Monday, March 4, 2019

Flathead Classic Sled Dog Race 2019

They did it again! Completely amazed me with their speed! The fast four (Jig, Whip, Buck and Flier) have proven their name again and finished the Flathead Classic in 2nd place of the 8 teams entered!

We arrived at the race in Olney, MT on Friday evening (2/22) for the snacks and musher meeting. One of the things that amazes me about this race is the amount of sponsorships they obtain. As an organizer of our local races, I know how hard this can be. Our musher packets had a large amount of swag (O'Keefe's tough hands lotion and lip balm, a new pair of thermal work gloves, a race hat and more!!)

After the meeting we got settled in our tiny cabin at the Dog Creek Lodge and fed the dogs. We were all amped for the races to start in the morning.


The races only contained 6- & 4-dog sled teams this year. They needed another year to get things situated better for the big 8- & 12-dog teams. So, our team was set to leave fairly early at 9:18, the second 4-dog team out! Because we were staying at the race site, I actually didn't need to get up too early! Waking up at 7am was more than enough time to get all my gear set, the dogs dropped, watered and pottied. In no time, we were off!


It had snowed overnight a few inches so the trail was a little slower than I expected. They ran the course in reverse this year, as there are a lot of turns and meeting teams on a corner it is better for both teams to be turning right than left, to avoid obvious crossing problems. They were fairly quick through the first loop, I only need to run with them a few times up some small hills. We had caught the first team early on in the first loop and now were running in front on the course. When I came to the point where we were to start into the second loop the trail volunteers were blocking the trail, trying to send me the wrong way. I sat there for about 30 seconds arguing the course with them before they finally moved aside and we continued on our way.

After the first two loops (different loops, not the same done twice), the course brings you RIGHT back by the start/finish line and sends you out on the longest, hardest last loop. My team came blazing through the start area and out to the last loop super quick with no problems! And then we hit it....the killer climb!

I knew it was long and steep and hard but I didn't realize how long and steep and hard it really was. Last year, they sent us on this loop first when the dogs were still hot and fast from the start line. Now we were more than halfway through the race and the dogs were tired. I was sucking some SERIOUS wind by the top of the hill but we made it and it was nearly all downhill from there! Again the trail volunteers tried to send me the wrong way, to the 6-dog 18 mile course, but they were not blocking my turn and I just turned right, telling them the 4-dog teams were to follow the blue arrows and turn right. As we ran off, I heard a "oh yea!" The last portion of the trails had a good amount of technical turns, making it quite fun. We finished strong and I was super proud of them!

I felt the dogs had done well but I had NO idea where we'd be in the standing. I would not have been surprised if we had been in the back of the 8 racers or up front. When all racers were in, I was pleased to see we were in 3rd after day 1!

We watched the skijorers and fatbikers race the rest of the morning, enjoyed pizza with friends that evening and relaxed.

The next morning was COLD and we had no fresh snow so the trail had set nicely overnight and felt like it was going to be fast! They started us in reverse order, slowest to fastest, so we went out 6th. The trail was INDEED much faster. I did not need to help the dogs at all through the first loops. In fact, I barely held on ;)







This time I did not need to argue with trail help and we were cookin'. We came screaming around the corner at the start/finish out to the last loop. Here I started running with the team on the hills. We kept a good pace up the hills, it helped that we caught Butch Parr halfway up the hill, they knew the team was close and that kept them pushing. The killer climb felt much shorter this time, it really helped us all that the trail was firm, making the running easier! We passed the 2nd place team going backwards on the loop, which was a tad surprising but was no consequence to the dogs, they kept charging down the hill.

Buck not pleased to be wearing a Canadian harness. Kim Stanley let me try this Tough Skin Harness from Howling Dog Alaska on him. I'm considering getting the US version of this for him for canicross this spring.

In the end, we had moved into 2nd place and ran over 6 minutes faster on day two! AMAZING! I was quite pleased with the team and glad to end our snow racing season on two fantastic races!

Next up! DRYLAND! The Spring Fling in Cle Elum. April 20th & 21st!


