Born to run, whatever the distance


09/10 Training/Racing Season

Posted on April 7, 2010 at 12:10 PM

During the summer months of 2009 we were going to have the odd training run, but like most years for one reason or another, it didn't happen!  

The tracks were mowed late summer and the van was cleaned out and packed with equipment for training, bowls, bottles for water, lines etc.  

The first training run went well, although it really did feel strange not having Tak as part of the team, having had to retire him late last season.  We keep our first runs really short just to see if everyone is moving OK and to make sure all the equipment is up to scratch, the second training run went well also but on getting back home we noticed that Nala had come into season.  Good that she had come in before the start of the racing season but we would probably have to take a little time off for the boys to settle back down.

When things had settled we resumed training and things have been coming along steadily, we are always aware that Shak can be easily distracted and have had to put him back from swing to wheel so that he has less influence on the rest of the team, he seems very capable at keeping up at the minute but he will be closely monitored incase he starts to struggle as the distance increases.  Kiana and Nyac are listening to commands and Koyuk is just work, work, work , all three of the dark ones are working well, Nala I think is a little post-seasonal, she should pick up more concentration in a couple of weeks when she realises that she's not having puppies!  Shak is Shak, he can work and pull  quite a lot but as I said before he does have his own world.  Chisana their mum is still making the team when they are all run together and still seems capable of running with them in lead with her sister Chiniak who just seems to love running, the faster the better, at ten years old they are amazing us both.

On the 28th October the heritage rig had it's maiden voyage, a nice little run, Nyac and Kiana in lead, Koyuk and Nala in swing and Shak in single wheel, they still need a little more direction but hopefully that will come soon, we have a complicated training area where there are lots of options, dpgs that aren't confident can be easily confused.  Unfortunately we didn't get this run on video apart from a lot of sky, the rig seemed to handle nicely and followed the dogs tight.

On November 6th aunty Chiniak and Chisana the youngsters mum got a turn at leading them around as a seven dog team with Bertha the big rig, not long before the finish the back left wheel came off, the axle came straight out of the slots, I think there may be a safety issue that we need to address there.  The rig jolted but everything stayed upright and the dogs pulled the rig back on two wheels, they didn't seem too bothered by a couple of hundred yards of hard work, but then again they would know that mum was waiting with their refreshments back at the van.  Oh dear, the part that we need is just about obsolete and we drew a blank when trying to find a replacement locally........well until we asked a friend, in all these years of running dogs and us being useless in the maintenance department he has been invaluable and came up with the part in one day, THANK YOU Wayne!

Training had continued but only for the youngsters while Bertha was waiting to be put back together, the direction problem had, or so we thought been addressed, wait until I write about the first race for that one.

We knew that race weekends might be difficult with us having three fifteen year olds and we would have to see how things went, our first race was BSHRA Santon Downham, Ski being our weakest and our most frail of the three coped but not well enough for our liking, so we decided that BSHRA Pembrey would be too much for him so we didn't send our entry in, a week later Ski got weaker, wouldn't eat and lost the use of his back legs, so the decision was made for us really and the vet came out and put him to sleep.  Losing any of our dogs hits both of us hard as we spend our lives so close to them and they all give us so much, I will write about Ski else where.  Anyway, back to Santon Downham and direction, well there wasn't any from our dogs, we decided not to run Nyac on the second day as he is quite a softie and we didn't want to confuse him more, Sunday's run was a little better but Reece still had to get off twice to put the dogs right.  Nyac, Kiana and Koyuk ran on Saturday and on Sunday Shak ran instead of Nyac, yes, Shak the dog that only last year Reece told me never to book him in for a race again!!  He seems to be taking his running a lot more seriously this year, he will always be our clown though!

