Last weekend's SHCV race at the You Yangs was very cool, but there were two highlights that made it particularly memorable.
Firstly, there was the question of me racing at all. J was racing two of the Snofall ladies with Czar and Bolo, in preparation for the upcoming snow races. Neither Frankie or Ishka are available for racing at the moment - and realistically, we probably have to consider them both retired after recent events. A couple of people made suggestions about available dogs, and I was umming and ahing about whether I should be looking after Frankie instead of running around. But Frankie was improving in leaps and bounds.
When Team V offered me Bowie (as in David Bowie?), it just felt like a good match. Last year, Bo ran in a three dog team, but wasn't really keeping up - sounds a lot like Frankie to me. This year, Bo had run in one dog, but he'd picked up a tricky habit of trying to say hello to other dogs, in mid race. Not a good idea! The advice was to use my "teacher voice" - if Bo realised that I "knew the rules" he would probably be well behaved. Hopefully?
The other highlight was having my mum and dad come and visit. Until mid last year, my folks spent almost a decade living in NYC. Yeah, the visits were cool, but the distance was hard. Since they've been back in Melbourne they've been keen to be involved and spend time with my sibs and me. But it's much easier to watch a netball game in suburban Melbourne than it is to come visit a dusty, doggy campsite an hour away, so I was really appreciative of the effort. My mum is the veteran of driving to and from multiple scout and guide camps, and was brave enough to venture into the forest without calling for an escort at the park gate, so they surprised us by arriving at the end of the driver's meeting. Yay!!
Dad went out with J to see the trails, and mum and I walked around the campsite, waiting for the temperature to drop and the races to start. Team V were nice enough to get Bo prepped and ready for me, so I could spend time with my mum, and getting the boys ready for J. I was particularly concerned about Frankie's hydration, with the cortisone starting to play havoc on his thirst levels. But, there really wasn't much to do but chill out and chat to my folks. For all they've heard about dog racing, I think it was really different to actually see the camp and the gear and how we harnessed the dogs up to go out. They were looking at everything, and asking lots of questions. As we headed down to the start chute, I was feeling increasingly nervous! Was I going to do a Wile E Coyote and fall on my face at the first scoot?
Fortunately, not. Bo and I got going nicely, and made it down the first long straight without issues. Then we had a really sharp right corner onto a BMX trail through the trees. Actually we ended up one each side of the first tree. Oh well, no harm done. Out of the trees we had to pass through the Big Dipper, and I was proud to find a line that left me with minimal mud splatter. Around the sandy creek-side loop, we passed one other team, and were passed by the third team to overtake us. No problems passing at all, we turned into the final straight and made it home, with a very respectable 6 mins 45 - under the 7 minute goal I'd set myself.
Mum and dad hung around for the two dog, and we watched at the start and finish chutes together, pointing out the couple of German Short Haired and English Wirey Haired Pointers (excuse me please if I got that wrong) as well as the Alaskan huskies in their short coats. Small moment of drama just before the two dog teams went out, when J and I realised we'd both promised our scooter - to two different people!! One of the nice things about the racing scene is how happy everyone is to help each other out, and we had a number of people just starting to race, without yet having all the gear. We hurriedly found another scooter and got the two dog lines sorted for those who needed them. Once the two dogs were back, it was time to get ready for J to go out.
We were really thrilled that S&C from Snofall Siberians were happy to loan us Chermani and Layla again, so J could run a four dog team. We can't let Bolo run in a team smaller than three dogs, so without support from other people loaning us dogs, we wouldn't be able to give Bolo the exercise and stimulation that he desperately needs. However, the weather was against us, and it was really a bit too warm. After some discussion, the decision was made to shorten the 4 dog trails, to avoid letting the dogs run themselves into an over heater mess. DW and newbie JR helped us get the dogs down to the start chute, and watched them take off. Then I collected mum and dad and we headed over to the finish chute.
By this time it was completely dark and we got to speculate a lot about lights near and far. Was that a team coming at a funny angle? Was the second light coming faster than the front light? Who was the short musher approaching the finish with one, two, three dogs? Did the next team have four dogs? It was really hard to see. J came in with a very respectable 16 minutes, but the rest of the field was very very good. We knew we would both be heading out near the back of the pack, but with a reverse order start, that wasn't necessarily a disaster.
Before we got too worried about tomorrow, it was time to say goodbye to mum and dad, rub down some dogs and have some dinner. Shortly after that, J was deeply asleep and I wasn't far behind him!