Saturday, January 29, 2011

Expensive Mixed Bag Training Run

I just got home from another training with a small team up in the hills behind the house.  It was the same trail we ran two days ago, and you can see a description of the route by clicking HERE.  The run was quite an interesting combination of "good stuff" and "bad stuff". 

Today's team consisted of the following dogs:

Rose & Amazing Grace (lead)
Orion and Capella (swing / team)
Seamus and Nels (wheel)

Although Grace and Orion both have a history of harness chewing during hook up, neither has done so over the past few months.  Maybe they were trying to lull me into a moment or two of hesitation.  Once all the dogs were in harness I opened up the gate, moseyed back to the sled for something or another, and then started hooking up dogs from the wheel position forward. 

When I got to Orion I was shocked, albeit not terribly surprised, to see that he had chewed another harness.  I grabbed a replacement, removed the remains of the first, got him re-dressed and put on the gang line.  Then I got up to Grace (last one to be hooked up) and saw that she had also shredded HER harness. 

I run all of my dogs in ManMat Wheel Dog Harnesses, which are stinkin' expensive.  $38.70 each when purchased directly from the importer, and almost $50.00 when purchased locally.  I don't know if I'll be able to patch them back together or not, but it's obviously worthwhile to try. 

We also had a difficult encounter with a pair of skijorers taking their loose Bernese Mountain Dog for a hike.  Brace and Rose just HAD to visit the strange dog, and it was really tough getting them back on the trail.  Fortunately, a snowmachine came up from behind us, passed and continued up the trail, giving them something else to chase instead.  There were no fights, no showing of teeth or any other scary behavior on any dog's part, but I'm afraid the owner of the pet dog was feeling pretty frightened and overwhelmed by the situation. 

On the positive side, we had a couple of head on passes with snowmachines, a head-on pass with a pickup truck and went by a parked truck where a guy was loading firewood.  Capella was a bit freaked out by firewood guy, but she got over it quickly enough.  We also had a head on pass with a big race team, that my guys executed perfectly.  I was VERY proud of them.  Also, I was driving my newly repaired "tunnel bed" toboggan sled, which handled the icy logging road much more easily than my beater toboggan. 

We're still having some "gee/haw" issues with these young leaders, and the only resolution for them is lots and lots of practice.  Orion still hasn't figured out that he needs to pace himself, he really ISN'T a sprint dog, he just thinks he is.  He had a bit of diarrhea after our run, which isn't unusual and not particularly dangerous so long as it resolves quickly.  I'll have to keep an eye on him, though. 

At the end of day, I have to call it a pretty good run.  We had some challenges, but we worked through them.  We have plenty of challenges ahead of us, and only a few more weeks in which to train our way through them.  My R&R next month will be very short due to work related training (more than a week of work related training), but so far , assuming nothing untoward forces a change, I should have the full two weeks off in March.  The odds are likely that by my April R&R the trails will pretty much shot, though we should still be able to get in some runs using the four-wheeler rather than sleds.  We'll just keep plugging away at things and adapt to whatever we need to accommodate.

Trotting toward the "Pinball" section of the Swamp Trail

Here is today's entry in my training journal, giving a blow-by-blow account:

8.5 miles.  Home to east on powerline to north on TRR trail to Woodcutting Trail to west on Little Chena Rd. extension trail, which veers SSW to Swamp Trail, which turns back east to TRR trail, south to powerline, west back to the house.

Hardpacked trails - icy slick fast roadway.  Temp +12 degrees F. 
Max speed 12.8 mph
Average speed 7.6 mph

Rose & Grace (L)
Orion & Capella (S)
Seamus & Nels (W)

-  Grace and Orion both chewed up harnesses during hook-up.  My fault for turning
    away from them and expecting to stay calm.

-  Very sudden encounter with snowmachine right at intersection to TRR trail.  No   
    major problem.

-  At trailhead parking lot entrance, encountered 2 cross-country skiers with a loose
   dog.  Grace pulled the team over to visit the poor dog, and it was a pain getting the
   team lined out.

-  Snowmachine passed from behind, buying time for the skiers to gain some
   distance and giving Grace and Rose something to chase for a while.

-  Head on pass with small pickup truck, apparently loggers going home from work. 
   They pulled to the right and the team passed on the left without any major

-  Asked Grace to "gee over", which she didn't do, but Nels back in wheel did, helping
   to pull the sled away from the edge of the road.  He was unable to duck under to fix
   it until we reached Little Chena Rd. extension trail.

-  Passed pickup truck parked on the shoulder.  Guy loading firewood stood still and
   did nothing at all, but Capella was pretty freaked when she noticed him.

-  Haw onto Little Chena Rd extension was difficult at first, but finally Rose pulled
   Grace onto the correct direction so we could continue.  Grace didn't miss any other
   cues during this run.

-  Head on pass with big team on Little Chena Rd. extension, which was executed

-   Very nice run though the "pinball" section of the Swamp Trail.  Was fun driving in
   with the "tunnel bed" sled.

-  Pretty good sprint up the home trail.

-  Orion was quite tired and had some stress diarrhea after the run, 


  1. G'day Swanny - is Orion on the right or left in the photo above?

  2. Orion is on the right, crabbing a little bit.