Last weekend, after a LOT of effort, we arrived at the You Yangs for another race - yay!!
My very big baby brother came down to visit, with two English friends. Small disaster, he arrived and promptly lost his car keys!! Fortunately, we were lucky enough to find them without too much hassle.
Drivers' meeting of course featured bib draw - its hilarious how often lucky dip leads to some funny moments - the first person to walk up to the tub said "not number one, not number one", stuck their hand into the midst of all the fabric and pulled out.... Bib one!
I don't mind taking first place in a run - Mischa will run regardless and Czar won't let his girlfriend show him up - but I was equally happy with a mid field draw. As well as running Mischa and Czar in two dog, I was also lucky enough to get a chance to run Chermani, Aust Ch Birindi Cheyenne Spirit, one of the lovely Snofall girls, in one dog.
After the drivers' meeting, we all watched the thermometers with great concern. It's been an unusually warm winter, but recent snow dumps in the mountains left us hopeful of a good run. Unfortunately, as we reached the start time, it was still humid, keeping the temperature right around 15 degrees. The night heat was cancelled, rather than risk dogs overheating.
The tourists were happy anyway, since we promptly harnessed Bolo and Frankie and got them out to do a short run.
Then it was time for pizza and a pleasant night round the campfire - my first time using our new fire box! It's steel, folds flat for transport, provides a wonderful atmosphere and beautiful light.
Next morning we got up and got ready to race. Czar and Mischa and I were careful to get completely ready BEFORE we got in the start chute, unlike last time. We took off really well and had already caught up with the team ahead of us when we hit the second corner. After some difficulty with this corner's deep, eroded gutter last year (difficulty = breaking a rig) this year the corner has had a "funnel" of bunting. Mischa finds the apparently solid wall of bunting intimidating and keeps wanting to turn before that point. Last time it was only a momentary pause, but on this occasion she tried to push Czar around the way she wanted. Czar, being longer in the leg, sort of stepped over her, knocking her around and twisting up their harnesses. I was already wide into the swing, calling Mischa around to where she could see the opening, so my gangling was now blocking others from passing, a stupid mistake. Somehow Mischa scrambled up and the dogs trotted through the gap, and we pulled up on the far side of the corner to sort ourselves out.
Its probably classic human nature that when you're stopped beside the road, some folks will stop and help and some folks will pass you by. Some folks will ask if you're ok as they whiz by, others will skulk past silently. As beginners we're constantly told, talk talk talk, communication is key. Some of the more experienced folks still hold to that, while others are so much in the zone that they just keep on by. After the race, I asked one bloke, who'd worried me, slipping through a tiny gap on the inside of the corner, as I was trying to coax my tangled dogs out of the way, why I hadn't heard him call out. He was proud of his dogs, his tone said, as he told me he'd just "slipped past". It didn't seem to dawn on him that my dogs may not have had such control, or that I might have appreciated a warning that he was making my situation harder. I guess it'll take me a few more seasons to get used to rules that apply to some and not others!!
After that, we ran on. The wonderful BV, who'd stopped to help me with my tangled dogs, was running Bo, one of the dogs I ran last year, and we leap frogged along the wide track, calling each others' dogs along, enjoying the space and the speed. Mischa was still powering along, but Czar was dragging a little. We came around the third corner and up alongside the creek. The trail is very sandy and Mischa was flagging a little. We passed another team, leap frogged some more, and rounded the last corner, ready to come on home. J was standing there calling the dogs on and they made one last push through the deep sand to come home. As soon as we got over the line, Czar immediately had a massive wee - the poor boy had clearly been carrying a very full bladder for some time!!
Quick turn around for one dog - Chermani, used to running in the big teams, was cool, calm and collected in the face of newbies, precious only dogs, and a few temperament-unknown rescues - the atmosphere was rather tense, and a couple of dogs were clearly warning others off. We took off smoothly and trotted cleanly the whole way round. I remembered to say "gee" and "haw" for right and left, phew! At one corner a new dog was standing, facing backwards, while the driver tried to untangle it. I stopped and asked: "go! Go! Go!" was the reply. Chermani looked a bit askance but we went past and the new dog quickly followed after.
One of the funny things about racing dogs is the 1/2 km marker. There are all these rules about passing for most of the race, but when you hit that marker, it's a free-for-all. It was after that final marker that I was passed for the last time, so I guess I can't complain. Actually, it makes me laugh. At the last corner, Chermani and I turned so tight, we were in the gutter. Suddenly there was a shout of "on your right" and a dog immediately appeared, closely followed by the driver. They were actually off the track all together, running over branches, leaves and undergrowth in their urgency to cut the narrowest line on that corner! I crossed the finish line and laughed at the other driver; "What was that?!"
So, overall, heaps of fun. The dogs and I were definitely challenged by our lack of training, and had fallen down the rankings a bit, compared to pre honeymoon. But it was lovely to be back out there, to see the dogs so happy, catch up with friends, laugh at ourselves and each other.