Posted on July 12, 2011
Point6 Athlete/Brand Ambassador Tom Thurston recently returned to the Yampa Valley after completing the 2011 Iditarod race in Alaska. Read below how Tom, in his own words, describes this year's run across the great North! Congratulations Tom!
We saw -38 F one night and -25 F another, the day's were well above zero and I did not even see a cloud until we were on our way to White Mountain. The best part for me was the mild winds, especially on the Yukon. Even when the weather is nice, + 20 F during day and around zero at night, ocassional wind gusts up to 20 mph but most of the time around 5 mph and splitter blue skies, the Yukon is a scary place. I had back to back awesome , fast and clean runs up the Yukon this year. Even still there is some strange energy on that river. It is almost like something is breathing down your neck trying to pull you in. That is the best way I can explain it. I spoke with a few locals along the way up and asked if they have opinions on the Yukon , they said similar things among its beauty in the summer and bountiful fishing. As far as second trips go it was a piece of cake compared to 09.
It was in the upper 20's the day of the race start and not a cloud in the sky. Fortunateley there was a slight breeze going up to Yentna and Skwentna. We rested at both checkpoints and moved on to Finger Lake. The goal was to leave FL by 7:00 am the next day. After a warm run and a 14 hour break we made our way to Rainy Pass. The infamous Happy River Steps were more difficult than the past two years. We passed another team crashed in the trees on the last step. As I looked back we took a sharp corner and went over a big drop that had the sled airborne and I crashed and got drug by my snow hood and mitten for a bit and had some fun. The Dalzel Gorge was immaculate I can not ever imagine it being in better shape. All the way the trails were great and our moving speeds were exceptional. After our mandatory 24 hour break in Mcgrath we were on our way to Ophir than out to camp between Ophir and Iditarod. From Iditarod we ran 67 miles in 5 ½ hours. The truth here is I still had 15 dogs and I really like running 12, my team was in excellent shape and when I left Iditarod they took off like crazy we were flying up the hills and I could barely slow them down on the steep down hills. I got drug down a frozen river about half way through the run when we went the wrong way on a blind intersection. So I decided that this run was a perfect opportunity to evaluate all 15 dogs and over the next two checkpoints I identified the 3 weakest dogs and got us down to 12 dogs, 12 solid dogs. At that point I felt all 12 dogs could make it to Nome relatively easily. I dropped one dog in Koyuk simply because she was stiff in the front end and I nor the vets could identify and specific muscle or joint but she was stiff and I errored on the side of caution and then went to the finish with eleven. About 15 miles before White Mountain we crossed a lot of sea slush and ankle to calf deep water. The dogs I had in lead would slow down and balk at crossing after about the 4th of 5th crossing. The crossings vary from 100 ft to 100 yards. So I moved leaders around until I put Cougar up front and this was the first time I had used her to lead and she did exceptional. She then lead us on the last 77 miles to Nome. Great dog no maintenance needed on the trail and held her weight all the way to the finish line.