When I was in my early 20s I went to my first dog sled race. Three friends of mine and I thought it would be a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a midwinter day in Northern Wisconsin. When we arrived at the start-finish area a race official eagerly approached us and asked if we would be willing to help at the starting line. We felt like Bill and Ted, and suddenly our excellent adventure got even more adventurous.
Start Me Up
The official walked us to the starting gate and told us that the dog sled teams would come to the chute one at a time, one minute apart for their staggered start times. Our job was to simply hold the sleds in place until it was time for them to run. When the countdown clock reached zero we would let go of the sled, the dogs would take off, and we would wait for the next team to enter the chute.
I Think I Understand
It sounded easy. In fact, the 4 of us laughed and joked about the simple instructions. ‘Wait, first we hold on and then we let go? Or first we let go, and then we hold on? We were all recent college graduates, and found the rudimentary nature of the task hilarious.
A few minutes later the first team approached the starting line. It was a team of 8 dogs pulling a sled that carried a driver. Or musher. Or Mushy Donald Driver.
The configuration was exactly what we expected. But what we didn’t expect was that the dogs would be going mad dog crazy! These dogs charged into the chute, with handlers trying to restrain them. It was like drop-off at preschool. And we were the teachers receiving the wild, barely restrained children, and told ‘good luck’, as the parents bolted for the exits.
Born To Run
What we quickly learned was that sled dogs love to run. It is in their nature. And when they enter the starting chute they are conditioned to go crazy, in preparation for running as hard as they can. Which made it hard to hold those eager beaver doggies back.
The Final Countdown
As the starter began his countdown from 10 seconds, the dogs went absolutely nuts. They barked and foamed and strained at their harnesses. The driver stomped on his or her brake spikes, which theoretically anchored the sled to the snow. But it took all the 4 of us had to prevent the dogs from taking off down the trail and pulling us with them, like stooges in a Tim Allen comedy.
Saved By Zero
Finally, the starter hit zero, the timer beeped, and we let go of the sled. The dogs shot down the trail like a dragster. The team disappeared into the woods, and another frenzied team entered the chute to challenge our strength and stamina. The pattern repeated until all 50 teams had left the starting line, and we were exhausted.
We understood why the race official picked the 4 of us young, healthy 20-somethings for the job. It was both physically and mentally demanding to hold the dogs back. Because the dogs were born to run. And not even human animals that were 2 or 3 times their size could hold them back for long.
I am not worried about the economy bouncing back. Because we are just like those sled dogs. We are born to run. And I can feel the same intensity building today that I felt in the dog sled shoot 2 decades ago. When the gates open we are going to run. We are going to work hard. We are going to play hard. We are going to travel, for both business and pleasure. We will go back to school. We will go to restaurants, bars, beaches, concerts, games, and festivals.
Yes, just as soon as the countdown reaches zero and we are no longer held back, we are going to attack life again. Because it is in our nature.
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