Sick For Mushing

I’m feeling pressure.  The pressure of the blog.   I keep getting e-mails or inquiries “Where are the blogs?”  “Make sure you blog!”  The fact is that I’m not feeling very funny or bloggy.  Most likely it’s because I have a head cold and my head is in a fog.   Hard to be funny when you feel like crap.  It seems like every year at IPPSSDR there is some funk going around.  You often feel like you are trying to dodge a bullet before the race starts.

My husband came down with it first and I was tormented being locked in a motel room with him sneezing every 5 minutes and blowing germs all over our tiny little room.  Evil thoughts were running through my head as I kept popping vitamins and supplements to ward off the floating germs.  Seriously though, where the hell were the germs going to go?  Those germs were probably on every surface in that room and at one point I was sure the air in the room was ½ germs.   It was grossing me out.   I was not meant to be a nurse or doctor as I have no bedside manner and I’m hardly sympathetic.  Every time he’d sneeze I looked at him like he insulted me and I’d mutter, “For Gawd’s sake cover your nose!”  I did offer him some essential oils to ease his discomfort, but that was as far as the nursing went.  Thank goodness he is not high maintenance when he is sick; I’d be a huge disappointment.

As per usual, the cold was a surprise thrown into the race plans.   Seriously, what would IPPSSDR be like if everything went as planned?   I can only dream.   I think next year we will make race plans that include catching the flu, a few surprise injuries, at least one truck or equipment problem and, of course, trail conditions that are the opposite of what we are prepared for.   This will ensure that we are healthy, injury and problem free and totally prepared to kick ass on a perfect trail.   It’s only taken us 9 years to figure out how to plan for this event.

So we are down to the 11th hour.  We had our last run today in Alpine; which got a foot of fresh snow last night.   It was not the romantic picture of running dogs in beautiful Alpine, but rather a scene of minor misery.  It was gray and hazy and snowing; which matched well with our head colds and lack of energy.   We were both crabby and the thought of running dogs all day in the wet snow was not appealing.  The minute I got outside my nose was running so bad I should have just stuffed Kleenex up my nose.  On 2nd thought, I should have borrowed from a fellow musher and stuffed tampons up my nose. Nothing is more disgusting than having an out of control runny nose and then having to booty 20 dogs.   Our dogs are licking machines; it is in their gene pool.  Now I know this is gross, but it sure came in handy today as they kept cleaning up my mess! I think they felt bad for me.   Well, at least some of them.   As they are getting amped for the race it often feels like you are in a room full of loud, hyper-active 3 year olds that aim to drive you nuts.   This can drive a sick person to the edge.  By the time we were done we were too exhausted to head into Jackson and chose to stay and relax in Alpine.

While I was kicking back I traced the germs down to the Streepers.  Yep, I think they are the responsible party.   We saw them on the first day that we arrived in West Yellowstone and we all exchanged friendly hugs.  Lina informed us that they had all fallen ill after they had arrived.  Unfortunately, she told us after the hugs!   I wonder; could this be a strategic maneuver on their part?  Everyone be leery of excessive hugging by the Streeper Crew!   Sorry gang, the word is out and your plan is foiled!  Yeah right, as if the Streepers have to resort to germ warfare!  Now, us on the other hand ……… I think I’m feeling a little huggy for Friday!!   Hee hee Heee

Aside from the cold I haven’t felt like there was much to blog about on this trip.   Every time I come up with an idea, I start to worry that I’ve already blogged about it.  My memory is such crap these days that I fear I’m a blogging broken record.  I don’t want to be blogging about something I’ve already blogged about.  That would be blogging ridiculous.

The trip thus far has been pretty uneventful.  The GPS hasn’t led us astray, but she has tried to break up our marriage a few times.  I started a blog on that one, but it got really ugly.   Frankly, I don’t need any rumors spreading that we are on our way to divorce court so I’ll re-visit that blog later.   We all know how the gossip flows in the mushing circles …… quickly and way off base!  Gee, that might be a good blog!