Good puppas!



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Priest Lake Sled Dog Race 2019


Last weekend was the Priest Lake Sled Dog Race. It is a long running race, having run its first 50 years ago. This is our favorite race. The course is a blast, the accommodations are splendid (Elkins Resort), the lake is beautiful, and the club/race officials are so relaxed and friendly. Unfortunately this year, my family could not come with me (which we usually treat as a family vacation). Fortunately for me, my friends Valentina and Stefano came with!






Things did not look promising when it began raining at Sandpoint, Idaho and only got heavier the closer we got to Priest Lake. It poured all night, huge puddles around the cabin and wet dogs every time we dropped them. Our cabin-mate, fellow Siberian musher Kim Stanley and I were beginning to doubt our decisions to attend the race. Moods were definitely improved when we ate the wonderful dinner Valentina and Stefano made us. A rich pasta dish (can’t remember the name) along with pork chops (cooked to perfection) and potatoes.



By the next morning, the rain had stopped and we all were ready to race. Valentina and Stefano were volunteering, they were going to post up on the first turn, making sure the teams made the gee turn. This year we were entered in the 4-dog sprint, 2 days of 4.7 miles each. I was running Jig and Whip in lead and Flier and Buck in wheel. There were 6 fellow competitors, of which Kim was one. The day was warm, the snow was soggy (but not too bad, given the amount of rain overnight. As the day progressed more and more spectators arrived. Each time I dropped dogs, a large semicircle of people formed to ask questions and pet the dogs. How could they not, our Sibes are beautiful, if I may say so myself. In fact, I had the friendliest spectators parked right next to me. They traveled 1.5 hrs to come watch the races. They basically tail-gated the dog sled race (awesome!). On the tailgate of their pickup truck they had campstoves with gumbo and chili and they also had pie, rice crispy treats, chips, and beer. They were having a great time and asked a lot of great questions. They offered me food before my race but I declined as I planned on running A LOT with my team. But as soon as I was back to the truck and had water to my dogs, they came over with all sorts of food for me!



Finally our race time came. The dogs were lined out, led to the chute (where Jig about peed her pants due to the number of spectators) and we wert off. They were fast and ready to run.

  

About 1.5 miles down the trail we caught Kim and Nonna’s teams. It was narrow but we passed. They hung tight to us for another two miles where my team had to stop multiple times for bathroom breaks. We were passed, then we re-passed but Nonna’s team finally passed us again and I decided to hold the team back and follow into the finish. Once the times were posted I was surprised to find we were in 2nd!!!! One minute 8 seconds behind Dan Hanks’ hound team (very big deal). Especially given the warm temperatures, that was an amazing run for my team.

That evening we had dinner with the race organizers at the Elkins restaurant and had a great time sharing stories and laughs. The next morning, I managed to stay calm and focused. We had a good lead on 3rd place so as long as we had a clean, smooth run, we should be able to hang on to 2nd. Day 2 was cooler and, Superbowl Sunday, so we did not expect as many spectators but I still decided to switch Jig out of lead for Buck, give her a break from the major stress and let her just run. This was a hood decision as the team ran faster. They started us in order of fastest to slowest and we did not encounter anyone on the trail for day 2. After two days of racing the team finished in 2nd running the combined 9.4 miles in under 1 hr (52 min 22 sec).

Super impressed with these dogs. We had so much fun!

The drive back was stressful as a large storm system had moved in. By Thompson Falls, the temperature was 20F with strong winds. All the wet gear and trailer parts had frozen. It took us 20 minutes to free the dogs from their boxes, after breaking and cutting away ice. I am very thankful to Valentina and Stefano for accompanying me. It made a very stressful drive easier and more entertaining, especially our 2 hilarious and fun hours of playing 20 questions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A near tragedy turned miracle

Last Sunday the team and I, with our friend Sonya and her huskies, went up to the Lubrecht Forest (where we are hosting our first dryland race on in November) for a training run on the trails. After we were going to make the signs for the race.

