Countdown to Iditarod at SP Kennel

Taking a break during one of the last training runs before the big race.

In only one week Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore will be on the runners behind their teams heading towards Nome. Aliy explains what the last few days leading up to Iditarod look like:

Iditarod – here we come! SP Kennel sled dogs and mushers are almost to the starting line. The week prior to the big event is probably my most stressful. If you are an organized person, like me, then you like to have everything ready for your race. I try to categorize my week in four parts in order to make it manageable.

  1. Of course, number one is always the dogs. Iditarod requires that all potential race dogs have blood drawn and ECGs. These tests will be analyzed by doctors in Anchorage prior to the race. The head Iditarod Vet, Dr Stu Nelson, will call us if he sees any anomalies with our dogs’ health. As well, we are required to worm all the dogs before they take to the trails that go in and out of many Alaskan villages. It is a safety precaution for the dogs and the people. Then of course there are a thousand “other things” to check before the race: toenails, ears, eyes and attitude. As a dog owner – I should be well aware of any issues with my dogs – but just in case I miss something – we have our Vet, Dr Rouge – come out to the kennel and give each dog a full health check one week before race start.
  2. Number two is gear. There is so much that I carry with me for 1,000 miles of wilderness travel by dog team. Hopefully, it is not a lot of weight, but is a well thought out, packed sled with anything and everything I might need. I like to check all this gear before I get on the trail making sure that I have enough of certain things and that they aren’t worn out or old. Checking harnesses, lines, snow hooks and the sled is just the start. I sort through my med kit, thermos, straw bag, sleeping bag, extra clothing, mitts, tool kit… the list is endless.
  3. Final training runs is number three. As I prepare for the Iditarod, I can’t forget that the athletes – all of us – still need to stretch out, run and train like we have a 1,000 mile race ahead of us. It is easy to get caught up in the race hype as well as the last minute preparations but it is best to stay consistent with training. The dogs should stay on a regular run schedule, with a small taper near the end. And my work out schedule stays the same until the bitter end as well.
  4. Lastly, we need to get to the starting line. This is a biggie. For us mushers, dogs, sleds and gear will be driven about 400 miles to Anchorage for the Iditarod start. Dog trucks are notorious for not functioning correctly when you need them to, sleds fall out of trailer and dogs get left at the kennel! Loading and unloading dogs into their travel boxes needs to be done with extreme care – we do not need any pinched toenails or toes. Drive cautiously and take your time – you are not racing… yet! For Iditarod, as well as the Yukon Quest, there are festivities and meetings several days before the start. Make sure the dogs get stretch out time and proper feeding while the mushers attend ‘Meet & Greet’s” and banquet.

This is what my last week looks like, but after that …. Iditarod here I come. 3 – 2 – 1 GO!

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