Earlier this season, I had a terrible string of bad runs. I got lost, I fell off scooters, I broke scooters. I was lucky not to lose my dogs, as I think I lost my grip on the scooter every time, resulting in bent handlebars and a wrenched shoulder. I had a few good training runs, but also one memorable disaster where I was very glad I was wearing a helmet. I started to wonder if I was cursed. At the long weekend at the start of the month, I seemed to have broken that curse, achieving not just problem free runs, but great runs, setting two PB times in two days. Well, today I proved that I am not cursed, just really clumsy.
This weekend was the second formal race for the SHCV club. Once again, our Saturday night heat was cancelled due to... well, heat. (Is that as confusing as it sounds?) I was relieved, looking forward to a cooler, daylight run this morning. Actually, two runs, since a kind friend had agreed to let me run her dog in the one-dog class, as well as my own in two-dog. (She will say I was doing her a favour, running her dog, but I was really happy to have a chance to try a double event! Best kind of deal, everyone feels happy with what they're getting out of it.)
Because we were running at the You Yangs, J was in charge of trails for the weekend, a job that keeps him pretty busy, but he promised he would be there to handle for me for the two-dog race. Managing the track, corner marshalls and markers kept him busy until it was time to head up to the start chute. The scooter was already in place, so I felt happy with our timing - I hate hanging around the start chute with dogs getting worn out with excitement for ages. Once we got there, I realised that I'd probably miscalculated - we had only minutes, and only one handler. We got the dogs hooked up, lined out and headed into the start chute. I was struggling with my second glove as the count down started. Oh well. One glove it is.
At the last second, I had a brainwave - I'd toss the spare glove to J as I left, so it wouldn't get dropped, lost or run over by another team. We took off, I lifted my right hand from the handle bars, tossed the glove and promptly lost my balance, crashing to the ground. In retrospect, it was a stupid bloody decision - I have never been the sort of person who has found riding a bike with one hand easy, I just don't have good enough balance. At the time, I was busy being mortified and determined. J helped me up, we straightened the handle bars (again, I'd wrenched them sideways trying - and failing - to follow the golden rule - don't let go!) and I took off again.
Around the first corner, I faced my first attempt at the Mud Pit, a deep dip in the road, filled with water and muck. I gritted my teeth and trusted Czar to take me through ok.
Splish, splash! Mud in my mouth, yuck!! Ptew, ptew! At least we stayed upright. We flew on, past the scene of the Scooter Busting Crash. About 1 km into the race I realised two things - I could see two other racers ahead, and there was something wrong, badly wrong, with my right knee. We flew on.
We caught up with the next two teams before the corner with the most bunting I've ever seen. I'd heard about the bunting tube that had been erected at a steep corner that caused a few problems last year, but at the previous race I'd wipes myself out before we'd gotten that far. Mischa didn't want to run into the bunting, so she took unusual initiative, and tried to push Czar round the corner early. I called them back and we got round the corner before the teams we'd passed could catch up.
The next stretch was slightly downhill, so we kept flying. I could hear shouting behind me, back and forth between various teams, so I had to check it was addressed to me when someone called "...fore or after the corner?"
Oh wow, the last corner! I called back "after please" and urged the dogs round it. They took it beautifully and I called the team past. The last straight was slightly uphill, but Czar was keen to catch the team that had just gone by, so he kept the pace up nicely. In fact, we finished the race by leap frogging backwards and forwards, which revved the dogs up beautifully.
It was by no means a winning performance, but I was ridiculously happy with my puppies and their run. We were caught at the finish line by not one but two teams running hounds, one of whom was traveling so fast they couldn't go round us and nearly crashed into the trees on our near side.
It was a relief to get back to camp and get some ice on my rapidly swelling knee and some water into my tired puppies. Then it was time to turn around and do it all again with the one dog race!