Saturday, November 15, 2008

Traing Day and Trip to Town

My original plan was simply to run dogs today, but of course simple plans conceived by simple minds don't always work quite so simply. Like many guys my age, I have hypertension. We're talkin' vessel burstin', eye-crossing, stroke you out till you drool, mess your pants and die hypertension, at one time as high as 200-plus a few systolic. Don't worry, it's well under control so long as I take my medications each and every day as directed by my physician.

However, I can't take 'em if I don't have 'em, and I figured out as I was eating my breakfast of polysyllabic pharmaceuticals along with a snack of bacon, eggs, toast and cottage cheese that I was plumb out of the most important one of the lot. I made a mental note that a trip to town would be in order, loaded the dogs onto the truck and headed over to Lynn O's place for a run.

Well, when I got to Lynn's I quickly learned (the old fashioned way) that the battery on my four-wheeler is dead and beyond all hope of resuscitation. Fortunately we had another ATV available to give the dogs their workout. There still isn't enough snow to safely run the team on sleds.

I'm really glad that Lynn is an adventurous soul. We ran the same dogs as yesterday, but mixed them up a bit to try a pair of LITs (Leaders In Training) up front. I wanted to see how well they are learning their lessons and the only way to do that is to throw a "pop quiz" at them, and let them strut their stuff. With another person along to help, I figured if either of them wasn't able to run without the help of an experienced older dog it would be easy enough to switch some dogs around on the trail, which would have been impossible had I been alone. This team can very easily drag a four-wheeler away with all the brakes locked up at 14 or 15 miles per hour without the additional weight of a human on the machine. The training report is listed below - with the date recorded in bold print.

The short version is that Grace and Beau are very good trail leaders, but still need some work on directional cues. The responded to the cues just fine when I asked them to make turns or run straight on trails we've run before, but they tended to get a bit confused when I asked for a turn in a "new" direction. On the other hand, both of these young dogs did GREAT pulling the team through a series of three head-on passes with other musher's teams. Some of the dogs behind them were a bit sloppy, but even they managed to get on by without causing too much disruption. That's good, because the first musher in the line was Ric Swenson, the only 5-time Iditarod champion to date. I have a lot of respect for Ric and I would be mortally embarassed if my dogs caused a bad tangle with his team. Yeah, I know - stuff happens and he would certainly understand that, but it still isn't exactly the best way to win friends and influence people."

We had just gotten out on the trail when Lynn said she wished she had grabbed her camera. With some light snow falling it was a pretty day, at least from a dog musher's perspective. It just happens that I had my camera in a shirt pocket, so I handed it to her and she captured the images in this post. The text is my handiwork.

I originally planned to run only six miles, like yesterday. All the dogs were looking good, though, so Lynn suggested we slow the pace a bit, but bump the mileage up to 8. We did that, and at the end of the run they still had enough reserve to give us a sprint for home, and came in looking happy, healthy, and able to do even more. I'll gave them some additional protein in their feed tonight and will give them tomorrow off for rest and recovery. Like human athletes the dogs need time off for damaged muscles to repair and strengthen.

Shortly after we returned to Lynn's yard our mutual friend Randy D pulled in with his truck filled with dogs to run. I had to bail out before he could get started so I could get my trip to town over with.

Town on Saturday is, well, it is just like any other city on Saturday. All the worker bees head to Wally World and the other retail paradises at the same time, resulting in traffic jams that would make Seattle proud. I got out of the pharmacy in reasonably short order, and then found the battery I needed for the four-wheeler and the chemical hand warmers I've been searching for at the same store. That let me return to my personal fortress of solitude in pretty good time, which pleases me greatly. I didn't move to Alaska to spend all my time in another generic city.

Here's today's entry in my training journal:

11/15/08: 8.1 miles. Lynn’s to haw on Pleasant Valley Rd to gee on trail past Ric Swenson’s to end of field, haw up the field and gee onto baseline. Straight down baseline past Aliy and Allen’s, over hill and gee onto ‘middle trail’ of field, haw to quarter the field (past the horse pen), haw below baseline, held to left rather coming back up onto baseline, diagonal trail to haw on baseline, haw on Pleasant Valley Rd extension and straight back up to Lynn’s.

12.4 mph max speed. 9.4 mph moving average and ~9.0 mph overall average

Grace and Beau (lead)

Torus and Nels (swing)

Seamus and Rose

Sheenjek and Gump

Jethro and Polar

Carpe’ and Poncho

Grace and Beau are both good trail leaders, and are in gee/haw training. This was the first time I tried running these leaders-in-training without an experienced dog to help guide them and I was generally pleased. They had some difficulty with a couple of “gee” turns, but the run shows that they are indeed learning their roles.

We had head-on passes with three teams. We passed Ric Swenson, and of course Seamus wants to visit, so it was a bit sloppy but nothing bad enough to be of concern. Next were two teams, one right behind the other, and they passed the first of those better, and the second of those better yet.

I was concerned we might be asking too much of Jethro, but he did the run quite well and had energy left over when we got back to Lynn’s, enough to be truly enthusiastic about his chicken drum-stick “reward”. Polar also ran very well, though was as always extremely shy when I came near to give her a drumstick. I stopped, tossed it in front of her and moved on, and she wasted no time devouring the treat.

I was very pleased that I could ask the additional two miles of them so soon after resuming training, I’m less pleased with Gump, as he never pulled his tug truly tight at any point in the entire run. If he isn’t careful he may find himself joining the other retirees in the yard. Personally, I think he just knows he can get away with it during four-wheeler training, so he does. He always seems to work harder with a sled, especially in tough terrain where we really need his assistance.

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