Friday, January 3, 2020

IFSS World Dryland Championships 2019

In October, Buck and I traveled to Nybro, Sweden to compete for the USA in canicross at the IFSS World Dryland Championships. It was a trip of a lifetime and an honor to compete for the USA in the red, white and blue.

The trip there was long and difficult. Buck, the family, and I traveled to Spokane the first night and we stayed at my cousin Troy's home. The next day, we drove through the Tricities, where my parents live, and I dropped off the family (they traveled with my parents to Sweden), and Buck and I continued on to Seattle. The next morning an old college friend, Carley, drove Buck and I to the airport. We arrived a bit too early as I was afraid to miss the flight and I had never traveled with a dog before. I wasn't sure how long it would take to get Buck and I checked in.

Happy boy before we headed into the terminal

Check in did not take that much longer with Buck. He handled check in well and we were off to Chicago. Upon arrival he was slightly freaked out but no worse for the ware. We stayed 24 hrs in Chicago before our next flight. We went on multiple walks but mostly just relaxed and destressed. The next evening had a long wait between checkout from the hotel and our evening flight (6 hours to be exact). We arrived, yet again, very early to the airport and Buck balked at the doors. Clearly the flight from Seattle slightly traumatized him. During our long wait we worked on going in and out of the door to the airport. By the time it was time to fly, he was comfortable with the airport again. 

Appears to have recovered back to his attentive, jovial self after stage one of the trip.

This flight was long. I couldn't sleep much and was worried about how Buck was doing under the plane. When we finally arrived on the ground in Copenhagen, I had to wait 30 minutes for him to come out at the over-sized baggage claim. I began to fear that he had escaped his crate while under the plane and was running free on the Copenhagen runways. Right when I was about to melt into a puddle on the floor, the poor boy was wheeled out. He was ready to be out of the crate after 9 hours but we still had to go through customs before he could get out and pee. Customs was fast and smooth and finally we were outside and he happily relieved himself. He recovered incredibly fast from the stress of the flight, as soon as he got out of his box he shook of and was his happy self; prancing around and exploring the world. I did fear that he would never get into his crate again, but he held no ill-will toward his crate at any point during the trip, if anything he became more attached to it. It became his safe-haven that he always had wherever we went; his security blanket.

We weren't yet done for the day, though. We still had to ride the bus to the rental car lot and then drive to our apartment for the night. We were a sight on the bus: the dog, my bags, the crate and myself. It was a bit difficult but luckily there are many kind people in the world, very willing to help a stranger.

We in Copenhagen for the arrival of our family the next day and then, after one more night in Copenhagen, we got the heck out of dodge. (I have been to Copenhagen before, when I was younger, and if we had been there to see Copenhagen, it would have been a wonderful place to explore...but using appropriate means of transportation (metro). Unfortunately, since we needed the rental car to get to Nybro, it was very difficult to be in Copenhagen. It resulted in a couple parking tickets that frustrated the heck out of me...hence why I couldn't wait to get out of town).

Buck was EXHAUSTED after the trip. I've never seen him settle down and go to sleep so fast! He was a tuckered out dude!
Surprisingly, jet lag had not affected me much. My body fell right into Sweden time. We arrived in Emmaboda, Sweden (just outside of Nybro) early enough to give our bodies time to relax. We took a couple shake out runs and checked out the race course. The day before we were to race, Buck had his vet check. This was the most stressful part of the whole trip as, unfortunately, the only vaccination record which had Buck's microchip number on it was the rabies vaccination certificate and all vaccinations needed the microchip number. There was no definitive assurance to the race officials that the other vaccinations had been applied to that microchip (i.e. Buck). There were other indications that Buck was indeed the dog the vaccination records were assigned to, so in the end, the head veterinarian gave us a pass on our vet check. PHEW!

After the vet check, Brooke Kish (another US canicross-er) and I ran the course. Nerves had been building and were running high at this point. Jogging the course helped calm them somewhat. The course was beautiful but difficult.
Wow! The start chute of the World Championships!

Buck checking out the start-line.
That evening was the opening ceremonies for the event. The team met up near downtown Nybro and assembled into the alphabetical ordering of nations for the parade. We marched a quarter mile into town center, where the opening addresses from the IFSS and race organizers took place. It was a short but fun ceremony (and just awesome to be a part of ) but, once concluded, it quickly disbanded. Athletes made for their accommodations and focused on tomorrow's task: Racing!

