Saturday, February 4, 2012

City of Lakes Loppet Chuck & Don's Skijoring 7km

7 km is the original distance, two laps on Lake of the Isles. The two ersatz laps at Theodore Wirth added up to only 4.2 km, as per my Garmin watch. Shorter for sure but also zestier, because of the hills.

After joining the Sisu Masters Year-Round Group and starting preparations for the next ski season in May '11 I went out on a limb and signed up for a few races early: the Sisu Ski Fest in Ironwood, MI, which I later upgraded from 21 km to 42 km, both the Test Your Lungs skijoring and freestyle events and the City of Lakes Chuck & Don's Skijor and Freestyle Loppets. I was tempted to sign up for the Birkie, too, but changed my mind when I considered the numbers. As my buddy Gestur said, "that's 18,000 elbows and 9,000 a**holes."  I decided not to sign up for the Vasaloppet, either as it became obvious that this winter's snow remained mostly a pipe dream.

I couldn't do the Test Your Lungs because of my lungs, a nasty two-week cold with ear infection that put me out of commission. I declined to sign up for the Como Championships and the King Boreas skijoring race because they had to be moved to man-made loops at Green Acres. The Sisu Ski Fest Marathon was great, on fresh and real snow and I along with most other metro-area skiers was holding my breath about the City of Lakes events. One week before the event the organizers decided to move the events to Theodore Wirth Park man-made loops and it seems amazing that we are having the Loppet at all. I think if it hadn't been for the fog that blanketed the area for most of last week even the solid base at Wirth would have melted away.

For the first day skijoring event, which is normally held on Lake of the Isles I was a little worried because of my dog Mellie's propensity to turn around in steep downhills to grab the rope and there are plenty of downhills on this course and also because this would only be our third time out as a team this winter. Mellie was a trooper.

I took Mellie on a short warmup run but she was so excited that she made us fall in the first sharp downhill turn. So I brought her back, tied her up and reconnoitered the loop on my own. Turns out that the organizers did a good job routing the trails to make the hills more gradual for the event and my concerns evaporated.
Tractor-pulling dog
Because of the barking (including Mellie, the darn dog) I could not understand what was going to happen at the start area, which was quite narrow. The three first teams lined up abreast and were sent off, Mellie, who saw this from the third row went right after them. The officials jumped in the way and I looped back where they asked us to take of immediately. By now, Mellie was confused and had to be coaxed across the starting line. Once we got going she took things and the tow rope into her muzzle and we got going at a good clip.
That dog's got sisu! The first couple hundred meters I'm always pulled by
mouth. (Picture at by Marc Lahtinen)

Mellie's pulling the rope with her mouth got us delighted cheers from the spectators in the starting area. The woman who started with us had some trouble getting her dog to stay on the trail, whenever there was a turn, of which there were many, the dog wanted to go straight. We soon left her behind. We even caught up to a few people who left ahead of us or who had passed. Chris Sachs, one of of our sometime Sisu coaches and his German shorthair left us in the dust (and ended up winning the race).
Working hard

Fun with the turns. What a dog! (Thanks to Sarah Gutknecht for letting me
post this photo!)
Closing in on rivals
We actually had fun on the curvy trail, I just wish the snow had been a little better. In places, the sugar was ankle deep and the skis sank like in quicksand. Avoiding the occasional fallen skier added to the excitement. Mellie kept pulling hard during the first lap and about three quarters of the second. Only on the last hill did she slow down but did not hold me back. Great race, even though our nemeses Dallas and Comet Johnson and my doppelganger Chris Franken finished ahead of us.
Almost there!


A nice video from Youtube. Mellie and I are about 2:08 min. into the video, look for the sweaty bearded guy with bad hair.

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