My team had never run the trails before. The plan was, I was to run a 4-dog team followed by a canicross with Buck. Sonya was going to bikejor with Flier and her dog, Kaya, then a bikejor parade of the seniors, Tensaw and her dog, Sepp.

Sonya took off with Kaya and Flier. We gave them a few minutes head start. Then I hooked up Whip and Jig (in lead) and Isis and Buzz (in wheel). When I released the snub-line, it caught. The dogs had gotten a few feet of momentum before the cart abruptly stopped. Unfortunately, my aging bungee could not take the strain and it tore. To my horror, my 4 dogs took off without me. That was the most helpless feeling I've ever felt before.

Luckily, Sonya had her phone and we surprisingly had reception (we never had before). I called Sonya, she immediately turned back but did not come across the team. I took the truck and trailer up the trail, luckily the trails are roads, and I could do so. I had no idea what trail they would have traveled up. I drove the main loop road backwards hoping to run across them, they did not take that road but as I was driving that road back toward the start, the team came running down a road above which met up with the road I was on. It had been an hour and somehow they had gotten turned around (as far as I knew, the road they were on was not a loop). Miraculously, the team had not tangled but it was down to 3 dogs; Isis was missing. I thought the worst.

My three dogs noticed me and slowed but did not stop. They still wanted to run, so I drove behind them and gave commands to where I wanted them to go. Sonya was at the main intersection at the beginning and they were headed that way. Almost back to the intersection, I came head on with another truck so I lost contact with the dogs but I trusted Sonya would get them (and she did). I spoke with the passengers, informing them I was still looking for one dog and giving them my number.

After meeting up with Sonya, checking over the dogs, getting them watered and put away, I received a call that Isis had been found....ALIVE! They brought my sweet Isis down to me.

I am SO thankful. As I watched the team run away from me, I thought I would never see them again. I was most worried about Isis, she is noticeably slower than the other three. I didn't think she would be able to stay with them for long. Isis is still sore, a few of her pads blistered/wore and her muscles were worked harder than they had in a while, but she is mending.

Sonya and I decided, since Isis looked really worked, to abandon the second run, and head back to Sonya's house, just in case one of the dogs needed immediate medical attention. At Sonya's, the dogs relaxed and played in the yard while Sonya and I made signs. While the paint dried we did our canicross and senior parade. In the end, the day turned out pretty nice and the dogs had a good day (other than poor Isis being so sore). From losing the dogs onward, the day couldn't have gone any better. I was so happy to have all the dogs back.

I have learned from my mistakes and all my old lines have been culled from my equipment. Only my best lines will be used from here on out. I owe it to my dogs.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fall Season Line-up

Now that the fall temperatures are consistently cool for training it's time to talk about races!

I have been training all year long and am ready for a race or two!

We plan to compete in three dryland races around the region this season:
1) Oct 20-21 Run-A-Way Dryland race in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada (IFSS sanctioned)
2) Nov 3-4 Spokane Dirt Derby in Spokane, Washington
3) Nov 10-11 Western MT Dirt Derby Lubrecht Forest, Grenough, Montana (IFSS sanctioned, and hosted by the club we are members of)

Our racing team is rapidly shrinking, though, due to age. We are currently down to 7 dogs that run regularly (two of them, Tensaw and Isis, were not on my race team last year).

Here is the status on the team:
Buck is my strongest, craziest dog. He also is my canicross dog. So this fall he will not be on my 4-dog cart team. He is the legs of the team.

Whip is a strong, smart, little girl. She is a solid, important member of my 4-dog team. She is the heart of the team.

Jig is another smart, little girl. She also is crucial to my 4-dog team. She is the brains of the team.

Flier is my second strongest dog and also a great canicross dog for small events. He suffers from low thyroid levels and anxiety so he will not be my main canicross dog, a trip to Latvia for Worlds would be too much for him. He is an amazing athlete though, loves to run and is therefore a crucial member of my 4-dog team. At races where I do not run my 4-dog team (like Run-A-Way race, I will just be doing canicross), my mushing friend Sonya will run Flier with her dog Kaya in scooter or bikejoring.

