Wednesday, February 2, 2011

*A side note to Tug Hill entry: on racing and dog mushing, and why we do what we do

The previous entry about the Tug Hill Challenge only mentions a portion of the challenges that we faced on the road to Tug Hill, including right up to the starting chute.

I was one minute late to the starting chute, with eight hot dogs fired up and ready to go, and was told I could not race - because I was one minute late to the chute.

My friend Amanda encountered other, in my opinion, unnecessary stresses during her races as well. Which got me thinking about racing.

Several years ago, a friend of mine told me a valuable piece of simple advice. He said, forget racing. Just get out there and run your dogs.

There are many reasons people race. Racing certainly gives us goals to shoot for regarding running dogs. Racing is often the impetus to force us to get out there and run the dogs on days when we're sick or tired or just would rather not.

But when the name of racing takes over the reason why we got into this sport in the first place - when the stress of racing becomes the focal point - then we need to step back and view the bigger picture.

For me, this person's advice was the best advice ever. I found myself recounting the same advice to Amanda this past weekend.

Just get out there and run your dogs.

Because, in the end, it's not about any trophy or time. It's about spending time doing what we love: being outside with a bunch of our best friends - friends who would do anything for us.

More and more, I don't necessarily want to "race" as much as I just want to drive my dogs through a gorgeous winter landscape and experience the peace and silence only a winter wood can bring.

Dog sledding has come under some criticism from some recent media attention. Like any sport, there are occasionally some awful people who do bad things and give all of us reason to pause.

But the majority of mushers take better care of their dogs than they do themselves.

So for those of you who care more about spending time in the woods on the trail than getting to the starting chute, this post is for you.

And to those of you who hold your own in the big races, and still remain steadfast in your love and dedication to your dogs, this post is for you, too.

I don't know that I'll ever be competitive enough to want to win a race. I'm just happy to have won my dogs' respect, trust and loyalty.

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