Rob's Blog Archive

December 7, 2014

First Sled Run, 2014-2015 Season










Getting ready for my first sled run of the season took a lot longer than I had planned.  Sadly, the unplanned time for the first run has also become something of an annual event.  After all these years, you’d think I’d do the same thing I did when I estimated how much time I needed on particle accelerators for experiments, namely make an estimate, then double it, but I don’t.   With the error, what I had initially figured to be a daytime run became a nighttime run. 

Of course, the good news was that, with the delay, more fresh powder snow filled in a deeply rutted trail.  There hadn’t been enough snowmobile traffic or snow to fill in the ruts from hunters’ trucks, so powder in the trench made running a lot more comfortable---actually pretty nice.  Four inches of powder make for a smooth ride. 

I had Shoshone and Prudhoe, last year’s two best dogs, in lead.  Shone had some sort of hip injury a few weeks earlier and still seemed a little hesitant to lope.  That said, as this run progressed, loping became more comfortable for him.    Lolo and Gaiya, the other two dogs who made my four dog Iditarod Trail Skijoring team, were also doing quite well, and Thor had been surprising me.  He’s usually been a little soft headed compared to some of his compatriots, but, so far this season, that hasn’t happened.  His brother, Tanner, may be having some minor physical issues---he did have “idiopathic vestibular disorder,” canine vertigo, and tested with thyroid being a little low.  He’s mostly over the former, now on thyrosine, and happily on the team, but his tugline is no longer taut the way it was two years ago.  Still, Tanner and Thor turned ten in June and anything they do is okay by me. 

Rounding out my so-called A-Team are the two little bitches Daisy and Sybil, who join Gaiya.  It’s hard to believe that, Daisy, who I got just after she turned one, is closing in on nine years.  With luck, we’ll still be on snow when she does turn nine, March 13. 

The good thing about the ruts was that they were wide enough to hold both runners of my sled.  Moreover, both Shone and Prudhoe figured out that the ruts also had a much firmer base for their footing.  Dogs usually realize this, but the distraction of leading often has them choosing less than optimum footing.  Shone and Prudhoe both went for the better footing and we settled on staying left---Prudhoe’s preference and Shone wasn’t going to quibble. 

With the ruts being wide and the dogs staying in them, the only issue I had was that I hadn’t yet attached my brake pad, and just used the claw brake.  I can do this while keeping my weight close to even on the runners, but that’s tiring.  Even the slight drag of the powder, along with my weight being on the runner opposite of the foot I used for braking was enough to have the sled veer.  In this case, the fact that the outer edge of each rut was high and powder had piled up against it made braking pretty easy---I just used my inside foot to brake, the sled veered slightly out and the runner slid softly through powder along the edge of the rut. 

It snowed the whole time I was out, though only lightly and I didn’t have to put on my goggles.  The temperature stayed a steady 25 F as my A-team and I knocked off a happy seven plus miles of sledding. 

Prior to this, our runs topped out at 4 miles on the ATV, though they included a couple of steep hills and we had done the run a bunch of times.  Nine miles, including more than seven on the sled, was a pretty good jump.   Happily, the dogs gleefully pulled up the last hill of the run, the one I use to gauge their minds and bodies. 

And, while I was closing the gate to the yard, everybody was standing.  Each season has good and bad runs, but if this first one is an indication of the overall trend, we’re off to a good start.  

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