Snow, as listed at the very top of our Christmas list, is incredibly valuable right now. It's rarity is what swells the value, and the little bit that we have left has phase changed into ice. Not good for running dogs! This is however a good time to tackle projects such as race planning, labeling drop bags, powdering and bundling the 2000 booties that we purchased just for the race, brainstorming and planning what human food i want to eat along the Iditarod, customizing and tweeking gear and sled stufff. Were getting as much of that done now, so that we can play outside forever once winter comes back.
I don't WANT to overlook and under appreciate these inside projects, all of the tasks and experience that don't involve actually running sled dogs. The races themselves are an abstraction, or an aggregation of all of the individual accomplishments and tiny moments of time that become "the race". For now, from here, the Iditarod is putting foot powder in each individual dog bootie and then putting them into bundles of four. That's 500 bundles to make. A few weeks ago, our Iditarod was making a race plan in order to get an accurate picture of how many booties and now much meat we need to buy/cut/package.
It's good to have a plan, somewhere in my life I've heard 'proper planning prevents poor performance' , i ALSO see the benefit to having a capacity to be flexible and adapt to changes and unforeseen everythings. We just got back from a camping trip on the Denali Highway, we had to travel to escape the icey conditions in Willow. The plan was to do a few back to back runs, giving us two camp stops along the way. The question was how far to go, and while I had a plan for the general distance I wanted to travel, i knew that i didn't really know. I was going to have to watch the dogs and read them to know what the right distance would be. We ended up not going as far as originally planned, but the distance we covered and the amount that we rested was nearly perfect for how the dogs looked and felt and WERE after our trip.
When we camp, and every time we travel together, we do it simulating how it will be during the race itself. My sled is packed the way it will be on the race, even if I'm going on a ten mile run, so that i am completely dialed in on the sled bag system. I can't be on day two of the Iditarod and realize that the cooker won't fit in that spot, or be trying to remember where I put my repair kit. Ever heard of the ABCs of packing a kayak?! I think it applies to sleds too! ACCESSIBILITY- Make it accessible if you're going to need it. Hand warmers, water, beaver mitts, snacks, i place those things within arms reach. I like to have my cooler and some dog snacks close by too, so I can open the bag and prep if needed on the move. BALANCE - I keep the weight back, sleeping bag, xtra clothes, xtra harnesses, light stuff like that in the bow. My cooler lives all the way in the stern, usually filled with dog snacks and/or water. It is surrounded by more dog food. COMPRESSION - Utilize Space Efficiently, enough said.
In my sled
Cooker (Snow melter)
Xtra runner plastic
Dog first aid
Misc. Kit - rope, ratchet strap, garbage bags, TO, etc..
Every coach on the planet, from little league to the majors, says " practice like you play", i agree! Our camping routine is fairly precise but it also changes sometimes, there are variables involved, and the whole act of mushing dogs is just as much art as science, maybe more. When I stop the team to camp, i walk up and secure the leaders by anchoring the front of the team, offer them a snack and a pet as I walk back to the sled, i walk back up and take them off their toggles, and take their booties off as I return back to the sled. I try not to waste any trips up and down the team. So now I'm back to the sled, if I'm giving them a meal right away, I'll feed THEN put straw down. If I have to melt the snow or ice I like to put straw down first while it melts. Maybe I'm not going to feed them right way, so ill straw them, and come back in a few hours to offer a meal. I also like to get the sled packed and organized in anticipation of the next run. Pull out the next set of booties, figure how much dog food I'll need to travel with, so that after I go lay down for an hour I can wake up and not have to try to wrap my waking head around packing and organizing. It works for us. Here's another one "practice makes perfect". Well, perfect practice makes perfect. Half of my team is pretty young, and so not too much experience camping. Going out on these back to backs is also about teaching them how to be camping pros and squeeze every possible moment of rest out of our stop. It certainly helps to have a group of seasoned dogs to put on a good example for the younger bunch. The dogs often teach the other dogs more than I ever could, I help facilitate the process!
Of course being able to go camping with the dogs is most enjoyable, but I'm also really enjoying all of the other little steps along the way. Scheduling the team's EKGs and blood work, going to the rookie meetings, looking for a good set of leggings for the dogs, it's all going to the same place, it's ALL getting us to Nome looking and feeling good.
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