Friday, November 9, 2007

Good Time on the Trails

First the biggest news. Having to take Kia off the team created a "job opening" for a working dog, to keep my little team near full strength. Tammi and Manny Rego offered me an older racing leader with lots of long distance race experience to borrow for the season to help train the yearlings. So, we can welcome Dutchess to the team. Dutchess was whelped by long distance musher Ray Reddington, Jr. and has been running on Tammi and Manny's team for some time. Compared to my big Village dogs, she seems a tiny little thing but if anyone should question why the little girl is on a team of bigger freighters all they have to is watch her run. This girl LOVES to run and pull, and does way more than her share.

At 9 years old she is essentially retired from racing, reminding us of the old saying "Those who can, do. Those who can no longer do, teach. (Those who can't teach become administrators). Although my village dogs run much slower than most race teams, in a trail run on Thursday Dutchess let my guys on both the longest, and the fastest, run they've had so far this season.

With a bit of help from Lynn Orbison and another borrowed dog, I had a total of 8 dogs hooked to my four-wheeler. We did a solid 7 mile run at a moving average of 10 mph, and only a couple of stops to adjust equipment. According to my GPS unit we were stopped less than 2 minutes total through the whole run.

The entire team was awesome, and Dutchess was intent on proving that she is everything Tammi had claimed, and more. Having Dutchess and my darling Daisy up in lead was like having power steering. She responds incredibly quickly to directional cues and LOVES to run. I think she's going to be a marvelous teacher for my yearlings.

Tuesday's run was also delightful. I hooked up my six workers to my large training toboggan, and Lynn Orbison agreed to ride in the basket to help if we needed to fix problems. There isn't quite enough snow for a snow hook to reliably hold the team, so having the helper was crucial to doing a run on the sled.

I had Daisy and yearling Rose in lead as we left the yard. According to my GPS, we launched at 18 1/2 miles per hour. The team quickly settled into their traveling trot (some folks call it the "Iditarod Trot"), giving us a 7 mile run with a moving average of 9 mph.

About a quarter of the way into the run young Rose was starting to look a bit distracted by all the dogs 'chasing' her, and we don't want to stress out an up and coming potential leader, so we put her in swing and brought yearling Nels up front. That boy "gets it". He lead the team like a trooper, finishing up the run and then holding the team in a "line out" until released, wagging his tail the whole time.

During the run, Lynn and I compared our favored disciplines. Lynn loves sprint racing and I love cruising through the woods. Don't get me wrong, I also love the adrenaline rush of running a team of superb high-speed racers, but it is a different sort of enjoyment. Lynn explained that for her, the high speed runs that require total concentration on the dogs helps her feel centered and "in the moment".

To me, crusing through the woods at a stead but easy pace lets me spend time checking out the whole big wilderness world around me and leaves me feeling like I am a part of that world, rather than just a visitor passing through.

It was a lovely training run, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Yesterday was a day off for the team, but not for me. I had my annual physical exam first thing yesterday morning. My doctor seems reasonably pleased, at least she doesn't think I'm going to fall over dead in the next 10 minutes. I then had several errands to run.

At one point I found myself near Alaska Raw Fur Company, and figured I'd stop in to drool over all the wonderful, warm stuff they carry. In doing so I found a pair of nice sheared sheepskin lined beaver mittens that were priced very attractively, so I blew the budget.

OK, that has the blog up to date for the moment. Today I'll be training my team again, and tomorrow several of us are gathering at Lynn's place to run LOTS of dogs. Each run becomes easier as the dogs become more accustomed to the routine and their previous training "kicks in" in their little doggie brains. It's also easier because we humans are also getting back into proper physical and mental condition.

Life is good in Two Rivers - and I hope you are having just as much fun as the dogs and I.


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