Well, the Cooper Basin 300 was a total success. We did exactly what we set out to do which was stick to a schedule that would mirror Iditarod training. While many teams took 3 or less hours at checkpoints to stay competitive, we never lost sight of our goal and stayed at each checkpoint at least 4 hours. This made for s schedule that still didn’t amount to equal run-rest like we’ll be shooting for in Iditarod, but it was conservative while still allowing for the dogs to be pushed in a way that we wouldn’t be able to simulate with training alone.
For our next race, we’ve both signed up for the Tustumena 100, the shorter version of the T-200. The T-100 is a race Cole has won before, but we won’t be looking for another victory this year. Like we did in the Copper Basin, we will be running a conservative T-100 to evaluate a few dogs for the Iditarod team, such as Ghost, the dog we got from the Kenai Animal Shelter in summer. We will also be running a few puppies in there first race ever, which will include Metoo and her brothers. With so many uncertain dogs, the purpose won’t be to go as fast as we can, rather it will be run conservatively, ensuring each dog succeeds. The race will be this Saturday, and it can be followed on the Internet at www.tustumena200.com and we will try to blog about the race as soon as its over.
Since so much of our training has been in the Caribou Hills, where the race course goes, we have switched our training to the Mystery Hills area of Sterling since we got back from the CB300. The problem with the Caribou Hills is the dogs get used to stopping in certain places during training, and this can be a problem when racing on the same trails. That, and the dogs just get bored of seeing the same terrain too. The switch to the Mystery Hills has been great. It’s just as hilly as in the Caribou HIlls, bu there are no snowmachine and fewer dog teams to worry about. It’s just been us and a few moose. Speaking of moose on two separate runs in two days we found large antlers that had fallen off of moose as they begin to shed their racks. These are always a treat to find, but especially when they are as large and perfect as the pair that we found.
Our little pup, we named Dunkel, sitting between the pair. Below Joseph has some fun with a few dogs – notice their expression. It’s like “Moooooom, dad’s doing it again.”
Moose are the only species of wildlife in the Mystery Hills area as we found out firsthand the other night. The team was cruising along at a brisk pace when all of a sudden the entire front half of the team just stopped in a huge ball and we heard the most horrific high-pitched scream. Our first thought was “Oh no, the dogs have hit a trapper’s set,” so we ran to the front of the team expecting the worst. Instead when we got there, we saw blood splattered everywhere, a couple of dog woofing something down, but when we saw Squirrel and Butterscotch in a tug of war we deduced what had happened. They each had an end of (what was left) of a snowshoe hair. Apparently one of the dogs had nabbed it on the run, and everyone just pig piled the poor creature taking a bite. By the time we got it away from the dogs, we had one heck of a tangle and there was very little left of the bunny, but at least the dogs didn’t start fighting over it.
As we get closer to the race start for the T-100, we are scrolling back the hard runs on the racers, and this has given us time to catch up on harness breaking the puppies that we acquired this summer: Boo and Klaus. With some litters the dogs tangle up or try to turn around a lot, but not these two. They both seem to really be naturals to running, and they love every minute of it, so the training hasn’t been too tough. Check out the picture below of Klaus already banging his harness trying to get the team moving again.
We also tried to run Coolwhip with the puppies to see if she could handle it. Coolwhip was another dog we got from the Kenai Shelter back in summer. She suffered for laryngeal paralysis and a condition known as mega-esophagus. As she has grown, the mega-esophagus condition has cleared up quite well. She doesn’t need to eat in the vertical position anymore and she rarely vomits up her meals. As far as her other condition, called wheezer for short, she has only a slight case compared to Shagoo and some other dogs we have known. She runs around the yard playing for hours, so we thought she could handle a puppy run, but about a half mile into she was really struggling to breath, so we picked her up for the rest of the ride (That is the photo at the top of this blog – us three in the sled.) So, we learned she may never be a sled dog, but she has more than enough fun as a house dog anyway.