Friday, March 20, 2009

There is no place like NOME!

About 8:30 a.m. I took off in -10 degrees to meet Bruce out on the trail. About an hour into the ride, we caught up with him. He had already passed Safety and was on his way to Nome. He did not recognize me at first, and when he realized it was me, he asked “What are you doing here?”…

Anyway, we did not hold him and the team up long. In another hour, he made it across the finish line in 28th place. He ended up passing another musher who was teasing him so to speak… trying to make it a race. Bruce’s competitive edge came out and after he left White Mountain, he caught up to that team, and with he smile, he probably said “on by”…

Thought the dogs looked great, this race definitely did a number on Bruce. He has some pretty serious frostbite on one finger and the typical sore hands, legs and feet. He will need to take some time off from the dog yard because his finger cannot be exposed to any bacteria or dirt. His diabetes will only exacerbate the problem if the blister does not heal properly. The ER gave him some Tylenol with codine so he should be able to sleep at night. Any way, his finger will hear eventually, we just need to keep a good eye on it.

The dogs are great! They are still eating away and were even barking at the finish line Unbelievable!!! We are so proud of Cindy for getting our dogs to where they needed to be to have a super finish! Without her, like I have said, Bruce would have never made it to the start line.

We have lots of pictures coming and we will update tomorrow. Gotta go feed those dogs!!!

Happy Trails,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bruce going down the trail from Willow

Thursday, March 19th - Nome mid morning

Good Morning!
Excuse my spelling and grammar as I don't have much time to write.
Bruce made it to Elim this morning. He called from Koyuk yesterday afternoon and was in good spirits, though he ready for his race to be done. The dogs are working as a unit, still eating up every morsel and looking great. He is really happy with their performance and said Cindy is going to have one hell of a team for the Taiga Race in April.

He anticpates a mid-morning finish tomorrow - Friday and now not only does he want to come in top 30, he wants to beat his time from last year by at least a minute, as he is on the same schedule this year as he was last year.

No more sympathy from me. I told him to cut his rest times and get going!!! The dogs are fine and ready to get this race over with too. It is a beautiful day in Nome and the teams are starting to come in pretty regularly. Brody is having a super time with all his new friends at the church.

Looking forward to the next message I write because it will have his finish time!
Until then, Happy Trails and thanks for reading.
Melissa and Brody

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Click's Staycation - Tuesday, 3/17/09 midafternoon

Since Click had run several miles of the Iditarod, she thought while in Anchorage, she might as well take advantage of all it had to offer.

So, she left the condo and ran across town to meet up with some handsome construction workers. Cornering her, a woman came to her rescue and quickly realized she needed to be pampered. A lovely, relaxing bubble bath and a new pink collar - in moments Click was a new dog! The weekend was so lovely, she thought she might have a whirl at skiijoring on the recreation trails as well!

So, Click, now in Cindy's care, will continue her staycation looking after the cabin and keeping our futon nice and warm!

Glad you are home Click.

St. Pat's Day - 3/17/09 a.m.

Tuesday Morning – St. Pat’s Day 3/17/09 a.m.

Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Thanks for those of you responding to my updates via email or the blog. I appreciate the communication and the questions.
I did not watch Bruce last night on the computer. He called a second time and said, if I don’t call back, I am leaving. And he never called. I assumed he would be leaving with a fellow musher, and he did. It is always good to know there are a few of them traveling together. He also said he wanted to make it to the half way point where there was a new cabin waiting. I think he just wanted to check out the new cabin (Bruce loves to explore and seek out cool structures like that)… I sure he will have some ideas for our cabin if he was coherent enough to take mental notes or even a picture or two.

Anyway, he made it and he and the dogs are resting now. He most likely will leave sometime this morning for Unalakleet. He left Kaltag with all 11 dogs which is awesome. I see some of his traveling partners are down to 9 and even 7 dogs. That has got to be tough going!

More to come later… I will be driving to Anchorage today with Brody in preparation for our departure to Nome.

May the wind be at your back now Bruce and pups!!!

