The Advanture Begins

I initially titled this post "Step One: Buy a Van" but that's hardly been the first step in this long process. After months of research, lurking forums, and scouring Craigslist, I finally bought a van. The next step was getting the van insured and registered so I could get her from Long Island to New Jersey. Aside from a few MVC hiccups, things went smoothly, and now this beast resides on my little dead end street.

She is a 1989 Ford E-150 Econoline Club Wagon... a "Starcraft" model, apparently. Sticking with the space theme, she will be dubbed the Lunar Rover, or Rover for short. OK, I actually chose the name "Rover" months ago while watching The Martian. But she is a spaceship and it fits.

The interior will need some remodeling to accommodate myself, dogs, and camp gear. Luckily, I am not starting from scratch with a contractor van, so things like insulation and wall cover will be at a minimum. The second and third row seats will be yanked out, along with the carpet. Although it's in decent shape, it won't bode well with dog hair. Everything else about the van's body is basically pristine.

My favorite part of the van is the wood dashboard. It has a lot of character and it's been kept clean, despite being nearly 30-years-old. Some fun additions: musical horn, GPS, fan, and a lucky penny thermometer from Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

I haven't had too much time to work on her yet. So far, I've removed some of the old electronics (VHS and CD player; TV is putting up a fight) to make more storage space. I also took out all the wooden cup holder/ash trays, since I won't need them. Removing the seats is the next big step, but it'll require another human or two.

I've got a roof rack and other goodies on the way (my Amazon wish list is starting to actualize). There's plenty to do, so here's hoping she holds steady for at least a few years.

Stay tuned for progress updates!

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Van Ambitions

I love my Mariner, but it's just a little small.

Since the end of last season, I've been on the prowl for an additional mushing/all-around adventure vehicle. The goal is to find (or build) a van with some basic camp necessities: stove, sink, storage, and a bed. Plus it will need room for containing the dogs and all our mushing gear. While I love camping, the ease of rolling in and out of a spot without all the setup and breakdown is a big draw for me, especially when I'm looking for different trails to run. One end goal is to drive out to mushing spots late at night, wake up to run, then work from a mobile hotspot all without leaving the woods.

My first thought was a Volkswagen Westfalia. They fit all the requirements and the pop-top would allow me to sleep above the dogs. I spent several months stalking Craigslist, checking forums, ogling Instagram feeds, and collecting photos of about a dozen Westies I saw in California. I started learning to drive stick so that I could broaden my range of possible vehicles. I also read a lot of horror stories about these vans spontaneously catching fire and rolling into buildings.

 A Volkswagen Westfalia

A Volkswagen Westfalia

Despite loving how these dumpy little vans look, I hit a turning point. There's a reason very few exist in the Northeast. The model I like is 30-years-old. Snow, salt, and humidity would certainly eat any Westy I brought back to Jersey. Westfalias aren't cheap, either. I couldn't justify spending almost $20K on a van that I could possibly ruin. Oh, and the pop-top is not much better than an ordinary tent and creates condensation throughout the vehicle in cooler temperatures. Gross.

So, the Westies are out.

I decided to shift my focus to a conversion van, which are plentiful and cheap. I'll need to build out the interior to fit my needs, but it's a task I think I'm up to. My first run through of The Vanual made me shy away from a project like this, but it seems to be the best option.

Step one, find a van. I'm hoping to land something like this:

 1989 Ford E-150

1989 Ford E-150

In fact, there's a possibility I'll get the van in this picture, if things work out. If not, there are plenty others. The Ford Econoline series seems to be my best bet, and I'm not against buying a beat up old work van. The high top conversion "camper" type would require less work, though. Chevy and GMC make almost identical models, so like I said - there are plenty of these things out there.

Step two, gut it and build. I plan to take everything out of the back and put down more dog-friendly flooring. Next, dog crates built under a bed frame. 

After that, I'll have to construct some kind of cabinet to (hopefully) hold a small sink, camp stove, and some sort of cold storage (either a cooler or small fridge). The sink will likely be the trickiest part, as I have no idea what I'm doing, but there are plenty of DIY instructions out there.

Beyond that, there's a lot of other neat campervan upgrades to make, like solar panels and roll out awnings. There should be plenty of little nooks and crannies that I'll optimize for additional storage, too. I've already purchased a roof cargo box for mushing gear, since it tends to be muddy and hairy and not something I want inside any vehicle.

 Whoops, I bought a coffin.

