We’ve got new puppies!

white siberian husky puppy

The Trailwinds team has grown quite a bit! We now have a total of eight new puppies. And what lovely little buggers they are!

Before Gold Rush Run in early April (a report on that is still in the works!) we attended a sprint race in Rautavaara to warm up our Siberians. We thought that we had a bad case of phantom pregnancy in the team, because we have experienced that before, but turns out it was just a regular pregnancy.

The only phantom in the process was how and when did the insemination take place? It must have happened in Koskenpää during our training camp there, but we have not witnessed it.

This means that I have to apologize to my dames; I was disappointed in their performance in Rautavaara, but in hindsight, it makes perfect sense.

Anyway, as a result of all of this, we will have to submit the puppies to genetic tests to confirm the identity of the stud. And of course, there is the vet check-ups, vaccinations, chips to install, new kennel room to be built... a lot of work ahead of us, but seeing those cuddly little balls of fur really makes up for it!

P.S: Racinel Black Label Extra Energy is good stuff to making sure the dame has enough energy to take care of her pups!

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50 km milestone achieved

Today, our team achieved the 50 kilometres in one session milestone! We have three weeks until the Gold Rush Run medium distance race, 2x 75 kilometres, and I am starting to get confident that we can pull this off, which is a remarkable recovery from the blues I had just two weeks ago.

We are long ways behind of schedule. December was a complete lacklustre in terms of distance trained, and January was not much better. We caught-up quite a bit in February, but not quite enough. For the past weeks, we have been pushing the distances quite aggressively and keeping a very close eye on our dogs, to see that they recover from each training sufficiently.

The dogs are eating like never before! The distance training requires a heavy load of calories, and while we trust Racinel Black Label Extra Energy to cover the bulk of that, we do give them some raw meat with morning hydration to boost things up a bit.

Kirsi Sinda, our dog massage therapist, will be paying us a visit in a week or so, and we will do a thorough check-up then, to make sure that all dogs are fit to race. It is imperative for us that our dogs are ship-shape, and we do not want to push them too hard.

50 kilometres of training takes quite a bit of time. I usually spend the first hour or so focusing just on the training and the dogs, but once they settle down to a steady trot, I listen to some podcasts or music. This week I have been listening to Jocko Willink‘s podcast. I recommend that if you are interested in topics like the military and leadership.

Just one more week of distance training to go, and we are moving the focus to build up speed now. If you want to keep posted on our progress, follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Some days you just wanna quit

The move from sprint distance to medium distance mushing is taking its toll. The sheer amount of time and distance travelled while training is getting to me. It would, perhaps, be easier if training the dogs was all that I do, but I try to train myself as well (Anna is my personal whip in that area), carry out my part of the family errands, perform my job and have a resemblance of a social life as well.

The environment here in Koskenpää is great for training. At a glance, so is the weather. It was just -12°C (10°F), but thanks to windchill, it goes down to -19°C (-2°F). Today, while training, I was wondering how come the dogs seemed to be struggling a bit until I gave the dogsled a push myself. It was like trying to push it on the sand, instead of snow. After weeks of sub-zero temperatures, there is no moisture in the snow, and the powder snow does not lubricate the skis at all.

Weeks of increasingly heavy training, slow snow conditions and post-heat anxiety took over Windy today, and she lashed out on Poju, resulting in a tiny wound just under his right eye. It looked bad at first glance but turned out to be a minor issue.

I was already on edge. The training did not start out great today, as I had just released the safety rope and applied the brakes on the first downhill when the steel ring on Remu’s harness snapped, leading to the plastic neckline connector to break, too. So Remu was running wild, which did not go too well. Apparently, he likes to keep bumping sideways into lead dogs, for reasons which I cannot begin to fathom. Five minutes later I was back where I had started, fixing the lines, and cursing Non-Stop. Unfortunately, this was not the first steel ring to come apart from our last batch of harnesses, which is starting to annoy me.

It took a lot of willpower to try and stay calm and cheerful. I cannot say that I succeeded at every turn. Of course, that did not make the dogs’ job any easier. I was scheduled to go 35 kilometres (21 miles) today but decided to call it a day after just 23 km (14 mi). And that’s when Windy attacked Poju. The only good thing was that I was just a few hundred yards from home, where I could give Poju a proper check-up and give everyone some chow. Poju got some extra love, today.

Anyways, sorry for the rant, but it’s been a long day and it was not a good one. I suppose every error I make, every mistake I come across and every challenge that needs to be overcome is better to experience here, in training, than in competition. Knowing that, however, does not make it any easier on a day like this.

Arktic dogsled

Arktic dogsled

Today was an exciting day! After a long way, we received our brand new Arktic dogsled. This sled is 100% hand-made, Finnish craftsmanship. It is a beautiful item, and handles really well – very relaxing to drive!

We had given the dogs a couple of days of rest, so when morning came they were full of energy. After a proper hydration, we had time to pick-up the sled, rig it up with anchors et al, and then it was time to harness up the dogs and get going!

With this sled, we finally have the possibility to take the whole family along on the long training runs. Of course, some training needs to go light-weight, but every now and then we can share some quality time, on the snow!

Distance Husky lifestyle

Trailwinds Huskies Remu shaking off snow after training on frozen lake near Jämsä, Central Finland.

Since 2018 kicked off, our dogs have now trained 233 kilometers or 144 miles. Before Gold Rush Run medium distance race starts in 31st of March 2018, the dogs will have spent well over 1000 kilometers in training after New Year’s.

For the dogs, this means a lot of hard work. For us, this has been a head-first dive into a distance husky lifestyle. We have moved from Southern Finland to Central Finland until the end of GRR race, and as a result of a 300-kilometer move, we now have a whole lot better chances of being able to train according to the plan, instead of the weather.

Right now the dogs are working 25+ kilometers per day, and we need to push this up to 75 in a time-span of five weeks. On average, we have about 5 training days per week and two rest days for the dogs. It is vital that our dogs are well-fed, with sufficient fat intake to provide fuel, and proteins to build-up muscle and protect from injury.

We are really happy to have Racinel Black Label sponsor super premium extra energy food for our dogs and tmi Kirsi Sinda to check-up on the physique and massage the dogs to enhance mobility and recovery.

We keep a very close eye on the dogs’ performance. If there are any signs of lack of motivation, asymmetry of movement or other signs of trouble, extra rest is scheduled and endurance training is replaced by free running and other fun activities. After all, we want our Huskies to enjoy this challenge as much as we do!

(P.S: There are currently 22 mushers registered in the limited class. I wonder if there is a Red Lantern in GRR…)

From Safari Dog to Coach Dog

I recently wrote a brief update when travelling up North to Rovaniemi to pick up Skoda, a veteran safari dog from Bearhill Huskies. Time for an update!

As reported, her name is Skoda, and she is a very experienced safari dog. She is not young anymore, but our sports training is relatively easy going, compared to full-time professional safari work. We hope that we can give her a nice, active retirement home, and in return, we hope that she, along with her brother Chaika (who joined our team in the summer), can depart some of the wisdom built up during their working years.

When I was at the Bearhill’s kennel, Vallu (co-owner of the safari) noticed that Skoda had a lump in her chest, about the size of a walnut. We agreed that I would take her to the vet and get it checked out. Bearhill’s agreed to pick up the bill for the operation.

Once down South, I contacted Omaeläinklinikka in Lohja. I took Skoda for a check-up and since the lump seemed to be mobile (and thus less likely to be life-threatening), we decided to go for a direct approach and scheduled a date for removal. Last week she was operated and the lump, along with two smaller ones were removed. Everything went well in the operation.

She is now recovering. She spent the first five days indoors and is now back in the kennel. There is no sign of infection and next week it will be time to remove the stitches. By end of the month, she is scheduled to be back in training with the rest of the pack!

I would like to promote this type of adoption, especially for less experienced sleddog sports amateurs; give a home to an experienced, professional sleddog. From my personal experience working with Chaika and Skoda (we got a few training runs done before the operation), I can promise you that the dogs can teach you things you would never pick-up from a book. And your other dogs will benefit immensely from having two experienced dogs in the lead, working as intended, to learn from!

Food for Canine Athletes

Since this summer our dogs have been eating Racinel Black Label Extra Energy. We already had a good impression of Racinel Black Label series since we had been using Sport & Agility for the past six months, but Extra Energy was still a positive surprise!

The dogs’ excrements volume decreased and the firmed up, making them easier to clean up. After a short while, we noticed that the dogs were putting on weight, fast! This means that the nutrients in the food are easily ingested. The food includes salmon oil, which makes the fur absolutely shine and the paws are in great condition.

It is very important to us that our dogs get high-quality chow, especially now that we are aiming for longer distance races. The food needs to be highly digestible, high on energy, fat, and proteins so that we do not need to mix in any raw meat. This means that the feeding process is faster and easier, all dogs get a controlled amount of fat and proteins, and hygiene is easier to maintain.

Canine athletes have an increased need for antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins E and C, as well as beta-carotene and almost all of vitamins B (Kempe et al, 2005).

Racinel Black Label Extra Energy has the correct formula of nutrients and supplements, paying extra attention to the dietary requirements of the joints; the food has an ideal content of glucosamine chondroitin and vitamin C. It goes without saying that longer distances take their toll on the joints, and you need to compensate for this in the diet.

In three months we will be racing our first medium distance race – the Gold Rush Run in Finnish Lapland. We still have a lot to figure out, in order to arrange sufficient training days for the dogs. For the past three weeks, we have been practically unable to train, due to awful weather conditions here in Southern Finland. While trying to sort out accommodation, schedule, and budget for an eight-week training camp, it is a welcome relief to know that at least the nutrition is in order!

Boosting the team

I am writing this on a train, on my way up North to Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. I will visit some friends, including Valentjin of Bearhill huskies, from where I will pick up Skoda.

Skoda is an experienced leader, who has worked many years in harness. She is the sister of Chaika and I am sure she will help achieve even higher standards in teaining.

Right now we are past Oulu and it is full winter here. Such a different scene than the perpetual autumn/first snow cycle we have down South. I am ever more certain that to do well in GRR, we need to move our show further North.

Interruption in training

I have taken the last 10 days off from training. Initially, this was due to an army reserves exercise, which took place in Southern Finland last week. As a souvenir, I took home a strain of flu, that I have not been able to shake off, but it is starting to look better now.

For the dogs, this has been just resting and getting fat. We will start working today, to get back on track. I will try to make up for some of the lost time by training 6 of the following 7 days. I will keep the daily increase in distance modest, to compensate for the number of workouts in the period.

Personally, this has not been just relaxation. First of all, the actual exercise, while not aerobically challenging, was a good test of stamina and character. The active phase lasted four days, during which time we should have had a whopping 6 hours of sleep per day. In practice, this was cut in half every day, so between Thursday and Sunday, I could use 9 hours, combined, for sleeping.

This nine-hour window is, however, highly theoretical. When our squad arrived in the camp someone had already pitched our tent. We thought this was a nice gesture… until it started raining. Whoever it was who had pitched the tent, had not known how to do it, proper. As a result, the tent collected all of the rainwater inside the tent. To have a pool party in a tent sounds a lot nicer than it actually is, in late November.

As a result of all of this, many of us had wet sleeping bags and gear for the remainder of the exercise, cutting back our ability to sleep properly.

In addition to lack of sleep, there is the actual physical effort involved with this sort of infantry ops. Our gear weighs about 20 kilos (approx. 45 lbs), not including the ammunition. When wet, it weighs more. Patrolling for hours on end with the gear on, hopping on and off transportation and generally just existing with the kit on takes its toll.

Unfortunately, I do not have a heart rate monitor, it would have been interesting to know how many extra calories we burn in a low-intensity exercise like this.

Perhaps it was being constantly wet, not getting enough sleep or just bad luck, but after I got home, I got sick. Fever, running nose, feeling like I’ve unsuccessfully tried to swallow a cactus. It has been six days now and I am starting to feel better, but I will take a couple more days before I try running.

For GRR, this was a great reminder to ensure that my sleeping gear stays dry, and that temporary lack of sleep is not an issue for me. Also, it was great to notice how much easier everything was, now that I am generally in better condition than I was in my previous reserves training exercise!

Hamstring issue solved?

At the end of my last marathon training set last week, I had to abort my long run. As I mentioned in my previous marathon-related post, my left hamstring cramped and I figured after a few more kilometers that not giving up would probably cause more problems.

By chance when I got home Anna handed me the latest Juoksija -magazine, the leading runners publication in Finland. It just happened to have an article about posture, and it mentioned that forward-leaning posture can cause issues with hamstrings, and it could be fixed by running more erect. I decided I should give it a try, and I did.

I have now run two runs, 4 and 8 KM runs, and while the leg is still sore, I can say that it is getting better now, not worse. I’ll keep you updated.