It’s almost the end of October and we’re still having temperatures more typical of the end of August, but we press on as best we can. We set goals for where we want to be at certain points throughout the year, but we know that each season brings with it its own set of unique weather characteristics. It’s just been to hot to really push the dogs too far, but to be honest, now that Iditarod is at the end of our season, we’re more than happy to keep with shorter runs for the dogs right now, to keep them happy, and hopefully peaking later in the season. For anyone who has never participated in a sport where you attempt to — through a series of diet and exercise regimes/schedules – peak your performance at a certain time, it is tricky business. And with 16 dogs in a team, it’s 16 times trickier because they have to all come together, peaking as one unit, at the same time.
So with this always in the back of our mind, we have been continuing with the short runs, many of which were on the beach this past week. This past Saturday we also had company as our niece and nephew spent some time with us and took part in the dog training activities. We had a great time with them and saw some great stuff (see below), which is one of the perks of running on the beach. You just never know what kind of sea creature will pop-up to watch you run by, and on a night run on the beach this past week we saw a giant owl resting on a piece of drift wood. I can count the number of owls we have seen since living here on one hand so seeing this huge guy was a big treat. He was only about 30 yards away, but my hadlamp batteries were a little dim that night, so I couldn’t quite identify the species.
Of course with running on the beach, we must also pay careful attention to the dogs’ feet. The sand and salt works n the dogs feet much the same way the skin of our hands does when using a yard tool for the first time. We initially get blisters, which eventually turn into calluses. The dogs get little rock rashes and occasional splits between their toes. If attended to properly, this brings the dogs back later in the season with even tougher feet, but if not monitored closely it can lead to injuries or infections. Most of our feet are still looking great, but one or two of the young dogs have started to show some minor irritations. We’ll tend to their feet with our special musher ointments and keep a close on them for sure as the beach runs get longer.
Our niece holding the brakes on the front team, while Cole switches out leaders in the back team. We have been running a lot of young dogs in lead on the beach, since the fear of head-on passes with other teams isn’t as great as when on the narrow woods trails.
The team rests and gets a drink from a fresh stream on the trail. Ghost (who came from the Kenai Animal Shelter this past summer) in lead with Pong, who came from the shelter about four years ago now.
More Hawaiian looking than Alaskan, this totem pole is one of the many odd things we see down on the beach.
A seal poked its head up to watch us mush by.