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September 7, 2014

And So it Starts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two runs are done.  I’ll do my third tomorrow. It has definitely been cooler so far this year than for my first runs last year.  We may get snow later this week.  That WOULD make me happy. 

Last year, I did a lot of extra maintenance on and replacement of old gear, and it’s paid off.  My battery on my ATV is shot---a cold winter with no running will do that---but the motor started with one or two easy pulls.  I have just four lengths of gangline, but I do have them, the number I use for my “big” team of nine.  With my new side loading washing machine, I washed everything over the summer.  This included all of my goose down gear and all of my harnesses.  It’s not just cooler temperatures that are making life good.

As I expected, the runs have been a little slower than last year, about a minute for a three mile run, but they have gone without any glitches.  I was most concerned about running Tok---he’s on medication for spinal stenosis, but he is doing great.  He switches between a trot and a lope at a lower speed than in previous years, but not a lot, and it’s probably age rather than his back.  Beyond that, his natural stamina remains, even if he’ll turn twelve just after Thanksgiving.

And then there’s Jake.  At twelve years and three months, he’s a full two years older than anybody else on the A-Team.  True to his litter’s standard, Jake is a good athlete and a natural leader.  His forte is picking out good footing on snow when there are several choices.  He was doing that as a pup.  With this, as well as the fact that he hit his peak just as I was training for distance races, Jake has far more lead mileage than anybody else in my kennel.  As of the end of last year, he had cleared 5,000 miles in lead.  By comparison, the dog with the second most mileage in lead is Shone with 3,800.  Shone may pass him, but that’s only if he makes the team when I try skijoring the Iditarod Trail again in 2016.

And of course, there’s Vixen, the one dog in my kennel I’m not running.  Evenings on running days, Vix and I go for a walk.  At somewhere close to a mile and a half, she still pulls the whole way.  There’s no question there’s a bit of a kink in her gait and she can’t jump at all, but at fourteen years and eight months, she’s amazing me. 

Fondue, Quid, Tempest, and Mitzi all are or soon will be past their twelfth birthday.  None are making the A-Team though Quid, Temp, and Fondue could probably keep up.  Mitz has good stamina and a great head, but she was always the slowest in my kennel.  Among these four, there are no kinks, knock on wood. 

Watching all my old dogs doing well reminds me of when, as twelve year olds, Otter and Vixen were on teams that averaged more than ten mph pulling a sled for sixteen miles on the hills behind my house.   With the exception of Gaiya, the dogs Otter and Vixen ran with were the dogs I’m running now, but three years younger.  Vix and Otter didn’t have to work that hard, they just had to keep up.  Jake has an okay shot at being on runs that clear that speed, but it’s no better than 50/50. 

Jake and Jag joined Dawn, Tenaya, and me almost exactly eleven years ago.  I was renting a house not too far outside of Missoula, and had set up a nice fenced yard for my gang.  I looked at Jake and my six foot fence and nodded my head while realizing that it was a good thing that he didn’t jump fences, I was sure he could have cleared mine without noticing.  Since then, I’ve added twenty-four other dogs to my pack and lost ten.  Those lost include Jag, Tenaya, and Dawn. 

Last year, Jake made it all the way to the cut to six dogs.  While some of this was wishful thinking, the reality was that he beat out Thor because he’s always had a better head than the Blue Banana, and what I saw last year confirmed that.  After two runs, it’s a toss-up as to who’s running better between him and Thor.  With this, I expect that as the season progresses, Jake will run consistently better than Thor, but we’ll see.  Regardless, Jake is on the A-Team and the rest of my old farts are starting the season looking good.

   
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