One Man's Paradise

Run, eat, sleep – The Iditarod Way of Life

The race has moved on. All teams still in the race have left Puntilla Lake. About 20 dogs that have been taken out of the race and Jim Lanier’s team, who scratched at our check point, are resting at the edge of the lake. The volunteers have begun to break down the check point, raking the hay, separating dog food, collecting garbage. It started to snow over night.

Yesterday was a picture perfect day for spectators, little wind, blue sky, maybe a bit too warm for the dogs. It was fascinating to see the teams arrive on the ice and slide over the lake, almost silently. The mushers would encourage their dogs, who would find their way to the check point with little guidance. From the distance it all looked effortless, once the dogs came closer you could see the snow fly, the mouth wide open with their tongues hanging out. Once they stopped they ate some snow, rolled on the ice, apparently to cool down.

Most mushers decided to spend a few hours at Puntilla Lake. The mushers would take off the dog booties, spread some hay for them to  curl on, and then start preparing a multi-course meal for the dogs: frozen salmon, fish soup, dog pellets, you name, every musher probably had his own secret menu. Each dog consumes about 12,000 calories a day…

Once the dogs are taken care of the musher will rest and eat. It’s a routine that seems to ignore the adverse conditions. Some teams arrived pre-dawn in the cold, some teams would arrive in the middle of the night. Visitors would arrive all day from Anchorage and Talkeetna by plane, some on snow machines. One lone bikers rode in the middle of the pack. During the day the routine seemed manageable. During the night, without spectators, the task seemed daunting.

Ellen Halverson was the last musher leaving Puntilla Lake a day behind the leader. Ellen did run the race before four times, finishing twice, last. She was in good spirits heading for Rainy Pass without any onlookers. The mushers seem to have a tight community, competitive but also supportive of each other.

It is amazing to see how breeding and training can produce dogs that can endure and enjoy a race as the Iditarod. The main activities of the dogs during the race are pulling, eating, and sleeping, which all occurs without much barking or fighting. The dogs sense exactly when it comes to running again after a rest. They start barking and howling, pulling and jumping against the sled that is anchored in the ice. From the distance you can hear when the team gets ready…

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2 thoughts on “Run, eat, sleep – The Iditarod Way of Life

    • 12.000 cal a day per dog. Every musher carries 35 pounds of food. Supply bags are flown to every check point ahead of time. The Iditarod is not a self-sufficient race. Nevertheless, it is tough.

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