Top two pictures are from the Midnight Run and last one from the Copper Dog
This year Joanna and I left for the Midnight Run on Feb 13th and stayed down in the states till March 8th through the Copper Dog Race. There were about 2 weeks in between the two races and it saved time and money to do that.
Joanna did well at the Midnight Run. She was in first place at the halfway point, 45 miles. Then on the second leg of 45 miles, two teams caught up to and passed her but she continued to run with one of the teams. They kept trading off second and third position for a long time then eventually Joanna pulled ahead. Near the finish line a husband and wife team both passed her, she was able to re-pass one of the teams but then got re-passed near the finish putting her in 4th place instead of 2nd place by 28 seconds. It was a race to the finish to be sure.
After the Midnight Run we vagabonds stayed with a dear friend and her husband near Munising, MI. Mary and Dan were over the top hosts and warmly welcomed, fed and housed us for several days in their beautiful lake home. Dan even found an 11 mile trail for Joanna to run her dogs to keep them in shape for the Copper Dog. Mary is a long time friend from our 20 years in Ely, MN, so we had lots of catching up to do. Such a great time of fun and fellowship.
Then a retired musher from Chatham graciously invited us to stay with him for a few days. We barely knew him, yet he generously helps all kinds of mushers who need a place to stay for races etc. He has an apartment setup in his basement so you can eat and sleep there comfortably. But he insists on making breakfast for his guests and does he ever put out a fine banquet. Lloyd Gilbertson is his name and is very well known in mushing circles as a champion. To me, he's a big teddy bear ( he must be about 6 foot 6 inches tall) and he encourages everyone in the sport , young and old alike. He too found a trail for Joanna to run her dogs to keep them in shape. Also at this time the weather was quite warm and there were not many places left that had any snow to run on.
Our next place of habitation was Irma, Wisconsin with the Schouwiler family. Joanna first met Chad and his mother Martha at the Marquette sled dog race. They are a mother/son racing team. Chad is an excellent trainer and racer having won first place at the Gunflint Mail Run this year. Martha seems to truly love the thrill of racing. This year at the age of 61, she won the Beargrease race for the third time in a row; she won the Bayfield , WI race and came in third at the Copper Dog race with some VERY stiff competition. She's an amazing woman. She and Chad are a formidable team.
They invited us to stay with them for the week preceding the Copper Dog. What a grand time we had with them. They were so gracious in helping us in every way possible, from taking an ailing dog to the vet in their pickup truck, serving us the most fantastic gourmet meals, packing snowmobile trails for training, freezing our dog treats, taking us to church, entertaining us with bone tickling humor, and making us feel so warmly welcomed. In fact Mark, Chad's Dad, commanded us to feel welcomed and we surely did. A week is a long time to impose on people you barely know, but now we all feel like family.
The Copper Dog race is a 10 dog pool. In other words, you can use all ten dogs for all three 50 mile legs of the race or you can trade dogs in and out during that time, just using 6, 7, 8 or 9 dogs. If a dog gets a treatable injury one leg, you can box the dog for the next leg and bring it in for the last leg which is helpful to both the musher and the dogs.
Joanna ran with all ten dogs the first leg, but then noticed that two of the dogs had some minor injuries. So, she left them behind the next day to recover and just used eight dogs the next day. At the end of the second leg, she was in 6th place which was great seeing as there were at least 10 mushers with great teams who could have won the race.
On the second night of the race we have stayed each year with our lovely host family, Mike and Suzi Borlee, whom have become dear friends! We look forward to seeing them each year at Copper Dog and they go out of their way to take care of us in every way possible! They even brought us cheesecake and pizza on the first night of the race!!!What a blessing they and all of our other wonderful hosts throughout our trip have been to us!!!
On the third day, Joanna put in the two dogs that had rested on the second leg and left behind two others that had minor injuries after running the first and second leg. The team looked fantastic leaving the starting gate on the final leg of the race. They were banging their harnesses and screaming to go. But about halfway, the dog we thought had recovered from his injury on the first night , starting limping again. He was a huge 60 pound dog as well. Joanna stopped along the trail three times to try to load him in the basket of her sled, but he wrestled and fought her, determined not to sit this one out. So, she had to put him back in the team. And still he pulled. What a dog. She lost lots of time trying to load him and slowing the team speed down for him, so dropped down to 9th place in the overall standings. But that's dog racing. You never know what will happen.
We had such fun adventures and wonderful encounters on our trip. We are so grateful for the kindness of all those who helped us along the way.