Competing in the IFFS Dryland World Championships, Italy

– by Mary Carter, Santana Siberian Huskies

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On November 5th, we set off for the IFFS Dryland World Championships 2013, held in Italy. Our team  included my good friend Tobias Leask and his seven Scandinavian hounds, our two children – George and Bob, our 13 Siberian Huskies and one John Carter, crippled with back pain and barely able to walk more than a few yards. So on bonfire night, we left out Scottish home in the snow and drove through the snowy Dolomites and headed for Dover, in order to begin our long haul to Falze di Piave, Italy. Thirty-two hours and seven countries later we arrived in an unexpectedly warm Italy, where we stripped to our shirt sleeves and set up camp.

Unwelcome news

During the trip John had received the unwelcome news that his 6-dog Nordic class had not attracted sufficient entries to warrant a ‘World Champion’ status, so with just a few training runs to go, he swapped into the 8-dog Nordic class. All this, on top of a trapped nerve meant John’s early confidence in gaining the title had faded, to say the least.

Determined to win through

But determined to see the trail before the competition began, John set off on bicycle, generously lent by Leigh Marsden to explore the 6.2km trail which had the added benefit of relieving John’s back pain to some degree!  The trail twisted and turned through woodland & open meadow with grass or dirt underfoot.  With the exception of one short section of deep pebble stones, the course was very reminiscent of the trail where the British team members qualified at Ford Estate November 2012

The following evening, while John rested his back, the rest of the GB team took part in a parade, along with the other twenty-one competing nations. They processed through to the town square, where the opening ceremony was held and the new IFSS logo revealed. The town’s Lord Mayor and the new President of the IFSS, Helen Lundburg, welcomed the participants and wished us all an enjoyable experience and looked forward to the good sportsmanship throughout this great event.

Disaster strikes

Racing began on the Friday, with the first of the scheduled mono discipline classes. However, disaster struck late in the evening, with a deluge of rain and the weekend’s racing turned from a brisk trail into a warm and humid mud slide.

John, although disappointed with his own contribution, was pleased with the dogs’ performance.  Unable to scoot to any degree to assist the dogs through the deep mud, he just tweaked the brakes on the faster section for the additional two dogs that had joined his original planned 6-dog team.

An impressive result

He managed to come 3rd place in a time of 12:28, just 18 seconds behind Czech Republican, Roman Habasko – the former World Champion. Impressive for his first ever 8-dog race!

On day 2, John had created a strategy to help him gain those vital seconds. After swapping round the leaders and placing a ‘heat pad’ under his back support brace, John was ready to tackle the trail with his 8. Throwing caution to the wind, John scooted and ran where he could, knocking 9 seconds off his previous time and moving up into joint 2nd position.

The only other Nordic 8-dog team to gain a faster time was that of Lazaro Martinez, the Spaniard. After changing to a lighter rig, Martinez managed to knock an unprecedented 48 seconds off his day 1 time, and blasted his way from 4th place to the top of the results board. This knocked the Czech Republican, Habasko, down into 2nd place and John into joint 3rd.

3rd fastest Nordic 8-dog team in the world

With our hopes of becoming World Champion in the 6-dog Nordic category dashed, we, nevertheless, came away feeling very proud of our dogs’ achievements, in becoming the 3rd fastest Nordic 8-dog team in the World.

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