Oh yeah, as you know, due to the GPS system this year, mushers are not allowed to check their email. So, the notes of encouragement you send are not getting to him directly. If you want to leave a musher gram, he will get a hand written note with your words. All you have to do is call headquarters and ask to leave a musher gram. The number is 907-248-MUSH.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday night 3/16/09 - p.m. Finally, the call

Iditarod – Monday 3/16/09

Well, Brody and I are managed to fill our day, just waiting to leave for Anchorage and then Nome. However, I have not heard from Bruce and I am worried. The run was so long, cold and windy Sunday night. I can’t even imagine parking the dogs on the side of the trail (what was left of it) and hunkering down in the middle of a ground blizzard – during the wee hours of the night nonetheless. I had a picture in my mind of Bruce, surrounded by the Maya, Kiwi, Ruby etc… cuddled in the snow. I don’t know how he does it? But early this Monday morning he made it to Kaltag – 14 plus hours from when he left Eagle Island.

It was a miserable day here in Kasilof. No sight of spring – it is still below zero at night and we have gotten over a foot of snow since Bruce left Willow. Great for running dogs!
We should be able to run until April if this holds up. The weather where Bruce is however is not going to break until morning. I am wondering if he will just rest in Kaltag and leave tomorrow morning?

So, there is a side-story that could have ended tragically, but as of 2:00 p.m. today has a very happy ending. It started on Thursday afternoon. Our good friend Patty graciously offered to pick up (and collect) our dropped dogs so Cindy would not need to go back and forth to Anchorage. The round trip from Kasilof is about 300 miles round trip – through the treacherous pass and turn-again arm, not to mention the added expense of gas. So, we had four dogs dropped by and Cindy was planning to meet up with Patty of Friday sometime. But plans changed. Patty called late Thursday afternoon and said the dogs had escaped from the crates, and Click, our Jeff King lead dog, escaped. There was no sight of her. Patty lives about a quarter of a mile from the trails that lead to end of the Ceremonial start. YIKES! There are miles and miles of recreational trails. Cindy and our new friend John (who handled with Cindy for the start) changed plans and headed up to Anchorage Thursday night. Once there, there immediately began walking the trails. They literally looked night and day on the vast trail system in Anchorage with no luck. They set-up a live trap at the airport where the ceremonial start ends hoping she might return to what she knows. Click is smart, fast and a dog that LOVES new trails. She hates training because she likes to see new scenery. So I can only imagine the fun she had exploring. But Click was dropped because she was sick – not herself, and we were worried for her health as well. When Bruce called on Friday, he asked how Click was, and of course, I had to lie. There is no way I could tell him, while on the trail, that our beloved Click was lost. Though I tried, he could hear something in my voice, and before hanging up he asked “Are you keeping something from me?” During his first Iditarod, Nate and I came home from the start to five very sick pups. As hard as we tried, they all passed away while on the trail. So, Bruce knows I can keep a secret while he is away.

Anyway, too make a really long story short, Patty got an email today (Monday) due to the fact she had posted a Craigslist ad and CLICK WAS FOUND! Thank GOD! Cindy was in Girdwood, on her way home and she turned right around to get Click!!!

So now, we are just waiting to get Bruce and the dogs back on the trail. As I am writing, I am also watching the news and the weather does not look good. 55 Below temps and a wind chill. I have a hunch Bruce is not willing to risk the dogs health in those temps. He learned his lesson during the Knik 200 this winter. So, I would be thankful if he hunkers down for the night in Kaltag – enjoys another hot meal, warm place to sleep and sets out in the morning. The dogs would be well rested to take on the rest of the race.

Until then, happy trails,
Melissa and Brody

Ps – Forget the hunch! As I was writing, Bruce called from Kaltag. Like I thought, he had a wretched run on Sunday night and was recuperating. He meant to wake at 11:00 a.m. today but did not wake until 4:00. He needed the rest as did the dogs. He said when he went to the dogs, all you could see were their ears sticking out from the snow, as the wind had blown over a snow blanket. They were glad to see Bruce and they again, ate like horses. This is a good sign of course! He intends to leave tonight, but he could stand to wait until early morning as well – either way is fine with me! As long as he and the dogs are safe and happy.

