PART 3: In the End, It All Came Down to Snow
Back to the IronLine rundown, or run-over…already in progress:
Mushers were already starting to hit up the website. They were even beginning to register in October! Our Facebook started buzzing with a community of people who’s names were now starting to become pretty familiar. My wife and I felt like we were starting to get a handle on some things.
But then come the things that can make or break you, the nonnegotiables. Things like weather: you know, it takes a decent amount of snow to run a sled dog race. They don’t normally like running on rocks, gravel, ice or even a scant dusting of snow. The snow needs to be several inches deep, packed down, groomed and even have a few layers to it. Now, we live in the U.P. and, normally (I stress normally), we don’t have to mess with the idea of not having enough snow in January.
We started getting snow in mid to late November and then that melted off. We then got more in December and early January. Which looked good because our original race date (cough-cough) was set for January 18-19. Promotion, advertising, and all the rest. We had a Race Marshall coming from out of area, a seasoned and enthusiastic vet staff lined up, and a whole host of volunteers coming out of the woodwork—with some driving from three or four hours away!
To quote Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona, “…And then the roof caved in.”
I’ve spent eight or nine winters in the U.P. and I’ve seen close to -40 below and -20 for two weeks at a time, but I could not have been prepared for 40 ABOVE zero, not in January!!! That’s right, spring weather—WITH RAIN! In two days we lost almost all our snow. It looked like an icy, muddy mess and our trail crew was a tad flabbergasted. Some negativity crept up on us. A lot of emotion on my part. Had to keep my head up at the meetings. I know God told us to do this crazy race; how could He do this? I still want to believe He knows what He is doing. Of course, in hindsight, He most definitely did. But, obviously, with barely a week lead time (which is what you need to change the game plan), we had to postpone the race and pray for snow in three weeks.
The God Audible.
New radio ad. New newspaper ads. Phone call after phone call after email after Facebook update and questions galore. It was kinda like starting all over again. Stress levels soared and emotions ran pretty high for a minute. A couple mushers had to back out and needed their registration money back. I kept telling people, when asked or not, that the only way I could describe the feeling was like training for the usual 26.2 mile marathon and being told it was two miles longer a mile from the finish. Just. Outta. Breath….
Yet, there is a peace that SURPASSES all understanding; it doesn’t come from understanding.
It came to a point, when Satan had thrown all he could at us, and God had allowed uncertainty and foul, sneezy weather…that all the dust started to settle and questions halted. THERE WAS NOTHING MORE WE COULD DO. This whole kit and caboodle was no longer in our hands. We were mere stewards of Gondor and not the Rightful King of a sled dog race. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The peace. The happy and hopeful helplessness. The thrill of knowing we had given this thing all we had and more and if the ship went down, what a glorious end it might be.
Total reliance sunk in.
So we waited and the snow began to fall. Everything turned into a beautiful painting, some sorta illustration from an old Jack London story. The snow- globe after a good shaking. Then the ensuing soufflé of pure whiteness that brought pristine trails and a waiting community closer in. Peering through the glass had never been so anxious and expectant. We were all in awe really. It was like He knew what He was doing, the great Orchestrator, with His brilliance put on display.
Prayers were indeed answered. All we needed now was to watch it all come together for race weekend….
To be concluded….