That first race, no not the first race of the season, I mean the first race ever. Everyone has experienced it and most of them lived. My first race was ‘The Empire’ in Solon Springs, WI. Of course we had been training our 6 dogs since early September and since it was our first season training, it was interesting. So come January I was ready to run 34 miles each day, Saturday and Sunday. Or so I thought. I made Donna get up at 3:00 am to make sure we would be at Solon Springs by six. It didn’t matter that it was only an hour’s drive and that I had everything loaded but the dogs. I wanted to give myself that much more time to run around like an idiot, because I was going to a sled dog race. And I was in it! So we arrived in the Elementary School parking lot at 5:30 am. We were first, which soon became my normal saying, “If you can’t be first at the finish line, be first in the parking lot”. My draw was 8th out of 68 in the 6-dog event. It was about 10 degrees and sunny. Perfect. Donna and some new mushing friends helped me up to the chute and then we were off. Now, these were all basically sprint dogs that I had dutifully trained for one season to be mid-distance dogs. So of course they would go out of the chute at a nice pace and listen to my every command. Oh my God, was I wrong.The first ¼ mile is 2 inches of snow on asphalt. As the team was coming up on the line of pickup trucks I knew we wanted to make a hard ‘Gee’ in front of them. But there was just enough room between the last vehicle and the snow fence for a team to get through. So that is exactly what we did. Within 30 seconds of my first race I was already off the trail. Now I’m going about 75 mph, down a wide street, on my side and screaming. I get the sled upright and holler ‘Gee’ at the next corner, knowing I had to get back to the trail. We made a right and then immediately went down a driveway. Apparently, ‘Whoa’ at this point meant ‘Go’. Then the team stopped. They had gone into a barn that was pitch black inside. I couldn’t see the team. I holler ‘Ruby, Pinky, Come!’ They came out of the barn and dragged me around onto this farmer’s front porch. Pinky started to scratch at the door while one of the wheeler dogs pulled out of his collar. So the situation is this: On mans front porch with a big six-dog tangle. Off the trail and not sure which way to go. It’s 10 degrees and I’m sweating like a pig and I bet it had not been more then 2 minutes since I had left the chute. As the man watched from his window I got the tangle out, went down the street toward the trucks at which point Pinky figures it would be a good idea to go over the snow fence to get back onto the trail. We made it. Then there was silence as we went down the trail through the beautiful North woods. Ah, that first race.
Lost Sports of the Winter Olympics: The fast and furry world of sled dog racing