23 January 2014

Race Season: Tips for Relaxing

My very first race with my dog, I was up all night, barfing, then later dry heaving, as there was nothing left to barf.  

I was a nervous mess.  

I wasn't even clear on where to go, or how to get there.  I raced about the house, throwing together a breakfast, and piling things into the car.  Then, it was a race to get to the race and the musher's meeting.

Not being so good with maps, I got all confused on the race trail, and had to stop and ask another racer if we were going the right way!  

We passed a team with dogs so aggressive that the handler had to lay down on them to keep them from attacking us.  

We landed at the finish line, where I barfed some more, and was shocked later to find out that we had placed first in our class.   The next day we moved up a class, and I was hooked.

Riv and I, back in the day!

That was a long time ago.   But I still get nervous about a race.   I don't barf so much anymore, but I have learned some things along the way to keep calm!  

Get enough rest

This applies to your dog, and to you.  I don't it the gym before a race, but I do make sure in the days leading up to a race, I get some mild exercise.   This most often means going for a walk for me, and the dogs get to play Chuck It.   Once we all have some exercise, we can rest properly.  

Be organized

I am not the most organized person, and that causes me stress! 

Thankfully, I married someone who is organized!  So, if you are not organized, marry someone who is!

I heave learned to write up a list of what I need for a race, and use that as a guide to make sure I have everything done.  Some things on the list need doing days before, like waxing my skis, and other things need to be done the morning of, like baiting water.  

Read the rules

Most races follow fairly similar rules.  Reading them allows us to know what is expected at the race.  It is especially important to read the passing rules, and think the scenario through in your head.   Then you will be ready to pass with confidence

If something doesn't make sense, or you aren't clear on it, contact the organizer or ask it at the musher's meeting.   People that put races together want everyone to have a good experience, so ask!

Pack-Up Early

We pack the truck the night before a race, so we know where everything is, and we have organized it in a way that we like.  Being at a race, it's nice to just be able to grab your poles, or line, and go.  There's enough to think about without having to hunt for your gear.  We use a list for everything we need, and check it twice.   The list changes, depending on where we are racing and which dogs.    

We keep the directions on hand, and always have a printed copy, in case the GPS fails us. 

Like the back of your hand.

It can really help to visualize the race before you run it.  See yourself going through the turns, and know what to expect.  If you are racing on a trail you have been on before, then go through it in your mind.   You will be expecting any hills, and will know the parts you can ski harder on.  If this is a new trail to  you, then look to You-Tube.  In all likelihood, if this race has happened before, there's footage out there!  You can go through the trail again and again, so that it is familiar to you when you go to race. 

Know your Dog

Stick with the routine you and your dog have developed already.  Which also extends to your feeding and exercise. Your dog will be less stressed if you stick to the same routine.  

Now is not the time to try something new.  Stick with what you have been doing during your training. Keep to the same food you have been using during your training. Use the same harness, the same skis and line.  You aren't going to pull out a secret weapon set of new poles and pass everyone.   So stick with what you know works.. 

Each race gives your dog valuable experience, and can build confidence.   So relax, and enjoy.

That's what this is all about.