(Note: This post is by Aliy... As she was rushing out the door to go on her daily 50 mile training run, she handed me the text and asked me to post it for her. -- Macgellan)As always, “We’ve got a lot to do!” -- this is our mantra every morning over coffee -- but during a Race Week we have even more to do than usual. In addition to running dogs every day, we have to prepare our gear, pack supplies, load the trucks and do a million other little things. But, no matter how much we have to do, we always have to stay focused on our most important priority: the dogs!
This is the first time in the season when we really have to make some tough decisions about who will go racing with us and who will stay home. If you’ve ever had a child on a soccer team or basketball squad and you’ve had to look them square in the eye and say “You are not playing today” then you know what this feels like to me.
Although we have some particular goals for every race this season -- Sheep Mountain 150, Gin Gin 200, Solstice 100, Copper Basin 300, Tustemena 200 and Iditarod -- all of them have one thing in common: We start with the full intention of competing hard and doing our team’s overall best.
For most races we will run a Varsity Squad and a JV Squad:
The Varsity dogs will always be the best dogs in the kennel at race time. The roster will vary throughout the racing season -- because you never know when a dog might have a bellyache or step in a hole in the trail and twist a wrist -- and only on the day before a race will the Varsity Squad be chosen. Most often they will be veteran racers with tremendous knowledge, drive and experience.
The JV Squad will vary depending on the race. We will use some of these races as “stepping stones” to help younger dogs learn. After all, there is no better way to teach a 2 year old rookie how to deal with the stresses and issues of a race than to actually compete in a race. But, we must also limit the chaos created by their youthful enthusiasm by combining them in a team with at least some knowledgeable veterans. At race start, it sometimes seems like there are two stoic veterans sled dogs in lead, an experienced musher in the rear and a whole bunch of “Frat Boys on a Friday night” in the middle.
So, think of us this Friday as we walk through the dog yard admiring our wonderful canine athletes. I promise you, I may look some of the dogs straight in the eyes and say, “Get in the truck”, but there will be others who will burn a hole in my back with their stare as I try to avoid their gaze. Next time….. I promise….. next time.