Whoops, I bought a coffin.

I have a long way to go before this will come together, but I'm mapping out a lot of steps and I think I'm on a good path to have this actualized before the end of this season.

Let the advanture begin.

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And It Begins

Our mushing season generally ends in May, when temperatures stay consistently warm. We don't start back up again until September (or October, like after last year's hellishly extended summer). The downtime only lasts for roughly three months, but it feels like an eternity. Especially towards the end of August, when mushers in colder parts of the world start their training and it's still 90 degrees in New Jersey. Serious mushing FOMO. 

This year, I am lucky enough to crash a stronghold in Pawling, NY. This puts the dogs and I two hours north of South Plainfield, where it's been consistently colder. So much colder, we were able to start our season off the day before Labor Day.

I'm still figuring out where we can run around Pawling, but a hot tip put us out near the nature preserve at roughly 6 AM. My weather apps couldn't come to a consensus, but all approximated it was somewhere around 50 degrees. Out in the darkness of the woods, it felt even colder. (Side note: thermometer ordered)

This trail is actually a (mostly) gravel road with very low traffic, in between the preserve and a few residences. I can get about seven miles total (out and back), but we started off with a brief 2.6 miles. I didn't want the dogs to over do it on their first run and the return trip was somewhat uphill. 

The dogs did great for their first time out in months. Dexter is still managing to keep up with the speedy huskies, though just barely. I had to ride the brakes a bit to keep them from going too fast. That said, I want to keep their pace steady so they don't burn out too fast. 

I'm so impressed by how Willy's turning out. She runs like a tiny rocket. Five-year-old Knox and Denali are as solid as ever. Denali easily turned the team around at the halfway point, despite having never run this trail before. I'm always grateful for her "come-haw" command.

I'm looking forward to running more this season. Though the next week or so looks a bit too warm, I'm hoping we can sneak in a few more early mornings before October. I have big plans for a mush-ready adventure van and exploring new trails, with a season goal of over 200 miles by spring. Let's roll.

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Season Wrap-up

The 2015/2016 mushing season is wrapping up now that warm temperatures have been rolling in.  We might still have a few cool mornings left before I pack up the gear for the summer, but for the most part, we've transitioned into hiking mode.

This season had a lot of milestones for my little team. The biggest was definitely the addition of Willow and transitioning to a four dog team.

 
 

We competed in two races this season: the Mt. Misery Mush on bike and the Betty Carhart Memorial Race on the rig. I'm not a very serious competitor, but I'm proud of how well the dogs did in both races.

This season I finally caved and bought an Arctis Cart. Aside from the obvious perks of being more easy to transport and safer to run, its detachable jump-seat allowed me to share this weird hobby with more of my friends. 

Denali and Knox ran a total of 185 miles this season, with Dexter at 168, and Willow at 119. I'd love to sneak in 15 more miles and reach 200, but I'm not sure we'll make it. We well surpassed our 150 mile goal, and I feel confident in bumping next season's goal to over 200 miles.

Along with running more miles next season, I hope to travel more with the dogs and explore trails in different states. I am toying with the idea of purchasing a camper van to make road tripping long distances more comfortable, but that may be a more distant dream.

In the mean time, if you're a musher in the US, leave a comment and tell me where you train - maybe I'll come visit!

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Off to the Races

This past weekend was our last race of the season, which barely managed to squeak by between a small snowstorm and temperatures soon to be in the upper-70s. It was also Willy's first race, and she did phenomenally well. 

I was apprehensive about running on Saturday. About three inches of snow had fallen, with the possibility of melting and freezing overnight. It sounds weird to be concerned with snow at a dog sled race, but for a dry-land event, snow and ice aren't great under wheels. Luckily, the race crew worked tirelessly and managed to make the trail safe.

I ran Denali, Willy, and Knox in the 4-dog pro class, basically just against ourselves, although there were two other teams running in 4-dog sportsman. We were passed on day one by a very speedy team of Siberians (Steven Davis of Milestone Kennels -- awesome dogs), but managed to stay ahead of them on day two. Out of the three teams, we obviously won first for pro, but came out second overall.

I don't have much to say about our runs. They were smooth and without any real trouble. On day two, some deer ran out in front of us, which almost sent the dogs off course into the woods. A quick "ON-BY!" got them back on the trail, though. Willy was especially impressive: not only did she run in lead with Denali, but she kept the momentum going right through the finish line. Even when Knox and Denali were starting to slow down, Willy kept running hard.