Tensaw is nearly 11 years old and struggles to keep up with the rest of the dogs. He mostly only runs on slow, short training runs. Though, if we just want to round out a team and race, Tensaw has the ability.

Isis has never been fast but is consistent. She likely will be back on the race team this year.

Buzz has decided this season he does not want to run most days. Buzz suffers from low thyroid levels (corrected with medication) as well as seizures and I believe that has taken its toll on him. He will only run on days he wants to.

Tank is our biggest dog and his size is catching up with him. This January he will turn 8 but, he seems to be going on 11. He has arthritis in his back and, though his head and heart still want to run, he cannot do so anymore. He may go out on short training runs or canicrossing but I doubt he'll be competing anymore.

Okanogan is our oldest dog. She is 13 years old and retired quite a few seasons again. She is the mother of Buck, Buzz, Whip and Jig and taught them everything she knows. She was an amazing lead dog and imparted that natural and taught ability on her girls, Jig and Whip.

Looking forward to the racing!!!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Training Again

We have begun our fall training!

Canicross came first. At the very beginning of September, there was a cool enough morning that Buck and I ran some hill repeats. Obviously, my training has continued through the summer and the intense workouts started a few weeks back. People can handle the high temperatures due to our ability to sweat. Dogs on the other hand can only cool themselves through panting and the pads on their paws. I will not train my dogs in temperatures above 55 when they are in their summer coats (and even then it must be starting to cool down or be overcast). 

Then on Thursday night this week the temperatures dropped rapidly and I realized, we can run! So I took my top dogs (Whip, Jig, Buck and Flier) on a short, easy 3 mile run to see how they would handle it. They were excited!
4-dog teams are fun!

Stellar leaders!

Getting close up photos of your dogs is a tough job
Water break. During early fall training we take water breaks (small amounts) to ease into the training and to help cool them down.

This morning it was 47degF so I hooked up 7 dogs and we were down the drive! Boy it is fun to be running the dogs again!

Looks at these guys!! Ready to go!


The beauty of the Bitterroot valley mornings behind a team of dogs never gets old!






Monday, May 7, 2018

NWSDA 2018 Spring Fling - Canicross

The last weekend in April was our first IFSS sanctioned race in our bid to qualify for the 2019 World Dryland Championships in canicross.

To sum it up: it was amazing! 



I have heard Pacific Northwest mushers rave about Camp Koinonia (Camp K) as a magical place. I always thought it was a bit of an over exaggeration....until I visited myself. It IS magical. The trail system was beautiful. The camping area was great. It is dedicated to dog sports most the year. There aren't many places like it.

We originally were slated to run in the 4-dog sprint as well as the canicross. We ended up only racing in the canicross division. After work on Thursday we departed for my friend Vic's house in Spokane, to split up the long drive. In the morning two dogs (Buck and Jig) from my 4-dog sprint team had the runs but seemed fine. Luckily Sonya, also from the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, was coming through Spokane that morning. So Flier and I caught a ride. Cobey, the boys and the remaining 8 dogs went home. We were afraid they had a contagious illness that could spread to the other teams at the race. Eventually, no other dogs in our kennel were ever affected (including Buck and Jig's littermates who are housed with them). We suspect now that the rapid rise in temperature the day before travel combined with the stress of travel produced the symptoms. Either way, I think it was the best decision for the dogs. Thank you to my husband and boys who often get the worst end of the deal involving dog racing. (Thankfully, Cobey took the boys out camping after returning home, to soften the blow of a "blown weekend" for the boys).

At the race, Flier was absolutely amazing. Usually canicross races have a mass start but they had interval starts at this race. We started in 5th position of 6. Flier pulled hard the whole time and pulled even harder when we came upon other canicross teams. Flier is a competitive guy and does not like seeing any other dogs in front of him.

We finished the 1.5 mile (hilly) course in 8 min 20 seconds; the fastest of the 6 competitors. I was very proud of Flier. He worked hard and had beautiful passes. Also, he's really come out of his shell. He used to have severe stranger danger fear but he now allows anyone to pet him. That was great!