So, we shall see – I will be watching the green blimp mush across my screen in the wee hours tonight – that is my hope!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday 3/15/09 pm Melissa's Post

Sunday Evening (sort of)...

Today was an excruciating day! For those following back east, if you could only imagine it looking like 12 noon at 7:30 at night. It feels as though the day is just beginning and I had to put Brody to bed while the sun is still shining brightly. The amount of daylight exacerbates the waiting…

I am itching to get to Nome, but I know once I get there, again left waiting, there will be nothing to do but that. There is not much to do in Nome, and if I were alone, I would partake in welcoming the other mushers crossing the burled arches at any time. But this year, with Brody, I would have to be more conservative – holding to nap and bed times of course.

The daylight is good and bad for Bruce depending on the temperatures. But, it looks like the temps are going to be just right for the rest of the trail. Currently, it is -3 in Nome – and that is exactly where we want them to be for the dogs to perform at their best.

Bruce should be finishing up his run to Kaltag this evening. He has been running an incredible race, I am so proud of him and the team – speechless actually. Together, we have accomplished so much is such little time. In addition to the fact we have a semi-competitive dog team in just three racing seasons. You have to understand, our first Iditarod team was made up of tour dogs… Bruce left with a touring toboggan sled at the start… and he finished too! We have come a long way… in just 2.5 years.

I have rented the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Stars Wars– all six episodes, hoping this will help kill the time. I can always count on the Harry Potter movies if need be… of course, my computer is right by side as well (and a good bottle of wine).

Before I say good night, I want to thank Maria who has been helping maintain the kennel. She is like an angel in our lives and we appreciate all her dedication and care for the dogs. We can’t thank you enough for all her help! THANK MARIA!

Happy Trails,
Melissa and sleeping Brody

3/15/09 - Sunday am Eagle River

Sunday, March 15 2009 - am Melissa's Post

Waiting is part of the Iditarod game for the ones left behind. The days go by incredibly slow and I try to fill each minute with something to do. Town is 25 miles away from where we live and I will travel there a couple times a day just to kill and hour or two.

Now it is time to start packing bags – this year I have a little one in tow, so I am not sure how I am going to make it work. I might just break down and pay for the extra bag fee of $25.00 to make my life a little easier. Bruce will have nothing when he gets to Nome, besides a dirty snow suit, and a pair of two week old underwear. LOVELY! No shoes, baseball hat, etc… The last two years, he basically goes to sleep before eating a meal and wakes up saying - "you didn't bring that - what were you thinking?"

The church that hosts us while in Nome is ready and waiting for us. We have spent the last two race finishes with the Baptist Missionaries and it is like home away from home. Brenda, “the boss,” called just yesterday to let me know they are anxiously awaiting our arrival. They have a crib, high chair and baby jogger waiting for Brody, not to mention some moms who can’t wait to babysit! I am also looking forward to the fresh Alaska King Crab dinner they have when the mushers come in. There is nothing like it!

Bruce called before he left Grayling. He sounded tired and a little discouraged that he was dropping back in the standings. However, he did say he was really pleased with his and the dogs progress so far and incredibly proud of the dogs. This is natural – emotions go up and down throughout the race – similar to hitting the wall while running a marathon. The difference is that you can’t let the dogs know you are hitting the wall AND you have to be cheerleader not only for yourself, but for those awesome dogs that are pulling your behind across the Alaska Range. There is an extraordinary bond between Bruce and our dogs that I will never know, unless someday I am crazy enough to try this race – never say never when you are married to Bruce.

On the home front, Brody is changing every day. He started crawling this week and is getting into all sorts of good trouble. His second haircut is Monday in preparation for pictures in Nome The kiddo has a lot of hair for an 8 month old and he is talking up a storm, trying to tell us the story from his side.

So, as Bruce said goodbye last night, he said he would call when he got to Kaltag. Another long run up the Yukon River with the wind in his face. Once he gets there, the course should get easier…at least that is what I am hoping.

Until then, happy trails,
Melissa and Brody

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anchorage Daily News - 3/14/09 GPS

This article was in today's ADN. Finally, I get my two cents in!