The race was two 3.8 mile heats, which we finished in 19 minutes 6 seconds on day one and 18 minutes 32 seconds on day two. It's hard to really judge considering we were the only team in our class, but compared to the 6-dog and bikejor/scooter classes, we had a very respectable run. Of course, the Alaskan/Hound teams blew it away with times well under 15 minutes, but we did quite well for a team of three rag-tag little Sibes.

Mushing season is slowly dwindling down now, though I hope to have a few more runs before we pack things in for the summer. I'm already really excited for the fall and running Willy as she matures, but I'll be sad to lose Dexter to retirement (though that's up to him). I'm already thinking about another Siberian to round out a little 4-dog team, but that's a dream for another day.

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If All Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge...

I haven't had too much to write about as mushing season starts to dwindle down. We've had a mixture of polar-vortex cold and unusually warm days, but we're still getting out pretty consistently. Despite an overall not-great winter, the dogs are already at 148 miles. We'll definitely surpass our normal season goal of 150, and it's a good sign for my plan to increase the mileage next year.

Today's run at Six Mile was extraordinary and worth the quick story. We got out extra early because warm temperatures were creeping in, and the dogs were running extra well. Even Dexter had a tight tugline the entire run. We spooked a herd of deer and chased them through the trail, which probably contributed to Dexter's good morale.

By the time we reached our usual turn-around spot (two miles out), I decided to keep going further. As I've mentioned before, this requires crossing a bridge. I've done this a few times on my lightweight Chambers rig, but I hadn't tried it on the Arctis. And for whatever reason, I neglected to consider the difference in width between these two rigs.

Denali and Willy lead the team across the bridge without hesitation. I got about halfway onto the bridge and realized the back wheels of the rig wouldn't fit at the same time. Shit.

Now I was in a little bit of trouble. Denali and Willy were almost completely across the bridge. Dexter and Knox were holding steady in the middle. And I was stuck, with one back wheel hanging off the side and teetering toward the water.

It's hard to really describe the situation without pictures, but the stream and bridge are maybe eight or nine feet across.  The bridge is elevated quite a bit, very narrow, without guardrails. It's designed for mountain bikers. The embankment on both sides of the stream is steep and completely saturated with mud.

I knew the rig wouldn't make it across the bridge without tipping over, so I decided our best bet was to forge directly through the stream, Oregon-trail style. But this meant getting the team to turn around enough so that I could pull the rig back and safely down to the water.

The bridge was narrow -- about two dogs wide -- so they didn't have much choice. I gave Denali the "come haw" command, and she did exactly what I needed her to do. She leapt, without hesitation, straight off the bridge into the stream. Willy followed her lead, as did Dexter and Knox. This gave me enough slack to pull the rig off the bridge and push it through the stream.

The challenge didn't end there. I needed the dogs to pull through water up to their chests and haul the 90-pound rig up the muddy embankment on the other side. And they did it, just like that.

I need to stress that my dogs are not water dogs. In the dead of summer, Dex and Knox might wade around in streams to cool down, but none of them would ever jump into water like this. Especially not Denali. 

Today's run wasn't a miraculous experience. It wasn't luck or chance. It was years of work and training to build a team of dogs that trust me with total confidence. They don't always listen, but I'll remember this moment when I'm frustrated or struggling.

Good dogs. 

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Snow Daze

A week ago, we were buried under two feet of snow after winter storm Jonas tore through the northeast. I've been waiting for snow all winter (and fall, and summer...), and mother nature really delivered. This was Willy's first real snowstorm, and she loved it just as much as the other dogs.

I knew that once the storm was over and the roads were plowed, my local trails wouldn't be runnable for awhile. I took advantage of the empty streets and ran in the middle of the storm. We went out in the morning and again before dark, straight through the main roads of my town to side streets we've never mushed on before. We got a lot of waves, laughs, and strange looks from people shoveling. The streets were snowy enough for a smooth ride, while the woods and parks we usually run through were much too deep for the dogs. We didn't go very far or very fast, but it was enough to keep the dogs happy.

We had to cut our last run short because the visibility was making it hard to see headlights. Even though the roads were virtually empty, I didn't want to risk not seeing an oncoming car, so we packed it in.

Over the last few days, a lot of the snow has melted, but there's still a lot left. The roads around my neighborhood aren't runnable with the sled anymore, but the woods and parks are too snowy for the dryland rig. I also can't scale the giant snow mountains that are blocking our usual route. As luck should have it, my new Arctis dryland rig arrives on Tuesday, though I'm not sure when we'll get a chance to use it.

