On Saturday we managed to get up and out in time to go to town and see the mushers start. Let me tell you, those dogs LOVE to run! They were jumping and barking and pulling every other excited-doggie antic they could pull off. And apparently they were even more excited the day before! (The races are divided into two different days--so the 100 mile race is two days, fifty miles each day)
It was cold, a little overcast, but actually perfect for a race. And since it's obviously winter here, that's the kind of weather we expected. So, I wore my Amauti. Violet was in and out, so Calla took a couple turns.
Turns out Calla was fighting a virus that turned into a fever yesterday, so she especially loved being in there! I love that she loves it so much and I love that I can carry her in it.
The variety of racers was pretty interesting. There were quite a few from the over fifty and into the sixty crowd, a good number in their 30s and 40s. And a handful of 20-somethings. One girl I was intrigued by was seventeen, had eight dogs and had been mushing for nine years! By my math, she started when she was eight! What a great activity for a teenager. Made me wonder if she was home schooled.
The teams started two minutes apart. The longest races (100 miler) started first. These racers had up to twelve dogs.
That's a lot of dogs!
And they worked down to the juniors who raced 8 miles over two days. Juniors had up to three dogs.
To me, that's still a lot of dogs. But probably mostly because I'm thinking of how much work three dogs would be all year long. I can't even get our fuzz ball in for a proper hair cut. But I digress.
Each musher needed help at the starting line so the dogs just didn't take off before they were supposed to. And let me tell you, those dogs are EXCITED to get out there and run. And they are STRONG. You might not know that by looking at them. I was surprised at how skinny they were.
But then I realized they are endurance athletes and there is really no room for extra pounds.
I had to giggle because as one lady took off, one of the "stagers" as they are called, slapped her on the behind and hollered, "LOVE YOU!" Didn't take much to figure out that was his wife. Their son also was in the junior race. Seems that it runs in the family (no pun intended). They also had a kid in the mutt races (just hang on and I'll get to it).
I also had to giggle because there was so much to see and learn, but the kids' favorite thing? A giant pile of snow. I think every kid gravitated towards the giant pile of snow.
That is until their fingers got cold and we had to go get some hot chocolate. But they weren't complaining after the promise of hot chocolate.
By the time we got back from our warm up, along with a little sugar-up that seemed to help quite a bit, some of the racers were coming back in. Grace totally got into it.
Now for the mutt races, they hook one dog up to a sled, whether it's a "volunteer" dog and sled or your own, and kids get to run a course that's about 20 yards. It's free and fun for the kids. But this year we just watched. Dogs and kids are so great.
It's called a mutt race for a reason I guess. This is certainly not a husky, but it was the fastest and most excited dog of the bunch.
It also ran straight, which turns out to be important when pulling a sled full of kids, as we would find out.
These are Grace and Calla's little friends, also sisters, and that dog was about my speed. Needed a little help getting started, but it did fine and went the right direction.
These are also a couple friends of ours, and this picture was snapped seconds before the dog bolted into the crowd.
The good news is, it only happened once. The other good news is, nobody was hurt. They were all smiles soon enough and happy that everyone got a prize. And it underscored the importance of going straight.
I decided this sport is a lot of work. Taking good care of dogs is a lot of work. Training and conditioning that many dogs is a lot of work. Transporting that many dogs and all the gear is a lot of work. Going out in the cold for hours on end headed for some point in the great beyond and then turning around to go back is a lot of work. It's physically demanding and even on the dangerous side I'm sure. But then again, any sport that one takes seriously and works to master, even if it's just for fun, is a lot of work and dedication and is physically demanding.
On another note, I was talking with one of the musher's helpers and asked where she got her dogs. She said that several of them she got from Alaska and several of them were rescue dogs. I started to wonder if rescue organizations weren't some sort of gold mine for mushers. These racing dogs are high energy and programmed for running. It's a wonder many of them that start out in urban homes don't end up looking for new homes withing the first few years. Seems like a good bet to me. But I also noticed that not all the dogs looked like they were the typical sled dogs. Some of them looked more like mutts picked up from somewhere and trained to pull a sled. That's pretty cool, too.
It's a beautiful sport. Next year at the local derby I'd like to catch the afternoon events. I heard the weight pull is a pretty fun one to watch. And we missed the Skijoring, a dog or two "assisting" a cross-country skier--because we had cold, tired, hungery kids. But it was a good day full of new experiences!
After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.