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th - Day 6, Melissa's Post

Friday, March 13 2009 – Day 6

Tonight is the night all let’s loose. TGIF and it is the beginning of my school district’s spring break! As hard as I try to hold it together, it seems there is always a pivotal point during the race where you miss your loved one, fear for their safe return, start to miss them immensely, and wish them to run as fast as they can to just get the hell home! Not to mention the tears that help you fall asleep after the adrenaline from the start day has worn off. I only wish Brody could understand what a phenomenal feat his father is undertaking right now. It is truly incredible!

Today, Friday the 13th lived up to expectations. I can’t go into detail, but I am thankful Cindy is here to help manage the situation. No matter what the end brings, it is all part of what we do and that is the way it is.

Moving on to Bruce…. He rested in Iditarod today. For me it seemed like forever before he got moving again, but he has been religious in sticking with his run/rest schedule. Leaving at 2:00 p.m. was what I calculated, though I wish he left earlier.

Not sure how his strategy will go from here. He has 12 dogs left – strong dogs – but only 12. He needs to start decreasing his rest regimen in order to stay in good standings. Mentally, I feel he is ready for the sleep deprivation and he will not sacrifice his need for sleep by staying behind. His glucose monitoring system is key here because he will need to differentiate when he feels sugar lows versus sleep deprivation. His sensors are working so I am hopeful this is a non-issue.

Bruce is determined and focused – this is a good thing! Bruce and I are both people that when they see something, they do everything in their power and means to get what they want. Bruce wants to place in the top 30 – that is his goal this year.

For me, I will stay close to the computer this weekend and I am thankful the next few runs are shorter distances to each checkpoint. There is one more long run – up the Yukon and I hope for St. Pat’s day the wind is at his back (or non-exisitant!).

I am not sure when I will hear from Bruce next… Maybe Unalakleet, or not at all? Who knows?

Happy Trails,

Melissa and Brody

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A picture of Moscow

Thursday, March 12 - Day 6 - Melissa's Notes

Day 6 Thursday, March 12, 2009

Today was tuff for those back home because of the waiting and pacing. Thank God my school has long hallways! Bruce has a way of always calling at the very moment I can’t talk. “Good morning K-Beach, hope you’re having a great start to your Thursday morning! Isn’t the snow wonderful…?” Then Debbie pulls my sleeve – “Melissa, Bruce is on the phone.” And I continue, “K-Beach, we have to do the pledge extra fast today because Bruce is on the phone and I gotta go!” and so the story goes…

Again, he was in good spirits while spouting of run and rest times of his competitors. For those of you new to the sport, it can get really confusing because of the differential start times, runs rests, miles per hour. I still get confused and really don’t care to analyze those statistics to extent Bruce does. I say – run as fast as you can and good luck! I am not the scientist in the family for sure, but rather, I look at the whole picture and experience in a very liberal arts kind of way. I associate Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony with Bruce’s journey rather than over analyzing it. That is just my way…

He said he was leaving at 11:00 and to his word he did. The trail is slow and it showed as he was only traveling at 5 mph for awhile. I want to jump into the screen to yell “Let’s GO” to the little green blip, but it does not work despite my enthusiasm.

The next few legs will be long and lonely. From the GPS tracker, it looks like he found some friends to rest with on his way to Iditarod. You would think the town of Iditarod (considering the race and trail is named after it) would be substantial, but it is an old gold mining ghost town – population ZERO! A small tent with a fire going is all that exists there – nothing more. I am glad the temps are not too cold, but Bruce would be happy if it were about 20 degrees colder. Unlike me, he is comfortable in -10 degree weather. He says it is his Norwegian blood. I am Irish – I clearly don’t have that trait!

On as personal note, it is amazing how I trick myself into believing I will get all sorts of things done while Bruce is on the trail. From a list 20 items deep, I have succeeded to accomplish only those items that pertain to the race. Nothing more… I don’t know where the time has gone, but I am thinking about how to pack for Bruce, Brody and I since I am only allowed to bring one bag on the flight to Nome…praying that I am going to Nome early next week. Thank goodness I have spring break next week!!! One more day of kiddo and 25% percent of them are sick or have left early. I am hopeful for a quiet day…

Anyway, the race is going to start getting interesting now. The two places musher scratch most often are Unalakleet and McGrath.

