The main driving factor behind the big move to Alaska was the opportunity to run our dogs on snow, and to have the options to enter any number of distance races.
Initially, I had considered entering a couple of local mid-distance races this winter. However, we were no sooner in Alaska in August, than somehow it turned into September and training hadn’t started. Once I picked up a quad, I then had a couple of weeks away where I made that epic drive from NH to AK with my new truck and collected several new dogs. By the time that was done, it was October. Quite honestly, it got a little scary just how quickly the time was passing. anyway, I decided that there was no need to put unnecessary pressure on the dogs or myself, in trying get ready for races, when we had so much else going on this winter. There’s always next year, and the year after that etc, etc……………
With no deadlines I have managed to enjoy the training, and feel we have put a good solid base on the dogs. It’s also been a steep learning curve in terms of learning the trails. I’m used to the small forests we are allowed to train in, in Scotland, where it takes no time at all to figure out where the trails go – and with the limited options available, they’re easy to remember. Many of the trails I ran on during my winter in NH were well sign posted by the local snowmobile clubs, who also handily produce excellent trail maps. That’s not the case here in Alaska.
I was very fortunate in the autumn that my friend Leo took me round a lot of the trails we could use for training until the swamps and rivers froze. One of our neighbours also showed me a couple of other loops and options. With advent of the frosts and snow, the training areas become almost unlimited and with that choice comes the equally unlimited possibility of getting well and truly lost.
So, the training runs have also become exploring runs. There’s been a few out and back runs, and a few excursions on the snowmachine to see where loops can be found. What I have found, is I still need to get my head around just how vast this area is. We live in the middle of a community of dog mushers who all run distance races, many of them run the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest. Those folks think nothing of setting off for a 10 hour sled run – so my desire for loops closer to home whilst I train myself and my dogs is a little at odds with the aims of the guys who spend their own time and money to groom and create the trails we use.
Slowly, I’m becoming a little more comfortable out there and as the fitness of the dogs improve, we can go further and start to expand our boundaries.