That Was The Year, That Was

12 August 2013        10.00 AM   64 F     Cloudy

Strangely enough, we find ourselves marking the 4th anniversary of our arrival in Alaska by raising a glass back home in Scotland. My wife makes regular trips back to Scotland several times a year, but this was the first time I have returned to the homeland since I left it in 2009.

It was a bit of a surprise visit – we had managed to keep our plans a secret from almost everyone and got quite the reaction at most places when I appeared from the shadows. I was only in Scotland for just over a week and still managed to visit almost all of the families on both sides, catch up with a few friends, make my first dentist visit in 4 years ( no fillings and no work needed!!!! ), see my optician and the highlight of the trip – we got tickets to see our favourite band holding their 40th Anniversary Concert.  Honestly, it was just a coincidence that Runrig were playing their gig when we happened to be home.

When planning on a review of my year, I always debate on how to proceed. Does one start chronologically as would seem sensible or does one start with the most recent and freshest memories and work backwards ? Or should I just take the shotgun approach and pick out the random highlights that come to mind and not get overly concerned about when they occurred during the last 12 months.

Looking back over last year’s blog post, I noticed that quite a few of the memorable moments have been repeated again this year. Sadly, that includes the loss of three dogs this year.  Vader in April, Beth in July and Arky just two weeks ago. We also had a litter of puppies again this year.  Queen was the wonderful mother of 6 delightful pups, with our decision to use Arky as the father, giving us some solace during his recent passing. Those 6 pups are now nearly 7 months old and are as magical and fun as we could possibly have hoped for.

Once again we had our usual quota of visitors, including my sister -in-law and her husband. They were here during late November, early December when Alaska delighted us with a severe cold spell that saw temperatures consistently well below -20 F and dropping into the -30s on occasion. To Andy’s credit, he came out on every training run we went on during that time and never once complained about being cold.

Of course, the main reason we are here in Alaska is the opportunity to run our dogs and to explore new trails. Part of that, is having the opportunity to enter one or more of the many races that are available here.  This year, I had actually made more progress than in previous years and had entered my first 200 mile race, the Don Bowers Memorial Race. Sadly, due to the weather, mostly a lack of snow, the race got cancelled.  As racing is not the be all and end all of our winter, that was but a minor bump in the road. By the end of winter, I felt our team was a good solid group of hard working, honest dogs that took whatever was thrown at them, in their stride. We had covered more miles than any other winter, seen new trails and even finally found “Scary Tree”.

I noticed that in last year’s post I had targetted the Don Bowers race (and as mentioned earlier, actually got as far as entering). That race was again firmly in my sights however, it has just recently been announced that the race will not be held this winter. My initial plans had also included trying for the Sheep Mountain 150 race in late December.  Last week, I discovered that race too was not going to be held this year. Not having races to aim for, won’t change how, why or when we train. If we’re ready and there’s a suitable race, we may well enter it, if not, we’ll continue to explore and have fun with friends.

Looking forward to our fifth winter in Alaska.




One thought on “That Was The Year, That Was

  1. In The Absence Of Available Races: the experience and training a team might assimilate during a race is sometimes only that – if the race goes well for the team it will be a positive learning experience, if the race goes bad for the team for any number of reasons the learning is often negative. far more (IMO) and much better quality experience may be gained from proper CONDITIONING of a team & driver which is somewhat different than simple TRAINING: learning to camp, and camp with others, learning to rest during layovers, mastering your cooker, your gear & that of the dogs, practicing run-rest-run cycles of whatever duration you are working on, teaching dogs how to stay in the sled bag even tho they may feel strong & healthy, debunking night running, embracing running in warmer than desired temps, simulating sled repairs on the trail, challenging the boundaries of your own comfort zones, etc etc. if no races are available all you need is your backyard trail system and some similarly crazy minded buddies in your neighbourhood 🙂 lessons learnt this way and in this environment is money in the bank, and you don’t have to beat up you and your team simply to arrive at some race finish line in order to ‘gain race experience’. this of course being just ONE perspective 🙂


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