Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home From My Trek to the Lower 48

A few days ago I returned from a three week trip south to visit family and friends. Originally, John and I had planned to fly down to Pensacola, Florida this fall together to stay with our son Jonathan, his wife, Reseth and our six month old grandson, Aaron. I rarely get to go anywhere with John except a short trip to town every great once in a while. So, this was going to be our big excursion. But, when we realized that Jonathan could only get time off during Thanksgiving from his intense Air Force training as a navigator, John figured he should not go, not wanting to leave Joanna here without someone to plow the roads in case of snow.

He encouraged me to go alone, knowing how much I wanted to see Jonathan and his family. What a fun and relaxing time we had together. Jonathan taught me how to fly a really fun kite with lots of action to it, he took me on a motorcycle ride, and he flew me in a small plane over the Pensacola coast, even turning the controls over to me momentarily. Whew!! What a thrill. It was an added plus that they live near the beach, which we visited three times and the temps were still in the 80's. I just love the ocean.

My last night there, Jonathan took me out to dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant. It was a real windy day and red flags were up all over signifying that people should not go in the ocean. The tides were strong and dangerous. We took a little walk on the beach before dinner and were drawn to a large pier where we saw an emergency vehicle parked, facing the ocean. As we got closer, we saw that there were about 60 surfers, all in black wetsuits out surfing the 6-8 foot waves. Having been a surfer myself in Florida, I was so excited to be able to watch them ride the waves. The sun broke through the clouds just as it was setting, making a spectacular picture.

After spending six days with them, I flew over to Atlanta, Georgia where I rented a car and drove up to Franklin, NC. I had planned to just drive up to my parents door and surprise them. When I rang the doorbell and my mother opened the door, I laughed at the look of utter consternation and bewilderment and joy on her face. She kept backing up saying, "D-D-D-D-Daryl !!! Where did you come from? How did you get here? "

It was hard to keep the surprise from leaking out with all my family members that knew about it. But it worked and it was worth all the effort to keep it a secret. I had two wonderful weeks with them, also visiting my sister and her family and my brother and his family. My mother just told me today that it was one of the two greatest surprises in her life. I forgot to ask her what the other one was...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Race handler photos - Hero's behind the scenes:)

Had to post a few pics of my Beargrease handlers, my mom and cousins Sarah and Holly and friend Leah! They are all troopers and I am so blessed for their support!! Couldn't do it without ya'll!!!

Sled Dogs Fall Training/Conditioning - Getting Ready for a Winter of Dogsledding!!

Fall is the time of year that my thoughts turn to, well mush! As in Mushing dogs!!! My dad and I are a team in every way with caring for the dogs and running them. Dad goes with me on almost every training run and I couldn't do it without all his help!! He would go with me to handle at the races if he could but he has to stay home to man the generators, plow our 16 mile long "driveway" and feed the dogs left behind. His support means everything to me and he shares in our teams success at the races. We work together well in guiding participants on sled dog trips, teaching them how to drive the sled and commands for the dogs. It has sure been fun to share in all the adventures with my dad!!

With our kennel of racing and touring Alaskan Husky Sled Dogs, training and conditioning of our dogs begins around the 1st of September. When its cooling off in the early mornings and late evenings is an ideal time to hook up some dog power and get our canine athletes into shape after a summer off! We start short and slow, four mile runs with a water break at the halfway point. Keeping sled dogs from overheating is of utmost importance!!! We hook up between 10 and 16 dogs at a time to our big four-wheeler, which they then pull with the engine running, in gear to help hold them back! The goal is to build muscle to help protect the joints from injury which is why we do not allow them to go very fast at first. Hooking up 16 dogs to one gangline for the 1st run of the year can be pretty wild! The dogs are absolutely CRAZY to run and they know what pulling out the harnesses and firing up the ATV's mean!! Its a lot of fun and quite exhilarating to say the least! I just love seeing how much these dogs LOVE to run!!!

As the season progresses we keep gradually increasing the distances they are running, mixing things up with slow/fast - long/short runs. Not only are the dogs getting in shape physically with the conditioning but also there is lots of mental training taking place as well. Teaching new young leaders how to hold the line out, run on the right side of the road, obey commands for turning, and learning how to pass vehicles and other dog teams among other things!! Our location is ideal for training sled dogs with many different roads/trails leading in many different directions. It is a dog mushers paradise to have so many trails to choose from right in our own backyard! The dogs like variety as well as they can get somewhat bored running the same trails and certainly get excited to run new trails!! Seeing moose or lynx, rabbits or partridge also amps them up! Training with the ATV is nice for control with big teams but we are always excited to be on sleds once we get enough snow!!!

My first big race of the year is the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race starting in Duluth, MN at the end of January. I race the mid-distance with 8 dogs for about 112 miles along the north shore of Lake Superior, it is a pretty tough race with some serious hills of the Sawtooth Mountains, not to mention always has some serious competition of highly competitive teams. It has two checkpoints where you can stop and care for the dogs and yourself with the eight hours of mandatory rest time usually divided between both checkpoints. My mom and two cousins, Sarah and Holly have been superstar handlers for me the last several years as well as my good friend Leah who is very knowledgeable and a huge help! It takes dedicated handlers up for adventure to stay up all night in the cold to help me and my team!!! I couldn't do it with out all their help so a huge thank you to you gals!!

I am hoping to head over to Michigan for the Midnight Run starting in Marquette middle of February if it works out. I have long wanted to race it and have (in my opinion:) a great team this year so hope to bring home some prize money if all goes well! And as always I look forward to racing in my old hometown of Ely, MN for the WolfTrack Classic, a race that I helped out with its inaugural year. Always great to see my sister and all my friends!!! In the future I would like to race the 10 dog, 150 mile CopperDog in MI which follows more of a stage style format. Always new trails/races to run!!! We also host a short fun sprint race here at Agimac River in mid March. All the local sprint mushers come if they can and its a great time and usually last hurrah to our racing season:)

The eight pups that were born in April are very big at about 8 months old now! I am super excited to see how they do in harness and will hook them up for the first time this winter! Future Champions here they come!

Continue to watch the blog for race results later on this winter!!! Merry Christmas everyone!!! Joanna and team :)