photo by Gail Palmer Perrin

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Handler Needed

 If your interested in Sleddogs ,particularily the racing aspect of it then maybe this is for you. Your responsibilities as Handler will be to assist in the care and training/conditioning of a competitive dog team. Conditioning starts at the end of August and we race till mid March. As my handler you will have opportunities to race. The team will be entered into some longer distance races where a handler is required. Through Chocpaw expeditions, there will be an opportunity for you to make some extra money, but your focus will be the race team. Food and Lodging will be provided. If interested please contact me--Rene Marchildon

Phone - 705 386 8476
Mail- Rene Marchildon  Box 674 South River Ont, Ca. P0A 1X0

Sunday, March 13, 2011

`Part Three` the last nine miles

 While we were around the fire, I had asked what had happened to Bruce. They told me he had held up at the Safety Station cabin. Bruce later told me that the boys had encouraged him to follow. Bruce then tried to follow, but then deciding what was best for his team, he decided to pull out. I wondered if the situation would be relayed to headquarters and if there would be a reply or a course of action. It was well after two hours hanging around the fire when all four of us heard a snowmachine approaching us from Fort Kent. It was Denis Cyr. Denis.C told us that everyone behind us was held up at the S.Station with Bruce. Although a snowmachine had cleared a path for us ,we all elected to stay put for five hours. It was important to all of us that we all went in with Happy Dogs. Denis .C. then said he was going to go around us and head for the S.S. to clear a path for the remaining mushers. Just before leaving, Denis.C. left us a small bottle of water and a half a bag of chips which we all graciously shared.
 Now were back at the fire. Then we heard a team approaching. It was Jamie. Jamie asked if she could pass. Because we weren`t expecting anyone else,( held up at the cabin) our dogs, sleds ,gear, cookers, fire going, etc were scattered all over a very tight trail. This is where not being able to speak french bothered me the most. Can I honestly say that having Jamie go by us wouldn`t have bothered me, well I`d be lying if I said no. I`m not really sure what my French friends thought of her ,but I don`t think they were keen on just clearing everything out of the way so that she could pass. Because it was such a tight trail and the dogs were resting comfortably there were concerns raised that if Jamie went through ,there was the possibility that some of the dogs would get disturbed, tangled or even hit by the oncoming sled. After an uncomfortable period of time ,it was decided that we would pack up and Jamie would follow us out. Jamie had also stated that she had no problem taking up the rear and that we would leave in the positions the teams were lying in. We took no haste in packing up, of course it took some time but we did the best we could. At the Banquet, Jamie told me that her team would have been unlikely to pass four teams lying down. Did she say this to humour me?  I don`t want to take anything away from Jamie, she has a career in this sport that far exceeds mine. I know up to the point that Jamie had caught up to us, it was no picnic for her either. It didn`t take long for the trail to blow back in with each passing team.
  We're packed, we're ready to go. At some point during our stay, it was discussed among my Quebec friends that we were going to change the order up while enroute. Immediately after pulling the hook, Denis assisted my team to help me get by, a little perplexed I carried on. André then let me pass. The team at this point were getting their legs back, we sure weren`t loping, but we were moving. Now were getting into the feilds, Martin tipped his sled over and let both André and myself pass. The thoughts of how selfless these men were being was overwhelming, tears were rolling down my face. Never have I witnessed such sportsmanship. I was a little leary on how my team would react to being out front again. I had visions of everyone right on my butt encouraging me to go when they could have very easily gone by. This type of victory didn`t settle well with me. But my dogs did well, very well. We held our own and set a good pace.
 Painfully and slowly the mile markers would reveal themselves. It was somewhere around the the two mile marker that I intentionally slowed down a bit. I was thinking how cool it would be if we rolled into Fort Kent convoy style. I turned to André to explain my intentions but he urged me to go. There was this one particuliar straight away where I had turned around to see how close my friends were. Behind André I saw Jamie, now I know why André was telling me to keep moving. To this moment I still don`t know how or why Jamie got passed Martin and Denise. It was discussed in the bush, that if a team were to lie down again, then by all means would a team be welcome to go on by, that included my own. I don`t know if their teams did lie down again or if once again their true sportmanship spirit relinquished the trail, I don`t know. I`ve tried to contact Amélie but have yet to hear a reply.
 At the Awards I graciously accepted my award. At the banquet I pulled Jamie aside and grasped her hand and asked her " Are you good with this and do we understand each other? " And without letting go of my hand she said, paraphrasing here " Yes I am and yes we do"

Nine Miles Part Two

When André showed up I was visibly unhappy. I was still trying to pull my dogs to the top of this hill. I looked at André and said to him "I was #1" André said, "your still #1!!" André pulled his team in front of mine, we were hoping that my team would follow his. I don`t think Andrés team was too impressed about continuing to go on through, especially having been pulled by my team which just laying in the snow and a trail that was getting deeper with this compacted sugary type of snow.
 Soon enough, Martin pulled up and shortly after Denis was there too. If memory serves me correctly ,there was enough space for Denis and his team between myself and André. Martin chose to go through and head for Fort Kent. Martin figured he got about a 1000 yards before deciding to turn around. A 1000 yards from where we were hunkered down is where the fields began. The fields were utter chaos, completely blown in. If Martin said it wasn't passible, then it wasn't passible. We were camped in the bush and somewhat sheltered from the elements.
 Shortly after Martin left to carry on before turning back ,André Denis and I were trying to figure out what we were going to do. My name is René but I don`t speak french, but that`s another story. Martin, Denis and André are very french but do have a little understanding of english. Dialogue between us was difficult. At first I wasn`t sure what was going on. André and Denis were talking about camping. What I thought they were saying was there is lots of firewood around here and that I should remain and set up camp while they were going to go in pursuit of Martin. My first thought was "screw that, if you guys are going, then I'm going too" What I didn`t understand at first was, it was their intention to camp as well. Needless to say, I was happy with this decision. These guys put their dogs first, these dogs needed a break and although it wasn't verbally expressed, these guys weren't going to go on without me. This gave me great comfort, at this point I didn't care what position I was in, I just wanted to get the heck out of there.
 Now that we decided we were all staying, we began gathering firewood. Shortly thereafter Martin also participated in setting up. Poles were cut down to hang our jackets on and an array of snaps and bungees hanging from branches was hats and mitts. All of us were wet and getting cold. We all had our sleeping bags out to warm up while we waited for our coats to dry. Denis started distributing his emergency dog food, I was a little dubious about this because I wondered what race marshall George would perceive as an emergency situation. But then I looked at my team ,and also fed the emergency food. In amazement I watched the team just snap that food back and how they were looking for more, seeing this brought a smile to my face, I knew they were going to be ok.

