WATERVILLE — There was no snow on the ground Sunday morning, but that didn’t stop a hardy crew of humans and canines from competing in a variety of dog sledding events at the Quarry Road Trails.

All they needed were some cool temperatures, good trails and competition.

“We’re dog sled people, so we’re out all winter long,” said Lynda Knowlton, shaking off the temperatures in the high 30s. “These temperatures are awesome. The dogs don’t get overheated.”

Knowlton, who is on the board of the Down East Sled Dog Club, was helping oversee the Central Maine Dryland Challenge, a two-day competition and training event put on by the club for dog sledders.

More than 80 entries were registered in eight different events over the weekend, including canicross, a cross-country running race in which a runner is accompanied by a dog; four-dog rig, a race in which four dogs pull a person on a cart; six-dog rig, a cart race with six-dog teams; and events where single dogs or teams of two dogs pull bicycles or scooters.

“This is a super competitive field,” said Carolyn Shreck, 46, of Hampton, New Hampshire, after finishing the 1.8-mile canicross course in about 15 minutes. “These are racing dogs. They’re fast.”

Shreck, who is part of a running team of humans and dogs sponsored by the company Kurgo, which makes dog travel and outdoors products, competed with her dog Quinn, a mix breed that she got from a shelter.

“The dogs see every other dog doing it, and they just learn how to run,” Shreck said. “They either have the drive to pull or they don’t, and my dog does.”

The dryland challenge started in Waterville about five years ago and was originally intended as a warm-up to the winter dog sledding season, but today it’s also part of a growing interest in dryland sledding itself as a sport, said Knowlton, who owns Heart Song Kennel in South Paris.

“Whether it’s global warming or whatever the reason is, our snow season seems to be getting shorter and shorter,” she said. “This is how we used to train, but then we were like, ‘Why not compete?'”

Sunday’s events drew a mix of professional and amateur competitors. There were dog racers who own more than 20 dogs and operate their own kennels, and others just looking to have fun with their pets and get in some good exercise.

Marla B. Brodsky, who owns Hilltown Sleddogs in West Chesterfield, Massachusetts, brought her more than 20 Alaskan huskies.

Her six-dog team of huskies Topaz, Una, Taffy, Tootsie, Tundra and Trixie finished the 1.8 mile race in 6 minutes and 42 seconds, good enough for third place in the six-dog rig event.

“It’s a technical course,” Brodksy said while her dogs recovered and drank some water. “Once I hit the woods, I was like, ‘Now the fun begins,’ because it’s all twisty and turny.”

Brodsky has Alaskan huskies, though many of the dogs at Sunday’s event were so-called “sprint dogs,” a mix of greyhound, German shorthaired pointer and Alaskan husky.

The dogs are bred to cover shorter races of under 26 miles, Knowlton said, adding, though, that any breed can participate in the challenge, especially in the canicross event.

“It’s a great family sport,” Knowlton said. “I’m here with my kids. It’s just fun. We kind of all watch the kids and all help each other. It’s a growing sport because people love their dogs and this is a great way to exercise dogs, hang out and have a great day.”

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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