More tomorrow…
Happy trails,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 5 - Wednesday Night - Takotna

Wednesday 3/11 – Day 5 Melissa’s Post

Thank goodness for work! It is difficult not being stuck to the computer screen throughout the day, but my job, luckily keeps me busy. And when I get home, the last thing Brody wants to do is sit in front of a computer and watch a little green blip move across the screen.

If you have been keeping track, Bruce, is running with the “big guns” and his run times have been incredible. Like I said before, it is early in the race, but the dogs are looking strong.

He has dropped three dogs so far. McKinley came home yesterday thanks to Dean Osmar. She is a young female pup, one with little race experience. I am not surprised that she has come back to us so soon. Her sister Ruby though is still on the trail. Ruby knows when to back off and just have fun. The other two are in Anchorage as I write being well taken care of by our friend Patty. I know one is sick and the other just didn’t want to pull anymore. But they will be fine and utterly spoiled when they return to the kennel.

About 12:30 p.m. today, Bruce called! It was good to hear his voice. He sounded tired, but in very good spirits. He rambled his run times and wanted. It is incredible how he can analyze all the numbers, times, splits etc… with little or no sleep for the last four days.

So, he wanted me to share a couple of stories that I am sure he will go into more detail when he returns…

The Dalzell Gorge is probably the most treacherous run on the trail. Bruce had nightmares before last year’s Iditarod about this very stretch. Late at night, when the trail markers are harder to see, his team ended up taking a wrong turn going down to the “gee” instead of “haw.” As a result, he got stuck in waist high snow with a sled tipped over. While trying to untangle the team, Bruce lost his footing, which he thought was secure. The floor of ice collapsed and he was dangling, hanging onto the sled with no footing below. He said the ice floor dropped at least five feet. He yelled to the dogs and they pulled him out of the hole. (I remember a part in the movie Snow Dogs where the dogs did the same thing!) As he stated, “I was in quite a spot and I told God as soon as I got to Nome, I would take Brody to church.” We never go to church, so, I can only imagine at this moment in time, Bruce was pretty scared at what could come from the situation he was in.

Later that morning, he got caught in a 40 mile per hour wind storm across a river, which was a sheet of ice. He said the dogs were balled up – he could not even find the leaders. He crawled on his stomach and led each dog, one by one across the frozen sheet of ice and tied them individually to trees on the river’s edge. Finally, Jessie Royer came by and asked if he needed help. She was able to help get some of the team across. Bruce said that incident took the wind out of the pups and as a result, his run time was a bit slower than he would have liked.

Currently, Bruce is in Takotna with most of the other front runners taking his 24 mandatory rest. He is ready to go and waiting to feed the dogs, get his gourmet steak dinner and get on the trail again. He is expecting the next few days to be a slow slog through the new, wet snow. He hopes the dogs will remain strong. He said they are eating like pigs and resting well. Bruce is having the time of his life!

More to come tomorrow… J

Happy Trails,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday, March 10th - Day 4

Ahhh... A long day of keeping close to the GPS tracker. It is so hard to concentrate on work, but the day goes one like usual. I have a map outside my office and the big event of the day is when I can move my post-it to the next check point, speculate how much time Bruce will spend resting and when he will leave again.

Debbie and Jean, my co-workers, like to keep track of how accurate I am with my predictions.

Since Bruce is not communicating as much, I thought I might talk about the dogs on the team. Since we have moved to Alaska, we have made a point not to purchase dogs any more. We have the genetics in our kennel now to breed our own pups and see them through training.

Kiwi, one of our most precious dogs gave birth late fall, and we thought should would not be able to keep up with the training regiment of the race team. But amazingly enough, she ran like she never missed a beat. She is not running first string lead this year, but I bet you bottom dollar if Bruce come into a tricky situation, she will be leading the way. I have never seen a dog bond with her master - as Bruce is her master. Ask our tour guides from Green Mountain Dog Sled Adventures... Kiwi was the biggest pain in the rear - stubborn and sneaky with everyone except for Bruce. Bruce would comment "I have no idea what you are talking about, she is fine and I have no problems..." Emily and Nate - they know the real story though :).

