This past weekend I competed in the 200 mile class of the Don Bowers Memorial Sled Dog Race, held annually in Willow. The class fielded nine eager, excited teams at the start line. Temperatures ranged from about -10F to -45F, but the dogs and I managed the cold better than anticipated. Going into anything colder than -20 is not something most anticipate with much enthusiasm, but my gear held up and the dogs were more than lively.
The two-hunderd mile race consisted of 100 miles of trail that was covered twice, with a mandatory 6-hour layover at the halfway point. The first 20 miles of the race traveled over flat, heavily used trail and was fast; it was an effort to keep the dogs down to a controllable speed. From mile 20-55 the trail is not well traveled and was slower than the first part (but it wasn’t “slow” trail by any means) and was very hilly, windy, and generally fun for the dogs. There were a few hills in the mix here, most notably a ravine that was very steep and felt like about a thousand feet tall (probably 120 feet from bottom to top), and the dogs continued to pull hard and strong. At mile 55 we crossed over the two-mile wicked fast Shulin Lake and then onto a winter haul road used to transport supplies to and from a lodge located on the lake. These fast conditions continued to Hal Morgan’s cabin, an in-and-out checkpoint at mile 80 on the trail. From there the trail was over mostly flat swamp to the halfway point, Jim Kershner’s cabin. The return trail was opposite, as we followed the same trail to the finish line at EagleQuest lodge. The slower areas of the trail had improved for the return trip, but the temperatures dipped.
I hadn’t had enough miles on my team to race this trail, my goal was to finish with a healthy, strong team and to use this race as a qualifier. As such, we stopped on the trail once each way in addition to the mandatory layover. Leaving at 12:34 from the starting line we traveled for 7 1/2 hours, covering almost 60 miles, and took a 4 hour break. We then traveled the remaining trail in about 5 1/2 hours to the halfway point, arriving just before 6 am. We rested there for almost 7 hours and hit the trail again, traveling about 7 hours, resting 2, and traveling the remaining 7 hours to our -33F finish line.
Each dog performed well, namely Little Rock, who performed better than some of the adults on the team. Bruschi and Mr. Deeds lead the whole race and are my go-to boys, disciplined enough that we don’t ever need a leader hook at checkpoints or trail breaks. It was a good experience for each dog, which was what I was hoping for.
The dogs in the 12-dog team were:
Bruschi Mr. Deeds
Junior Little Rock
For the raw numbers, as well as more information on the Don Bowers race, please visitShare