The second day of racing with beautiful Bo had some fresh challenges.
One was very mundane, trying to manage Bo's bladder and bowel functions around times that were convenient - that is, any time not during the race! The V family kindly let me spend some time with Bo before the race, and I took him on the leash around several trees. He happily cocked his leg, but didn't squat for me. Instead, within seconds of leaving the start chute, poor Bo needed a toilet break. In the 1000 mile Iditarod, the best dogs will be able to keep running, but in races that only last ten minutes, an Australian dog will rarely be conditioned to not stop and squat.
The second challenge was with my own brain. Bo, unlike J's dogs, is used to "gee" and "haw" for his corners. My da had written the words on the correct hands and I'd been really focused on using them correctly on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning, I was struggling! Not to mention still trying to figure out when was the right distance to give the commands. This was especially important for this race, where the trail wasn't entirely on clear, wide roads, but also a narrow BMX track. When I made the call "gee!", Bo jumped the ditch and started trying to chase the dog he could see on the next section of the trail. Unfortunately, he went to one side of the tree on the corner of the track, as I started to go to the other side - whoops!!!
The third challenge was with passing. T and I had come home on the Saturday night with exactly the same times. I got sent out 30 seconds in front of him, and when Bo stopped for the toilet break, T and husky Summer passed us. Bo was busy, and we were stopped, so it was a clean pass. After the BMX trail, T and Summer got stuck at the next corner, and we passed them again, without issues. But once they got back on the trail, we both had issues getting a clean pass. Summer would pull T past me, but then stop to sniff bushes before getting any distance ahead. Then I would try urging Bo, who was keen to chase Summer, but was more interested in trying to play with her than in running in front of her. Once we got in front, Summer would be back on our heels and the cycle would repeat. In retrospect, I realise that I probably should have held Bo back a bit more, at least according to a strict interpretation of the ASSA rules on passing:
Instead, Summer and Bo leapfrogged, taking turns to run in lead. Although Bo never made contact with Summer, on a couple of occasions, especially when we were passing her and TP, he did attempt to run over to her instead of past her. This is strictly against the rules, and many people complain about their dogs getting put off racing, due to the shock of having another dog lunge at them. I did my best to call Bo on, and he obeyed me, but my lack of experience in pre-empting him made it a struggle.
When we got to the finish line, T and Summer made a final surge to pass us. Bo rushed towards her and I slammed on the brakes to stop him. Starting to topple over, I jumped off the scooter with both feet, and scraped my ankle against the footplate. Ouch! Not the most graceful way to finish, but at least I didn't fall on my face in front of everyone waiting for us at the finish line!
My overall goal for the race was to achieve a time under seven minutes for each heat. For the Saturday night heat, I managed 6:47, but in the morning, I was slightly over with 7:15. I was pretty happy with my performance, but the field was very competitive, so I didn't place. It was a great learning experience and I am so grateful to Bo's people for letting me run with him!
Preparing for next time:
- keep working on my fitness!
- figure out how far 15m is!
- practice slowing the dog when we're being passed by another team.
- practice stopping!!!!! Without falling over!!!!