Archive for the ‘sled dog races’ Tag

My Weekend   Leave a comment


 Alaska has some different sports from what might be common in your neck of the woods. Brad and I spent the weekend hanging out at the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race. The North American is a sprint race that starts and finishes on 2nd Avenue in downtown Fairbanks.

The weather was glorious. It was about 10 above when we got there at 10 am. We attended a fur auction, had a lively conversation with some Swedish skiers who were here for the Arctic Winter Games, and checked out the Co-Op Mall’s newer shops. By mid-day, it had warmed up to above freezing, so we had coffee at chute side.

One of the mushers, Marvin Schandlemeier, is a Yukon Quest racer. The Quest is longer than the Iditarod and a much more complicated and physically grueling race, but it doesn’t get the publicity of the Iditarod. Schandlemeier’s team was a little confused. They’re used to pacing themselves for a 1000-mile trail. By the third day, the lead dog had figured out that he just wanted them to go fast for several miles and then the team could cozy down in the straw for the night, so the dogs started giving him their best. It was fun to watch how the different training of the same breed of dog resulted in a different race, but also to watch these amazing animal athletes adapt to the new challenge.

By the way, sled dogs love what they do and they will run all day long if allowed to do so. Running is what they are bred for. They beg to be the ones harnessed up to go for a run. When they are retired, it’s usually kindest to retire them away from the team, to someone who wants to ski-jor because they are bored and depressed by not being allowed to race anymore.

Brad and I are not dog mushers. It takes a lot of energy and time to maintain a team that can run one of these races. They’re beautiful to watch and it’s fun to do, but it’s a lot of work and when you’re in the race, you don’t get to have coffee at chute side.


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