On Thursday, I drove out to Six Mile Run before work to see how the trails were holding up after a few days of thawing and refreezing. A lot of the blue trail was "punchy", hard on top with soft snow underneath. Snowshoers had packed it down a bit, so it wasn't too difficult to navigate. It's always rougher for Dexter, since he weighs more and tends to sink. There were also random patches of no snow, as well as extremely deep drifts, making it an unpredictable run.

Dexter decided to add to the fun by backing out of his collar and his harness. Luckily, his recall is dependable, so I let him run around like a jackass for a bit. He ended up trotting right back to his spot, after successfully annoying the very serious Denali while she was trying to work.

Our first real sled run of the season was not without some minor bloodshed. While sliding around a corner, I managed to whip myself into a thorn bush. I came out the other side with my hat and scarf nearly twisted off, plus a few scratches on my cheek and chin. Most notable being the rather deep cut in my lower eyelid, which will remind me to wear my damn goggles even when it's not snowing.

This morning, I went back out to Six Mile to see how the red trail system was holding up. The trailhead didn't look too promising -- the path was a well-packed sheet of ice. I gave Dexter the day off since his feet were a little chafed from Thursday. Without Dex to slow us down, I knew I was in for a lightening fast start with just the huskies.

I attempted to booty the dogs, but they all ended up flying off within the first hundred feet (ordered better sizes as soon as I got home). A "spectator" noticed and collected them for me while we were on the trail (thank you, whoever you are). As I expected, we flew down the first half mile or so and I'm very surprised I stayed upright.

After turning onto some lesser used trails, the dogs slowed to a reasonable trot. Eventually, they were breaking trail and running kind of "off". I don't think they were used to going as fast as they want, and without Dexter, they seemed a bit unbalanced. Knox was back in wheel, and Denali wasn't as focused in single lead (even though she used to always run alone). Knox is a bit taller than Dexter, which made him a bad running mate for Willy, who had trouble keeping herself untangled.

Photo Jan 30, 7 33 35 AM.jpg

About a mile in, I stopped to check everyone, and I could see each had at least one irritated paw pad. They had a lot more steam left, but I decided to head back to the truck rather than risk further injury. Dogs are only as good as their feet, and I wasn't about to let them get hurt.

I'm not quite sure what my plan is for tomorrow. I wanted to head up to High Point State Park, but the trail conditions seem equally icy. Next week will be very warm (in the 60s!), so I expect the dogs will have quite a bit of downtime until winter returns, but it might be the safest thing for now.

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You mush? In New Jersey?

Whenever someone finds out that I mush dogs, their second question is always, "You do that in New Jersey?" While we usually get some snow each winter, NJ is not considered a musher's paradise. 

Don't get me wrong -- New Jersey is "the garden state". We have a lot of beautiful forests packed in this diverse little state. That being said, it's also the most densely populated state in the entire country. Finding trails without bikers, hikers, hunters, horseback riders, and loose dogs is almost impossible.

To avoid trouble on the trails, I usually take the dogs out very early in the morning. It's also usually colder at dawn, which works out in our favor. I have yet to travel beyond my neighborhood trails for night runs, but I haven't really needed to. 

Most of our weekly runs are between a half mile and two miles, and consist of the "trails" I have found around my neighborhood. This includes backroads, small sections of woodland, and relatively unused parks (in cold weather, anyway).

Crossing a bridge in the memorial park on our local trail.

Our usual route around the neighborhood.

Beautiful scenery down the street from home!

When I'm not running around the suburbs like a crazy person, there are a few spots drive to:

Six Mile Run

The Six Mile Run Reservoir site is maintained as a State Park and includes several trails that are used primarily by mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders. It has 8 miles (13 km) of twisting single track maintained by JORBA. Access to the park can be found at the large parking lot on Canal Road near Six Mile Run Road, from the parking lot of the private soccer club on Route 27, and from several smaller parking areas on roads that traverse the park.

This mixture of woods and farmland is roughly 30 minutes from my house. The description from Wikipedia I sourced above mentions eight miles of trail, but there are many different ways you can manipulate your distance and go further. The longest run I had was eight miles -- a full four miles out/four miles back, but it involved crossing over some streams on bridges just slightly wider than my rig (without railings), so I haven't been that eager to try it again. I normally run two to three miles out and back on the blue trail.

