Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Racing Season, well so far....

So we have gone to a few events so far and I have to admit I am still Learning. A few weeks ago we went to the Stratford Nighhawk Race and the dogs loved the cold weather and familiar trail. I made some mistakes though. I knew that Jersey would not go through the tunnel and gets freaked out by bridges but I still left the start with her in Lead the first day. I ended up switching her out in the first mile and put Carmine up in Lead. I under watered Eli so on the way back he was still diving for snow stopping the team. So I stopped again and put Munchkin up in lead. She did great until we past Stacy's team and she saw her best friend Trapper! Then she wouldn't go and kept turning around looking for Stacy's dogs.... So I stopped AGAIN and put Dubs in Lead with Carmine. Dubs was great and we finished strong. But all that Stopping! in a 13 mile race it was just too much. So Day two we started with Carmine and Eli in Lead and that was great, they passed teams and went through all the obstacles beautifully. The only problem was Dubs. It was cold in the morning, well below 0 with the wind chill. Dubs did NOT want to get out of the dog box. On the line he neck-lined for the first 2 miles and was not into running so I had my foot of the drag until he picked up. Unfortunately with all the neck-lining he injured his wrists and is still ( over 2 weeks later) limping. We also did one leader change at the end of the second day, I put Ellie up in Lead as Eli was being goofy.

But with all those set backs the dogs still ran really well, they were fast and kept driving for the finish line. We came in 2nd over all! It was a really fun weekend, the gang was all there, Stacy ran 4 of Barb and Andrew's dogs so they were all there!

The training the weeks following the Nighthawk race went smoothly, sans Dubs, and i did two runs with Scofflaw Dawgs Squint and Ollie. Those two dogs are about as consistent and hardworking as they get! I was super excited to get to run them for the Wilderness Race in Greenville ME. So it was set that I was going to run 7 dogs in the race. Saturday was really really warm in the morning. I didn't even wear my fleece under my windbreaker... I watered like crazy the night before and that morning. We had been to this race last year but the course had changed last year due to lack of snow. No problem with that this year, almost too much snow! We left the start and went out onto Moose Head Lake. There were a billion different snowmobile tracks and the dogs tried to find the most packed down trail. I tried to keep them slow as it is a longer race ( 27ish miles). The lake seemed to last forever until we got into the woods. Carmine and Eli in lead was great they navigated through the trail very well and by all the road crossings filled with people like a dream. The only problem was that we never saw anyone... we went about 8 miles before we caught up with someone. The dogs were getting hot really quick so I let them stop a few times to eat snow. We went a little further and caught up to another team. We stayed with them going back and forth on the hills until we hit the down hills then the dogs TOOK OFF! They were loving the down hills and all 7 were line tight cruising down them. We caught up with another team in a section of trail that was punchy and then the last 10 miles, no body. It was kinda creepy. The dogs really thrive on passing and in this race the fast teams had all gone out well ahead and we only saw the 3 teams. When we hit the lake it was like someone put us on a backwards treadmill. There was a headwind and the dogs bogged down on the long open flat. So I started to sing, and sing goofy made up songs which worked. Then we got to the finish.... that is when the two leaders who had been nearly perfect crumbled. There was a HUGE cheering crowd, snow fencing and the trail narrowed from an entire lake to about 4 feet. Carmine turned the team around at that point....... grrrr. I was out there, 100s of yards from finishing and I had a team that wanted to go back out. So 5-6 minutes later I had my team wrapped around my sled with my wheel dogs going across the finish line first. We did alright for our first 30 of the year coming in 8th out of 17. The trail was wide, with beautiful views, hills that were small and extremely well manned by volunteers.

So I learned that the dogs are still just dogs and have limitations, whether it is physical or mental. I know my dogs better than anyone else and should use my experiences to my advantage. Don't put dogs in situations that they are not ready for ( Carmine and Ellie) or will never be able to cope with ( Jersey). Watch their hydration ( Eli), and body language ( Dubs). Munchkin is NOT a leader ( yet) and it is good to try dogs out before a race ( which turned out AWESOME!!!)

On a side note puppies Henry and Suzie are HUGE, Henry is bigger than Dubs and Suzie is Ellie's size right now. They spent the weekend we went to ME with the Scofflaw Dawgs and had a lot of fun. Was great for Suzie's socializing!

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