Rant and Raves - Oct 2005 through Feb 2006

February 2006:

What a wacky winter this has been! After returning from Eagle Lake, we have been faced with nothing but rain. We do not typically mind using the ATV for a maintenance run on the railbed between races; but to use it as the sole means to train the team during late January, early February, is a sad state of affairs! Our friend Peter from Scotland picked the right year to come over here. We unfortunately, seem to have chosen the wrong year to run the Can-Am 250!

Nearly every race from Pennsylvania to Quebec has been canceled. We have had to postpone the Stratford race already, and are crossing our fingers that we get an awesome storm between now and the 25th, so that we are not forced to postpone it again, or worse -> cancel.

Allagash came into season this month as we suspected she would. Training in Canada the weekend of the 11th was a major challenge; since you could not put Allagash in front of any male as she would slow down in harness or back herself up into the male behind her. And then of course, you could not put a male in lead, as he would turn the team around to locate the pretty woman!

Unfortunately, conditions have not improved over the course of the past few weeks. The sled dog race we help to organize has in fact been canceled. Trying to find snow while holding down a full time job has become an almost insurmountable task. People are pulling their entries from Can-AM left and right.

We took in another long weekend on the trails in Mattawin this month. The goal was to put at least one 6-8 hr run on the team during our 4 day stay. As it turns out, we ended up replicating the Mabec to Allagash leg of Can-AM! Since this was the longest continuous training run since Eagle Lake, the team was pretty flat for the balance of the weekend. Ideally, we would have preferred to have done this kind of training late January, early February. Rhonda’s team lead us out of the park. After rotating a number of dogs into lead position, she finally rescinded to putting Saint up front. Wouldn’t you know, he was psyched to be there and lead the team in single lead, back to the parking lot. It was one of those moments which brought tears to your eyes. Thanks Saint for the ray of sunshine!

Despite the wacky weather pattern, looking back on our training log, we have been successful in not only reaching our mileage goal for the season; but exceeding it! The team is happy to be back playing in their exercise yard and taking in runs on our local trail system. Other than Allagash of course : ( , we have not yet decided who else will sit out Can-AM. We are just so incredibly pleased with each and every dog on this team! Last minute gear has been arriving via UPS almost daily. Bob even bought a new sled!

January 2006:

Happy New Year! Rhonda's had fun updating the website with activity over the course of 2005. Hopefully we can do 2006 justice in our little monthly rant and raves about kennel life here in Sandown, NH.

Ever since the first winter when we shared Christmas vacation with the Davis's and the Johnson's at Mattawin, we have been drawn to the Canadian provincial park. It's as if our soul was infused with the experience. This year we were extended an invitation to share a portion of the week with our friends Faith and Bruce. We stayed at a cabin named Rusty. For the yearlings (Zen kids and Peggy), this was an important step in the goal toward Can-Am. To access Rusty, you mush or snowmobile in. No dogtruck to tether off or use as a supply base camp. Our trek into camp was exciting. It's only 6 miles, but we did it in the dark, breaking trail, with sleds looking like something the Grinch propelled down Mt. Crumpet!

As Rhonda tends to say, "things happen for a reason". Well, we were not meant to sell Halley last year. She has truly risen to the task of running in lead. You can absolutely feel the power of her enthusiasm when she's focused and running up front. All we need to do is teach her gee/haw, and I think she will be an amazing leader! At present, she still has a teenage interest in scenting out moose. Speaking of dogs stepping up to the plate, Dharma has a few runs now herself in lead; and in front of a 16 dog team no less!!

Looking at the team right now, it is going to be difficult deciding which 10 will be on the Eagle Lake team. It might be determined by the flip of a coin. With a small core, it's a shame really, for any of them to have to sit out. Up to this point in training, everyone except for Peggy, has equal miliage under their belt. We have always prided ourselves on training/racing, every season, each and every dog (minus pups and retirees) in the kennel. Now, depending on how the next two months go with our work/vacation schedules, a few dogs will have to sit out each run (and maybe a race or two).

Many thanks as usual to the Ellis’s and the Lalla’s for their generous hospitality and friendship. If it wasn’t for you guys, I’m not sure we’d even be at this point in the process toward our quest for the Can-Am 250 finish line.

December 2005:

For the past two months, we have had Peggy training along with our team. Taking her into our kennel was such an easy transition. No socialization breakout sessions were required. Within a few days she was romping around with the rest of the dogs during exercise time. The fact that she is altered, also helped (i.e. we do not have to worry about her coming into season and screwing up the boys). This is Peggy's first year in harness. We have been running her primarily next to Saint. Not sure yet if she will make our team, but she sure is enjoyable to have around! Thanks Karen and Brian for letting Peggy spend a bit of time with us.