To be Continued

The last nine miles...

 I find this a little difficult to write about. There have been some questions raised on whether this race could have had a different outcome. To the best of my ability and recollection, this is what unfolded from my eyes.
 I left Allagash first, with Bruce only a couple of minutes behind me. The trail in the beginning was visible, not too bad actually. Soon however the trail deteriorated. The dogs were still able to pick up the trail, if you strayed from the trail you would very quickly find yourself buried. Later I spoke to Bruce, he told me that he couldn`t even see my tracks.
 As I approached the second last Safety Station from Fort Kent the dogs were showing signs of slowing down, understandbly so as the trail at this point was drifting over. I had brought what I thought was an ample amount of snacks to fuel my boys for the last push. Just passed the S.S. I fed up the last of the snacks. What seemed an eternity, I approached the 10 mile marker, shortly thereafter the dogs had had enough and needed a break. I didn`t want to accept this, I was in first place with the finish line so close. I kept picking the dogs up one at a time encouraging them to continue, but they didn`t want to. My frame of mind at this point wasn`t good, just moments before they stopped I was savouring the idea of winning the Can-Am Crown. I really felt myself in a hopeless situation but knew I had to come to terms with this new reality. I left the dogs to rest. I then plopped myself on my sled, pulled my ballcap over my face and faded off for awhile. I`m not exactly sure how long I was out, but long enough to be covered in several inches of snow. When I first glanced at my dogs, I wondered if they were there, for they were almost invisible in the new snow.
  Now I`m wet, cold and miserable, but determined. In Allagash I left some things to lighten my load, like a warm parka and dry gloves for example.... We were stopped at the bottom of a small hill. I walked up the hill to make tracks for the dogs, my figuring was that if I could get my team up that hill, that just maybe we could get some momentum going on the down side. They didn`t respond with the usually "Let's Go!" I took my snubline and hooked it to the lead section of gangline. I was literally pulling my team up this hill a few feet at a time. I sat down, huffed and puffed and thought, " Holy *%#@ this is going to be a really long nine miles. By now I'm wondering why no one has showed up yet. Before that thought was barely finished, André showed up.

To be continued

Friday, March 11, 2011

A little bit about the Can-Am coming soon :)

The U.P.

I love the start of this race. Thousands of people converge on the main street of Marquette Michigan on a Friday night to cheer us on . Something about the atmosphere that really gets me going, I honestly feel like a rock star when I`m in that starting chute. After you get on your way for approx 30 miles people are gathered in small groups with bon-fires blazing and cow-bells jingling. In that first 30 miles, I must have high fived 500 people...awesome.
 The trail this year was sketchy at best, lotsa gravel and ice and even a stretch of asphalt. It`s going to be a long time I think before that awful grinding sound still in my head will go away. Plastic had to be changed on trail, otherwise you would have ground the aluminium down making your runners virtually useless. There was a particuliar section of road going into Grand Marais from Wetmore that was pretty much glare ice. It was tough to watch my team struggle for grip, a few times some of the dogs would go down and each time I would just cringe at the thought of injury. After awhile the dogs had enough and proceeded to climb up the snowbank which was approximately five feet high. At one point I had actually manouvered the sled to also ride on top of the bank.....well you can probably imagine how that was working out...not good. The bush itself had a fair amount of snow. The bush trail consisted of a single snowmobile track that twisted through the trees.  It was important that the team remained on this track, if they stepped off it they would be up to their ears in snow.Some of the corners were quite sharp and a number of times my team would over shoot and I would find myself in a difficult situation to turn a twelve dog string around to get back on track. Many of these corners I had to tilt my sled to prevent it from hitting a tree and also to help keep my rear end dogs out of the deep stuff.
 Mother Nature made this trail somewhat undesirable but after the race there was a post meeting. In the meeting it was discussed how the trail could be improved and what resources could be used to help make it so.
 The dogs were awesome. The musher well....I underestimated this race. The week-end previous, I ran a pretty tough 120 in Kearney. Michigan can be a very fast race. Going into this race one needs a dog team thats healthy, happy and well conditioned. I went into this race thinking I could just blast my way through and I was wrong. I am not wishing to come up with excuses nor do I wish to take anything away from the Winner of this race, all I`m saying is, I learned a lot this race. Next year I will go with a better rested team and an attitude that shows respect for this course. Congratulations to Ryan Anderson, he ran this race brilliantly. I was awed at the speed he generated on the last leg, wow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

U.P. Bound

Michigan bound for the 240 mile famed U.P. 200. Competition is steep. I'm kinda nervous, which for me is always a good thing. I think if I lose this feeling, I should probably get out of racing. 14 years of racing and I'm still biting my nails to every race I go!