Friday, October 14, 2011

'Did you check the gas?' Uh, whoops!

Learned a big lesson today: It's mighty hard for 6 dogs to pull a big honkin' 4-wheeler up hill with no help from the musher. Yep, we ran out of gas about midway through our run today. DOH!

Not only that, Claire even asked me early into the run whether I'd checked the gas. Er, no. But we took our chances.

Everything began swimmingly. I arrived at 6 am, with Ginsberg in tow, and in the dark with my nifty headlamp on and aided by a nearly full moon, I promptly pulled the 4-wheeler into position. I harnessed and hooked up my six fast sled dogs, and the leaders -- Penya and Colt -- held the team tight. No tangles, no fussing, even rookie Ginsberg seemed to be in his groove. All looked good. Claire boarded the passenger seat, and I managed to leave the driveway without bouncing Claire off the back or running over the dogs. (Still got to work on smooth gear shifts, though).

I got onto the road just fine and kept the speed reasonably even. Greyling only had to give me the evil eye about 7 times today when I let the gangline get too close to her. And she was a dream team member running with Ginsberg. After looking pleadingly back over his shoulder at me for maybe 10 seconds, Ginsberg got the message that I meant business and he dropped his tail a bit, pulled his ears back, and focused. (Whew!)

NOTE TO SELF: Wear gloves that fully cover your fingers next time you train. I wasn't sure I'd ever get feeling back into my thumb (which operates the gas). I opted to do the 5-mile run, which requires a somewhat tight haw back, and just as were approaching the turnaround   . . . SPPPUTTER . . . GASP . . .  COUGH, COUGH . . . SPUTTTTER . . . silence.

That's right folks: I ran out of gas. Thank heavens for amazing dogs. Five members of THREE BLUE EYES chilled and kept the line tight as Claire and I (though mostly Claire) problem-solved. How to get 6 sled dogs, a 4-wheeler that weighs a ton, and two grown women back to kennel? Claire managed to wrestle the vehicle around, with a little help from me, and we got into position to return home.

Rookie-boy Gins (not from today)
Meanwhile, Ginsberg got flustered, and as he usually does when he's excited, instigated a bit of roughhousing with the nearest dog. BAD BAD BAD IDEA, Gins. Greyling was not about to put up with his antics and I was able to interrupt the disagreement quickly (thanks to lots of practice at home!) with a few outbursts of "GINS!!! Stop!!!"

Ready to go, I gave the command to take off, but "HIKE!" didn't help at all. So it was time for me to do a little cheerleading. I ran up to the leaders, grabbed their harnesses, and we all tried with all our might to pull ahead and get the whole rig moving again. Fortunately, the Goddess shined her grace upon us (more than once), and Claire was able to get the 4-wheeler to start! I jumped on and drove until the next sputtergaspcoughcoughsputter>silence occurred. We repeated this scene several times, with me running ahead to encourage the pups to get it their all.

An upside was that I was able to see the team from a different vantage point (as in, not looking at their behinds for a change of pace) and was just blown away by how beautiful they are when they're working so hard. Even Ginsberg was putting 100% into the effort. I felt like Rocky and couldn't help but do a little jig. I LOVED it when they pulled ahead of me, totally focused and working hard. If only I could have kept up with them.

Sigh. Apparently, I need to boost the intensity of my aerobic workouts, because after running up two hills, I FELT like the 4-wheeler WAS: out of gas. Claire made it back to the kennel before me, and when I pulled up, the team looked fantastic! Still lined out and ready to be unharnessed.

THREE BLUE EYES (but not from today's run)
I REALLY am proud of these pups and humbled by how fortunate I am to be able to work with such beautifully trained dogs (thanks to Rita Wehseler, from whom I've leased the dogs for the season). They were unflappable and able to deal respectfully with their rookie driver. I'm also quite proud of Ginsberg, whose genes (which hail from some fine bloodlines) seem to be awakening. I loved it when Claire praised him for pulling hard and I could see the intensity and drive in his beautiful blue eyes. Claire even thinks he has leader potential. I hope she's right. He certainly has the very best teachers. And so do I.

Thank you, Claire, for working with me, sharing your astonishing wealth of knowledge, and believing in me.

And in other news . . .
I registered yesterday for the CopperDog 35, a competitive race for mushers like me (although I just happened to see that Claire's mentor -- Lloyd Gilberston -- has also registered for this race, and how fair is that, I ask you?) So when the organizers use the phrase "competitive" they really mean it!

This is a fantastic race that occurs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (fondly called the "U.P.") I've heard or seen on Facebook many positive comments about the CopperDog race from very experienced mushers. The "35" is the baby of several CopperDog events. The Papa Bear event is the "150," a mid-distance race that takes 2+ days to run. Several friends will be tackling these events, so it'll be awesome to be among all the excitement.

I'm told the trail is fast in the beginning and towards the end, involves a long long long climb up a big big big hill. Hello, treadmill on full incline, you and I will be coming very familiar in the next few months.

And one final note . . .

It's been some time since I posted an "exciting episode" because it's been way too hot to run sled dogs in my neck of the woods. That's
right. It's autumn in Minnesota and we've been having temperatures in the 80s. Gorgeous, gorgeous days with the backdrop of some of the best autumnal colors we've had in years. Even the roses are still blooming.

Such weather has put many Minnesotans in a grateful and happy frame of mind. Except for us mushers. We always seem to be outliers when it comes to weather. Honestly, I've tried very hard to be happy for the unseasonably warm days.

But my heart belongs to snow.

And cold.

And Arctic environments of indescribable beauty. 

And, of course, to six fast sled dogs.


Photographs (c) Copyright Kathleen Kimball-Baker 2011

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen, you are almost ready to go out on your own....the 2nd smaller Arctic Cat ATV will go in tomorrow....and that will be easier on the dogs than the big Honda. And they will not have my fat butt to haul around....I will ride behind you (in 2nd 4 wheeler)....just in case you need help....but soon the Three Blue Eyes will get to do some runs solo....whew and they did great this morning....I am proud of all of you, Claire