Monday, February 11, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set . . .

High: 14° F
Low: 3° F
Conditions: Partly cloudy with gusting, arctic winds

President’s Weekend is also race weekend in Maine. We thought about heading southeast to Camden for the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. There, over 300 teams—many decked out as celebrities, astronauts, and barnyard animals, hurl themselves down an iced luge shoot and onto a frozen pond. The spectacle of the event appealed to all of us, but when we told Ari she wouldn’t be allowed to pilot our sled, she seemed to lose interest.

Not to worry. Just to our northeast, the Moosehead Lake region was preparing for their annual Greenville to Brownville 100-mile dogsled race. We’ve been making great progress on our new skijoring project, and I was certain that watching the professionals would be just the inspiration we need.

To be sure, professional is putting it mildly. Each year, around 20 teams from the U.S. and Canada compete in this grueling race.
The race begins on the iconic Moosehead Lake at 9:00 a.m. Teams are started at 2 minute intervals; they then run up the frozen lake and turn onto a series of trails that lead them to the town of Brownville Junction.
There, the dogs are checked by a vet, have a snack and mandatory 2-hour rest period, then they make the return trip to Greenville.
Last year, the winning team crossed the finish line in just under 7 hours. The last place team finished in 10 hours 35 minutes, meaning they were mushing until well after dark.

These are serious athletes. One musher told me that, even with our long winters, there isn’t enough annual snow cover to keep a dog in race shape. His team spends the summer swimming laps. Others pull 4-wheelers, mountain bikes, and everything short of a bigwheel.
The dogs live to run, and this was more than apparent when we arrived at the race site. We could hear the yodeling dogs long before we reached the lake. And, when we did finally arrive, we were greeted by a squirming chaos of eager racers lunging in their harnesses.

I was overwhelmed. Ari was orgasmic. Here were hundreds of leaping, woo-ing, prancing dogs. Athletic. Strong. The Brad-Pitt-meets-Lance-Armstrong of the canine world. Ari didn’t know what to do with herself. Neither did I. We stood for over 30 minutes watching the race preparations: one of us in jaw-dropped reverie for the complicated logistics of harnessing an enthusiastic team; the other chortling and flirting like a drunken banshee. We just couldn’t take our eyes off these dogs.

That is, of course, until a young couple from Providence and their very fetching dog, Jack, walked out onto the lake to watch the race. Jack was a nice enough guy, but he was no Olympian. His owners admitted that he regularly falls off of sidewalks. When he was a puppy, he'd tip over when he lifted a leg to pee. Still, Ari was beyond enchanted with poor, clumsy Jack. The two dogs wrestled for over an hour and didn't stop until they were a tangled, slobbery, exhausted mess. I don’t think they saw a single sled team start the race.

Apparently a friend in the hand is worth 200 in the mush. Or something like that.


Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Ari's my kind of gal!

Life's too short not to play!!

AND eat lobsters and blueberry pie with Tubey!!!


PeeEss: Guess it will be khrabs with Meeshka!

Katherine and Pippa, said...

So where is the piccy of the two together then? Sounds great.


JB's Big World said...

That looks like an amazing event! It sounds like you and ari had a great time! No snow here in Texas, so we don't have this kind of race. Thanks for sharing this story and photos!

Gus and Louie said...

Ari now that is some fun. We would love to watch those dogs. They are so talented...

Me & my puppies said...

Sorry guys... too cold...too fast...too long for Jersey beach dogs! We're more about laying around sunbathing!

kericronin said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all!

Ferndoggle said...

I could totally pull a sled. All by myself. I'm very athletic. I just CHOOSE to sleep 23 hours a day.


Amici said...

That is so great that you went to that event. My Mom has been reading up about them but hasn't ever got the nerve to bring me in fear that I'll try and run off with those sled dogs. :)

Making new friends is the best! We're glad you had such a fun time.

Thank-you for all the supportive comments you left about hoping I'd feel better soon. It is nice to meet and get to know another Maine dog blogger. :)

Dakota said...

Wow. What a weekend! I'm so jealous, thank you for taking us there.

Hey, we loved your idea about a dog book club! What do you suppose we need to do.

Marigold said...

I can imagine this was quite a sight. Of course it would have been far better to have a team of hunky bucks pulling that sled, but then the smell would probably have been a little daunting for any but those for whom it is an acquired taste.

PKPWV said...

Yeah Ari you met a great play date in jack! Woo Hoo!


Holly said...

That sounds like sooo much fun. But a lot of work too. I think I would rather walk for a couple miles then nap the rest of the day.


Kapp pack said...

Wow, how cool! We would have loved to see that. When mom was in Alaska she got to meet Jon Little (he does all of the iditarod reporting for Cabela's) He showed them how he trains in the summer with his four-wheeler.

WOo woo, Kelsey Ann

Farmgirl_dk: said...

So, is the goal (or dream) to someday participate in something like this with Ari as part of the team? What an incredible training regimen these dogs undergo.

Kathryn and Ari said...

Hi, Farmgirl-
Always great to hear from you! As intrigued as I am by these races, I think they're more than we can handle unless Greg and I quit our jobs and become full-time mushers. We really love the skijoring and canicross, though--I think those 10K races are more our thing. Maybe that'll leave more time for goats and other critters!

Jan said...

Enjoyed this post. Sure sounds a whole lot different than the way the dogs are treated for the Iditerod (sp?.

Happy Valentine's Day
Jan's Funny Farm

Dmitri said...

Dogs and snow and someplace to go. What more could you want in winter?!