Saturday, January 28, 2012

Make it look effortless

Recently, I met a mushing fan. Yes, there are mushing fans, just like there are fans of musicians and fans of basketball.

And this mushing fan said to me, "Wow, you get to race dogs. That must be wonderful!"

I stared at the wall thoughtfully for a moment, bit my lip, and carefully considered how best to respond to that statement.

At the same time, I had been up late studying the archives of past U.P. 200 and Midnight Run races. Looking hard at the run times. Scanning familiar names. In anticipation of our own rookie Midnight Run coming up in a few weeks.

Doing something well usually translates into making it look effortless to outsiders.

My response?

Yea, some days it's wonderful. A good day mushing is the perfect definition of "teamwork." Things run smoothly, we have no tangles or snafus. No one is in heat or goofing off or chewing necklines or slipping harnesses. Everyone eats well and has wagging tails after our runs and we all bed down for a long winter's nap with sweet dreams.

But, with my dogs - the oldest of whom is five and the youngest is 14 months  - most of our days are anything but wonderful! Eventful, maybe...

We have hours and hours under our harnesses: practicing, training, learning; in sleet, snow, rain, mud, ice; through several hundred miles and God knows how many chewed necklines (thanks to Aspen) and lots and lots of shenanigans, tomfoolery, and general mayhem to get to the two races we are competing in this season.

Freya being a goof ball on a muddy training run

And it's not just the dogs who are learning.

The deeper into this sport I immerse myself, the more I realize how much there is to learn. It's the difference, as an example, between playing a simple jingle on a piano to holding your own in a full-on performance of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

Honing this craft takes so much work. Physical work. Disciplined work. And sacrifice. And more work. And it takes mistakes - making mistakes and getting back on the runners in order to right those mistakes.

But I wouldn't have it any other way, because at the end of the day, I know the dogs and I have all grown and learned together. Nothing can take that bond away.

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