Monday, March 15, 2010

Almost there...

March 15
Leaving for Nome

I agonized all night why it took Bruce so long to get to Unalakleet? Well, he was four miles from the checkpoint and from the GPS blip – it looked he was stuck on the river. Either there is story behind it, or the GPS was not functioning correctly (I am hoping for the later). Needless to say, it was a late night on my end and I should have been sleeping while the kids were, but I choose to watch the blip – stuck for an hour.

The good news, he made it to Unalakleet, which is the last long run on the Yukon. Once a musher gets here, they pretty much either scratch or get to Nome. I am hoping for Nome of course. The kids and I are packed and leaving for Anchorage today as our flight is tomorrow. I have my own work cut out for me as it is the first time I will be traveling with two little kids. Thankfully, I have Brenda, our guardian angel coming to fly with me to Nome and then lost of happy missionaries who will help with Brody and Shea.

My female intuition tells me Bruce is going to push himself and the dogs to the end. He has the goal of beating his personal best of course, but I know his competitive nature will come out as well. He will want to finish as best he can with this incredible team of dogs. Maya, our beloved lead dog, has run EVERY step of the way in all four Iditarod races. She is an amazing dog – I gave her a special pep talk before Bruce left this year and she is keeping her promise to me without a doubt.

I forgot to mention his insulin froze on the trail… the night of the -55 degree temps. Wondering if that is why he felt so miserable that night – I am sure it did not help the situation. Which reminds me, I need to pick up another vile to bring to Nome!

I might be hearing from him before he leaves Unalakleet – this is a larger town with communication. More to come later if I do.

Happy trails,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ups and Downs of the Iditarod Trail

Blog Entry 4
March 14, 2010
The ups and downs of the trail

Once on the trail, Bruce has alluded to the fact that all worries and cares go away. For Bruce, I think being on the Iditarod Trail is one of the only times in his life, that for a long period of time he can be in a quiet, uninterrupted state and truly reflect on everything and anything in his life. In his day to day life at home, he chooses to have the cell phone in his pocket (pretty much 24/7) and is constantly making lists of things to do. Our household has always been a busy place, we both make it that way. But with this lifestyle comes more change, chaos and business than the average family might endure.

Bruce and I met over 8 years ago, and our journey together has been one of risk taking, adventure, and constant change. Just like working in a school, everyday is different and you never know how it is going to end before you lay your head down to rest. I would not change my life for anything. Even though we struggle to make ends-meet, waited to start a family and live in a small cabin, we are happy doing what we do. When he speaks about getting out of dogs, my response is “What else are we going to do? How could we not have dogs when we live in Alaska? I am sure if Brody could chime in, he would say the same – he loves the dogs and watches our Iditarod videos (or what he calls “EOS”) with attention and pure amazement. On several occasions throughout the video, Brody will answer the dogs back with an “AHOOOOHHHH” – his neck raised like he is howling towards the full moon on a clear night.

The ups and downs of the trail come with the race itself. I remember in 2006, Bruce’s first Iditarod, Jon Little, another well respected local musher he mentored Bruce in training to some degree and whose sold us Bruce’s prized lead dogs Kiwi and Maya when they were pups, pulled Nate (our handler and friend) and I aside to prep us for what the ups and downs of the trail. Bruce would have opportunities to call home, and when those came, you could expect emotional highs and lows. Jon warned us that the lows would be difficult to coach Bruce through, but the main thing to tell him was to get some rest, then make a decision about race strategy would be next. When Bruce called on an emotional high, I thought he was never going to come home.

For the last four years, these calls are in evitable and sometimes, I lie, to be honest (hmmm). As much as I would like to tell him to scratch and get off the stupid race, persuade him to rest, eat and then make a decision. In fact one year, he called my school while I was giving announcements on the loud speaker. Debbie, my secretary pulled my sleeve, pointed to the phone (as I was chanting the Pledge of Alliegance) and said “it is Bruce.” Bruce was crying and very down – he was beat up and could not decide what to do. In my principal tone, I told him “to get your ass back on the sled and get going! If you have to turn around, turn around, but at least try to leave!” Now, with that said, I rarely speak to him that way, but in this particular moment, that is what he needed to hear, in my opinion. Other times he just needs to know we are thinking about him and that everything at home was OK.
Bruce is not the only one who has ups and downs of the trail. I too experience high emotions during the race. This year has been particularly difficult because I have two little ones to take care of and cannot participate they way I used to. Merely finding the time to blog has been a challenge! My friends think I am crazy, carting around two kids to the starts and most likely to Nome. I think I am a little crazy – you have to be if you are married to Bruce J. Most folks don’t understand our decisions… Some though, who have the passion that both Bruce and I have for what we do and how we live, understand and know it is how we operate – they know there is no other way for us. Bruce and I are there for each other no matter what and we invited our kids into our lives, and they are along for the ride too. Thankfully, we have so many friends and supporters who help us get from point A to point B. My highs are more reflective – being thankful for what Bruce and I have made for ourselves – we have two gorgeous children, a nitch in an amazingly beautiful community, an important cause to support (diabetes education), and we have a special lifestyle to share with our children and others. We are blessed in many, many ways.

