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!