Monday, November 24, 2008

From the oceans to the mountains...

A lot has changed around here recently. We have completed our beach runs for the year since the snow has began to fall! We don't have a lot of snow, but enough to park the ATVs for the year and jump on the sleds. This is always a joyous time to say the least. It is also a time of year where we try and suppress the dog's enthusiasm. I'll tell you, those three hour beach runs really got my pups into shape! We have been trying all week to slow the dogs down and tire them out, but it has been a challenge. They just have so much energy and power for so early in the season. I have never experienced this before. It is additionally satisfying to see because this is my first season where dogs that I raised from birth are on my race team. To see them so happy and content and strong when they run with the race veterans really makes me feel good.

Yesterday we took three ten dog teams up into the Caribou Hills. It was absolutely beautiful up there. The dogs pulled us from near sea level to 1,500 to 2,000 feet and the views were just incredible. The dogs ran for almost 6 hours and loped most of the way! It is unusual for us to do such long runs this time of year, but the dogs didn't seem to get tired during shorter runs earlier in the week so we let them run longer since they looked so strong. I am obviously very pleased with their performance and it shows that all of our earlier training has paid off. Now we must be careful not to over do it. Slow and steady is the name of the game so we don't burn them out and cause a lot of injuries.

I unfortunately forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures for this post. However, we plan to do our first camping trip with the dogs over Thanksgiving weekend and I'll make sure to bring the camera along. We certainty have a lot to be thankful up here where we are. I hope, where ever you live, that you feel the same. Until next time, I'll be mushing on insulin!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Running 24 dogs 24 miles…

We are in transition time when the ground is frozen, but there is not enough snow to run on sleds. This time of year comes every year, it just depends when and it always becomes a waiting game for our first substantial snowfall. We have been waiting a few weeks this year and we only have about an inch of snow on the ground. We are hoping to get some more snow in the next few days…

In the mean time, we need to try and keep the dogs running. In Kasilof, we have several options on how we can accomplish that. One of them becomes very useful when we go through this difficult time of year in our training program. We live right near the ocean and often times the sand on the beach will remain soft as the tides go up and down. It provides for quite a workout for the pups and it is good strength training. If any of you have ever tried to run on the beach you know what I mean.

So, we have been running on the beach for about 10 days. We run to Clam Gulch and back which is about 24 miles. The run is obviously flat and it sometimes can be a little boring, but the dogs don’t seem to mind and the views and sunsets can be beautiful. It is extremely peaceful out there. The beach is deserted this time of year except for a few wandering bald eagles. There are even a few freshwater streams along the way which provides some much needed watering holes for the pups! Below are some pictures of our training run last Saturday. We hooked up two 12 dog teams and had a fantastic 24 mile run in the sunshine!

Another episode of the Discovery Channel is set to air tomorrow Friday, Novermber 14th. This will be the fifth of six episodes. See you on TV!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Hi Everyone!

After over two years living in Alaska, I have FINALLY FINALLY managed to get a blog! I know MANY of you have asked me to get a blog a long time ago and that many of you are curious about what it takes to get a team of sled dogs to be able to run 1,150 miles across the state of Alaska in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. I will try and answer your questions here. Hopefully, readers will get a better appreciation on how much work and sacrifice it really takes to be one of the lucky few to be able to pull the snowhook in Willow, Alaska on March 8th. Its a long time until March, and anything can happen, but we are hopeful we will be there for the third year in a row!

I couldn't start talking about training for the Iditarod without first talking about my help, my wife and dog handlers. Getting to the Iditarod starting line is always a group effort. With my fulltime job and my family (I have a three month old son named Brody now), I could never get to run the Iditarod with out their help. This season we are blessed to have two great dog mushers. Cindy Barrand is in charge when I am not around and she has been doing a fantastic job running the dogs and the kennel. She has many years of experience running dogs with some of the best Iditarod mushers in the world and I an extremely fortunate to have her on my team. Travis Fuller is our second dog musher. He has several years of experience running and handling dogs on the glacier in Juneau, Alaska for a dog sled touring company (Cindy does as well) and he is very eager to learn all about what it takes to run mid-distance and long distance dog sled races. Hopefully, he will be doing some mid-distance races this winter! He is a very hard worker. I will hopefully have them share some of their experiences on this blog as well. The role of my wife as it pretains to running and training our sled dogs has changed a bit with the birth of our son in July. She obviously can not be as active taking care of the dogs because of her responsibilities as a new mother, but she is still just as supportive as ever. I could never do this race without her incredible sacrifice and support.

We have about 50 sled dogs in our kennel. We have a few puppies, a few older ones who are unchained and just hang out, but generally almost all of our dogs are in training. We have about 32 dogs that are old enough to be in training and another team of younger (and some older dogs) that we call the puppy team (or "D" team). The race dogs have been divided into three 10 to 12 dog teams and are called the "A", "B" and "C" teams. We genrally run the teams every other day. In the beginning (before the snow), they pull us on ATVs. We began training this year for Iditarod on September 3rd. Our first run was 2 1/2 miles long. We slowly bump up the miles or length of the runs when the dogs get into shape. We went from 2 1/2 miles to 5, to 8, to 12, to 14, to 18, to where we are now at about 24 miles. We also do shorter runs that are faster to keep the dogs on there toes, but generally we are doing 24 mile runs every other day.

We are in one of the most difficult times of the training season, a time where there is little snow, but the ground is frozen. This type of situation can be difficult on the dogs feet and we have to bootie many of them which is a big pain. We keep waiting for a good snowfall, but right now we have been in drought over the last few weeks which is frustrating.

I need to get going, but I will write more when I have the time.

Cindy, Travis and I are off to a fundraiser for Jason Mackey. He is a neighbor and dog musher and has a fundraiser every year to offset some of the expenses of running his dog kennel. It is always a good time.

Tonight is the airing of the fourth episode in the six part series on the Discovery Channel that I am in. It is always fun to watch, but sort of stange seeing yourself on TV. :) If you miss it, it plays a few more times tomorrow (on Saturday 11/08) I think. Until next time, I'll be mushing on insulin!