Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trailbreakers' Dryland Challenge

It was a long trip up to Kirtland Ohio, but well worth it! My friend Kathy and I had an absolute blast! We met some awesome folks and thank all those who helped put on this event! I know at least I will be back next year.

I participated in the novice 2-dog bikejor with Bandit and Freya as my pullers. They were frightened of all the people at first, so I sat with them and calmed them down. With a little more confidence we headed in to the chute after the first two drivers. Bandit and Freya took off like a shot, all uncertainty gone in the joy of running. Of course it helped they were running away from the crowd.

The course wound around a scenic park with a pond, then in to the woods on a moderate incline. At the top of the hill there was a switch gate. The man immediately in front of me was there at the top with a large great pyranese, and the first driver was coming back through the gate at the same time. The pyr lunged at the lead team, and though it didn't reach them, there was a bit of a tangle. Freya saw this and was quite reluctant to approach the junction. When the lead team straightened and passed us, she decided to follow them, which I ended up pitching in to the dirt which pushed the pipe I was using to keep the gangline from wrapping around the wheel into the back tire, and I had to try to pull it back enough to keep going. Of course this left me with the rope hanging dangerously close to the tire. This caused me to tangle, and I had to straighten it up before continuing on, and convince Freya to pass the great pyr.

We managed to make it past, and went into a pleasant loop through the woods with a minor downhill and some left over halloween decor that was rather amusing. Back around to the switch gate and Freya seemed a bit flustered that I wanted her to take a right turn out of the woods instead of go around the loop again, but she got it after I pulled her lightly and repeated the Gee command. She ran past the pond, but when she saw the person taking pics she shied again, and the slack rope tangled around the tire again, so I had to stop and straighten it and fix the pipe as best I could and continue on. We reached the bottom of the final hill, and started up it ok, but as soon as Freya saw all the people at the chute, she started pulling back. Bandit pulled her forward though, and I encouraged her to keep going, and we finally made it to the finish line with a time almost four minutes behind the leader. As slow as that was though, that put us in second.

We hung around to watch the rest of the heats, meet more people and just generally enjoy the day. Princess was a little star, loving all the attention and being the perfect Siberian Ambassador. Freya was acting cold, and Bandit too seemed to be uncomfortable in the cool weather, so we put them in the truck after watering and feeding them. We came back every once in a while to walk them, but for the most part they seemed content to curl up on the seats and sleep. I swear Freya thinks she's a tropical husky. One of the only black colored dogs I've ever owned that loves to sunbathe in the heat of summer. After the heats, we packed up and went back to the hotel where I worked on fixing up the pipe on the bike. We ate chinese take out, and drank a couple of beers as we reflected on the events of the day. Both of us tired and happy.

Sunday after we got up, Princess started howling, and didn't stop until she was put in the middle of all the people at the site. Silly little girl! She always has to be in the middle of everything!

Sunday's heat went much smoother, and Freya seemed less afraid of the people, though she was still a bit shy. She was all business though when we got to the start line. As fast as the takeoff Saturday it was nothing like the rocket launch Sunday! Both dogs leapt into the harness, loving the chance to run again! Knowing the track made a huge difference, and we zoomed around the arc, through the gate, and around the loop amazingly fast! Coming back out of the woods, we met the pyr in a head on pass, which was a little hairy since Freya is a left hand dog she tried to stay to the left of the trail where the pyr was, so came a bit too close to the huge dog that lunged at her. This scared her and rattled her confidence. Though she was eager enough to put the pyr behind her, she began to lose faith when she again saw the crowd at the finish line. This time though, Bandit was confident enough to pull her through it, and with encouragement from the crowd and me, she trotted across the finish line almost four minutes faster than Saturday. I praised and hugged her when we got back to the trailer, happy that she was able to overcome her fear. She has come so far from the feral puppy she used to be! The meat patties went down quickly, and after both dogs were watered and rested, Freya again begged to be back in the truck. So I put her in, and sat with Bandit for a while, proud of my handsome strong prodigy!

The weather started to warm up, and disappointingly, this caused the rest of the afternoon heats to be cancelled after the one dog pro bikejor. But it turned out good for us as we were able to attend the final ceremonies and hit the long road home at a reasonable time. All together, it was a fabulous weekend and I had the time of my life! I'm really looking forward to the race in Kentucky next month!

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