Last weekend, J and I headed back towards Bendigo for a race being run by the Northern Vic Sled Dog Club. The weather was "really warm", as in 15-17 degrees, so sled racing was limited. Instead we had a canicross, which can be run at temps under 18 (I think). Now, some people think I'm nuts because I like skijorring, but running with a husky who really loves running and can run much faster than you, sounds crazy to me! I was happy to stand back and watch the younger, fitter and crazier folks head out with their dogs. Congrats to SB and Smudge who enjoyed a great run and first place.
On Sunday morning, the weather was just cold enough for us to get out and run the dogs. I took Czar and Mischa out for our second 2 dog race. The sun was just coming up, but there was no time to stop and turn off our headlights - when the start timer beeped 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, we took off. We wove along big sweeping curves through the trees, and then we reached the first corner. The trail curved around to the left, but I was puzzled. There was no corner marker, and a secondary trail continued straight ahead of us. I could see some bunting alongside the secondary trail but no markers. Without me really having time to think about it, Czar and Mischa followed the main trail around to the left, and I was relieved to see a blue marker ahead. (Blue markers mean "you've chosen the correct trail".) A little further along, I could see the team who'd gone out ahead of us. More relief, we were ok.
The team ahead of us, JW, had spoken to us at the start chute - she was running 2 dog for the first time, and running with malamutes. Traditionally, mallies are more pack orientated, and many people house them in male-female pairs to avoid male-male aggression, part of that ancient genetic need to be the top male in the pack. On the race track, mallie people often ask for lots of notice before passing, and will completely stop the scooter to hold the dogs by the collar while an unfamiliar team passes. I'm always happy to comply with people on safety matters like that, especially when people are honest about their dogs needs!
As I was coming up to JW, I realised that she'd stopped, not to let me pass, but because there was a car blocking the trail ahead. Oh no! We'd both gone the wrong way, and gone down the 1-dog trail. I turned my team around and we headed back the way we'd come, and JW's team pounded along after us, happy to have someone to chase. We regained the correct trail and found ourselves winding along a narrow, windy path - very fun and interesting, but technically challenging. JW and I shouted back and forth about the markers, working out our mistake, and then we hit another main road. We pulled away on the straight, sighting another team ahead of us - it turned out to be BM, who'd gone out behind us!
BM also had a team of mallies, so once I came up to her, I called out to ask about passing. I'm still learning to judge distances for these things - I was a bit close, because when she stopped and leapt off the scooter for the dogs' harnesses, I had to stop too. Once she was ready for us to pass, we went by, but the dogs were really getting pretty tired. The trail got sandier and slower, and the dogs slowed right down to a trot. I shouted an apology back to BM, but she replied that her dogs weren't going to do much better if she passed me back, so we just kept going. Around the final corner, we hit a firmer patch of trail, heading downhill and spotted the finish line. The dogs found a new burst of speed and took off. The poor things had run nearly 5km, but I was so proud of their finish line style - go Czar-zar and Moo-moo!!
After the race I took Bolo out for a little spin on the back trails, on his own. He loves it so much! J got back from taking pics just in time to snap us coming down the hill into camp, and the look on Bolo's face was so happy!
It was a great weekend with the NVSDC. They are a newer club, but their team work and organisation was excellent. They were kind enough to award me a Hard Luck award! Maybe they should rename it the Where Am I Award?