With a kennel comprised of 6 yearlings (including Peggy), we took a HUGE leap of faith when registering for the Can-Am 250. The offer to borrow dogs from a few long time friends and mentors was seriously considered, as well as the idea of buying a seasoned adult. These options however, occurred too late in the training season. Adding a new dog into the team at this stage of the game would be difficult, and may in fact disrupt the bond and trust that has developed between Bob and our dogs. On a positive note, the Zen boys seem to have matured almost overnight. It took a training run up to our friends' place in Canada, outside of our regular routine, for us to physically see this transition.

Got together with our Central NH mushing buddies for what has become an annual boot camp style training session. Although we generally do not like to train in large groups like this, it was really good for the yearlings to see unfamiliar dogs and trucks around. We had considered taking the Fritz cart but opted instead for the ATV. Usually when we run the ATV, it's with a team of 12+. This day we decided to break the dogs down into smaller groups (8 and 7) in order to be able to get off quickly make any corrections that might be necessary. Coming off a hilly run the day prior, this being the 4th training run in a row, and 90% of our training up to this point in time on the trails alone, we were INCREDIBLY pleased with how the dogs did!!

We were starting to think we had reached a plateau in our training. It's amazing what a few runs on new trail will do!!! After our stressful drive home from Canada the week prior, this weekend at home was a nice change of pace. Remember how we spoke about Dharma's need to channel her energy, well we must not have tuckered her out enough last weekend. Pulling onto the highway toward Montreal as we were leaving our friends place, we quickly realized the truck brakes were not working properly. The entire 6hr drive home, Bob was downshifting the truck in order to spare whatever breaking power and fluid we had left. When he brought the truck into work the following Monday, he discovered chew marks in the brake line right along the section Dharma had been tethered near!!

Like many folks this year, we are on a waiting list. We now patiently wait to see if we will get into the 100 Mile Wilderness race in Greenville, Maine. If not, the entire month of February will be devoted to training for Can-Am.

November 2005:

Took the shade cloth down.

Ivory was adopted by a musher from Maine who we are now helping mentor as she makes the move from sprint to mid-distance.

Our motto this season is to keep training fun. Well, the team decided one night that a game of chase and soccer with a skunk might liven things up a bit!! Needless to say, the entire kennel, the gangline, harnesses and the clothing we were wearing stunk sooooooooo badly. Before we left the house, something said to me that Emma ought not to run with us. So she ended up staying home with Osage and Mischa. Emma is in season right now. I can not imagine the magnitude of the situation had she been on the team!

Did a serious hill training run up to our friend(s) camp. Dubbed the spot "top of the world". The challange, how to get down!!!!

We have wanted for quite sometime now, to meet members of the snowmobile club who groom and maintain what we refer to as our 'home trails'. So, Bob volunteered to help the Southern NH Snowslickers build a bridge.

Took our good friend Pete and his Bernese Swiss Mountain Dog named Chloe for a spin around the Massabesic Waterworks.

Thanksgiving was spent up to our friends camp. We were rewarded with a lovely 6" snowfall. It made however for some tough training. Thankfully the guys went out with the ATV's to check trail BEFORE we snubbed off.

Besides climbing hills in the snow at what seemed like 0 miles an hour, we had to pass through an active log yard. Speaking of zero miles an hour, it's been pretty discouraging looking at the speedometer while we are training the hills. In general, we are training slower this year than we have in the past. We want the dogs to be tough, still of course have the ability to do those fast stretches; but it is more important this season to build endurance for the million mile march.

October 2005:

Met a musher from Massachusetts while training in Auburn before heading up to the trade fair. Turns out, it is the woman Bob bought our first Risdon rig from! So odd that we should happen to meet her today, when the plans at the expo included selling the rig to a woman from VT.

Took in a few hilly training runs up to our friend(s) camp. You've just got to love the view!

Attended the Northern New England Sled Dog Trade Fair. This year it was held at the Hopkinton Fairground in Contoocook, NH. What a great location! Next year perhaps we will plan to camp overnight. However, it is such a treat to attend one of these events without being tied to your dog truck. OK, we did bring Osage along with us as a means to show him he is still a special guy, even though he no longer is training with the team. One of the guest speakers was DeeDee Jonrowe. This is the second time we have seen her speak, and both times have been equally inspiring and educational.

We have been blessed with the assistance of a handler. Thank you Chris for joining Team Mishawum!

Bob spent quite a bit of time modifying our old ATV so that it can be used for training the dogs without a motor. Rhonda is thinking about painting it blaze orange : )

During a training run, the lead dogs considered turning down into a side trail. Once we had gone past the trail, we had the opportunity to stop and see what the team had scented out. Not one moose, but three!

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