On resuming training after the race the dogs didn't seem to be listening, a bit of "No, you don't want to go that way dad", with the tracks so muddy in places it is sometimes impossible to insist on direction so we decided that we would get the quad ready and go around together, it took a week or so to get everything in place and we have never quad trained our dogs so this was going to be a new thing for all of us.  The first run had to be corrected about three-quarters of the way into it, I, Maz, had to get off and correct the dogs on a corner, then they finished the run without me.  It seems that sometimes they are listening and sometimes they're not!  Neither of us like quad training but we can see that for large teams there is a safety aspect, the quad so far has been out for 3 training sessions, the last one needed no correction for the dogs' direction at all.  It does make a bit of a mess of our tracks though and I think rig training has to be our main way of training the dogs.

Rendlesham weekend and it was to be terrible weather for travelling but temperature wise perfect for the dogs, unfortunately Reece pulled a muscle in his calf on the first day in three dog with Koyuk, Nyac and Shak, he did manage to run Chisana, Chiniak, Kiana and Nala in courtesy but he was in quite a bit of pain, thinking it was a bad case of cramp at first.  All the dogs ran well and were near perfect on turns, a major achievement for us considering our last few weeks.  On Sunday morning we decided not to travel to the race site as Reece would have been unable to run the dogs, so we headed back home, where there were also snowy conditions and icy roads.

Training resumed and the two girls, Kiana and Nala were to have a turn as leaders again, what was happening here?  Is Nala Numpty listening for commands?  It seems that she is and was able to negotiate some fairly tricky corners as long as Kiana didn't interfere, even the one that their mum, Chisana, usually refused or if she went around it she found it difficult and lost concentration for a while.  Ohhh, should we try Nala in single lead?  We try never to ask something from our dogs that they won't be happy with, but our training area gives Reece the opportunity to get back to the van having only done quarter to half a mile, so if someone's not happy it's a short cut back.  We set up for Nala in single lead of a five dog team on the 29th December, she was unsure and wondered where the rest of the team were for the first fifty yards or so, she looked back for them a few times before the first corner and the just went for it, she really got stuck into the job and was faultless on corners, everyone worked well together, hope it continues, they all looked happy when they finished their run!  The next training day and we would try it again, we want to put another corner in that they have never done before, we anticipated a problem there as it isn't a straight forward junction, so after setting them off I ran out to that piece of track to help put the dogs right if they went wrong.  Put the dogs right I had to do, Nyac got a bit of a tangle but I straightened them out and put them round the corner and off they went to continue their run.  We both have to admit that for a dog that we nicknamed "Numpty" Nala is amazing us!

Although single lead seems within Nala's capabilities we think that she needs a little more confidence so she's going to run with a partner for a while, this was only going to be in training anyway as races are seen differently by our dogs and they are still a little immature.

Sherwood BSHRA race was moved to Kings Forest East because of ice on the access road and part of the trail, sadly this meant that we had to miss it because Reece was working part of the weekend, Sherwood would have been just do-able.  At the beginning of January we had fairly heavy snowfalls which made accessing our training area difficult and when the trail iced over in parts training had to be cancelled.

Kings Forest West BSHRA was next for us, forecast a  wet Saturday we knew things were going to be less than 100% enjoyable for us and our dogs, on finding out that the trail for three dog was set for just about maximum distance (3.9 miles) which would be fine in perfect weather conditions, but on a sticky trail in parts with high humidity/rain (and our lack of training due to the previous couple of weeks weather)  the Zabalaz team didn't run in competition but opted for a courtesy run instead on the two dog trail.  The three dog and the two dog trails were cut for Sundays racing but we had already decided to go home, everything, dogs, leads, harnesses were soaked in orange mud!  Even on a shorter course I couldn't imagine it would have been enjoyable for our truly team orange dogs.

Now BSHRA are asking who's interested in going to Bowlands, we said yes but it is to be seen whether the race will go ahead there or be moved to Thetford or Sherwood.  The verdict "Moved to Sherwood" I would expect the reason being lack of entries, which is a shame as most of the races are in East Anglia and although the trails are nice it does get a little repetitive!  