On day two we started first because we were in first place. That meant we had no one to chase. I thought we would be much slower because of that. But Flier and I must have pushed hard (it sure felt like it) because we finished in 8 min 24 sec!!! Only 4 sec off Saturday's pace!

Great shot taken by Mikki Douglass!!
She knows where to go to get the great ones! Not at the finish where we're spent....but at the start!




I was very pleased with our performance! Hard work does pay off!!!

Sonya and Sepp (13 yrs old) finishing the Senior race

I am very blessed to have extremely wonderful and supportive friends and family who all traveled several hours to come watch us race (for less than 10 minutes): Vic, Allie, my mom, dad, sister, Alece, and her two children.


My niece was very excited by canicross and loved Flier.

My niece also drew this wonderful picture of Flier and I racing!!!!

Old high school and/or college friends, Allie (left) and Vic (right).

Kaya, Sepp, and Flier had a lot of fun playing at our campsite

My hand took quite a beating....and here I thought just handling one dog would be easier on my hands
 A wonderful weekend that only could have been made better by my whole healthy team and family being able to attend. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible for us! One step closer to our goal: IFSS Dryland World Championships 2019!!!!!


Monday, April 30, 2018

Blue


ByDog's Blue


Adopted 2006 - April 20, 2018




This is going to be a long one.




Blue was one of those once in a lifetime dogs. When I joined the pack in 2008, Cobey had the
"Original Gangsters:" Kona, Blue and Tensaw. I was instantly drawn to Blue. She was regal,
independent, wild, and beautiful. She didn't need anyone but she choose to grace us with her
presence.






Cobey got Blue because she was a runaway. A very typical Siberian husky behavior. People are
not usually prepared for the heartache and stress they can cause. At the time, Cobey lived in
Missoula with Kona. He often took her to Dog Logic Doggy Daycare but on this particular day he
had not. He received a call from Dog Logic informing him they found Kona wandering outside. When
he got to the daycare he was surprised to find an amazing look-a-like. He told them he would find
her owners and he took her home. Eventually he found them and they asked if he wanted her, they
couldn't handle all her wandering ways. And she was with us ever since.




She got the name Blue because of hte Blue collar she was wearing when Cobey rescued her. It started
as "dog with the blue collar" and then "Blue" stuck. In the "early days" we often refered to her as "two."
Kona was "one" (the first dog), Blue was "two" (the second dog) and Tensaw was "ten" (for obvious
reasons). "One two and ten!" was what we'd say.



Blue and Kona were quite the pair. They had a close bond. For some time they thought their name
was Konaandblue. They often were found laying mirror image to each other.




















When Kona passed in 2016, it was hard on Blue. She was quite visibly affected by it. But she made
it through and became best friends with the barn cat Priscilla. It was an unlikely friendship for a husky.
Every morning, Priscilla would wait for Blue to come outside. Together they would walk around the
yard, making it down to the end of the drive each morning to see the boys on to the school bus.




Blue has lived in many places around Montana (Troy, Missoula, Hamilton, Corvallis) and even in
Tok, Alaska for a stint. She almost did not join Kona, Tensaw and Cobey on that adventure. Cobey
offered for Blue to stay with me in Hamilton when he moved. I couldn't separate her from the pack.
She had a grand time in Alaska, even getting the chance to chase a whole herd of caribou.








There were many times we lost Blue to the allure of 4-legged, sweet smelling, running animals.
The original gangsters went on many leash-free hikes. While 90% of the time we were able to keep
them with us, sometimes the drive of the Siberian was just too overwhelming.






When we moved to Hamilton we started to get into dog sledding. Cobey already had half harnesses
for the original gangsters and had them trained to pull him on his longboard. The first season we went
sledding, it was just the three dogs and Blue was the lead dog. She was a strong, capable, athletic dog.
The next season she retired herself, at the top of her game ;) While she was never a part of our main
racing team, she will always be known as our first lead dog.







Blue was very special to me. So much so, she got a coveted spot in our wedding. She pulled the

ring-bearer down the isle.




You will be missed and always remembered. You're my lead dog, Blue!