Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Beauty of Fall Training

More Reasons We Run Dogs

With temps in the 20's, it was a perfect day to run the dogs.

After quickly hooking up, we set off through the beautiful Iowa Autumn woods.

Wildlife was plentiful, as we saw several deer, plus a kamikaze squirrel that darted across the trail a couple of feet in front of a speeding dog team! I slammed on the brakes to keep Maggie on the trail, then instantly commanded "On by!" and we kept on going.

The trail is on an abandoned railroad line, and passes these old grain bins.

At 4 miles, the turnaround point, we crossed over this pretty bridge, and stopped for a drink and a snack.

The ride back was uneventful, other than meeting the DNR guy, who gave me full permission to use the trail.

More views of the river in the pretty setting.

I rode the brake for the first 6 out of 8 miles, and held the speeds in the 7-to-8 mph range. They enjoyed the run and were easily ready for more!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Freeze Warning!

Cold morning = good run

Cool sunrise

With temperatures in the upper 20's, it was a good morning to run the dogs.

Ellen: "Please, sir, may I have a run?"

Hooked up with Maggie in lead with Ellen, followed by Browning, then Nick, then Logan and Nucky. Down the field, across the waterway and into the woods. Maggie did pretty good, although she wanted to check out a couple of things off the trail.

"Take that hill!"

The woods were pretty and the trail is the exact opposite or the smooth, straight and flat rail bed - this one has plenty of twists and turns, with enough elevation changes to give quite the workout.

"Bring it on home!"

After just under 3 miles, we took the nice long, steady grade up the field and back home. A nice little jaunt, but I think we're ALL looking forward to really putting some miles on. Kind of depressing to spend twice as much time hooking up as actually running!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Training Run Part Deux

Sunday morning was cool, in the mid-forties. After the “interesting” training run the other day, it was time for the 2nd try. I really needed it to be successful and fun for all – including me!

After morning chores and coffee, it was time to load up. Oh no, I hadn’t gotten gas the day before, and my truck was on fumes. Another 15 minutes lost running to town. Foreshadowing of things to come?

Maggie standing on the top of the back seat

Co-pilot Krunchy

We loaded the trailer without incident, put Maggie in the cab, joining Krunchy, who was to be Angie’s running partner. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the trailhead. The stretch I wanted to run is nice and secluded, going down along the river. It had washed out during the Floods of ’08, but some of it was still usable.

When we pulled up, there was a grader and they had cleared it and groomed it, making it nearly too perfect!

Quickly laying out the lines, I decided to give everyone another try, and put Ellen and Nick back in lead. However, after their good showing last time, I moved Maggie and Browning into swing, followed by Alice and then the brothers, Logan and Nucky. Unloading the dogs from their boxes, I discovered Logan had peeled back part of the grate covering his window, and had then tried to un-bolt the hinges!

When they all were hooked up, the pandemonium increased as per usual. I quickly pulled the snub lines, and we took off!

I rode the brakes for the first mile or so, as everyone settled into their groove nicely. I remembered NOT to talk much, although when Alice repeatedly looked back, I finally acknowledged her, and then she was fine. Women!

Krunchy waiting for us

Yee haw!

Can't keep up

We cruised along the fresh gravel trail for quite a while. My plan had been to run a mile-and-a-half out, then turn around and run back to the truck. When we got to that point, I could see Angie and Krunchy just a little ways ahead. Wanting to practice “On by”, we kept traveling towards them. Maggie pulled towards Mom and Krunchy, but the rest of the team did a good job keeping their heads down and moving right “On by” the distraction. Good dogs! Krunchy turned and ran around us, wanting to follow. I stopped so he could hear Angie calling him, and he turned to go back, so we took off. Angie said there was a good place to turn around “about a quarter-mile” ahead, so I decided we could handle the additional distance. About a MILE farther, we came to the clearing. I stopped to give them treats, but with Browning pulling aside to eat some grass, and the leaders trying to pull us onward, I decided to turn them around first. Turning my five-dog team last year had been “exciting”, so I wasn’t sure how it would go with the larger team. Taking the leaders by their neckline, and bringing them around, the rest of the team waited until it was their turn! We ended up cleanly facing the other way, with no tangles.

Break time

Back to work, riding the brake as they were once again filled with energy. They soon settled into a nice slow trot, and we made our way without incident. When I saw Angie ahead at the truck, I stopped for a rest break. After nearly 5 miles, on the first run of the year, Ellen was barking and ready to go after a 15 second break!

End of the run

I called them up, “Let’s go! Hike up! Bring it on home!” and we bolted fast – for 50 feet. Then we settled back into the trot, and made it back to the truck.

Made it!

Water and treats all around. Everyone was calm and happy and got lots of pets. After we cooled down, I unhooked them and loaded them back in the trailer. I fixed Logan’s screen, tightened bolts and triple-bolted his door! While we drove home Maggie napped, so I knew it had been a good run. Back on the farm, everyone got more treats and thanks.