While the blue trail falls along the border of farmland and woods, the red trail offers a bit more diversity. It's harder to get longer distances on this side of the woods, but there are a lot more intersecting trails to keep the dogs interested. I also really love taking the sled through the dark, tightly packed pines on this part of the trail.

Right after our usual "come haw" point on the Blue Trail, between woods and fields.

Blue Trail winding along fields.

Red Trail intersects more woods.

Navigating the winding trails through pines on the Red Trail.

Six Mile Run is ideal for mountain bikers, and there are a lot of trails that aren't easy for a rig or sled to traverse.  Many are narrow, steep, or involve arched bridges with no railing as I mentioned earlier. You also need to be mindful of bikers on the trail (which is why I run early), as they can silently speed around corners with little warning. Luckily, I've never had any collisions, and the bikers have been friendly and curious about my dogs and rig.

The trails that are suitable can be torn up from bikes and horses, and then freeze into choppy trenches and potholes. When thawed, expect to be completely drenched in mud.

Despite the challenges, Six Mile Run is one of my favorite places to bring the dogs in any season. 

 

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest

The Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (formerly the Lebanon State Forest) is a 37,242 acre (139 km²) state forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

The Brendan T. Byrne State Forest is the state's second largest state forest (afterWharton State Forest). There are 25 miles (40 km) of hiking trails and a camping area. The park is operated and maintained by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. 

The Pine Barrens, specifically Brendan T. Byrne, will forever hold a special place in my heart. This is where it all began -- where I met the mushers of Jersey Sands Sled Dog Racing Association. Dexter and I learned the beginning steps to mushing from all the mentors I gathered on these sandy roads.

The trails around Mt. Misery (which is neither mountainous or miserable) can keep you busy for hours. We've trained, hiked, camped, and raced within the confines of this forest. It's a solid hour and a half drive, which means waking up well before dawn to enjoy solitude on the trails. Fortunately, pet-friendly campsites make this spot perfect for camping out on long weekend trips.

Sunrise in the Pine Barrens.

The race trail for many JSSDRA and PSDC races at Mt. Misery.

Our last big run of the 2014/2015 season, during a camping trip.

Returning to camp after 9.8 miles.

There are quite a few other trails around New Jersey that work for mushing. Rail trails are disused railways converted into a multi-use path, which are quite abundant throughout the state. I've mushed on the Paulinskill Valley Trail and Columbia Trail. These both offer decent mileage, but they are straight trails that don't always provide a good spot to "pull over". They're also popular with hikers, bikers, dog walkers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers. Since there are no other trails to turn off, you're stuck dealing with whoever else is also using the trail.

 Mushing through deep snow along the Paulinskill Valley trail.

Mushing through deep snow along the Paulinskill Valley trail.

 Sections of the Columbia trail have icy rocks on one side, a steep drop on the other.

Sections of the Columbia trail have icy rocks on one side, a steep drop on the other.

One of my favorite mushing experiences was at High Point. I had never used my sled on a groomed trail before, and it made such a difference. The temperature was -11°F with the wind, and my phone was too cold to stay on, so I don't have many photos or stats recorded from that day. I hope to get back there again this season.

While I tend to stick to the same trails, exploring new spots is one of the most exciting and challenging things about mushing. Everything you and your dogs learn on the familiar trails is put to the test in new places. In the future, I hope to extend my adventures across the country. But for now, yes, I do mush in New Jersey.

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Headfirst into 2016

It's been a few weeks since my last post, but I haven't had much dog related news to report. I spent the end of December buying and wrapping gifts, cooking and cleaning for my annual Christmas Eve Eve party, and spending lots of time with family and friends. The weather in New Jersey was absolutely ridiculous for late December. The week of Christmas was in the 70s and humid, so we definitely didn't do any running.

We've had a few cold mornings since then and I was able to get Willow out for her first runs with the team. We're starting very slowly and making each run a happy, fun, easy experience for her. The last thing I want to do is stress her out, physically or mentally, while she's still growing and maturing. 

 
 

I recently witnessed a little bit of backlash between other mushers over when to start a dog in harness. My general rule of thumb has been around six or seven months, depending on the dog, but I couldn't remember why I had picked that age. Denali started with short, easy runs at around seven months old. Knox was around six months old. Neither have had any issues, physically or developmentally. 