The weather has been great so there haven’t been any white knuckle horror stories to tell.  I can’t rant about the cold or the heat; it’s simply been perfect temps.  Training was awesome and there were no eventful moments to share.    Things have been going so smoothly and have been so uneventful that I’m becoming paranoid that a good blog is just around the corner.   Here’s hoping that it is about Bruce and the yellow bib!!

Speaking of blogging, there was a new addition to the IPPSSDR website with regular blogs by Lloyd Gilbertson.  It was interesting to read about Aaron Peck’s strategy to stay away from all the other teams and the comparison game that inevitably occurs.   This struck a funny note with me as he couldn’t be more accurate.  I read this blog this evening and laughed because of how true it is.  When you are with a group of competing mushers the comparison game is inevitably going to happen.  You must be prepared for it.

While running the trails this past week I intentionally ignored the other teams.  I didn’t look to see how they were moving.   I didn’t turn around to see where they were.   I looked only at my dogs and my GPS.   I didn’t watch them feed and tried to just ignore all teams within my vision.  I was like a 5 year old covering my ears and singing, “la la la la la LA LA LA I can’t hear you!”  Despite my nursery school efforts, little comments that floated around kept trying to seep in.  I found myself starting to question things as my worry wart ways took over.  As I ran the dogs I’d be looking at each dog and crazy thoughts would start.  “Boy that dog looks weird.  No one is on their tug.  It feels like we are crawling.  The leaders have lost their edge.   My gawd, that can’t even handle 28 miles how will they handle 50?  We should just pack it in.”   Then I’d look at the GPS and the dogs would be flying and I’d have to stand on the pad; which would bring back a little confidence.  Thankfully, Bruce is unlike myself and is very confident in the team and what we’ve done for preparation.  The comparison situation does not faze him.   He’d come in and say, “Man that was an awesome run!”  I’d nod and hang my head in shame.   Then to make matters worse, if your own mind doesn’t mess with you, there are always mushers out there that like to get into your head for you.   It’s called mind games.

There’s always the musher that is setting land speed records with their dog team and climbing mountains faster than the speed of light.   The same team always has great stools, eats everything put in front of them and is so hydrated they could put out a 3 alarm fire with one leg lift.   It’s no surprise that these super dogs are never injured, have great feet that never get fissures and are capable of running all 8 days in a row.  Mushers playing psychological warfare often make little comments about your team.  “Wow, you have a lot of red dogs.  Did you ever hear that red dogs are more injury prone?” “I don’t like furry dogs, they cause wind drag.”   Worse, they comment on your training, “Wow, you’re doing a 30 miler?  I haven’t done one all season!”

If you let this crap in, it can impact your mental focus and inevitably your performance.   You can start to question and lose confidence in your team.  You start to see all your red dogs bobbing with potential injuries.  You swear the furry dogs are running slower; must be wind drag.  You consider shaving them.  You really panic and cut back all your runs to 5 miles.   This drives you to steer away from your game plan and get sucked into their game plan.   This is BAD!

We were laughing this week at how many different training strategies that mushers are using.  Everyone is doing something different; it’s really quite funny to listen to.   Talk about 100 ways to skin a cat.  Truly, only the teams that have multiple wins under their belt have a proven and successful method.   The rest of us are partially clueless as we seek the elusive win.  This makes you realize the power that those winning teams have.   They could tell everyone that they do 100 5 mile runs with no day off and a whole host of mushers would be running 5 miles 100 times.   If they announced that they watered their dogs with Red Bull; the local stores would be empty.  This is a crazy sport with many unanswered questions and a continuous learning curve.  It could drive a person mad; hence the large fallout of mushers after a bad season.

So we made it through comparison week unscathed and sane.  We are ready to head into the Hole for some serious racing.  We will be wearing our blinders and ear plugs until the start of Alpine from which point the trail will tell the story.racing

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