Why are we driving on the 4-wheelers and not sleds?
For any human running, a marathon takes several months of training. To run 1000 mile race you need all the training you can get. Same goes for the dogs. To start building their mileage early, we begin on 4-Wheelers from middle August before there is snow. We start slow running 2-3 miles couple times a week. As the weeks go on we continue to add miles waiting for the snow to come for us to switch over to sleds. We need about 18 inches of snow to fall before we can start sledding, and Ken can recall some years not switching over to sleds until the middle of December. If we didn’t start training them on 4-wheelers, there is no way they would be ready to run the 1000 mile Iditarod race in March.
How do you feel about the dogs being changed up?
I've gotten this question a few times by people saying they feel sorry for mushing dogs because they spend a lot of time chained to their house. I can understand where people think this. However, I believe that these dogs are doing pretty good. Every dog gets let off their chain at least once a day to run around with 30+ other dogs; they get to interact with humans every day, fed beef, beaver, salmon, & kibble, and they get to see some of the most beautiful Alaskan wilderness. I feel bad for all the dogs that live in the city in a small apartment that gets walked by their owner for 30 minutes a day.
Are the males the leaders?
I have four females on my team of 12, and I have to say they are some of my best leaders I have. The female dogs for sure pull their weight and a lot of times seem more intuitive than the males. The only time you need to worry when having females on your team is when they are in heat. The females want it just as bad as the males, and you have to do your best to keep them separated. The last thing I want is one of the females to get pregnant which will end their season of racing.
How far away from town do you live?
I live about 40 mins outside of Fairbanks. We can see the town being perched up on a mountain chain that surrounds Fairbanks.
How old are they before they start racing?
The dogs start pulling the sled when they are between one and two. Most of the dogs won't make it to a race until they are 3 or older and can continue racing until they are around 7 or 8. Afterward, they retire, and the musher usually keeps them as a pet, or another family adopts them.