Last weekend, on Saturday 15th of September the 2018-2019 sleddog sports seasons kicked-off in Finland with the Ohkola Autumn race 2018. I had signed-up for DR4 and DCH, which mean four-dog rig class and canicross hobby class.
As I already wrote earlier, we have had limited chance to train our own dogs. Chaika has been working in Kivikko during the summer, so I knew he was strong, but without endurance. The rest of the dogs had just a few strength training sessions and some basic conditioning done in the past weeks.
I kept my expectation in check and just before the start, I decided that I would have Poju in lead with Chaika, instead of Mokka, as originally planned. Last time in Ohkola she was really young and inexperienced and jumped in the ponds and whatnot. I decided having Poju and Chaika in the lead would give Mokka (and Liekki) a good example of what’s expected of the lead dogs in Ohkola.
As Anna was busy with her photography, I was really happy that Riina S. was again available to help me get onto the starting zone! She has been handling our dogs almost from day one, so she knows the dogs and they know her.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and the season was on! I had decided to pace the dogs, so I did not kick in the start but instead told the dogs to go easy after the first bend. Considering what little endurance building we had done, I figured it was best to save some energy for the latter half of the four-kilometre track. Especially considering most steep uphills would be found there, not at the start!
The dogs kept up a decent pace. I was glancing at my Suunto GPS every now and then, and the speed was steadily above 20 km/h. I had sort of figured an average speed of 18 km/h would have been nice. Considering that the dogs seemed to enjoy the action and did not appear to be toiling too hard, I was more than happy. In the uphill sections I duly stepped off the rig and ran as hard as I could to do my share of the work, but mostly it was easy going.
Shortly after the halfway point, we reached the previous contestant, Elli L. We trailed behind for a short while, and then I announced I was going to overtake, and so we did during an uphill section. Neither Chaika or Poju seemed to be too enthusiastic about this endeavour, though, and after the overtake they eased up a bit too much.
For a good while, we were going neck-to-neck with Elli’s team. Even in close proximity her dogs and my team worked really well. Eventually, my dogs out-paced her team and we started gaining a bit of a lead, finally crossing the finish line 15 second before her. Having started one minute after her, I knew my dogs had done a superb job!
Of the 17 contestants, we finished 11th, with one DNF and one DNS. To this date, this has been my best dryland sprint race! No issues with the dogs what-so-ever, a steady performance and a result I am more than happy with.
Another thing I was really proud of was our trip back from the finish line to stake-out: I drove the dogs through the audience and other contestants and dogs with just verbal commands. Chaika and Poju really know their business!
Later on, I took Chaika with me to canicross hobby class. This was more of a recovery exercise than a race start, as I wanted to see the old boy’s movements after the sprint race. It seems that even 10 years old, he is still as strong as an ox! I am happy to have such a great dog with us.
After my events, it was back to race organizing and looking after the pack of three kids under our supervision. They had all signed up for kids canicross! One in each class, so we started scrambling for gear. Turned out that our Non-Stop harness could not be tightened enough for the smallest of the kids, but luckily Team Lipponen heard of our plight and borrowed us some gear! Aliina M. was kind enough to help Elsa in to harness and helped us manage our assorted kids and dogs in the starting area (thank you!).
Elsa finished 3rd of her class with Ritu, and got to visit the podium after the events were over! I am really proud of her, especially considering she will not allow me to help with the dog (although I was permitted to hold her hand during the run) 🙂
Our club UVU got a total of 23 club championship points from this race, and my contribution to the DR4 class earned us one point. I think this is one of the great benefits of the system, as an athlete does not need to reach the podium to contribute to club points!
All in all, a great event! Lots of athletes, lots of dogs, audience, kids… the only issue was with the weather, but that’s not really something we can control, so better not think about it. The limited amount of training was perhaps balanced out by a good diet of Racinel Sport & Agility and Effe Balance Effektri Dog oil supplements, leading to a good result.
Next task is to start working on our new kennels… the fence elements from VIPStore have already arrived!