Our last SHCV race of the season is called the Cup Race. Although entries are open to everyone, only those who've raced a minimum number of times as financial members of the club are eligible for placings, and those who win are recorded on perpetual cups. My division, two-dog, is called the Charters Cup.
We gathered at a site called Longbush, near Bendigo. J and I were feeling a bit lazy, and chose to go up on Saturday instead of Friday night. In the end, it was again too hot to race on Saturday night. (I'm not saying it was hot, just that it was too warm for the dogs to run, risking overheating.) Next morning, the almost-Spring time early sunrise meant all classes got to race in the light, along twisting tracks, in gorgeous cool but sunny weather.
Looking at the twelve teams in the two-dog line up, Czar and Mischa and I were far from competitive. Many of the other teams had raced at the snow, raced since the snow, trained hard. We had, as always the best intentions of training, eating lean, but it'd been some time since our fitness had peaked back in late June. I was out there to enjoy myself, with two of my favourite dogs, so I wasn't planning on pushing too hard. It turned out to be a great race, with wonderful sportsmanship and communication between the drivers.
We took off smoothly, Mischa loving the run down the road, turning nicely into the rough forest trail, and starting to wind up the hill. Fortunately the first fast team overtook us heading up the hill, and Czar took up the chase. That team helped us take the next two corners, close together and tricky, and then pulled away in a sandier section.
As we closed on the next team, Czar and Mischa were starting to tire, and we had the passing conundrum. This is when the back team is keen to chase down the front team, but don't really have the fitness, energy or motivation to keep up their pace when they pull in front. So, we can sit behind, wasting energy holding the dogs back, or try to pass. Unfortunately, the team we were passing, a novice team in their first year, included Da Vinci. Da Vinci is a big red rescue husky, and he reminds me strongly of Bolo. Like Bolo, he sometimes lunges at passing teams. His driver and I talked it over and attempted one normal pass, but when I saw Da Vinci lean over his smaller team mate, I panicked and braked hard. Stupid move, it should have been them braking, allowing us to sling shot past, but I muffed it. We continued on for a bit, talking it over, and eventually Da Vinci's driver courteously pulled over, held his dogs and allowed me to pass.
A little later, a pair of fast teams came up behind us, calling out and I shouted at them to pass when ready. Again, I was really appreciative of the warning and encouragement from the teams - the second one called Czar and Mischa to follow them, but we couldn't maintain the pace. We continued to wind through the forest, some slow sandy patches, some tight turns. We were passed by another team, again giving good warning and a clean pass. Another team appeared and we chased along behind them for a while, enjoying the tow. Eventually they got too tired, and pulled over to let us pass, giving the tow back to them.
The last two corners, Mischa was clearly struggling, tired and not listening to my calls. The last right, Czar pulled her round after him, but the final corner was a left, Mischa's side, and she didn't listen when I called. Despite having worked hard all race to keep behind the dogs, keep my gangline straight, avoid blocking the trail, I ended up going round that corner like a total clutz. I ran around the corner in front of the dogs, calling them, gangline stretched corner to corner, until the dogs caught back up with me. Whoops!! Never mind, we trotted over the finish line comfortably.
After the race, we enjoyed sausages and giggles, as the committee ran a raffle and an auction to raise some funds for the club. Then it was time for presentations. This season, the sponsors for the club have been very generous, providing lots of prizes, product samples and sashes. Zilzie wines, Eagle Pack, Vets Product Direct and Vets All Natural, K9 Perspective, Taiga Alaska, Goldseekers and Dinner Plain Sleddog Tours & Snowmobile Tours, thankyou all for your support of the SHCV.
Can't believe the season's over!