Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Out on the Trails, Here and There

Yesterday I ran three small teams short miles over the hills to help the dogs settle their brains a bit. Trish and I are going to working them considerably harder through the remainder of my R&R but I'm hoping their short runs yesterday will help them contain their emotions during hook-up for our longer excursions.

Beau, an older dog (we don't know exactly how old) suffered a shoulder injury yesterday, so he's out of the line-up for a while, maybe even the rest of the season. We'll just have to monitor him and see how he does over the next few days.

Everyone else fared well. It looks like the "puppy" Friday is finally figuring out that he doesn't have to do all the work singlehandedly. He's learning how to run as a team member rather than working himself to exhaustion early in a run. It took Orion a long time to figure that out so I'm pleased to see it in the young one.

Capella is proving herself a capable albeit slow single leader, guiding a team of only 5 dogs confidently around the loop we chose for yesterday. she is probably the best gee/haw leader in the yard, though Cassie is a close second.

Yearling Thowra is learning to contain himself during hook-up. Since he's such a large dog that calmer behavior is greatly appreciated. I'm hoping that as he matures Aumaruq will also learn to mellow out a bit before we launch. That may be asking a lot - Orion is still a wild child at hook up, and he's no puppy by any means.

Out on the Iditarod trail, mushers are continuing to trickle in to Nome. I was surprised to see that Hugh Neff ended up scratching when his team stalled in the high winds outside of Golovin. Jeff King and Hugh Neff's team demonstrate once again that dogs always have the option of just saying "no".

This morning we have another close race happening out on the Iditarod Trail. Abbie West is in head to head competition against Nathan Schroeder for the Rookie of the Year title, and placement in the Top-20. The top rookie title is important for lending credibility to an up and coming musher seeking sponsorships, as is that Top-20 placement. As I write Shroeder's team has a slight edge over Abbie's, only a few feet really, and they are only about 6 miles from First Avenue in Nome. Everyone loves a photo finish and it looks like Abbie and Nathan may provide one.

Both contending rookies are well ahead of former champion John Baker. Beating Baker up the coast is worth some bragging rights when seeking financial assistance, too. Abbie could certainly use some of that sponsorship help. This year she had to skip running in her beloved Quest in order to afford to race in the Iditarod.

Mike Ellis, the only purebred Siberian musher left in the race, is resting his dogs way the heck back in Koyuk looks good for a 40th place finish. It's too early to tell if Blake Freckings record for the fastest run by a pure-bred team is in danger. Karen Ramstead was withdrawn by race officials in order to tend to a badly damaged hand, and Lev Schvarts scratched after his sled was destroyed on the Farewell Burn. This has really been a tough year for the Slowberians.

Hell, it's been a rough year for EVERYONE. Top-notch mushers and their teams have been battered into submission. This one is a year for the record books in every possible way.

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