Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the Trail Some More

ONAC Finished
While the Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs were out on a training run, the final day of the Open North American Championship sled dog race happened in town. I heard just the last bit of radio broadcast after I returned home with my team, and learned that Egil Ellis has finally beaten the legendary George Attla's record for the most ONAC winds by edging out Blayne "Buddy" Streeper by only 4 seconds over three days of racing. That definitely qualifies as close racing.

Stardancers on the Trail
Today I took a team of eight dogs 15 miles, almost twice as far as our previous two runs. Of course 2 more dogs makes a huge difference in power. I even shot some video of our run today, and posted a portion of that video on YouTube for your enjoyment. The vid is embedded down below my training journal entry.

Sunday, March 22:

15 miles. Home to school trail to wood cutting road to dozer trail start, back along loop trail, backtracking to Little Chena Rd extenstion, to swamp trail and return to home. Crusted packed snow. +10 degrees to start, +21 at finish.


Max speed 15 mph

Moving average 8.0

Overall average 7.6

8 dogs on ‘freight train’ with 40# additional weight.

Torus & Grace (Lead)

Beau and Just (Swing)

Rose and Nels (Team)

Sheenjek & Seamus (Wheel)

I originally planned to run Beau up beside Torus, but he kept trying to follow me back to the sled. I finally gave up and put Grace up front instead. Meanwhile all the dogs had worked themselves up into a major frenzie, so I pulled hooks and set out.

Very difficult time trying to keep their speed down on the feeder and power line trails, and in fact I was on the brake nearly all the way past the trailhead off the school road. I was able to stop them long enough to turn on the video recorder as we went through the narrow woods trail, but for some reason it stopped just before we reached the big hill.

About a mile down the wood cutting road I stopped to mess with the recorder. The dogs lunged forward, pulling the hook and tossing me off balance and off the sled. I hollered “whoa, whoa, whoa...” and Torus and Grace stopped the team. I put my boot back on and ran up to stomp the brake. Yep, I all but lost my boot on my way off the sled. It’s a real shame I didn’t get that on video, because the dogs did a great job of responding to the cue.

Had some difficulty on the hard left hand turn at the dozer trail. Sheenjek jumped the gangline rather than pulling the nose of the sled to the right, so we hit a tree. It took a lot of hauling on my part as well as the dog’s to get around that, and the other trees in that area, but we did it without loose control.

Just above the intersection where the trail comes back on itself there were three snowmachines parked. That’s on a steep downhill stretch and control was already tenuous, and I was already dragging a snow hook to try to slow them, but the dogs “threaded the needle” nicely. Steam was pouring from one of the machines and I asked if they were OK. They said they were, which was good. I’m not sure how long it would have taken to get those dogs stopped.

The trip back to the wood cutting road was faster than I would have expected, and we were soon on the big hill at the start of the Little Chena Road extension trail. It was a slow slog over the top, but once we headed down the dogs got a bone in their teeth. I was standing on the brake and the dogs were still loping along.

We zig-zagged our way over the swamp trail and had a great time doing it. Then, back on the main trail we had a head-on pass with another team. Although the other dogs were milling about a bit my team ran past like champs. I was very, very pleased with them.

They tried playing “crack the whip” with me on the hard gee back onto the powerline, but I stuck to the sled and we came trotting home with a healthy, happy, very hard working team. To ice this sweet cake, I let my leaders hold the line out while I unhooked and unharnessed each dog. Grace stood firm beside Torus through the whole process, How COOL is that! She’s earned her spot on my couch and bed tonight.

Here is some video I shot of our training run. Sorry I couldn't include a clip of the runaway team stopping on cue, but I was trying to trouble shoot the recorder at the time, and just didn't get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment