I am pleased to say that Bess has officially competed in her very first skijoring race! Hooray for the snow coming through this year.;) I'm also very pleased to say that she did great!
Each of these races has a mandatory drivers meeting each morning. You don't make it to the meeting? You are disqualified. So Bess and I left the house about a quarter after 6am to head up to Mt. Hood. The roads were really icy around the house, which slowed us down a little bit. Once on the other side of the tunnel it was smooth sailing. The last time I did this race with Heffner, we showed up an hour before the driver's meeting and we were lucky enough to get one of the few remaining parking lots. This year, there weren't as many people competing and even showing up a half hour before the meeting started, there were plenty of parking spots to be had.
We found out the run order in the meeting. Recreational skijoring was to be almost the last class. Bummer! I kind of knew that though. Wishful thinking on my part. Unfortunately, I didn't realize just how long we were going to have to wait. I had decided to have Bess ride up in the cab of the truck with me. While the canopy is insulated, it really holds the heat better when there are two dogs generating heat in it. And Bess has been getting cold easier lately, so it just worked out better. Thankfully she rides really well in the cab. She pretty much lays down the whole time. I figured that with Bess and I inside the cab, it should hold heat better and keep her warm enough. I ended up having to turn the truck on a few times to keep it warm enough.
After about five and a half hours of waiting for our turn, I got Bess all geared up and I started walking her around the parking lot to warm her up and also to work on our On By command around other dogs. I bootied her up and put her Ruff Wear coat on over the top of her harness. It was a bit of a shame since her hot pink booties perfectly match her harness, but I knew she would get too cold otherwise. As we were walking around, people commented on how there was this girl that ran a different great dane at one of the previous races. I told them that was me, but Heffner wasn't competing this year. That's also when I ran into my skijoring mentor. And it's a damn good thing too! We chatted a little bit and then she asked me if I had picked up my race packet. I said yep. And then realized that I didn't have my bib on! You can't race without a bib number. And then she also reminded me that I still had my regular boots on and not my ski boots. D'oh! Can't very well put my skis on without the actual ski boots! I don't know what I was thinking! I had already set my skis and poles at the start gate and was so focused on getting Bess ready and keeping her warm that I guess I just spaced it.
Once it was our turn, our start actually went well. I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Bess was excited to be there, but I could also already tell that she was getting cold. I could either have a mostly energetic girl, or I could have the girl who will tuck her tail and look imploringly at me. No need to worry! She was off with a bounding start and even did a little play bound around me before taking of with a jerk on me. And we were off! It wasn't a record breaking pace, but it was a good one.:) She kept tension on the line the whole way. If she started to lag or look back at me for clarification (I got a little wobbly at some points and every time I made a noise, she would look back at me), I would just tell her to keep going and she did. She was great at passing other dogs head on (the course was a down and back loop). She did everything that I asked her to! It was amazing! Oh yeah, and she didn't kill me.:) It was an overall great run. We finished with a time of 23:05. For reference, I believe Heffner's last time on this same course was more than twice that. It makes a difference when you have a dog who likes to pull.
While we were running I also realized that I don't really have Bess conditioned for this. Yes, she can go pretty much all day off leash when we're out hiking around. And when we're out jogging in the evenings, it has yet to wear her out. I kind of equated her overall fitness with her being fit for skijoring, but I haven't specifically conditioned her for that. It's one thing to jog next to someone on easy terrain. It's a whole different story to be out in front of them hauling them along on a friction filled surface, going up and down hills. I felt a little guilty once I realized that I didn't fully prepare her. She did great and was still a super star! But I could have her better conditioned for this specific sport. And that's exactly what the plan is for the next race! Now that we've got a time to beat, I'd like to do that. Since Heffner isn't going to be going jogging with us for a while, I'll just hook Bess up to the skijoring belt, slap her harness on her, and we can get some light pulling practice in that way. It also means getting out and doing some scootering with her. I've got some great spots for it, I just need to set aside the time.
I also took a lot of video of the various teams, sports, and sights at the race. I'm going to work on putting them together tonight and should be able to post it tomorrow. And speaking of tomorrow. Bess was so great today and put up with a whole lot of waiting and getting cold (she was actually shivering after being cooled down and waiting in the truck while I packed up our gear). I want to end on a good run for the weekend and I decided not to go back tomorrow and race. I don't think she'd be thrilled about doing the whole process all over again and I definitely don't want her to think that snow or skijoring isn't fun! That, and I still have a whole lot of meat that needs bagging. It's taking forever to thaw enough for me to bag!