One of the big highlights of our weekend in Dinner Plain was having both my brothers, and their lovely girlfriends, come and stay with us and experience their first taste of sled dog racing. We were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful cottage which was dog friendly, but quite a walk through the village to the start chute. This created a little bit of a logistical challenge as we had to transport two dogs, a sled, all the lines, harnesses and gear, water, bowls and other miscellaneous race gear, but also J's laptop and printer for his timing duties. Although Dinner Plain has wonderful trails, starting right at the top of the village by the visitor's centre, it does lack parking, especially for dog floats and trailers. We were going to need to get our gear up by foot.
Just as well we brought extra help! After a late night drive up from Melbourne, I'm not sure the boys expected to be woken up and asked to carry a sled up the hill, but fortunately they were kind enough to help us out. Having thoroughly enjoyed her dog-sitting experience a week earlier, my sister-in-law S was happy to help me walk Czar and Bolo. They were so excited that I was a little worried about S's arm staying in her socket, but she managed brilliantly, and we quickly got up to where J and the boys already had a stake out line. Already in place was lovely Layla, our wonderful loan dog from Snofall Siberians.
One of the beautiful things about the Dinner Plain races is that it is one of the few daylight races, and it was especially gorgeous on the snow under a blue sky! There is a beautiful space along the road into the village, with great gum trees, a play ground and tennis courts, between the Cattleman's Hut and the DP Hut. It was here that all the teams were setting up.
J had a great spot in the lovely space under the trees. Everywhere you looked, there were sleds, stake out lines, and dogs. Our visitors had a great time exploring the space between the start chute and finish chute, with its ankle deep crunchy snow. There were lots of members of the general public, not to mention sled dog groupies, wandering around watching the action and meeting and greeting dogs.
M&S particularly enjoyed meeting a lady who had an Australian sheepdog running in her team, who we'd seen last year with a complete Australian sheepdog team, all wearing booties. So gorgeous!
We got the dogs all sorted and ready to run, and headed towards the start chute. I had Bolo and M had Layla, while R was handling Czar. I was conscious that this was the boys' first race, and was looking around for someone more experienced to take over from them. Unfortunately, everyone was pretty busy, as J was going out in the 2 & 3 dog class, which was the biggest class of the day. We kept walking and suddenly, we were right in the start chute. Both boys turned and looked at me with a little bit of panic, and I sputtered out some quick but vague instructions. The timer was already up to the count down, so we called out the numbers and let go, and jumped out of the way. J was off to take on the S bends and all the other treats that the Dinner Plain trails have to offer.
J's trip around the trail was a good run. Snow coverage was better than it had been in several seasons. The newly made drag mat was very successful at slowing the sled through the steep S bends. In fact, it was so successful, that it caused big snow collections to form up between J's legs.
Last year, J ran a six dog team, and said he definitely noticed the lack of speed in a three dog team (some of us would say this is only sane!) this year, and he had time to admire the scenery. However, he didn't take time to stop and build a snow man with his extra snow, and he was back pretty quickly. In fact, his average speed this year was around 9km/h compared with nearly 11km/h last year. I'm not sure what that says about more dogs equalling more speed!