Monday, February 8, 2016

92 Mile Ironline Sled Dog Race in Iron River, MI

Only the amazing mushers, both men and women, along with their dog handlers would truly know what challenges are involved in this sport. I go along with Joanna to every race and as she leaves the starting shoot each time, I am usually in tears, experiencing the excitement, drama and marvel of the moment. All the days and nights of training these tremendous dog athletes for close to 1000 miles in sometimes 20 to 30 degrees below zero weather to enable them to function as a cohesive, responsive team at competitive speeds, requires determination, strength, (both internal and external), patience, consistency, and endurance on the part of the musher. My husband John faithfully accompanies her on every one of those 1000 miles on his snowmobile for both protection from wild animals and to be able to hook down the team to the snowmobile in case she needs to leave the sled to help a dog on the team.

This was the Ironline race in Iron River, MI, one that Joanna has never done before. She had to deal with much disappointment before we left for the race, having two of her main adult dogs injured on training runs just before leaving for the race. It was a ten dog race, and because we try to keep our kennel size down to a minimum for expenses, she only had her three young yearlings to draw from as substitutes in the race. One of those yearlings had to take off the whole month of December for an injury and didn't have the training miles the others did, so Joanna figured she would just run her on the second leg of the race, each leg being 46 miles.
In addition, on our drive to Michigan, when we dropped the dogs for a potty break near Superior, WI, it appeared that another one of the dogs had developed a limp. We had no idea how that happened. This was a blow that deeply discouraged Joanna since it may have meant that she was now down to eight dogs starting the first night run.

Isn't this just like our race in life as believers in Christ? The world we live in is full of difficult challenges and disappointments which try to sink our ship and leave us in despair. At every turn we have the choice on whether to allow the turbulent waters around us to flood our ship and sink us or cast every care on Him who loves and cares for us and trust Him to work out everything for our good. Our emotions want to run us. But God gives us lots of opportunities to practice leaning on and trusting in His goodness and favor for us.

As it turned out, we had a vet check the dog that seemed to have developed a limp on our way to the race and found out it was only pain in a toenail and after the vet treated it, she was ready to roll in the race. Joanna rose to the challenge and went forth with a victorious attitude using the dogs who were willing and able to run and did very well in a race with some stiff competition, winning fourth place. I can't imagine running into the dark with only a headlamp to go as fast as you dare on a course you're not familiar with that has drop offs, sharp turns and other obstacles. These folks develop a fearlessness that astounds me. It's character building that translates into how we live our lives in this world. I tip my tuc (Canadian for hat) to Joanna!!