Saturday, March 19, 2011

AARP Champions

The Stardancer Historical Sled dogs are not race dogs, they are what the old-timers referred to as "traveling dogs".  Though smaller than historical malamutes, they are larger than most racing types (though some have raced quite successfully) and are built for hauling pretty fair loads day in and day out.

8 year old Just is a true racing type of dog.  From sprint racing lines, he ran on a long-distance race team for several years before coming to the Stardancer kennel.  He's smaller than most of his team mates, but has tons of drive and is an excellent leader.  Torus is either 13 or 14 years old (probably 13), and though he has the size of a traveling dog prior to coming to the Stardancer kennel he was a notable racer.  Torus was a member of Eric Butcher's team that won many of Alaska's toughest middle-distance races, and he's been in both the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. 

Today, Just's job is to cruise around our local back-country trails, sight-seeing and having fun in a low-pressure mushing environment.  Torus is essentially retired, but he likes going on fun little runs and he's a great teacher to other dogs.   Today these told older dogs proved they still have a heck of a lot of "race" left in them.

Torus, Just and I competed in the AARP Demonstration Race as part of the "intermission entertainment" of the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race.   Alaska AARP sponsors a division of the Alaska Dog Musher's Association's four-dog limited class sprint races.  The AARP division is a fun group of Seniors (or not so senior) mushers, racing with senior dogs. The times of mushers and dogs are handicapped to reflect their ages. At 50 years old, the driver neither adds nor subtracts from their actual finish time, for their own age. With an 8 year old dog, time is neither added nor subtracted.  There is a formula that sequentially subtracts time for mushers and dogs as they get older, and which sequentially adds time if the ages of the drivers and dogs are under these parameters.  So an 84 year old musher (such as Val Mackler, our current co-champion) with 12 year old dogs, will possibly win over a 55 year old musher with 10 year old dogs, even though the 55 year old’s team is faster by the clock.  This division is routinely run within the 4 dog class of the ADMA Annamaet Challenge Series Races, and typically goes 5 miles.

For today's race, we had three teams with only 2-dogs each, racing two blocks down Fairbanks' Second Avenue, turning around with volunteer help, and racing back to the start / finish line.  Although we were third across the finish line (by a nose), we were the race champions because Torus' age gave us a huge handicap advantage.

Not bad, considering our only sled really suitable for racing was severely damaged just yesterday, forcing us to revert to a much heavier freighting type of toboggan sled.

I think the crowd was entertained by the race, and I know that we were.  Torus and Just did me proud, as the video below demonstrates.

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