Run. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
I’m fairly sure that if you looked up ‘Training a Dog team for races’, this is what would come up.
Camping trips, or ‘Checkpoint Training’, will prepare us for checkpoints at the Race to the Sky, and the Junior Iditarod, as well as future races. The dogs on my team that have not done mid-distance races before will get a chance to get use to the routine, before it is expected of them in a race. I am also a rookie at camping, so the same goes for preparing myself as well!
During a race, there will be lots of activity going on. Other teams moving in and out of the checkpoint, Mushers feeding their dogs, volunteers and an army of vets moving about, and a dog needs to be able to sleep while all of this is going on, so that they can be as happy and healthy as possible going into the next stage of a race.
We decided to do a mock camping trip last week, to give me a chance to test out equipment and skills with the safety net of still being able to go get something If I needed to, as well as learning what should be on my packing list, that isn’t!
We started the day by completing a 19 mile run with lots of climbing and going a bit faster than we have been. We pulled back in front of the house and I took booties off and checked everyone’s feet to make sure they all looked good, applying healing cream to make sure everyone was happy. ‘If you don’t have feet, you don’t have a dog’ was one of the first things I learned!
All the dogs got a massage and I bed them down for the next 3 1/2 hours. Each dog gets straw in their spot on the line to use as a bed, and insulation from the snow.
They had time for a short nap and to settle down before I brought food out in the form of hot chicken broth and kibble. Everyone chowed down and eventually the dogs settled in and went back to resting.
At just under four hours I went out and woke them up, massaging each dog, and taking them for a short walk to stretch and get their muscles moving again.
By the time I was done and began hooking their harnesses back into the tug line, they were screaming and yelling like they hadn’t just run four hours earlier. Their recovery time is truly incredible! We then began the second leg of the run. The woods were beautiful in the dark and the snow was amazing. The dogs sped through the run and came in looking happy!