Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'll tell them I found Jesus, that should throw them off

I'm reading this book called 'Lamb. The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal' and it is funny. Rarely does a book make me laugh out loud, but this one does and often. So, I guess my point is: read it. It's been around for a while and I've been meaning to pick up for over a year now. I'm glad I did. You won't be disappointed. Unless of course, you are religious and then you might be offended, but I think you'll still laugh.
Anyway, here are some snapshots from the top of the world and one blurry one from a tour we had on Saturday. Despite all my complaining about the weather (it's 33 F right now) we live in a beautiful place.

Heading home in the setting sun. Peter and Hazel (two of the original six Spitfires) in lead. Sneaky Pete is finally coming around as a great leader.

Jason showed me some new trails on Sunday. It's a shame because I won't remember them...I never do...

Top o' the World...or least it feels like it.

Coming down.

Rich and guests on a Saturday morning tour. We have been so lucky with great guests.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Runnin' down a dream...with a sore paw...

On Tuesday, Rich and I needed a happy distraction so we took out two teams for a low-key, 12-mile run. Of course, we couldn't catch Roy to tether him before we left, so he came along with us, running at first in front of, then behind, my team. Unfortunately for Roy, he had a sore leg after getting his ass kicked in a dog yard the day before. So about four miles in, he started hobbling along. I wanted to load him in the sled, but I couldn't catch him. He's one sneaky Saluki...or whatever the hell he is. He went the distance however and we got some funny photos of our micro-adventure. I also wanted to say thanks for those who commented on my last post. Your support is very much appreciated.
Here are pics.
DISCLAIMER: These photos suck, but remember, I was taking them from a moving dog sled...

This was at the start of the run. ROY: 'Tra-la-la-la...running la-la...still running...'

Roy slowing down a little.

Seeing how close Richard's team was...they were sneaking up on him...

Too close! Too close! Rich couldn't resist...In case you can't tell, that's Roy's ass and muscley back leg...

I guess I was going too slow. That's Hazel on the left and (yes, it's true!) Strider on the right in lead!

Headed home, still laughing about Roy almost getting run over. Capiche and Sneaky Pete were in lead on my little team.

Friday, January 15, 2010

They might be bigger, but we are never scared

Each evening, after feeding the dogs, we let Roy loose. He causes some barks in the yard but mostly just meanders around for an hour or two before throwing himself against the cabin door so he can curl up on his bed by the wood stove for the night. Last night I let him loose after Patty and I took out two teams on an uber fun run. Now, I don't let Roy loose when either I or Jason (our landlord with whom we share a dog lot) are going out with a team as Roy will give chase. I didn't think Jason was going out on a second run and hence, unhooked Roy from his post at the head of the yard. A few hours later, with Roy Boy still cruising around outside, Jason started hooking up his team. When you want/need to catch Roy, it's impossible. But as it happens, I completely forgot he was loose. Jason took off with Roy in hot pursuit. When I realized what had happened, I was immediately worried that Roy would get tired, fall behind and get lost. He didn't. Jason ran his B-string 22 miles and Roy kept up, even leading the charge at some points, for the entire run. He wasn't even sore or tired. Good boy, Roy. I expected Jason to be pissed when he got back, but said he actually liked having Roy running with him. No harm, no foul.
I've been pondering a lot lately. Pondering life. Pondering dogs. Pondering what the hell that smell is under the bed. So yeah, thinking about a little bit of everything, really.
I've come to some conclusions about life. Get your pens, folks, you'll want to remember this one.
Be happy.
That's it.
Just be happy.
I know, I know. You're asking yourselves why I don't write a self-help book. Well, I have. And here it is.
Be happy.
It's an easy read, really.
The point of this oh-so profound mantra is that while training has been going good, it's not been great. I lost faith in the dogs and they know it. It got to the point (this morning) where I had to say it out loud. 'This isn't fun.'
Running dogs, living off the grid, hauling water...well, I love it all. But the stress of trying to complete such a regimented training schedule, well, it's too much. For right now. Last winter was great as Rich and I weren't working (we had saved enough money from the summer) and just went out with the dogs. I didn't plan too much, we just mushed because it was fun. And when a race came along and the dogs looked good, we raced. I must interject here and say that even when we participate in 'races' we're not really 'racing.' Well, I'm not anyway. As my good pal Heidi said last night, it's more like 'competitive camping.'
I digress.
So this winter, I've been stressed about 'racing.' We can't afford it. And the thought of me being ready (mentally, dog-wise or financially) for Iditarod next year it just outrageous.
I'm not saying that Iditarod is not my ultimate goal. I know I'll get there at some point (the Serum Run, a non-competitive event that follows Iditarod trail, is also an option) but it's not going to be next year. I have received so much support since I started this silly blog and for that, I am grateful. But the dogs' happiness comes first. Like I said, I'll sign up for various races, but I need the pressure to be off for now.
I want to be confident and experienced and I want the dogs to work hard but enjoy it at the same time. I love running dogs. And I love sharing it with guests who come here for tours. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Run dogs for the fun of it!
Patty and I hooked up two teams (all the dogs went out) today for a short fun run. I walked into the dog yard with renewed confidence and the dogs knew it immediately. They were screaming to go. I need the dogs to be happy and as of late, they've been stressed simply because I've been stressed. But today was great.
And I can't wait to go again tomorrow.

