AUGUST 2013 - Training is in full swing!
The race team's training is in full swing after the first couple of weeks training. Like many teams, during the hot summer months, the dogs enjoyed a phase of training we like to call RnR! You may be conjuring images from the movie Snow Dogs; huskies chilling out on the beach in deck chairs, clad with cocktails and shades, well, your not far off. ‘Active rest’ is the new buzz word! The dogs free run, swim and some join Mel in her kayak for a paddle, they are free to relax in the sun or charge around during a game of football, being athletes, they usually choose the latter, but the point is, they choose what, when and how much. Mid-August and RnR came to an end, both huskies and musher excited to get going with training. With the dogs bursting with so much testosterone and adrenaline fuelled excitement, Mel decided to split the team in half. A wise choice, as even with only a 10-dog team, the 300kg ATV with breaks locked edged forward under the dogs power. The first few 10km runs flashed by, taking it nice and gentle to loosen the dogs up, burn off that initial fire and get them back into the swing of training. A new training base, equals new trails, or more correctly means unknown trails. All summer Mel has been cycling every possible route, checking its suitability for the dogs and ATV or kart. Cattle grids we can overcome, gates we can ask for permission and keys, shallow rivers are good practice and turns and hills are a welcome addition, but unfortunately many trails that are otherwise perfect are foiled by a 200m section mid-way that is either marsh, thick forest or a trail so narrow and windy even the foxes get out their machetes. Never the less, after hours purusing the areal maps and bike carrying, river crossing, mountain climbing, jungle routing and about 500km of actual cycling, by August we mapped ample trails from 7-70km, with plenty of back up options should we wish to avoid things like cows, reindeer herds or moose hunters. One outing in August was flummoxed, after only 400m from leaving the dog yard we came to a reindeer gate that was for the first time actually locked. Maybe we had just been lucky before, that the padlock had been neglected. With reindeer fencing stretching for miles through thick forest, there was no option but to turn the team. On a 3m wide trail, with a team over 25m long and 10 dogs fired up and raring to go, it is both a difficult and dangerous option, especially with an ATV. Think of a train trying to do a 180 on its track, while the throttle is stuck in forward! Turning the dogs themselves is not the big deal, the dogs are well trained and by taking hold of the leaders and heading back past the team, they will pass; pair by pair so not to get tangled up. But doing this with a sled is one thing, if it flips as the team spins around usually your lunch is the only thing to get damaged. But turning a team attached to a 300kg ATV is a different story althogether, its not as simple as picking it up and flipping it, in fact the last thing you want it to do is flip! So with some Austin Powers turning skills and tying the team to a tree so the ATV is not under the dogs force, we head home, UConn who was in lead and has previously finished the 1000 mile Iditarod 4 times, looks at me as I unharness him after 800m, with a total look of ‘WTF’! That evening, after obtaining the key from the trail owner, UConn glances back over his shoulder at me with total skepticism as we charge up the trail for the second time that day, when we come to the gate and I call whoa, being the intelligent experienced lead dog that he is, he goes takes one look at the gate, looks at me with utter distane and goes to make another 180, without my assistance. “NO” I shout, “Line-out”, having jumped of the ATV, I charge towards him, he’s only turned the first two pairs, but he stops in his tracks, as I catch him and pull him back in place, giving him a telling off. He looks totally and understandably affronted. When I unlock the gate, I get a look of “well why the hell didn’t you do that earlier?” Of course he has no perception of a lock or keys, just that if I could remove the obstruction so easily why hadn’t I before, fair enough really. Just as it was fair enough that he believe he needed to turn the team. BUT, it was not fair enough, that he do so without my command, that is why he got the ticking off, he might be an Iditarod Champion, he may have thousands of miles more experience than me, I made a mistake earlier and caused confusion, of course womans perogative to inexplicably change ones mind does not work when training dogs, but, I am in charge, I make the decisions, I call the commands….now I just need Uconn to agree to that ;-)