Almost the whole team lined up and waiting for the opening ceremonies (just missing 3 teammates).
During the race week, we stayed a cute old farm house, which was apparently the first house in all of Emmaboda. That night I got a surprisingly calm and fulfilling night of sleep. Nerves did not over take me the next morning either. I was nervous but had a healthy dose of nerves. I had realized during our run of the course the day before, that what I did now could only hurt me. The work I had put in up to that point was what would help me and I had to believe I was prepared as I could be.

Arriving at the race course that morning was exciting! The race course was bustling with activity. The bikejor racers went out first. Dogs, bikes, and racers were everywhere. The start chute was narrow and therefore, only able to accommodate individual starts instead of mass or group starts. Therefore, since the course was short, those who started at the beginning of the list finished well before the last racer on the list started. Slowly, throughout the day, team USA teammates started their races and I helped them at the start and finish. It was a warm day and I was getting concerned for Buck. The saving grace was that the sun was clouded but during the 1-dog scooter classes (right before canicross) the sun broke through the clouds. I was concerned about the temperatures which were in the upper 50s. Luckily, before canicross the clouds covered the sun again and it remained at or below 60 degrees F.

Side note on temperature: Dogs, because of their form of temperature regulation (mainly panting, not sweating), are not able to run/work at temperatures above a certain limit. That limit is usually a bit lower for Siberian huskies than it is for short-coated breeds. Typically, I will not work my dogs in harness, in their winter coats, in temperatures above 50 degress F. When they're in their summer coats, I won't work them in temperatures above 62 degrees F. Though they can still work safely up to those max temperatures, they are slower. Siberian huskies really prefer freezing to below freezing temperatures. Most of the breeds Buck and I were racing against were short-coated breeds (mostly greysters, eurohounds and german short hair pointers). Not only are they typically faster and stronger than Siberian huskies but they have on average slightly higher temperature tolerances.

Canicross was scheduled for the last races of the day, finally it was time! I watched Brooke and her dog Charlie get ready and head out. Then Joy and her dog, Oso. Then Sarah and her dog, Lyra. Finally it was time for Buck and I!!!!

A race official checks to make sure the competitors are starting in the right order and that I have the proper equipment per the rules. They were mainly looking for a bungee line, no hooks or clips that could release unexpectedly, and that I wasn't wearing metal spikes in my shoes.
Buck was excited, we hadn't had a good canicross in days and now was his chance. The day one start intervals were rather long between teams (1 minute wait when 30 seconds is usually good) but finally Buck and I were off.

Right off the start line there was a short, steep hill. That one did not hurt nearly as much as the one a quarter mile in. It seemed that the fact that we were racing hadn't quite sunk in for Buck yet. As he hit that hill, he slowed almost to a stop and looked back at me. I responded, "Yup Buck, we've got to keep going" and he lined out and powered up the the hill. We looped back by the start line before heading out into the woods. The beginning half of the race had some rolling hills, which could easily be classified as more severe than rolling. At about the halfway point through the 4.8km course, we were passed by a racing pair. This meant they had made up a minute on us. While I was disappointed we had been passed, I was also thankful because what Buck loves even more than running is chasing and passing. We were able to keep pace with her and it gave my muscles a bit a reprieve.

Within the last mile we came upon a large hill. We were still busy chasing so the hill, though it was long, did not feel too painful. Halfway up the hill the team we had been chasing practically came to halt. Buck and I passed them and continued up the hill. In the last straight away to the finish we were passed by another team (which means they made up two minutes on us!) That was a bit depressing but we pushed through the finish strong. Our time was solid but not nearly our best. In the finish chute they check Buck's microchip to confirm I ran with the dog I said I would. My family and the rest of the team was there waiting for us. At this point, I was starting to feel that I had hurt my left hamstring pretty bad during the race. I gave Buck a good job hug and pet and we went back to the team camp, where I took care of Buck before the team took a cool down jog.

Nick Weis (our top men's competitor and best team USA finisher on the week with a 10th place finish) holds Buck while I catch my breath.

Buck is a good boy!

Heading back to team camp.
The cool down was really hard because of my hamstring, I struggled to even lift my leg and worried about my ability to run tomorrow. Luckily, my dad had brought along a muscle roller and I had some ibuprofen. That evening I iced, rolled and took my medication that night, and felt confident we would be able to at least give it an effort for day 2. Dryland dog events are typically two days long. Racers will compete two consecutive days on the same course. Fastest cumulative time is how the final ranks are scored.