I needed a good run, THEY needed a good run, and we all got what we needed. Fun for all, no injuries, and another run in the books.

Happy finish

It was a good day.

In my element

Thanks to Angie for some of the photos!

Friday, October 14, 2011



Finally, after 6 months of waiting, and several weeks of teasing weather, we have a cool morning and all my gear is in place. Oh, those words I've longed to say:
"Time to run the dogs!!!!"


Last season, I had four dogs and a puppy. With two additional dogs, plus the pup being a year-and-a-half, I am ready to run seven dogs. Should be interesting!

Hooked up and looking good!

After the usual hijinks of harnessing and hooking up, the team appeared to be ready to go. Alice was already standing backwards with her harness half-over her head, and the new boys were getting hopelessly tangled, but all of that was expected. Usually we get moving and then stop for a quick untangle.


After I unhooked the leaders, Ellen and Nick, from the "line-out tire", mayhem ensued. They turned and ran the other way, around the trailer towards the garage. This pulled the rest of the team sideways, across the fire pit and under the rear of the trailer. I pulled them back to the front of the team, commanded "Line out!" and ran back to the quad. Same issue.

My Ride

"Now what?" I wondered. It is true we were running out of our yard on a new trail, and in the past, we ran off the opposite side of the farm, so it could be they were thinking they needed to go over there. Or, it could be that Nick wanted to check out the kitties in the garage, as he does when allowed to run free in our yard.

"Line out!" Hmm, this is getting ridiculous! And dangerous - the new brothers, Logan and Nucky, had shown me at the CopperDog race last year that they were adept at tangling themselves - up and over like the Russian tumblers on Ed Sullivan! (Yes - I really AM that old!) In fact, they were so incredibly tangled with Maggie and Browning in wheel, that the four of them were basically hooked together side-by-side. Oh, now Alice is chewing at her harness.


So, I unravel as best as I can (in other words, enough to at least get them in line), and try once more. This time, Nick decides maybe he should toss in the towel, and he pulls the entire team through the gate into the dogyard! Poor Biscuit, who was the only one left in the yard, was surrounded by the team! Over him and around him, lines a twisting! As I untangled and attempted to get them back in front of the quad, I realized he was actually hooked in to a line!

Time for a New Plan.

Alice was done. She has always exhibited this behavior and indeed, that's the reason for seven dogs when intending to race six. And now she was attempting to free herself by eating the gangline. No brainer, she's sitting this one out. That brought the stress level down a bit. Now, what to do about the "leaders"? Ellen was starting to balk, most likely from my swearing at Nick, and she was backing out of her harness. Join your friend Alice back in the yard, E! Now for Mr. Nick. He was out of his head, bouncing around and dragging the team back and forth. Timeout for you, Mister!

Maggie and Browning in Lead

I had noticed that Maggie and Browning both leaned in their harnesses and tried to pull in the right direction every time I called it. And the young brothers seemed to be attempting to do the same. What was there to lose?

Logan and Nucky in Wheel

I tied off Browning to a tree, and untangled the rest of them (by now, they had rolled through weeds, which were woven into the lines). I removed one section of tugs, so we were down to a six-dog line. I put the brothers in the back in wheel position, and hooked Maggie and Browning in lead. "Line out!" Well what do you know? They DID! Untie from the tree, unhook the quad, give the command, "Hike!" and we started moving in the right direction!

Maggie seemed to understand "Gee" and "Haw". Browning would look around and try each way until he was pointed the right way and I could yell,"Yep!" We were off like a shot!

Across the yard, through some trees and onto the edge of the field. The leaders seemed to know what they were looking for. Across the waterway to the edge of the timber. Point of no return - we were either heading into the woods and down a steep hill, or turning back. The dogs were still fresh, we had barely started. I know I'll have to run and help push the quad back up the hill - so what??? "Hike!" and away we go!

Nice and easy down the big hill. Up and down, and around corners. Smart puppy looking back for guidance. We stop at the bottom. It's the first run, we're staying under two miles, they seem good but I know its uphill all the way back. "Oh, please, Daddy!" they implore. OK, let's go farther.

At the next stop, I know we need to turn back. Turning around by hand on a narrow trail is never easy, and these are my (so-called) "B Team", so it could get rough. Or, they would just do it easily, with a minimal amount of tangles. Hooray! Line out, turn the quad around, only minor difficulties. As we head back, the leaders take the wrong trail. "Gee!" I command. "Maggie! Bruno! GEEEE!!!" They look at me like I'm stupid. I lock down and get off and start to run up front, I'll have to pull them over to the correct trail. Huh, look at that - what I "thought" was the correct trail is just some tire tracks - my leaders were right the whole time! Um, never mind, here we go.

The hill was tough - I walked, we stopped several times, but we made it. Across the waterway to the edge of the muddy field. Uphill, muddy and not much of a "trail". With several stops, and much running by me, we eventually returned home.

Wow! I don't know about the dogs, but the MUSHER sure learned a few things!

Happy little team after the run