In the next few months there will be quite a few Sled Dog races. The races that SP Kennel has entered are listed in the ‘About SP Kennel‘ page. We hope for good snow conditions throughout Alaska as well as around the ‘sled dog world’ so that the racing season can be as good as it gets.
SP Kennel is a long distance race specialist. What exactly does “long distance” mean? Well… different things in different parts of the world actually. But, we term races as such:
A Tune-Up is generally any race with just one leg of distance (often less than 100 miles). These races are fun, fast and teams get a lot of passing practice. The Two Rivers Tune-Up, TR 50, Apline Creek Excursion, Two Rivers Burger Run, Valley FUNale are some such races. This past weekend, the average speed for the SP Kennel Black team in the TR 50 Race was approximately 10.5 mph. Tune-Up races are fantastic for SP Kennel dogs, mushers and support crew. We remember how to pack the dog truck, not to forget the harnesses (again) and generally get comfortable racing again after a long off-season.
For us, Mid Distance races – generally between 100 and 500 miles – are SP Kennel’s mid season races. These races can still be fast, especially the shorter ones. On a race trail system with good snow conditions (and no last minute blizzards) average winning speeds are often between 9 and 10 mph. On poor trails or deep fresh snow average dog team speeds can slow to a walking pace.
But there is another crucial component to Mid Distance races: and that is the “camp out” or rest time between the legs of racing. In order to do well in Mid Distance races, dogs have to be trained and conditioned to run, but also to rest. The better you rest, the better you run. Some of the most popular races have 50 teams that all need to camp out and rest in a very tight space. Well behaved dogs and a Crew who will guard the teams as they sleep (despite chilly temperatures) are important.
Mid Distance races have a minimum number of hours that a dog team must rest in Checkpoints. The dog team must sign in and sign out in order to record this time. This is called Mandatory Rest. This rest is created so the race officials and veterinarians can check on the welfare and overall abilities of the dogs and mushers.
The most competitive teams will sometimes only rest the minimum Mandatory Rest hours. Dog teams who are younger, not as competitive or rookie racers can choose to rest additional hours.
We will race several Mid Distance races prior to our Long Distance events. These are listed in the ‘About SP Kennel‘ page.
There are two Long Distance races for us: the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. These races are multi-day, marathon races approximately 1,000 miles in length. The speeds are generally slower than Mid Distance and much slower than Tune-Up races. Obviously an marathon pace is slower than a sprint.
Overall race strategy and musher “camp out” abilities are crucial to performance. Dogs and mushers must be talented athletes but also need to be competent and comfortable in many extreme wilderness and weather situations.Long Distance races are special to us at SP Kennel.
Now that the racing has started we will be busy with constant race prep as well as the 3-2-1 GO! We will live in the moment and race the best we can in Mid Distance events. But we will constantly be looking ahead and planning for both the Yukon Quest – starting February 3rd – and the Iditarod – starting March 3rd. Then it’s GAME TIME!