I had a little Q&A on facebook and here are the results!!
The Iditarod, beginning March 3rd is 1000 mile dog race going over mountains, lakes, and barren land in temperatures as low as -60 degrees. The trail takes you into the past stopping at several isolated villages only assessable by plane. Starting on a frozen lake filled with fans barbecuing in Willow and if you are lucky and prepared enough you will finish on the coast in Nome.
What is usually the most challenging part of the race for participants generally? What do you think will be the most challenging part of the race for you personally? (Physically, mentally, etc).
Oh gosh. I think what’s so challenging is the combination of cold, lack of sleep, food, and water. Everyone will hallucinate due to the above conditions. These hallucinations are amazing. I’ve swung at tree branches while being on a lake and heard noises of wolves and other dogs coming from the trees. The mind really plays tricks on you.
The hardest thing I think people will have to deal with is going to be their own mind. The dogs can do it. The weakest link will always be the musher. When’s it’s 3:00 am, -40 out and you just got up from a 45 min nap, you can choose to get out of your sleeping bag or call it quits. Gosh. I’m not looking forward to that part. To help prepare you do these types of things at home and are forced to do them on smaller races.
What kind of challenges do the dogs go through on this journey?
Dog and human are going to be going through a lot of the same things. Most notable would be lack of sleep, the cold and the ample amount of exercise compared to rest.
Dogs will get tired and get sore muscles. You can choose to carry them or leave them behind at a checkpoint with veterinarians to be returned after the race. Dogs will also get sore feet as well and chaffing from the harness in different places.
Talk about your mental prep, what are you doing the day of and during to stay focused?
This is a great question as well. I think a lot of the past challenges has helped me prepare for this one in that the mental game is all practice. I like to look at things as it’s just another day. Whether you workout all day or lay on the sofa that 24 hours has passed so why not do something that pushes you.
Breaking your goal into small manageable chunks is important so not to get overwhelmed with everything you haven’t done yet.
However, I think the biggest thing is staying positive. Not only to trick yourself, however, the dogs as well. When they see you are upbeat and happy they will be as well. Same goes if you are down and hating life!!
“Life’s great and I’m excited about this challenge.” The more I tell myself that the easier everything becomes.
Finally, my mentor, Nick was saying that he hopes the Weather is good and it’s an easier Iditarod for his girlfriend who is also running. I told him I hope it’s the opposite. I hope it is the hardest one ever with storms and -60 temperatures. If I plan on this and it comes true I will be ok also if it doesn’t then the challenge just became easier.
How many competitors will there be? Do you all start at the same time/place? Do you expect to be racing in a group or do the sleds typically split up?
There are just over 70 people signed up for this year's race. The biggest challenge for one of these races is to get to the starting line so we will see how many make it. We all start on long Lake with I think 5-minute intervals between us. Our starting position is decided by a draw and the time is trued up at a checkpoint, holding back the people who went early.
Most of the time people are solo. It’s difficult to run in groups because different teams travel at different speeds in the race. I suspect that along the way you will hang out with familiar people at the different checkpoints and probably make some lifelong friends!
How do you know where the trail is the whole time? There must be points where it is blown over, unclear etc...
Great question. There are thousands of wooden stacks pounded into the snow, ice, and the ground to let you know you are on the trail. You do hear stories of people getting lost however it’s probably because they missed a marker.
You are right though with markers getting blown over. That does happen. Especially on the sea ice towards the ladder part of the race. You will also see moose knock them over. Something to do with the reflective tape that attracts them.
How old is this race? what is the "prize"?
The Iditarod started March 3rd 1973 envisioned up by a musher named Joe Redington. Following trails used for trading by the natives, no one knew if it was even possible to make it the full distance. 20 days and 15 hours after the start there was a finisher! Nowadays to top mushers will do it in under 9 days.
The prize is different every year. This year it is $500,000 divided among all the finishers. Everyone who crosses the finish line will get at least $1,049. The 49 reflects the 49th state to join the United States!
What is the rescue plan?
Every musher wears a GPS tracker which has a button that can be pressed if you get into trouble. They will then send helicopters or snow machines depending on the emergency.
When does the Iditarod start making snow for the big race?
Great question. We need more snow!! 3 of the past five years the Iditarods official start on March 4th had to be moved 400 miles north to Fairbanks. There is a ceremonial start done for the fans to meet the mushers in Anchorage and the past couple years there was not enough snow and it had to be trucked in. Wouldn’t be surprised if this happens again this year!
No ones talking about wolves.... what about the wolves...?
I really haven’t seen any on the trail. Mostly will see moose, caribou, and once I’ve seen a ram.
How many dogs will you be running?
I currently have 17 dogs on my team that I am training. Took them 140 miles the other day over a 24 hour period. At the race start, you are allowed to have up to 16 dogs however several people start with fewer. I will probably start with fewer because some of the dogs I’m currently running might not be in good enough shape.
What are you bringing with you? How long does it take? What are the biggest risks to prepare for? What emergency systems are in place?
The Iditarod sets mandatory gear including snowshoes, ax, -40 sleeping bag, a cooker to boil water, fuel for the cooker, booties and good for the dogs.
I will also be bringing with me coats and blankets for the dogs. Extra gear including change of clothes for myself. Snacks and of course my camera!
I feel like the cold is your biggest enemy to prepare for. I don’t even know what -60 feels like. Lack of sleep, food, and water are never fun as well.
Every sled has a GPS with an emergency button that can be pressed. The helicopters will come looking for you if needed.
When did you start doing all this fantastical crazy stuff?
Two years ago I came up to Alaska to try it out to see if I even liked it. Staying only for 5 days it was pretty easy to fall in love with it. Unbelievable challenging, that demands 100 percent of your attention all while dealing with the elements. You should come give it a try!
Is Bradley Farquhar the sexiest man to ever run the Iditarod?
Haha. That’s the best question ever!! My guess is I’m probably the sexiest Nova Scotian to ever run it. Given that I will be the first! (Fingers crossed) love your support!
Once you have finished the race, would you be interested in talking to Australian students about the experience?
Would love to talk to some students about it. Anyway, I can share this experience I will. This is a life-changing event and everyone should know about it.