I started this race with 5 veteran dogs and 8 yearlings. Decaf was supposed to run with me too, but as I was putting on booties before the start of the race, I noticed that his ankle was swollen. Apparently, he was so excited for the race that he hurt himself. I really can’t blame him. He has limitless energy. I really did miss him during the race though. He spent some time bonding with my dad at Matt Failor’s kennel while the rest of us raced.
The veterans were:
Scout: It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with this dog. He is loyal, dedicated, and probably smarter than me. Whenever it was time to go, Scout was up and ready. He set a great example for the yearlings, and has been enjoying his time on the couch ever since he got home.
Waylon: Waylon lost a toe this summer, but it didn’t slow him down a bit. It may sound insignificant, but toes are very important for providing stability when we walk. I was a bit worried that 300 miles would be too much for him, but he proved me wrong. He ran lead and swing through soft, slushy snow, wind drifts, and open water.
Willie: Another dog that I have a huge amount of respect for. Willie is always happy, no matter what. He never causes problems and always works his butt off.
Schmoe: He was vital to this team. The last run was 75 miles, which is a long run even for an experienced dog. Needless to say, the yearlings got pretty tired in the middle. Schmoe ran lead for the last leg, and barked excitedly every time we stopped. No one can be in a bad mood with this dog on the team.
Woody: This was Woody’s first 300-mile finish, so he really isn’t a veteran. He acted like it though. He broke trail through deep wind drifts, and ran about half of the race in lead. Ever since our summer together on the glacier, we have had a very tight bond. I am so proud and excited to see him finish such a difficult race so strong.
Creamer: She was a little behind in miles due to some problems earlier in the season, so I was a bit worried about her before the race. She ended up incredibly strong. When the trail got hard, she dug in even more. Look for her in the coming years. Her future is very bright.
QT: Another very strong girl. QT was on Aliy’s winning Two Rivers 100 team. She is fast, hard working, and relentless. During the fourth run, on the way back to Yentna, she developed a sore wrist. I really wanted her to finish the race with me since she worked so hard for 220 miles, but decided to drop her before the final 75 mile run home.
Bruno: While he sometimes lacks confidence when meeting people, you should have seen him strut back to his house when we returned to the kennel. He sure had a lot to be proud of. The whole race he was strong and dependable. Hopefully, as he gets older he will learn to poop on the run, because right now he will drag the entire team to a stop for a bathroom break.
McCaw: This big guy might take a little bit longer to grow into his body. He is incredibly strong, but still a bit awkward and clumsy. During the first run, he stepped off the trail to dip some snow, but ended up doing a face-plant into the deep snow. When he got up, his shoulder was sore, and I dropped him in Yenta. Once he figures himself out, McCaw will be a force to be reckoned with.
Sanka: This little girl has a huge heart. During training she has been one of the strongest yearlings, and was even my back-up for Copper Basin. I think she was still a bit tired from the Two Rivers 200 the week before, and she had a little trouble in the middle of the race. She didn’t quit though, and ended up finishing strong.
Bean: Small, happy, and always consistent. Bean doesn’t put her heart out like her sisters, but has a nice even trot that always keeps her tug line tight and doesn’t wear her out. I’m very excited to see what she can do in the future.
Barista: This girl puts everything into a run. She can be a bit cocky, and always barks at other teams as they pass by, but she was an asset to this team and a real pleasure to race with.
Perky: Limitless energy. When stopped, he can be wild and hard to contain, but when running he is smooth and strong. After every rest, he was barking to go, and when we returned to the kennel he was immediately running in circles and telling everyone how much fun he had. When he matures, he has the potential to be one of the best dogs around.
This race was more difficult than I expected (and I expected it to be pretty hard!). The day before we left Two Rivers, the temperature was 40 degrees below zero. When we got to Willow, it had jumped to 40 above. The snow was soft and sticky, and the dogs were hot. Although most of the trail was relatively flat, there were some sections with rolling hills, deeps drifted snow, and open water. It can be nerve-wracking when you put dogs you care about into a difficult situation, but they excelled at every obstacle. When the trail got tough, they got tougher. We left the second checkpoint in a howling 30 mile-per-hour headwind, but they put their heads down and didn’t even think about letting up.
My team finished in 17th place, around 4:30AM Monday morning. I ran a very conservative race schedule, and ended up resting for about 9 hours more than the mandatory minimum. This was a bit more than we had planned on taking, but with the difficult trail conditions I wanted to keep the experience as positive as possible for the young dogs. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. We learned, we struggled, and we ran for 300 miles!
Think about that. Our world has become so compressed by technology that distance can sometimes seem insignificant. I can get in my truck and drive 300 miles in a day. In some ways, this is very good. We can connect over vast distances. All of the SP Kennel fans can track races in real time, from wherever they may be in the world. But to see 300 miles, to be a part of a team that can run 300 miles in under 3 days, changes one’s perspective. It is easy in our interconnected world to imagine yourself as bigger than you are, but on the trail, everything is so real, so vast, and so unforgiving. We struggle for every yard we gain. We realize that nature does not yield. It does not care much about our suffering. The only way we move forward is by getting up, moving our feet, meeting the world as it is and not as we want it to be.
Thanks to all the SPK fans and sponsors. We literally couldn’t do this without all of you. Thanks to my dad Steve Parker who handled for me before and after the race, and my mom Bridget, who had to work and take care of their dogs while he was away. Thanks to Matt Failor at 17th Dog Kennel for housing me and my dogs before the race. And thanks to Scout, Waylon, Willie, Woody, Schmoe, Perky, McCaw, Barista, Bean, Sanka, QT, Bruno, and Creamer for carrying me across the finish line. It is an indescribable experience to see puppies that I helped raise become such fine adults. And of course, thanks Aliy and Allen for giving me this opportunity!