Race Day

I can’t believe it’s already December! We already had our first two races of the 2013-2014 season, and I guess you could say they went “fine”. 

Our first race was the Betty Carhart Memorial Race. It was cold. Now, when I say cold, I don’t mean normal, November-weather cold. It was in the teens, with a bitter wind all day long. A week prior to the race, I was in 80-degree Florida for vacation. I developed a pretty nasty cold when we got back. Let’s just say, eight hours in bitter temperatures probably wasn’t a smart move on my part. I felt like DEATH the following day, and didn’t make it in for my work meetings.

Our run wasn’t terrible, but it felt pretty disappointing at the time. We were second out of the chute, and the dogs took off like lightning. All three were running smooth and hard for about three miles. We caught up to the team that was first out, but I didn’t let them pass because we still need work on that. Plus, they run better when they’re chasing after another team.

At around three miles, Dexter slowed down and needed to poop. This was right before the toughest part of the trail, as we approached a hill. We lost sight of the first team, and the team that went out third passed by us. They provided a quick boost of chasing-speed, but that fizzled quick. We never got the speed we needed to finish strong.

Our overall time wasn’t terrible. We were about seven minutes faster than our previous training run on the same trail. We were two minutes faster than we were last year during a training run at the end of the season. So, I can’t really be upset. It just would’ve been nice to end the race as well as it started.

The Pine Barrens Dryland Run was the following Saturday, and it didn’t really go any better for the team. We were the first ones out of the chute this time, which I knew would be problematic. They still ran hard, but they fizzled out much quicker. Early on, Denali got distracted by some animal and tried to run off the trail. By the time I finally got her moving, the team behind us was in sight. They caught up with us quick, and after a messy pass (my team’s fault), they did keep a steady pace. I expected this would happen, and I had hoped to keep them in chase mode until the end of the race.

The last mile or so proved to be tough on Dexter, and I can’t really blame any of them for getting tired. They’re used to doing about two miles at a time. We got passed up by two bikejoring teams, which (at the time) felt devastating because there was a five minute gap between the three dog senior class and the bikes. 

In the end, our time was only about a minute worse than the first race, and those bikejorers were just really, really fast. 

Going forward, my game plan might be to run Denali and Knox in the sweepstakes bikejor class, then do sportsman for the three dog senior class. We’ll see how our training goes. I’m hoping to get out to longer trails more often now that it’s cold throughout the day. If Dexter improves enough, we’ll continue to run competitively in the three dog senior class, but I’m not counting on it. 

I feel the need to write a disclaimer. This entry makes it sound like I’m primarily focused on racing with the dogs. That’s not the case at all. I don’t really like races – they give me anxiety! I compete in them to support the clubs and to stay an active member of the mushing community. Mushing has the potential to become a very solitary activity, but I do want to keep the social aspect of it going, and that’s where races come in.

My real dream is to acclimate the dogs to distance runs. I’d love to take them out for hours at a time, over several miles of trail. For that, speed isn’t a priority. Instead, I need them to build up endurance and focus. They’re used to hiking several miles at a time, so I know this is possible. 

That’s all for now! Our next race won’t be until January, but I’m looking forward to lots of morning and weekend runs to come.

Jessica Kizmann

Dog musher, New Jersey.