Friday, January 19, 2007

K300 Race Day

The 28th running of the Kuskokwim 300 is off to a good start; the race is just about 4 hours old. It will be won in something like 37 hours, so sometime early Sunday morning. The Bogus Creek 150 started an hour and a half earlier, and will finish in about 17 hours, so sometime tomorrow morning. The weather is just about as close to perfect as we could ask for: +10F. The prediction is for slightly colder temps in the next two days, possibly down to -5F. That would be perfect; ideal temps for racing sled dogs is -10 to +10F. The day was clear and sunny, but by race time had clouded over and started to snow quite steadily.

We were not able to be at the start for Angela’s race, but hopefully she launched well. Henry and Joan are handling for her, riding the course on snowmachines and carrying dropped dogs for her if she needs them to. Almost six hours into the race, she is in fifth place according to the Leader Board on the K300 website.

Getting Aliy to the start line was a smooth and easy process. Aliy is such a professional; she was completely organized and calm the entire day, and her energy transferred to the dogs and they were calm as well.

Dutch went in to work this morning, but Aliy and I both slept late. We drank coffee and chatted until Dutch came home at midday, and then had a nice big brunch together. There were still race details to attend to; each dog has to wear a tag on its collar (provided by the race committee) with the team number (#4) and 2007 K300. We got those all attached. The sled must have the team number on both sides, so we wired the small square plaquards on each side with the approved and provided wires. Aliy had her food and the dogs’ food all packed and ready, so no problem there. She repacked the sled at least three times before she was satisfied that she had everything she needed and knew exactly where it was. We even had time for a photo opportunity with the dogs.

At five o’clock we started loading dogs and sled, with the able assistance of Randy and another of Dutch’s foremen, Joe. Smooth as silk, we had all 14 dogs into their harnesses and into the truck with the sled loaded on top. Aliy lounged on the tailgate with the dogs, as if to say “piece of cake, you guys!”

We arrived at the start line at 5:15, so had plenty of time to get ready. Dutch and our handling crew got the sled unloaded, positioned, and attached to the truck with a quick-release, gangline strung out and tug lines straightened. Aliy put ointment on each dog's feet and bootied each one. The race committee came by and gave Aliy her race bib (#4) and checked that she had the required ax and sleeping bag. Aliy changed into clean, dry socks, her racing shoes, and her overparka, and she was ready. Timing was perfect.

Dutch and the handlers had hold of the gangline, and as soon as the previous team cleared the starting chute, they walked Aliy’s team into position. Going out so close to the front, it wasn’t far to walk. I went to the spectator end of the starting chute to get photos of Aliy and team leaving the startline. Though I took quite a few, not a single one came out well. Poor lighting and lots of motion led to blurry photos. And I likely did not have the best settings.

Once Aliy was out of the chute, I felt an amazing amping down of energy. There was nothing more I could do; it was all up to her and the dogs now. The rest of the teams took off, and Dutch and I watch from the sidelines, cheering for Mike Williams Senior and Junior.

After the last musher and team left the startline, all the lights were turned off and the fireworks display began. For a half hour or more, we sat in our truck on the frozen river—along with perhaps a hundred other trucks—and watched the beautiful fireworks crashing into the sky over the Kuskokwim River. Randy joined us and brought a flask which we passed around with a celebratory toast for Aliy expressing our hopes that she will have a great race.

Go to for race updates.

All photos by The Tundra PA. 1. Aliy and dogs, ready to go. 2&3. Race spectators. Sorry there are no startline photos.



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