 
Willy--4.jpg
 

I scoured a few mushing resources to find out what the general consensus was for starting young dogs. I found plenty of information on training puppies to line-out and to drag lightweight objects behind them, but I couldn't find anything on what age is appropriate to start running with a team.

I decided to shift to print. I ordered Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher on Amazon to see if it had a more complete answer. Here's what authors Miki and Julie Collins said:

Some mushers start to harness-break a pup before he can walk in a straight line, and others wait until the pup is a yearling. If you work with a pup under five months old, do not do more than just tie a light weight to this little harness. A pup can be run in a small team at five or six months, but it is better to wait another month or two rather than risk over-stressing him. A five- to eight-month-old pup should be run only a mile or two, and certainly not over five miles, even though he can run farther when he is loose behind the team. 

At this point, Willy has done a few 1.2 and 1.8 mile runs with the team around the neighborhood trails. I've also taken her to Six Mile Run a couple of times, but we've done no more than four miles with lots of breaks along the way. She has been doing incredibly well since her very first run. She screams her head off at hookup and runs like she's been doing it for years. She hasn't shown any fear or hesitation, probably because she's watched the other dogs leave without her for months and she was getting tired of it.

We'll continue to take things slow this season. Dexter sets the pace for us at this point, since he can't do fast sprints for very long and I don't want Willy running too hard. If it were up to her, I think we'd be running a hundred miles without stopping.

Ultimately, when it comes to deciding when a dog is ready, you have to consider a lot of factors. Different sled dog breeds mature at different rates. For example, I would probably wait longer for a larger breed dog -- like a eurohound or malamute. The terrain, the team, and what's being pulled also need to be considered. I wouldn't want a young pup pulling a heavy rig up and down hills. The behavior of the pup also needs to be taken into account. A puppy going through a skittish phase would probably benefit from waiting another month or two.

I'm by no means an expert on this, so take my input with a grain of salt. I rely on what I've learned from other mushers as well as my own experience. I'm bound to make mistakes, but the last thing I want to do is harm my dogs. 

Photo Dec 19, 8 36 36 AM.jpg

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Mt. Misery Mush

We had our first race this past weekend, and despite the name, it was not miserable at all (except maybe waking up at 5 AM). I brought all the dogs with me, but I only competed with Denali and Knox in the two-dog bike-joring class. They're really my all-stars when it comes to the race environment, whereas Dexter is much more suited for leisurely runs. Willow isn't old enough to run yet, but the race was a great way for her to socialize with lots of other dogs and people.

The Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club had a really great turnout for this race. I've never seen so many dog trucks and teams at our humble little spot. This season has had a rough start, as far as temperatures go, so I was happy to see so many people still made it out. It was great seeing some familiar faces I haven't seen in awhile, like Johnn and Nancy Molburg. I haven't seen them since I bought my sled from Johnn at the 2011 Fair Hill Challenge! I also got to meet some new friends, like Emily Ferrans, her father, and their awesome 12-year-old pooch, Dutchess.

The weather held out pretty well for most of the morning. The scooter, bike-jor, and canicross classes were held later in the day. Both of our runs were after 12 PM, which wasn't ideal, especially for Knox with his woolly coat. But, we managed!

Saturday's run was fantastic: we finished 3.8 miles in 15 minutes and 43 seconds. For perspective, when we run this distance with Dexter, it usually takes more than twice that. The dogs ran beautifully, and even passed a team without hesitation. They started to lose some steam towards the end, allowing a team passed us. This worked in our favor, though, and gave them the boost they needed to finish strong. So, no complaints from me!

 
 Day 1 start, video taken by Emily Ferrans ( Full video here )

Day 1 start, video taken by Emily Ferrans (Full video here)

 

Sunday wasn't the best run. Knox pumped the brakes around halfway, so I slowed them down and let them dip their feet in a puddle. I could tell the heat was getting to him, so I let them take it slow. After another mile or so he seemed to get a second wind, and the two of them were running in perfect unison. It was such an awesome sight to see them loping effortlessly in front of me, I didn't even care that we were competing.

 Photos by Bonnie Smagacz-Starnes

Photos by Bonnie Smagacz-Starnes

At the last turn, we had a small mishap with a trail help dog getting in our way, but the dogs handled it well and it didn't really affect our run. We finished in 19 minutes, 1 second on day two. 

We placed third out of four teams in the pro class, or third out of seven including the sportsman teams. Considering my bums are not super speedy hounds, nor have they been training for speed, I think we did a fine job! 

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