Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mushing Out of the Zone - The Plan for the Week

I arrived home from my place of employment yesterday afternoon to face a daunting "honey-do" list that includes a lot of dog mushing.

Recently we (the team) have been spending most of our time running familiar trails. They are good training trails with lots of intersections that allow us to do a lot of "gee / haw" training. "Gee" and "haw" are the traditional cues mushers use to direct our leaders to the right and left, respectively. Meanwhile, I was limiting our mileage while waiting and hoping that Daisy would be able to overcome her own age-induced physical challenges.

During our last adventure we explored a new trail and overcame some unexpected challenges. It was a reminder that if we are going to grow as a team, we are going to have to get out of our self-induced comfort zone and start doing some new things. After all, if you keep doing the same old things, you are going to get the same old results.

I'm not unhappy with the old results. In fact, I'm very pleased with how well my team has been performing. We are well on our way to becoming a solid freight hauling outfit. It is simply time for us to take the next step or two in the process.

I only have one week off from my place of employment this time around. I also have other day-to-day things I need to do this week that must be done, and must be done now. I'll be able to run the team four times over the next six days. Today, Friday, Sunday and Monday.

I've learned that any training plan has to be flexible. Stuff happens, and a musher must be ready to deal with the stuff that happens, even when it means changing well laid plans. Keeping that in mind, here are the things I want to accomplish with the team over the next week.

First, I am introducing a new leader into the team. Torus is a semi-retired long distance racing leader that ran the Yukon Quest for Eric Butcher. Last year I borrowed Torus to help my team while filming footage for an upcoming Weather Channel documentary on the 1925 Nome Serum Run. When Eric retired from racing Torus went to Tammi and Manny Rego's Rogue Summit Kennel, a middle distance racing kennel.

This year Torus didn't have the speed to keep up with the Rogue's primary racing team. Whether that is due to age or due to Tammi and Manny building a faster team is arguable, but the result is that this extremely talented lead dog hasn't been able to run as often as he would like. When Tammi learned that I had to drop 11 year old Daisy from my main team, she very generously offered Torus. This will help me training my yearlings and running the longer trails I need to run, and helps Torus because he'll be able run much more frequently and further than he can leading a small "B" team on short training runs.

So, one of my priorities is introducing Torus to his new team in a way that ensures he has as much fun as possible and to learn about our new lead dog. Every dog is an individual so we are all getting acquainted with each other.

Next, I have a new toboggan that I've never driven. The next step toward my goal of reenacting 18th and early 19th century mushing techniques is to incorporate that toboggan. This historical toboggan is quite a bit different than the modern style toboggan sled we've been using thus far. A modern toboggan sled is essentially a flat bottomed sledge with short (2") runners added for stability and to reduce drag (friction) in hard-packed snow conditions. The historical toboggan is a wooden, flat bottomed vehicle.

Today I will run a small, easily controlled team to give the new toboggan it's maiden run. If I feel confident in my ability to drive and control the toboggan I may follow the introductory run up with a longer run and larger, stronger team. Stay tuned for that report.

My third priority for the week is to show the team some new trails. We're going to mush out of our comfort zone and onto new trails and new challenges. I'm thinking that I'd like to show the team and their musher a portion of the trail we'll be running in April during the Chena Hot Springs Resort Centennial Passenger Run.

So, that's the training plan for the week. Whether or not we can stick to it or have to be more flexible is something we'll discover as the week progresses.


  1. Hey, good luck man! Get out of that comfort zone. It'll be fun!


  2. Thanks, Ted. I had a GREAT week of mushing out of the zone. The dogs were awesome, the new sled was awesome and the new trails were inspiring.

    I just took a look at your dog mushing blog. Check out my dog "Chinook" and compare to your last post there. You two sound like quite a match.