The first race this season went off the weekend 7-8 th December 2013.
Since Koia earlier this autumn lost two weeks of training due to a small muscle injury, and I for that reason is a bit careful with him, and with Uxi in heat, I decided to go for the Limited class, racing 8 dogs instead of 12 in the Open class.
The 8 chosen ones this time was: Mie and Kiara as leaders, Niva, Søte, Buster, Mokke, Diko and Ginkgo. Four girls and four boys.
It was -15°C in the village Langfjordbotn on Saturday morning. Good trail and nice conditions in the mountain area. The race is 50 km on Saturday, and then the same run on Sunday. It starts with a climb that takes us from sea level and up to 600 meters above sea level in the first 9 km. After that we went south in the open highland terrain with some frozen lakes along the county border between Troms and Finnmark. It was a beautiful day. The little daylight we have here now, with the sun under the horizon, made the horizon colorful, and the snowcovered hills blue in different shades.
At noon in the middle of December. Not dark, not light, only blue with the sun far under the horizon
It started well with seamless overtakings of some teams up the hillside. Until I reached 35 km the team was full of energy and going great. Then followed about 10 km that went a bit slower than expected, but the last 5 km the dogs was speeding up again. Not surprising at all since the training for the last month have been more like swimming in deep snow. To suddenly run at twice the speed on hard trails came as a surprise for the dogs.
After day one when 50 km was run at 3h,12min,20sec I was at 7.th position of the 17 teams staring in the Limited class. It was only a few minutes seperating me from most teams in front of me. The dogs got food and in this race we could let the dogs rest inside the boxes on the back of my pickup. In the evening it was dinner, and for those who wanted, a party at the community senter in the village Langfjordbotn.
After a night when both mushers and the dogs were sleeping well, we woke up Sunday morning to 15 cm of fresh snow. The conditions would be totally different from the day before. The slowest team from Saturday started first out on Sunday, on the same trail as the day before. This ment that the teams starting behind me was the teams that went faster than me on Saturday.
After one kilometer the dogs tangled up a little so I had ti stop and fix it. Right before we started the long steep climb I was passed by 4 teams. Normally my team is very strong in the uphills. So they where today so I lost a few minutes up there becouse I was not able to overtake them again. I would probably loose more time in an effort to overtake, becouse the trail was a one meter wide ditch with a hard bottom with deep snow on each side. Up on the open highland I kept the same speed as they did so I kept behind them until 20 km wass passed. Then my leaders, Mie and Kiara suddenly did something I have experienced before in white open terrain without any reference points. Right before the top of a gentle hill, where I could not se the team in front of me, Kiara and Mie turn right, out of the trail, and then they stop. This happens on the next similiar places. I tride everythin from swearing to prayers to them, but it didn’t get any better.
I decided to give Ginkgo and his son Diko a try in front. Both of them have been leaders in training. They both are good on good days, but hopeless when they don’t want to be serious. Now they started well, and even though Diko sometimes didn’t give his best, they where running without stopping. My white hero of the day Ginkgo seemed to be determined. His worst fear in life so far has been to overtake other teams, but now we passed three teams on our way to the finnish line.
However, the GPS showed me that we stood still for a total of 11 minutes during the stage. You can’t afford this in a race if yu want to compete.
I ended up as number 9 out of 17 teams. One of my competitors, Maria Sparboe, who I was a couple of minutes ahead of after day one, but lost it all to in day two, summarized my Sunday on the trail this way: ” You were simply beaten up on the mointain today!”
But after all I am happy to see that my dogs are in the shape I want them to be. The problems we had, we will try to solve before the longer races start. Now it is back to the normal training and everyday life for a while, until the next race in January.