SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wes and Wendy's Weather Three

Hi, Wes here; I will be writing edition 3 of Wes and Wendy's Weather. For a week it was all snow, snow, snow. Everything not yet undercover is lost until spring. Innocently bumping a tree results in a deluge of snow down your neck. This last week was cold, cold, cold! Regional weather records have been broken and it feels like it's going to be a long winter. It has been as low as -45, and last week's temperature was rarely above -30.

So let me tell you about me. I am having a mid-life crisis early at the age of 34. I quit my Washington DC desk job of four years, sold everything in the house, bought a truck and camper, and drove with Wendy to Alaska. I have been planning my mid-life crisis for several years now and have carefully scheduled it from September 2011 until September 2012. My goals are simple:
· spend as much time outdoors as possible
· try something extreme that most people would never consider
· learn outdoor survival skills
· lose 30lbs and get the six pack I never had
· become one of Australia's most experienced mushers (not hard to do)

Anyone who has spent time working at a kennel knows that you do not just become a Musher; you start with the tedious dog yard chores and take on more advanced activities as you progress. The second step on my way to becoming an accomplished musher was becoming an accomplished trail groomer. Less environmentally conscious mushers groom their trails using a snowmobile dragging a large tire that they stole off some poor farmer's tractor. However, SP Kennel has gone green. My role as a trail groomer involves barreling down the road behind a team of dogs hanging on for dear life to an old sled dragging on its side. This results in nicely packed trails around Two Rivers. An added bonus is that the snow ends up inside my parka, boots, and gloves, ensuring a cool refreshing trip. Full credit must also go to my sled which I have nicknamed Snow Shovel. This form of trail maintenance provides the added bonus of being able to study all the feces from my team and others at close range and obtain invaluable insight into their current state of health.

When I am not grooming trails eco-style, I am making snow angels. This is done by waiting until I approach a tight bend in the trail which the dogs feel the inexplicable need to speed up for, and then at the tightest partof the turn, launching myself into the closest snow bank. Two Rivers mushers are becoming familiar with my handiwork which marks various points in the trails. I am considering carrying a can of spray paint to autograph my handiwork.

Wendy has taken a much less engaging approach to mushing; she has not felt the need to leave her sled once yet without using the snow hook. Her sled hasn't even left its upright position! That said, her dogs seem to have more respect for her than mine have for me.

Since starting this post, my skills have progressed and I have been able to manage longer runs, in colder weather, in more complicated trail conditions. The cold weather snap has emphasized the need for dressing appropriately. This, itself, has been a learning experience. I now know why so many mushers wear bibs. I have gone on dog runs with polyfill pants that feel the need to make their way down to my knees whenever I start kicking or running up a hill. All too frequently, I find myself running with one hand on the sled and the other hand holding my pants up. If it does not already exist, I would like to take credit for coining the term Frost Crack, which combines inappropriate clothing with extreme weather conditions.

Our forecast for the next ten days is temperatures between 0 and -30 and we have snow. These are perfect training conditions and we are expecting to put on a lot of miles. We are even hoping for a camping trip or two. Our training focus is beginning to shift from base miles to our first key racing appearance at the Sheep Mountain 150 in December.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Lynne D said...

Gotta love midlife crises - enjoy this time I actually envy your dedication.

Linda Toth said...

I think your next job should be writing a humor column for a well known newspaper.

Thanks for the very "intimiate" insights into learning to mush.


tangle said...

Wes, I'd LOVE to come out to two rivers and enjoy the benefits of your carefully groomed trails. Your attention to detail is no doubt endearing you to your fellow trail-users. Keep up the strong work and maybe get a heat pack on that frost crack at these temps.
AWESOME POST. Keep 'em comin'!

Andrew H said...

Love the insight, looking forward to more posts on your learning experience

Jeff Buddington said...

Wes! Hang with ChaCha; she will show you the ropes! ;)