Rob's Blog Archive

February 24, 2013











Between working Race to the Sky and a virus that is still lingering, great plans of skijoring into the wilderness are on hold.  It’s been two weeks since the dogs ran and a week and a half since I skied---I’m probably closer to being in shape than they are, but not by much. 

So starting this week, we are all getting a proverbial “do-over.”  The good news is that, at least around here, the snowpack is solid.  If nothing else, I’ll be able to sled, ski, and skijor for at least another month. 

The word on other parts of the state is the snowpack is okay, but I’ll see.  I have to head east of the divide to pick up some dogfood, so I’ll have a chance then to check out the conditions there.  The odds of my skijoring into the Bob Marshall Wilderness with a couple of dogs have dropped, but they’re not quite dead yet. 

While the bug has kept me from sledding or skiing, I have been able to let the dogs do yard time, so they haven’t complained too much about hanging around rather than working.  It’s not sledding for any of us, but it’s still a chance for them to run and wrestle, and they do both.  They’re not in terrible shape.

But the bottom line is we are going to have to work back into the conditioning we had.  Actually, I should be more specific:  I’m in better shape than I have been at this time of year for a long time, even with the bug.  I’ll be a little “cold” during my first couple of times back on the boards, but that should be the worst of it.   The dogs, not so much.  We had built up a great base during the early fall and I had counted on that conditioning lasting and it really didn’t. 

In all fairness, I do have to attribute some of this to the ever increasing age of my kennel---the heart of it, dogs like Tempest and Jake are now ten and a half.  Even the summer pups, Tanner, Thor, Lolo, Shoshone, and Sybil are all eight.   The only dogs really in their prime are Daisy and Zappa---Zappa is six and a half and Daisy will turn seven in a few weeks---and Prudhoe, Kennicott, and Gaiya. The first two turned five and Gaiya is three and a half. 

Of course, particularly with the age being a major factor, I’ve been more pleased than not.  We’re not doing 10 mph runs with everybody like last year, but my two thirteen year olds’ gaits are magnificent for their age.  And while my two eleven year olds, Fondue and Quid, are not what they were when they were young, their grace in motion remains as apparent as anybody else in the kennel.

So, starting Monday, we will go off and do shorter runs.  Happily, as smooth as 180’s have been in the past, they are again better this year.  I don’t have a team that will do a come-haw ----the command to turn around---but they’re really close.   There’s only very slightly more likelihood of them getting into a tangle from the 180 than there is at the start of the run.  With this, I can run any length I want.    

With the ability to run lengths based on how the dogs are doing, methodically getting the team into good shape again---they were in great shape in October---should be straightforward.  One of the things I bring to mushing is a long history of training myself for endurance sports.  I was co-captain of my college wrestling team, have been summiting mountains since high school, started x-c skiing and Taekwon-Do while in grad school, and even competed in a few 10k running races.  When I started mushing, it was skijoring and when I was in midseason condition, a hard day was five miles of skijoring in the morning and ten of skiing in the afternoon, a five and ten.  I had to understand conditioning to get there. 

That understanding translates well to dogs.  The big difference is that with a person, I can say, you’re a little sore now, but it will go away.  With the dogs, particularly Siberians, that soreness will have them hesitating a little for as long as a month.  Once I take this into account, both by watching distances closely and doing things like letting them have yard-time to warm down nicely, we’re all good.    

So, we’re going to start with a couple of relatively shorter runs and see how the dogs do from there.  And as for me, I’ll also be seeing where I am.  Prior to “going down,” I was getting close to moving at a consistent 5 mph on backcountry ski gear for close to ten miles.  With a little luck, I’ll be back to that in something less than a week. 

Just now, it’s snowing.  While we haven’t had a ton of snow in February, it’s snowed almost every day and we have a pretty good snowpack for this time of year.  We actually had a couple of runs last year where, for 16 miles of sledding on hills, everybody averaged more than 10 mph.  Unless there’s a miracle, that’s not happening this year.  Oh well. I still have 22 healthy dogs and we live in a place and with a life style many people envy.  With this, I can cope with a do-over.

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