I'm not exactly sure what to write about. I could write about the sites I saw or the thoughts that were going through my mind. I could talk about how physically and mentally demanding it was to workout for three days straight with only 6 hours of napping on floors, snow or in community bunk rooms. However most of what I saw, thought, and the challenge can never be described to do it justice. At the end of the day, I wish everyone could have been there with me. This is my attempt to paint a picture.
"Warm inside my sleeping bag on top of a blow-up mat which is separating me from the three-foot-deep snow I stomped down, I think about how lucky I am to be 50 miles into this race taking a short two-hour nap. The dogs are asleep beside me curled up on a bit of hay. It's a starless -15 C night, with a little freezing rain falling. Dogs are fed and I've been satisfied with some chicken I ate as my first meal. With 250 miles to the finish line, the dogs are looking happy and healthy. I'm going to start this nap now."
With other dog teams passing on the trail distributing my team there wasn't good rest to be had. When the time came, I prepared the dogs and off we were again.
"Made it to my second stop! It's slow moving out there with powder snow. I gave the dogs a single scoop of food each and am letting them rest here at Sourdough Checkpoint. I put some hay down for myself and am going to take a quick nap laying on top of it without bothering to get my sleeping bag out. Once I get up, I will put booties on the dogs, maybe feed them a little and be on my way. Night!"
That wasn't the best sleep. Got 30-40 minutes exposed to the elements before I got too cold and had to get up. Back on the trail, it is still dark, and the dogs are moving slowly in the deep snow, but are keeping a good pace. Only being 34 miles to the next checkpoint Meiers Lake, I felt the run was taking forever. We had some steep climbs where I would get off the sled and run beside it. Hill after hill I found new motivation with the sun rising and the distant site of Meiers Lake checkpoint. Only a couple downhill miles left heading to the checkpoint I snapped this picture.
Once into the checkpoint, I got the dogs bedded down and fed. Meiers Lake Checkpoint has a restaurant where I indulged with french toast and shepherds pie. They provided an open dark room for mushers to sleep where I just unrolled my sleeping bag and slept on top of it for cushion.
It blows my mind how few hours of sleep mushers are able to get on the trail and the ones you do get are done laying on snow, hardwood floors, or in a small bunk room with dozens of other mushers snoring.
After an hour of sleep, I ate some fudge, got the dogs ready to go and just before pulling out I saw Torsten coming back into the checkpoint the opposite way. He noticed that a couple of his dog's pee was brown in color. This happens when the dog's muscles are breaking down from pushing them too hard. When you see this you must stop running them right away. Torsten was back in the checkpoint originally to drop these two dogs off, however, decided it would be best to drop out of the race to give all the dogs a break.
Once on the trail, we followed the great Alaskan pipeline for the majority of the run. There were two extremely steep sections. Every time I see steep sections I get excited. I know I can out run anyone going up hills.
"I arrived in Tolsona at 1:36 am. I've had a total of three hours of sleep, and my body seems to be still functioning normally. I'm currently waiting on boiling water to feed the dogs a warm meal. In about 40 mins I will be in bed. Hopefully will get about two hours of sleep and then on to a 50-mile run. Currently, I am sitting in 20th place which puts me in the top 75%. That's all I need!"
At Tolsona checkpoint there is no restaurant however the fire station located right beside where we are parking the dogs has a few cots available for mushers. I hung my wet outer layers up to dry on different parts of the tuck's latter and plugged my headlamp into charge. I slept well and was soon back on my sled.
Throughout the final third of the race, I started hearing noises. Dogs barking to my right and left; I would look around and see nothing. My brain was playing tricks on me. The sounds wouldn't go away. At one point I could hear a humming sound every time I chewed. Conscious my mind was playing tricks on me and started to play with it by chewing my beef jerky to the beat of, "Twinkle twinkle little star." Soon after, I began to have super powers and could look at an object and hear sounds from the object's location. Sounds made by the sled's runners going over the snow to the crunch of snow under each dogs foot. Being sleep deprived can do some funny things to a person, however, I never got upset or worried about it. I went with the flow, enjoyed it, and thought of it as a fun high.
"After a 9 hour run, I made it to my last checkpoint, Mendeltna. I'm giving the dogs a good 6-hour rest and giving them as much food as they can eat. The dogs are so cute curled up in their straw. I'm laying down now to get a 2.5-hour nap in a bunk room beside several other mushers. 60 mile run to the finish line. So much fun!"
Waking up tired at 9:30 PM, with a slight headache the first thing through my mind, was, "Why the hell does anyone do this?" I wanted to sleep. I didn't want to get out of bed. Knowing it is my choice I couldn't let this idea sit too long and had to get moving. I would sled through the night to the finish line.
My final leg was 60 miles. With temperatures dropping to -20 C the snow became hard and compact allowing the sled to glide smoothly. With the moonlight shining down I was able to turn my headlamp off, navigating through the night seeing only the silhouette of my surroundings. Moving up hills and around corners, I felt as if I was on a magic carpet being pulled through an alien planet by little underworld demons. Through the unfamiliar snowy landscape, I had several spiritual moments and knew this run was a once in a lifetime experience.
I crossed the finish line 2 days 22 hours and 32 minutes after starting greeted by Ken. I was full of life and was so thankful to have completed the race with nine happy healthy dogs.
Dog sledding is fantastic however, I'm getting more out of the experience than expected. Being out there; out there where inherent danger could be around the next corner, where messing up could put you in a life-threatening situation. It makes me feel alive! More alive than I have ever felt. It makes life simpler and more manageable in many ways. Your thoughts are all in the moment. You are incredibly present focusing on the needs of your dogs, the beauty of your surrounding. You appreciate the little things like a warm hat, eating peanut butter and crackers, and that your body can stand up to the physical demands. The thing I was most appreciative for was not having my cell phone turned on. Going three days without the distraction, being solely in the moment with the dogs is almost takes a level of stress out of your life. I also feel the dogs deserve 100% of your attention while on the trail and is the respectful thing to do.
I am lucky to have completed this race and will be forever thankful! This is the tracking info http://trackleaders.com/copper17i.php?name=Bradley_Farquar