Overall, I went into day 2 happy with our day 1 performance and hopeful we could match our time or go faster. The morning of day 2 was a repeat of day 1, I was relaxed but nervous. The day was also warm but not has warm as the day before, though it was more humid, which is concerning for the ability of the dogs to cool down. My hamstring was workable and loose enough but still very sore and at the forefront of my mind. Buck was ready to go and had it figured out that it was a race. He was very excited to get on the trail again.

Day 2 start orders can be organized a few ways but typically in large races like this, the fastest are out first and the slowest last. This meant Buck and I were the 30th competitors to leave the start chute in women's elite canicross, as we had finished day 1 in 30th place. The start interval time was also cut down to 30 seconds, which was nice.

Day 2 startline 
Passing by the startline again on day 2

While my hamstring was sore, once on the course I was able to push that pain away and just focus on Buck's running. I do love canicross, because having a dog in front helps to keep me driving forward, their strength helps but just their desire to run can be enough. Their effortless run and beauty draws my mind away from my own pain and gives me something to focus on and get into a rhythm. We ended up running the same split at the halfway mark as day 1. Unfortuantely, that is where our race days diverged. We never got passed (yay) but this meant no one to chase during the harder, second half of the course. Buck had a lot of drive on day 2 but my legs did not. Especially on that last long hill. We had no one helping draw Buck up the hill this time. While I gave everything I had, it clearly wasn't enough and we crossed the finish line 30 seconds slower than the day before. This eventually led to us dropping two places in the standings. I was hoping to move up into 29th but we ended the competition in 32nd.

I am willing to take a majority of the blame for our slow times. My training throughout the summer was just not there. I was suffering through a foot injury, plantar fasciitis. I did a lot of pool running, weight lifting, and cross-training (elliptical/cycling). I was hoping to balance getting in competitive shape, at the same time not aggravating my injury too much where I would not be able to train or race. It had healed enough to where I could run short/fast track workouts the last month before the race. I felt strong and in good shape going into the race but in the race I did not. I think I really lacked the depth of endurance and strength I would have gained from from longer runs and canicrossing during my summer training. Best I can tell, canicross is by far the best way to train for canicross and I haven't determined many alternatives.

After the 1-dog events there were still 2 more days of racing for the 2+ dog events. I helped our 2-dog scooter team to the line and one of our 4-dog cart teams. I enjoyed watching the cart teams run, as we also compete in 4-dog cart at home. The last day of the race concluded with the team relay. It was first described to me as organized chaos and oh boy was it! It started with a mass start of 13 canicross racers and their dogs (representing 13 nations), they each ran a 2 km loop, when they came through the finish line they transferred their dog to a teammate and sprinted down to the start line (about 50 meters away) and tagged their 1-dog scooter team. They took off and ran the 2 km loop. When they crossed the finish line the canicrosser was waiting for them. The scooter racer tagged the canicrosser who ran down and tagged the 1-dog bikejor team who ran the 2 km course and finished the race. It was insane and fun and very competitive. France just edged out Great Britian for the win and they were ecstatic! Mexico fielded a team but they had just enough people to run the race but not enough handlers. So Carlos asked me if I'd be willing to help him and hold his dog after the canicross leg.

Carlos from Team Mexico! It was great meeting him and so many other dog powered racers from around the world

...Chile, Argentina, Switzerland to name a few....

Canicross mass start for the relay

And like that the race was over.

What an experience and what a time we had! I couldn't believe what a good dog Buck was the whole trip, not just at the race! He learned a lot (but still not to walk on a leash). From a pup, I put a lot of training into him for pulling and canicross, and although sled dogs can learn to do both, I didn't put the effort in to train him to walk on a leash. On this trip I paid for it. Otherwise, he had a lot of "firsts." He walked his first flight of stairs, took his first elevator ride,  his first plane ride, his first bus ride, his first boat ride, and his first train ride. And he took it all in stride without much difficulty. He was scared of all the things at first but with time, patience, and experience (and treats, definitely treats), he was taking them like an old pro by the end of the trip. I am extremely proud of him!

Buck, you're a good boy!

Three special boys!

My parents help to get my family to Sweden and I was glad to have them along.

Last but DEFINITELY not least, this opportunity would not have been possible without the support and donations from SO many friends, family, and community members. I can not thank everyone enough but I have been trying! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart (and Buck's)!

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!!!!!