Patty with the second team. Old man Bull and Hazel in lead. The had a lot of fun playing 'Kill Patty.' On the home stretch, they cut a corner short at a full out lope and flung Patty into a tree. Though it was just a scratch on her nose, it bled like crazy. Man, I wish I had cool injuries like that. The worst I've gotten from mushing is bruises on my legs and low self-esteem.

Roy enjoying some light reading.

Our babes. Linus, on the right, and Audrey playing tug-o-war with a sock.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Skedaddle with the cattle prods

Winter is rolling along here at Spitfire Kennels. We've had really warm weather and then 'cold' weather, snow and rain. The trails are fast and icy, but they are there and I'm not complaining. Our first race is coming up fast and though it's just a 100-miler, I'm still a little unsure. I'm going into it with no expectations, I just want the dogs to have fun and I want our two yearlings in training (Mr. Lahey and Bubbles) to have a great experience camping and running around other teams and on some new trail. We did a camping trip a few days ago - ran four hours, rested four and ran three - the everyone did great. Bubbles had a hard time settling down at the camp spot, but she eventually realized that everyone around her was resting and so, about an hour before our scheduled departure, she too rested. I had to load Sipsi in the sled on the way home as she had a little hitch in her stride, but I still haven't been able to find the source of her discomfort. I took out a team for a quick 20-miler yesterday before work and she looked better, but still not 100 per cent. She may be out for a while. Tomorrow we'll take two teams (we'll have to borrow a few dogs) on a five to six-hour run and then hopefully do another camping trip overnight on the weekend. The trails here are harder than I'm used to, but it's been great for building my confidence in sled driving. The day after our little camping trip, I was so sore, I couldn't believe it. I didn't drink much water out there and I'm guessing that's why although I did have a few spills around a tight corner and a creek crossing. The wind kicked up on our trip and we had to cross some exposed ridges which forced me to continuously wrestle with my sled to keep it from blowing down the mountain....memories of last year's GinGin 200 came flooding back though this time it wasn't half as bad.
Work is also rolling along and we've got several tours booked from now until April. Rich and I are getting a little itchy to get out of here for a side trip with the dogs, but it doesn't make financial sense as we have 100s of miles right out of our back yard, so we'll wait.
The pups - Audrey, Ty and Linus - have officially gone from cutie pies to obnoxious. They love running loose but in the house, they are terrors...still cute, I have to admit. They eat like alligators and are super friendly. Our other pups - Cinch, Alice and Ruby are also still enjoying puppyhood and are getting braver by the day. We let them loose and they run down the trail, sometimes gone for a while, but they always come back tired and happy.
Roy is Roy. Spoiled with the run of dog yard and the cabin. Old man Bully is still in the race team and has actually been leading for a lot of the runs. The rest of the dogs are in good shape and good spirits which makes me happy.
OK, not very interesting, but an update nonetheless.
Photos to come.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Yes, John Balzar, you can say 'dog tired'

The holidays have come and gone. Our Charlie Brown tree is still up and we're still eating homemade goodies. We had a great Christmas with friends and neighbours, did a few tours and got some good training runs in. New Year's Eve was quiet. We decided, after much deliberation, to stay in. I drank five Miller Lite's and 'fell asleep' by 11:30. Oh well.
It's still warm here but we're still training. The warm (like, above freezing warm) temps make running a little harder for the dogs, but the risk of injury is less. In fact, we've had no injuries to speak of so far this season. Sister's back end keeps cramping up, but we weren't going to race with her anyway, so now she's on puppy patrol. She runs on the tour teams also, and loves it. I'll do some longer runs this weekend and will camp with the yearlings for the first time. Should be interesting. Young dogs need to learn how to rest when it's time to rest, but they catch on quickly. Lahey has been a superstar in lead. Bubbles, Lahey's sister, is a hard worker but balks at snowmachines, glare ice and open water, so a leader she is not. Not yet, anyway. We run her in swing (behind lead) though and when we know the trail will be straight and easy with no obstacles, we put her up front for a short time. Anyway, our first race is the T-100 on the 23rd. The T-100 is a shorter version of the Tustumena 200. I want to race with the yearlings this year and figure a 100-miler is a nice way to ease them into it.
We're getting internet at our cabin next week (no power or water, but high speed, baby!!) so updates will be more abundant.
Stay tuned.