Nanuq and I decided to finish 2006 with a good, long skijor. We have been practising a little bit for the next Copper Haul Twister race, but I have had to face facts that, while we can keep going and going and going, we are not sprinters.
You see, I have been blessed - and cursed - with a smart dog. He'll pull, but if he's pulling, he'll do it at the speed that he wants. And that speed is walking. If we go any faster than that, he'll stay just far enough ahead of me to keep the line up, but he won't pull. I'm sure that he's not doing this out of laziness, but rather, is thinking, "You're doing just fine on your own. You don't need my help right now."
Except that when I do need his help - like when we're going up hills - he doesn't pull. I'm sure that he's not doing this out of laziness, but rather, is thinking, "If I pull now, I'll just throw you off balance, and you don't want that, do you?"
The only time he runs is when we're going down a hill. And he isn't pulling then. He's just making sure he doesn't get run over.
I am glad that he runs down hills, though, and am grateful that he hasn't tried to repeat his attempt to de-harness himself by stopping suddenly on a downward slope. I could see the knowing look in his eyes and the little doggy smirk on his face as I flew down the hill past him. The rope that connected us, which was slack while I passed him, suddenly went taught. Nanuq braced himself with his back legs and put his head down as the harness began to slide over his head and front legs like a t-shirt. The rope, connected to my harness with a length of bungee cord, disconnected, sending the rope flying limply back towards Nanuq, where it fell harmlessly onto the ground, and the bungee cord recoiling into my stomach. Fortunately, the bungee cord didn't snap back a little lower.
So it was a lot of fun yesterday when we went skijoring a steady pace, and just kept going and going and going. We had no set course; we just went where we felt like we wanted to go. Sometimes I picked our route and sometimes I let Nanuq pick our route. We kept going for about 25km, up hills and down hills, alongside roads and over trails. It was great! Nanuq, happy to just keep going, even pulled me on semi-appropriate occasions. And while he never really broke into an all-out run, he had a good trotting pace that nicely supplemented my skiing efforts. It was magical. We "clicked".
We were both glad to be outside. It was cloudy enough that the low winter sun didn't glare into our eyes, but it was also a warm day and I was cooking in the few layers I had on. When I took my small backpack off to stuff more clothes into it, I noticed that it was soaked with sweat. Which makes it that much more shocking that I was very nearly a victim of "Male-specific frostbite".
WARNING: The following public service announcement is intended for mature audiences only.
Male-Specific Frostbite - A Public Service Announcement
Attention male cyclists and skijorers: While you might already take precautions to cover your extremities during the winter time, there are certain gender-specific appendages that may remain vulnerable.
Boxer shorts, boxer briefs or commando-style undergarments1 may not hold your genitalia close to the protective warmth of your body. This exposure may be exacerbated by an increased wind chill while cycling. It may also be caused by having your man-parts isolated by a skijoring harness2.
If you begin to notice that you have a "chilly willy", stop and attend to the matter immediately. You may need to warm the affected parts with your hands, or better yet, with your friends' hands3. Failure to do so may result in a loss of sensitivity on the affected part. In extreme cases, blackening or blistering may occur. Amputation may be required.
You may prevent male-specific frostbite by wearing briefs or, better yet, a Peter Heater4.
On our way back home, I ran into (not literally, of course) some friends from Fort Liard who are in town for a quick trip to celebrate New Years. It's amazing who you run into when you're skijoring along the Alaska Highway!
1I'll leave it to your imagination which option I choose.
2Guys, if you have ever worn a rock-climbing harness, then you know what I'm talking about. Girls, if you've never seen a guy wearing a rock-climbing harness, just picture a male ballet dancer wearing a codpiece.
3I caught it early enough that I didn't need either.
4I don't own one, but I know someone who does. It has bells on it.