Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Training and Racing
  Qualifying year for Iditarod 2015

Hello from Wasilla, Alaska ! 

This year, I am  training/racing a Mackey team. Yes, that’s right a Mackey team ! I have secured a fantastic team of 14 dogs from Jason Mackey and they are proving themselves each day we spend together clicking up the miles on our team odometer. I also have three additional dogs to add to the 14 Mackey dogs. Jim Lanier, 15 time Iditarod musher, who I worked with last winter, asked if I would take on his three yearlings to train for the winter, while he concentrates on his Iditarod team. Our goal is to peak the fitness at the third week of January in time for our first race, the Northern Lights 300 which starts January 24th at Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake, Alaska.The next qualifier is the Yukon Quest 300 which starts February 2 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

October is the month dry land training begins in earnest here in Alaska. The temperatures In the Wasilla/Willow area the temperatures have been hovering in the high 30‘s, low 40’s,  making it much to warm for healthy training.  Jason and his 24 year old mushing son Patrick, who wants to qualify for the Iditarod this year invited me to join them for a week training at Lance’s Comeback Kennel outside of Fairbanks. Lance had called Jason and said there was a thin layer of snow and the temperatures were in the 20’s. We loaded the trucks and headed north. It was a treat to see Lances kennel and rub elbows with him for a few days.

To take advantage of our training time we decided to train our teams twice a day.  We started with six miles two times a day with a minimum of six hours in between sessions.
To start the training, the speeds are slow 7-9 mph. As the fitness improved we increased the speeds to 10 mph before increasing the distances. In the beginning the fitness training of the long distance Alaskan Sled Dog is a cycle that looks like this:

Day 1; 6 miles at 7-9 mph  (twice a day)
Day 2; same
Day 3; same
Day 4; day off

Day 5; 6 miles at 7-9 mph (occasionally increasing to 10 mph to test how they are handling the fitness) twice a day
Day 6; 6 miles 9-10 mph (always go slow 7-9 downhills) twice a day
Day 7; Bump up the distance to 7-8 miles but slow the speeds to 7-9 mph..

Day 8: 7-8 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day)
Day 9; 7-8 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day) occasionally increasing speed to 10 mph.
Day 10; 7-8 miles at 10 mph (7-9 mph downhills)
Day 11; Day off

Day 12; 10 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day)
Day 13; 6-8 miles at 8-10 mph (twice a day)
Day 14; 8-9 miles at 8-10 mph (twice a day)
Day 15; Day off

Gradually, as the distances are increased, around 12 miles the training sessions can be once a day. 

General notes:

* For long distance training, generally keep speeds around 10 mph.
* Occasional short wind sprints are fun and good for the dogs.
  • Keep the team slow 7-8 mph downhill to help mitigate shoulder injuries.
  • A conservative training schedule is best. If you question your dogs fitness, keep it shorter and slower.

Eventually, my team will be training 3 days in a row with 40-75 miles a day at 8-10 mph 3 days in a row. Sometimes we will travel 6 hours, camp for 6 hours and then run another 6 hours. Generally, we train 3 days with a day off. Camping with the dogs is a key component to training as that is what races are all about.

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