pine barrens dryland run

Summer Camping

I took Denali and Knox camping in the Pine Barrens this weekend. I wanted to bring Dexter, but the campsite had a two dog limit and I didn’t want to bend any rules this time around. After spending the weekend there, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be an issue for the future.

We weren’t too far from our go-to dryland mushing trail, so I’m glad we scoped this spot out. Dex has also camped before, so this trip was to teach the huskies how to behave.

The first night, they were a little wound up. Two high prey drive huskies in a small tent does not make for a peaceful sleep when the area is full of noisy critters. But they eventually settled down.

It was cool enough in the morning to take them for a quick bike ride around our usual trail. I didn’t push it, though. They’re out of practice and the flies were swarming, so we did less than a mile.

After that, they were much more behaved. We returned to camp for breakfast, a nap, and lunch. We did a quick hike around Pakim Pond, then drove around some more trails to plan for the fall season.

The Pine Barrens offer miles and miles of flat, soft trail which is perfect for dryland dog mushing. I’m looking forward to getting back down there when it’s cooler and without all the flies.

The pups slept soundly the second night, after a day of adventures. We packed up early Sunday morning after an intense rain storm. Can’t wait to head out again!

Full album on Flickr.

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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.

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Back on Track

I’ve been pretty bad about updating this blog, but I’ve been even worse about getting the dogs out for runs. To pick up where we left off – the dogs and I attended our first race of the season. We didn’t make it out for Jersey Sand’s first race, but we did get down there for the Pine Barrens Dryland Run.

I wasn’t expecting too much from this race. I was treating it like a normal run down in the pines, since this was only our second time at Mt. Misery this season. Also, it was around 50 degrees when we ran, and I didn’t want to push the dogs too hard.

Despite the conditions and lack of training, we came away with second place – only a few seconds behind the first place team. We had some opportunities to overtake the other team, but I held the brakes. I knew my guys would lose steam as soon as we passed, so I tried to stay on their tail for the majority of the run. Given the minute starts, we could still grab first if we came in close enough after the first team out. That plan almost worked, except everybody slowed down during the final leg of the race.

But that’s alright. They still did great. I’m especially proud of Knox. His line was tight the entire time. Denali got a little distracted, which is entirely unlike her. Dexter did well, but I could tell it was tough on him.

Speaking of Dexter, we had a little scare with him just over a week ago. I had all the dogs in for their wellness exams, and his blood work came back a little off. It seemed as though he was fighting an infection, though he had antibodies pretty much finishing it off. The vet was worried about Lyme, so I had to bring in a urine sample to make sure his kidneys were working properly.

Luckily, everything came back fine. I need to keep an eye on him for any stiffness and get his urine tested at least once a year. I feel pretty guilty for making him run the last race, seeing as he likely didn’t feel great at the time. But he sure didn’t show it.

Now, as I mentioned, our runs have been infrequent. We had a freakish warm spell for a few days, followed by what seemed like a week of rain. Followed by me getting sick and the holidays. Hopefully, now that I’m feeling better and the chaos of Christmas has passed, we can get back into the swing of things.

2012-2013 Mileage to Date: 43.87

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