Racing at the You Yangs - part 1.

Before an SHCV race, we have a bib draw, where everyone pulls a numbered bib out of a large tub. There's a bit of debate about whether its better to start early, middle or late in the order, and most people have their own preferences. Some dogs like to chase and do better with someone in front, others just run for joy and are happy no matter what.
I've definitely found that, as our dogs are used to racing in a big team, that they tend to be a little too relaxed in one-dog. They really perk up when they see someone else on the track. So when CMac started calling "number one, number one" as I walked up for the bib draw, I was dreading a run with a dog who had no one to rev him up. And, Murphy's Law, I pulled number one out of the tub. I told CMac she'd cursed me. She giggled hysterically. Humph! ;-)
In actually fact, CMac was racing herself - usually she's parked beside the trail behind her camera, but last weekend she was racing a Snofall two-dog team. Perhaps she just wanted someone to share the nerves? Either way, it was great to have her join in the fun - and she still found time to capture a pic or two of my one-dog race - yay!!
As for J, he was busy being trail boss for the weekend. For many years, the You Yangs was his home training ground and he knows the trails really well. Especially since the night the dogs broke the gangline and ran loose around the forest for two hours. That night poor J walked and drove every trail in the park, but on Saturday he got up and drove them all again, mapping out all the options and trying to come up with the best trails possible,
Excitingly, our friend M had come out to visit, bringing her fluffy Lync and boisterous little Mischa with her. It was a great relief to have someone who knows our dogs so well handle for me. In fact, it was M who first taught me how to handle! We got Czar harnessed up, and down to the start chute, straight up to the line and ready to go. The sun was gone and the light was fading.
Immediately behind me was SHCV Race Coordinator B, and I took heart that he would probably pass me quickly and give us a "tow". But I was also resolved to scoot hard, having watched some videos of my heats at the NVSDC Classic and realised that I was scooting a lot less than other people. So I took off hard, and Czar made his usual mad sprint out of the start chute. We made it down the wavy, leaf littered first stretch and around the tricky first corner. I was scooting and scooting, and finding it much easier to maintain a consistent pace with Czar running well than with Frankie stop-starting on the hills at home, but we were starting to loose pace on the soft sandy soil. B started to catch us in the second stretch, and when he passed, Czar gave chase.
The straight section along the north edge of the forest was a bit of a challenge, because the camp site sat to the south of the trail, right in the middle. Previously this has been a finish line, allowing teams to turn into the camp and head for home. But some crazy trail boss had decided to have the trail run past the normal turn off and make another loop out to the west before returning to the southern end of the camp. Wonder who?! I was worried that Czar wouldn't listen to me say "straight on!" but would insist on turning for home.
By that point we had been passed by B and another team, so Czar was in full chase mode. I don't think he even saw the camp site. I heard the Snofall girls call out my name, but didn't dare look over. B's dog Bo wanted to investigate the other team that was passing, so B paused and pulled the gangline in, to prevent the dogs interacting. We took advantage of the moment and the downhill slope and shot past, with Czar reaching for greater and greater reserves. I was so thrilled to see him still increasing his speed just over half way through the race. It encouraged me to keep scooting and scooting.
The next couple of corners were soft and sandy, and I really struggled to make a clean turn, loosing pace as the wheel skidded and bogged into the soft trail. As we headed for the finish chute, B overtook me for the final time, and we crossed the line with a time of 6 mins 20. This put me in 9th place of 15, and I was really chuffed with that effort, knowing how competitive and well trained many of the other teams in the one dog competition were.
M and I took Czar back to camp for a well earned rest. It was time to get CMac and the Snofall teams ready to go, and we quickly sorted out scooters, lines, gear and harnesses for everyone, before we headed down to the trail. Poor CMac was really feeling the butterflies and confessed to me that it was her first night run. She was pretty brave, and the wonderful Snofall ladies, Chermani and Layla, took great care of her, producing a time of 13 mins 23. They were just slightly slower than their grandchildren, Charlee and Tig, who ran a very good time of 12 mins 19. Impressive, since they are still learning their turns and how to stay on the trail.
The big Snofall team went out with five dogs in the third class of the night, including Charlee and Tig's mum Molly. Despite some trepidation about the trail, they had a good time. Not as good as the Alpison team, whose musher was raving about how much fun her run had been, when she came back! Maybe that trail boss wasn't so crazy after all?
Either way it was time for dinner and an early night, before we had to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

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