

Stanley Mission is a very noisy place.
I have never seen so many snow mobiles in one location.  In fact I was beginning to think that the residents of this town didn't even own regular vehicles.
picture from internet

We ended up parking in the middle of the lot and I questioned if this was such a good idea with snow machines running past as we were going to bed the pups in piles of straw once more.

Speaking of bedding down in straw.
I've neglected to mention a spunky musher who was barreling along in third place at this point.  Laura Neese (only 19) was doing an amazing job.   I mentioned a few blogs back that she was running the qualifying portion of the race.   Meaning if she completed this race (crossing the finish line) she could use this as one of two races needed to be allowed to run the Quest and the Iditarod.
What this meant in the Challenge was not accepting help from her handlers.
And for Stanley Mission it found her parked behind a building away from snow machines and the lights of the parking lot.
It wasn't any quieter, but it looked a lot less busy.

Randy rolled in at 8:50 and we quickly had the dogs bedded down in big piles of straw while the vets came and did their check on each one of the kids.

It is now that I must mention these amazing ladies.
                     Ruth                                                  Kate                                          Romany

The care was wonderful and they were there if we needed them answering any question and showing concern for each one of the dogs.

Rika was dropped in La Ronge but they still asked to take a look at him while we were in Stanley Mission to make sure he was doing okay.
Our biggest concern here was Icon.  A beautiful boy who caught the eye of Jim at the starting gate by being a true showman posing for each shot, was showing signs of trouble.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams

For some reason his breathing was laboured with a bit of a fever which seemed to baffle the vets.
We covered him up in extra blankets to keep him warm and Ruth said she would be by to check on him within the hour to see how he was doing.

Randy had been snacking the dogs lots and decided to bed the dogs down for a couple of hours before a big soup would be fed to the team.
This also gave Randy a chance to grab a bite of Moose soup and bannock as well as a chance of a lay down and try to sleep.
This would give me a chance to massage and work on sore joints etc. that the vets suggested and wrap a few ankles as well.

Magic happened while Randy was working at catching a few 'Zs'

Our truck arrived!!!!
I have never been so happy to see three people that I hardly knew.
Rob, Jessica and Melissa decided to make the trek all the way up to Stanley Mission and it couldn't have been better timing.

I immediately put all the dogs into their boxes and gave them extra straw so they could curl up and get toasty warm.... it wasn't long since they were first laid to rest on their beds of straw so they would still get a good two hours of sleep in their boxes.
Sage was so excited to go into her box she was wiggling so crazy I had trouble picking her up.

The vets came out shortly after to check on Icon again but he had pushed himself so far back in his box that we couldn't get him out.  A bucket was found to stand on and the vet did her check half hanging out of the box.

After Randy was up the decision was made to officially drop Icon from the race.  His breathing and his unhappy look made the decision easy.  Jessica and Melissa took him immediately into the building for some loving and spoiling.  (I started to wonder if he had just faked it for this moment)

Jillian in the meantime had made her way into Stanley and a conversation was started about how I thought Randy and her should race to the finish side by side to share in the red lantern.

Jillian announced she was going to have a sleep and wait  until later in the morning so that she wouldn't have to run in the dark to La Ronge.

Randy and I left the building at which time he turned to me and said, "I don't want the fucking Red Lantern, it's time to get ready to leave"

Randy and his furry 10 left at 2:25 in the morning, 5 hours and 30 minutes after arriving.
He was on his way to the finish line for fourth place.

After cleaning up more straw we were on our way to meet him there.


Rob H said...

Thanks for the blog updates Rochelle, I quite enjoyed the read and a few laughs.

Rob the absent driver

Rochelle Byiers said...

I love writing about the adventure... just wish it included more of Rob the absent driver! lol!