What? You haven’t heard of the Lost Dawg Snowshoe Ultra? Well, I guess there’s a good reason for that. The field was small, with only two participants in this inaugural event – Jesse our Alaskan Husky, and me.
The run started uneventfully. Snowshoe conditions were good, with the sun out, the temperature just below freezing, and a fresh snowfall on the ground. The plan was to do a relaxed run on one of my favourite trails. I like to take Jesse on runs like this as she is great company. She’s also an easy dog to run with as she always stays right at my side and the few times she ventures off the trail, she comes immediately back to me within a few minutes.
I guess I may have been a little in La La Land, daydreaming about everything under the sun. I was thinking about how well training has been going lately, with a 20 hour week of running last week and how excited I was about running the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon and also hoping that plans end up coming together so that I can run the Rock and Ice Ultra in Yellowknife (www.rockandiceultra.com).
Snapping out of it, I realized that Jesse wasn’t running near me. She is sometimes so quiet that I don’t even know she’s there. I called her, but nothing. I turned around and ran back to the last place I saw her, still calling her name. Still no sign of the little white dog.
It was now three hours into the run, I hadn’t had much breakfast, so I was beginning to bonk and was in need of an aid station. I decided to run home to see if Jesse had returned without me. She knew the route very well from running and dogsledding, so my hope was that she might have gotten lost from me, and then made her way back. Upon checking into aid station #1 (home), there was no sign of Jesse. I grabbed a couple of quick sandwiches, changed into some dry gear and headed back to the trail to continue the search.
I’d have to say that doing another long run on this day was the last thing that I really felt like doing, as I had done a tough 4.5 hour run two days before, and then another 3 hours the previous day. Anyhow, adrenalin got me going and I hit the trail flying again, determined to find my little training partner.
The minutes kept passing by and leading into hour after hour of running, calling her name and checking new directions or trails that she might have gone on. There were plenty of deer tracks crossing the trail, so I was doing a lot of bushwhacking assuming that Jesse may have followed one of the deer trails. Eventually I decided it was time to check into aid station #2 (home again). Still hoping that she might have returned on her own, I was disappointed once gain to discover no Jesse.
Thankfully at this point, Sara returned home from work. After another quick refuel at aid station #2, we headed back out onto the trail. With an extra person now helping, I was hoping that we would find Jesse soon, but was getting worried as it was starting to get dark and I was exhausted by this point.
More hours of searching, on snowshoes, trails and roads, and still no clue as to where she could possibly be. We had expanded our search into a broader range including bordering roads surrounding the trails, but since it was now after dark, our chances felt slim that we would locate Jesse anytime soon.
The thought of Jesse spending the night out in woods and possibly straying further from our home was a very sickening feeling. We were now thinking of what our options were. We knew that going home and waiting out the night was probably the most sensible thing to do at this point, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to do that knowing she was still out there. Instead I planned to go home, grab some winter camping gear and spend the night in the woods. I’d bring one of our other huskies and stake out where we last saw her in case she smelled us and returned.
Before doing this though, we thought we would check out one last section of trail that intersected on a back road. It wasn’t probable that she would have strayed that far, but we figured we would check it out.
Of course you probably can guess that was exactly where we finally stumbled upon our lost dog. She was standing there like a ghost in the darkness, and we weren’t even sure it was her at first. She was looking a little sheepish and extremely tired, but very happy to see us. The Lost Dawg Snowshoe Ultra had finally, mercifully, come to an end. Just like any other ultra I’ve done, there was a flood of emotions rushing through my body at the finish, combining with exhaustion, relief and that “never again” feeling.
Almost nine hours after we started, and even though I’m pretty sure Jesse put in a few more miles than I did, we both ended up winning this ultra. The post race awards ceremony included a warm meal for each of us. Jesse received a few porcupine quills (on the tip of her nose) as her trophy, and I was fortunate enough to get a slightly achy achilles tendon as my award. I am not sure which one of us slept more soundly that night.
So if you’re looking for a good snowshoe event, I would definitely NOT recommend the Lost Dawg Snowshoe Ultra!