Once, several weeks ago, J suggested I take Bolo and Czar. It was wet, dark and slippery. I lasted just a few minutes, before I decided I was waaaay out of my depth and handed them back. But this week, he suggested we try again, this time with some more careful planning. Daylight, soft trails, the scooter rather than the rig, and J "riding along" in my headphones.
We started at the top of the hill, with a nice long straight as the first section. J held the boys for me and I took a deep breath before I told him I was ready. We took off fast and straight, and I kept the brakes on for a minute, hoping to stop the dogs burning out too early. They quickly settled into a wonderful pace, and we flew along. The trail was a bit wet, and the only unpleasant thing was the grit flicking up in my face - blerg!!
I'd been told to watch for the first corner, where a smaller trail veered off to the left, but I was distracted by a small tree that was down across the trail ahead. Fortunately as I looked along the length of the small tree, I spotted the opening to the left, and we were all sorted. Well, kinda! We got round the corner without a lot of grace, but then we were in amongst the trees. Peaceful, quiet, late afternoon sunlight slanting through the trees. The trail was soft and sandy, and the scooter wanted to sink down into it, so I was working hard to support the boys. Scoot, scoot, scoot.
The next corner was also blocked by a small tree, so I slowed the boys down and lifted the scooter over. J got back to the car about then, and it was nice to have company. I didn't have a lot of breath to explain, but he knew the track really well, and could quickly grasp where I was. As we went down the next part of the trail, I could see Czar's ears up and casting around as he lost focus, but Bolo kept his head down and pounded along. With the neck line keeping pressure on Czar, Bolo was able to keep him moving at a good clip.
At the bottom of the hill, we turned left again onto the flat and the boys were slowing down to a trot. Last time we'd raced here, this had been the finish chute - I'm not sure if they remembered, or if they were just getting puffed. I then had a choice - should I turn up the hill already, or continue on the flat? The flat was a small, winding trail through the trees, and I barely thought about it before telling the boys "straight on". I think at that point I confused J a little and he was starting to question his mental map of my route, but he was good enough to trust me and keep his opinion to himself. I explained that the dogs were slowing right down and he suggested that we take a breather, so we did.
The theory that J referred to was that it takes at least 45 seconds to a minute for enough rest to make a difference to the sprinting performance of the dogs, so I stood there until he told me that the time had elapsed. It was very strange, standing in a sunny patch of bush, on a shadow dappled path, listening to the dogs and myself pant. I wasn't game to take either hand off the handlebars and check the time for myself, in case the boys suddenly saw a rabbit and took off, yanking the scooter from my grip. So I just had to stand there. It seemed like a very long time. Peaceful, but long.
Then we took off again. Slightly better pace. Another left, and then we were out of the trees as we took a right along a dirt road. Then we turned left and were heading back to the car. I giggled as the boys disagreed about which side of the ditch to run on and ended up clunking heads. J got out of the car ahead and started calling them on. They picked up speed and strove to climb the hill. We got to the gate and I was all smiles and happiness, until J said, what happened to Bolo?
I had no idea. The back of his head looked fine. J turned Bolo's face towards me and it was covered in splashes of the brightest red blood. It was all over his face, his neck, his front feet and legs. It was even splashed onto Czar next to him.
We quickly unhitched the dogs and got Czar some water on his drop line so we could concentrate on Bolo. He seemed fine, just wanted to drink. We washed him down with all the water bottles in the car, and then some puddle water. No sign of where the blood had come from. Finally we found a little spot on the underside of his tongue, which was already starting to close over. Given that he'd been running with most of his long tongue lolling out of his mouth, it would have been easy for him to bite it, especially when he and Czar had bumped heads at the beginning of the last stretch.
Reassured that the scary amount of blood wasn't actually going to need another vet visit, we loaded the boys up and went home. I was very happy with my first run - no tangles, no problems and a good time. I think the boys were pretty happy too.