Maya is also on the team this year... She is Kiwi's best friend. Maya is priceless and we could never ever replace her. She responds to Bruce like no other dog in the world. We love her so... and she loves Brody as well. You should see them together.

Jake is back... Jake is a tour dog from Vermont who has grown into a wonderful sled dog. He has his quirks no doubt, but he finished last year with Bruce.

Ruby and Moscow are half siblings - their mother being Rosie. Though Rosie is not a race dog anymore, she is our main brew bitch and she has lovely pups. Ruby, an albino almost 2 year old is just a sweetie. Moscow, is one of our larger males with energy above and beyond. Both pups have Rosie's blue eyes and they are just awesome, awesome dogs.

Ok, time for bed - more on the dogs tomorrow!
Happy Trails,
Melissa and Brody

Iditarod 09, Monday Day 2 - Melissa's Post

Getting to the Iditarod Start Line - 2009

It has been another wild year for Bruce and I. Nothing is ever status quo in our lives and it seems we live life to the fullest, pushing the boundaries of what two people (now three) can accomplish in such a short amount of time. In perspective, we have not even been in Alaska for three years…and we have gotten Bruce to the Iditarod start line three years in a row now.

I don’t think anyone except a mushing family could relate to how we live our lives. Every ounce of energy and resource goes into the dogs – their food, care, and training. Each dog, in what-ever-way has a place in our family and that is the way it is. Even Brody has become one with the routine – being able to sleep through 50 wild, barking dogs and tolerating the waiting around at dog sled races. This year, with the addition of our adorable son, it has taken me out of the loop. Once, a critical player in the upkeep of our kennel, I am now just a bystander who puts her two cents in every so often.

With that said, we could have never gotten to the start line with out Cindy, our kennel manager, who most would call our handler. She is so much more than that and we owe her all our gratitude, because without her expertise and dedication, Bruce would never have had a chance in hell in getting any where, let alone the Iditarod start line. She held the kennel together this whole season and we are blessed to have had her with us. My only hope is that she had a good enough time to make it worth while for her and maybe consider coming back next season. We will keep our fingers crossed!

Our people team keeps gettting bigger and bigger. Charlie, Patty, Lisa, Nova, Cindy and John – just to name a few… We have incredible help and without our good friends, the start day would be even more chaotic than it is. I have never seen Bruce in such a relaxed (if possible) state of mind. He was more prepared than ever (even though he insists on not packing his sled bag until 30 minutes before the departure time). Despite a few mechanical glitches with his glucose monitoring system, which eventually worked their way out, his start was for the most part stress free and uneventful. Bruce, at one point begged us to leave him alone so “he could relax.” Bruce never relaxes, so we got a chuckle out of that once he turned away.

A cloudy day to start with temps around 20 degrees or so, it was a busy afternoon. Bruce, being number forty, left about 1.5 hours after the first musher left the shute. There is no hurry when you are in back end. As soon as Bruce left, the clouds lifted and the sun shine poked through the clouds – as if the Hallelujah Chorus should sound off as Bruce left the shute… "Bye, Bye" I wisper and wave as I think about my long trip back home to Kasilof.

Currently, he is keeping to a pretty tight run/rest schedule and this year I think he will
be camping on the trail more instead of spending time in the crowded check point areas.
After all, he is a third year Vet now, he should start ruffing it a bit !

During our last conversation at home before he left I lovingly wished him to have an awesome trip and to come back safe and sound. He disappointment in that statement left me curious…”Don’t you want me to win some money this year?” he exclaimed. In my mind, I am thought, well yeah, win some money – that would be a bonus. But, I want you to be proud of your run and effort, that is what counts the most.

Anyway, Brody and I are exhausted… Brody has the right idea right now and I think I am going to join him in bed.

If I hear from Bruce, I will catch up and let you know what he is up to. I don’t expect him calling as frequently this year, as he is trying to race this year. No news, is always good news on the Iditarod Trail.

Happy Trails,
Melissa and Brody, Kasilof AK 3/9/09