Our dogs seem to have had an ear wax problem this winter, we did get some dirty straw but whether this is the reason we don't know, I am wondering if this is a contributory factor in the dogs listening to commands at the beginning of training and then seeming to switch off in November as it was the beginning of November when Nala first showed signs of not been happy with her right ear, shortly followed by Nyac not been happy either.  They were treated for it with drops which did seem to clear the problem, for it to return a few weeks later, the vet then prescribed some more drops but Nyac still had a large clump of wax on his right ear drum, the drops again helped for a couple of weeks for the problem to return again.  The vet then had another look and removed some waxy gunk from both Nala and Nyac's right ears and advised us to wash them out with ear cleaner, which we are doing.  Oddly both their left ears are squeaky clean!  They do seem to be happier when running again so hopefully it will be clear this time.

BSHRA Elveden, on getting the rig out of the van it was noticed that the back left wheel was loose, aghh, spoke trouble, some very slack and some very broken, Reece dropped the skinny wheels out and replaced them with the spare fatter ones with knobbly tyres as the broken one was not usable.  Who would we trust in lead, that's the question?  A nice distance at 3.1 miles for 3 dogs, Nala would get a turn and be at the front with Koyuk, Nyac would run as a single wheel dog, they performed well with just a tiny mistake, they do take corners rather tight though, just like at home.  They all enjoyed it and recovered quickly, that's what we like, Chisana, Chiniak, Kiana and The Shakster all got a run in courtesy, which they also enjoyed.  For Sundays run Kiana would get a turn, Nyac and Koyuk would run lead and Kiana would be a single wheel dog, this too was enjoyable for all and was just about the same time as the day before, all recovered quickly again.  Everyone happy!!

It seems to be wheel after wheel this year, with failures on the training rig too, but with the skinny wheel now mended the racing rig should be back in action for Bowlands, now Sherwood.

On Monday 15th February we got a call from Mike and Dawn, who have Dee-Dee from our last litter, letting us know that they had got home safely from Culbin and achieved 1st place in four dog on Sunday, to say the least they were very pleased and we were very pleased for them too, especially has Dee-Dee was part of their team.

Sherwood next, would we put Kiana out in single lead with her brothers Nyac and Koyuk?  No, she would go in joint lead with Koyuk, possibly slower, but hopefully more reliable, Nyac went in single wheel.  Well they were just fast enough to get 1st place by about two tenths of a second, but most of all they enjoyed their run and recovered quickly.  Our remaining running dogs went out later as a four dog, Chiniak and Chisana in lead with Shak and Nala in wheel, they also enjoyed their run, a perfect Saturday for us!  Sunday brought snow, it started about two minutes after we left home and just got thicker and heavier the nearer to Sherwood we got, the van slipped a couple of times at junctions and roundabouts but we made it there safely, although once in the forest we needed the chains on.  Sundays racing was cancelled, which I think was a good call, even if you're just considering parking and moving vehicles about on that slippy hill with side gulleys that you just can't help but slip into.

Our last race of the season, it always comes too early, R2, I have no idea why it is called R2.  Not one that we have had 100% luck doing or getting to over the last few years, one time  Reece took the three dog girly team the wrong way, one Takotna had an unexpected day in the vets, one we had an accident getting to and last year we had a poorly musher so we turned around and came home after just a few miles.  Well this time we had a great weekend, the dogs are back on form, if not lacking a little bit of confidence, they took their turns nicely with a little bit of unsurity on one, but ran nicely, day one was Kiana and Koyuk in lead with Nyac in single wheel, our other dogs got a run in courtesy, chiniak and Nala in lead with Shak and Chisana in wheel, whoops, mummy let Shak get hitched in on the wrong side but they ran OK.  That's the championship over and day two is a "Fun Day", Kiana ran single lead in a three dog team with her brothers Koyuk and Nyac in wheel, fantastic, they all seemed to like that combination.  The four dog course was a little long for Chisana so we got permission to still take them out as a four dog team but run them just before the two dog on their course, Chisana and Chiniak ran lead and Nala and Shak ran wheel, sweet, they loved it.  Great weekend for weather too, about time.

Racing season over!



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