Anyway, I hear Shea, our 4 week squirming and my time to write is coming to an end. There is no time to edit – maybe later, but not now.

Happy Trails,


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chest cold, cold temps dog Kasilof musher

Chest cold, cold temps dog Kasilof musher

Saturday 3/13 3:00 p.m. - The Wall

Blog 3:00 Saturday March 13, 2010

Bruce called before getting ready to leave for Nulato. He was very upset and down. One, for being sick, and two, he lost his neckie and with the temps so, so cold, and the sickness that he has, it must have been brutal. I could barely understand his words between his hacking fits of coughing. I am very worried about his health right now and I think he is too. But you all know Bruce, he is worried about all the mushers on his tail, that could be passing him any time. He was crying I think, and said he might not come in the top 30 or beat his record from last year.

There are some wives of mushers who put pressure on their husbands to bring home the bacon so to speak. But that is not me – I pray for him and the dogs to have a wonderful race (to the extent it can be) and come home safe and sound. I wish him to grow as person, take the quiet time to reflect on all that is good (which in out lives, is hard to find the time to do sometimes). I would love a red lantern to hang in my living room (don’t tell Bruce that – he would get very angry). I am proud of him just for getting to the start line and participating. I am in awe every time.

Please send good thoughts for him – cheer him on and let him know we all support him no matter what. There were several unfortunate circumstances just before the start this added to the stress and chaos. Too boot, he was leaving behind me with two kids under two and that was a difficult decision for him to make. I pushed him to go and do the race when he wanted to stay home and call it a day.

Please send a musher gram to Unalkleet – call 907-248-mush and Iditarod HQ will help you. He needs to know we are thinking about him and routing for him.

Happy Trails!
Melissa, Brody and Shea

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog Entry
March 12, 2010

Bruce finally called at 9:00 p.m. from Ruby. Though he was still sick with a bad cough and congestion, he was in very good spirits and sounded alert. He did not have much time, but was able to give a few updates…

First of all, as I suspected, he is having the race of his life. Bruce said this was the best team ever and if this were his last Iditarod (highly unlikely) he was going to race this team. No surprise, Maya has run every step of the way in lead. Kiwi however, has been moved back to team (except in tricky spots) and he has been alternating younger dogs to partner with Maya throughout. However, there is one dog in particular that will get the MVP award. She is a unknown to most, but one of the prettiest dogs in the kennel. Who would have thought our little Gibou (named after a road we lived off of in when we stayed in Montgomery VT) would be the missing link to the get some speed in the team! Little Red Gibou (her picture was on AND and I will post the link). She has been pushing hard and never wants to stop – ever! Other dogs in and out of lead include Frodo, Moscow and on occasion, Kiwi. - go here to see a picture of Maya and Gibou running lead in the Ceremonial start in Anchorage.

The dogs are healthy and eating like “pigs.”
Of course, there has not been a race where Bruce has not had an issue or two during the Gorge. From what I could gather, he was behind Rick Swenson and DeeDee – there was a blizzard and wicked gusts of wind. He stopped on what he thought was a trail and saw a head light facing him. It was Rick and he was yelling they were not on the trail – in the Gorge – YIKES! I laughed and Bruce quickly said “It was not funny!” This is the reason for the extra rest in Finger Lake for those of you who were pacing in the wee hours wondering why he did not leave that checkpoint on schedule.

He plans to do the Yukon in two legs. There is a cabin called Old Woman’s Cabin where he will try to rest a bit. He plans on taking his 8 hour rest in Kaltag.

That’s it for now – it is late and I need to get some sleep. He will be leaving for Ruby at midnight.

Happy Trails,