Just like the last two years, we headed up to Dinner Plain for the Altitude 5000, Dinner Plain Sleddog Challenge. But this year, J wasn't driving a sled and a big team of dogs. He wasn't even competing. I was.... Gulp!!!
Not feeling brave or fit enough to run around with a sled, I chose to play to my strengths, and entered skijorring. Skijorring is where a person skis and has a dog or dog team harnessed to a belt. I've been a skier for many years, so I felt more comfortable about wearing boots and bindings than having to stand on sled runners and flip a brake and/or drag mat up and down.
There was one flaw in my cunning plan. Skijorring doesn't use proper skis. Or snowboards. For skijorring, a person has to use cross country skis. No, they're not proper. Well, at least in my world.
Actually, I love the idea of cross country skiing - swishing quietly through snowy forests, no diesel fumes, no rumbling chairlifts, no crowds... And doing it with my dogs makes it sound even better. But I am seriously lacking in confidence when it comes to using skis that don't have my heels properly anchored. Suddenly, instead of a slight shift in balance producing the turning, accelerating or braking action required, shifting my weight means losing my balance on these very thin little skis and toppling over. So I don't consider them "proper skis"... Yeah, I know, that's my own fault. But hey.
I did get to go out for a practice before the race. Smudge's dad came with me to keep me from getting lost or too tangled. We took Czar and the lovely Snofall lady, Chermani, with the intention of figuring out whether one or two dog would be the way to go. We took the village loop.
I discovered a few things. Unlike downhill skiing, where I've been involved in speed trials up to 70km/h (and I'm SLOW!), picking up ANY speed on those narrow sticks is TERRIFYING! I felt like I had no traction, no control, and I'm pretty sure I panicked everything I hit 7km/h. I also discovered that it took a lot of effort to hit 7km/h. Either from me, or from the dog. Fortunately, Chermani wasn't that interested in running - too many things to sniff. Czar was interested in running, but he did listen to me a little bit. And when he didn't, I discovered that falling over at 7km/h doesn't hurt at all. Unlike my feet, in those silly boots. How can a boot look so normal and feel so strange?
When it came time to compete in the actual race, I was lucky enough to acquire a pit crew, including a lovely friend who did up the laces on my boots for me. Which is just as well, because we were too far away to hear the 20 minute warning, and had to make a mad dash for the start chute. When J raced a six dog team, it took six to eight people to get him and the team to the start line, including at least one start chute marshall. For me and one dog, it took six people... And a start chute marshall. Oh dear.
(A big thank you to my pit crew!)
After a season and a half of racing, I was unprepared for the nerves that hit me at the start chute. I don't know if it was the almost-missed start, my sense of poor coordination or the crowds, but I was almost ready to throw a pink fit. I shuffled up and put my toes on the start line. Fortunately, the start chute marshall, a good mate, grabbed me by the waist, hauled me back til my ski tips were on the line, hugged me and shouted in my ear "bend your knees, lean forward, you can do this!" (He had to shout because Czar was busy explaining to everyone what his race plan was, and BV was kneeling next to him, nodding and listening to every word!)
To my very great relief, Czar took off smoothly and we able to shuffle out of the start chute without crashing to the ground. The race was quite wonderful actually. Less than a km, with one big hill, some gentle slopes and flat sections, and Czar and I kept up a steady pace. I managed to stay upright and enjoy myself.
I was delighted to cross the finish line and spotting some friends at the bottom of the chute, I waved and shouted "didn't crash!" That makes two races in a row!!! My friends cheered back at me, scrambled to get me out of my skis and take Czar and me back to the car for a drink.
I was really thrilled that we came in third, but sadly, there were no presentations for the one heat events. Never mind. I'm very proud of us anyway, my boof head boy and me. We made it!