- oh yeah, and some dogs!
J and I took the six dog team that he'd run at the Wild Dog Derby: Ishka and Bolo in wheel, Frankie and Lync in swing, and Mischa and Czar in lead, and joined the 70 odd mushers at Dinner Plain for the Altitude 5000 Sled Dog Challenge. M couldn't come with us, so I have a few pics and vids of her fur-kids - including their first taste of snow!
With some 350 sled dogs, 70 mushers, and various handlers, breeders, family and the general public, it got pretty crowded in the little village, so we arrived as early as possible to find a parking spot for our car, trailer and stake out lines. Unlike most races, the big teams were not racing until the end of the morning on both days, so it was a long day. Saturday was grey and overcast, foggy and cold.
Now, this was J's first time on this new sled. It was the second time he'd run all 6 dogs. And it was the first time he'd run this trail at Dinner Plain. It included the S bends - a series of hairpin bends on a steep slope where part of the challenge was not letting the sled overtake or run over the dogs. When he came back, he was grey. The video from his helmet cam included a sound track of him belching and trying not to retch. The trail had pushed him and the dogs to his limit, physically and psychologically.
We returned to the village of Omeo for the afternoon. J spent some time uploading his videos and reviewing them with another driver. He decided that Ishka's leg was playing up and she wasn't fit to run the second heat on Sunday. He spoke to other people about the techniques for getting through the challenging sections. He figured out where he needed to pace himself and the team. On Sunday, we got up and moving even earlier.
Bright blue skies made for dripping trees, but much warmer and more comfortable for those of us who weren't running!
We had a number of friends help handle, some regular handlers and others helpful people who didn't know our dogs quite so well. One of them got his glove caught in Bolo's harness and you can see the glove bouncing around on his back.
This heat went much better. J paced the team better, braked more effectively, avoided crashing into trees, and came in feeling much better. He conquered the demon S bends... oh and yeah, and he rescued the glove!