Thursday, June 30, 2016

Food For Dog and Musher: Part 1

    Now that we've gotten the non-edible gear out of the way, let's tackle food! If there's one thing all sled dogs and mushers depend on to keep them going, it's food...

    We'll start with the musher food because I can be honest about what I eat...while there are some secrets about the dog's food I'll have to keep.

    One of the most important things for the musher (and dogs) is staying hydrated. I've come to rely on EmergenC in my water because it tastes good (it makes me want to drink it) and I can water it down or make it really strong. Plus, it helps me stay healthy with all the vitamin C. It's also not that appealing to drink cold (or even lukewarm) water plain when I'm tired...
    I also really like Odwalla juice (which is like a meal) or orange juice. Hot apple cider is great. Hot cocoa is not a favorite of mine - I'd rather have a very chocolaty mocha. When all else fails, though, plain water is very good - especially when you've been helping the dogs up a hill.
    Kirk Barnum really helped me with food this year. Cliff bars and Gogurt are awesome - eat one of each and it's like a meal! I also like chocolate and nuts, cheese and sausage. Jerky is ok - depending on my mood and if it's not too salty. If I had access to the "fish jerky" Aaron used in Alaska or smoked Salmon I'd eat that a lot. The biggest thing with the trail food is that you have to be able to eat it rather easily since you're standing on the sled and eating as you go along.
    I love oranges as the first snack of the run (before the freeze or get too cold). I usually leave the truck, let the dogs settle in and eat the orange while I cool off before adding my final layer. Fruit leather is great too but not my favorite because it's too sweet.
    One of my favorite snacks, which I limit, is black licorice. It's chewy and takes some time to chew - keeping me awake even when gum fails. Dried ginger or ginger chews is great for a jolt to wake you up but with a lot of dry foods you have to be careful they don't get wet - stale sesame sticks are NOT appetizing.
    One of the foods I also enjoy (but limit) is cheesecake. It's very filling and if I don't make it too sweet (I prefer plain), doesn't make you crash.
    I'm constantly trying to find new trail foods to try which are healthier (less sugar) on the trail. If you have an idea, let me know and I'll give it a try!
    In the checkpoint there's usually food provided, so I try to make myself eat soup. The best soup (in my opinion) is chili or a creamy, cheesy potato soup. Warm garlic bread is awesome. As I write this I had the thought that lasagna would be very good too - maybe I'll try that next year! I do my best to force myself to eat a bowl of something when I come inside and drink a bottle of water. Even if I'm so tired and hungry I don't feel like eating, I always feel better afterwards.

   Just kidding about the secret dog food, but we'll get to it next time!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mushing Gear

    Hey guys, sorry it's been a while - summer is as busy as the training season because there's so much to do...getting prepared for the upcoming season. However, I have a whole list of blog posts to get working on for you - as you requested! Since it's raining and I'm wishing it were snowing, let's go over mushing gear...

    This is probably not all that should be carried, or perhaps it's too much, but this is an inventory of what I keep handy on the sled. I try to carry what's reasonable on the 4-wheeler but let's face it: if the motor doesn't work, it'll just be a long ride home; if you lose a wheel you're pretty much stuck.

    The dogs wear the smallest amount of the gear - harnesses, booties for runs over 30 miles (or for dogs with bad feet) and the gangline section they're hooked to. Between the gangline and the sled you'll have a bungee section (ALWAYS with a safety line) and I like to hook one of my snow hooks directly to the gangline (this is my spare hook which is also my leader hook) and the other behind the bungee section. It's best to limit the amount of locking carabiners, so I loop as much as possible together permanently - including second safety line tied to my brushbow in case the sled harness lines were to break for some reason (or a sled stantion).
    The sled is equipped with a sled bag and a long (30ft) line. The line is what I use to tie off to the truck at start (I have a second line I leave at the truck tied to my main snow hook) but has come in handy to tie off to a tree. The sled is equipped with a break (with more or less worn ice tips), runner plastic that is changeable (you sometimes loose it - as I found out this year by accident when it broke) and a drag mat made of an old section of snowmobile track or even an old mudflap with bolts in it. I use "the drag" as my brake most of the time because I feel it's less of a jerk on the dogs and they should be trained to respond to my voice also gives me control of the speed - on the flat or downhill I'll always have at least one heel on it to keep the dogs lines tight and keep us from going too fast. If you're breaking trail, you can tie it up out of the way (or leave it down to help pack down the trail for the trip back!). When we first hit the sled and the dogs are charged up and strong, I'll also drag a tire behind me as extra drag and resistance. It puts in a really nice trail!

    Musher wear really depends on the musher, but the key is layering. I usually just wear a pair of wool socks and wool gloves, then the rest is a mix of base layers, wool, fleece and parka/snow pants as outer wear. I love wool pants from the army/navy store because they are super comfy and no matter how wet you get, they'll keep you dry! Outer wear is my parka and beaver mitts - I wouldn't trade the mitts and fur ruff, even if I rarely need them. A fleece neckwarmer is much better than a scarf and a baseball cap really helps keep your face warm. I keep goggles and sunglasses in my pockets or on the sled but rarely need them. The fur ruff keeps the snow out very well!
    Boots are usually Neos or "Bunny Boots" - but in the fall I like the insulated mud boots.

    Some gear I always keep on my person - even if I have extra or better gear in the sled. I keep a spare headlamp, batteries, a small first aid kit (tape, some bandaging stuff, fire starter) and emergency food stowed in my parka. I also have a knife and multi-tool on my belt with a compass/temperature gage and matchless fire starter (flint/steel). I also carry some toilet paper (makes things much more comfortable when camping!) and an extra pair of gloves. Of course I like to have my phone and MP3 player handy in an inner pocket, with a few booties, foot ointment and chapstick in the outer pocket.

    Some of the gear on the sled is the same as what I have on my person - it's just bigger and better. I have a larger first aid kit/sled repair kit (sled repair includes tape, zip ties, wrench, pipe clamps and bolts) and more matches. If I have a 3rd headlamp I keep it in my "glove bag" along with extra gloves, a full set of base layer, hat, socks and some warmers (which I never use but would be handy for myself or for keeping a sore shoulder warm for a dog). I also carry at least one meal (usually food enough for the day) and plenty of water (a thermos or two...often a water bottle if it's warm).
    I always carry the mandatory race gear which includes emergency dog food (I usually carry 1-3 bags of dog food for extra weight in training), cooker and fuel, extra set of booties, drop chains, cable cutters, knife, snow shoes, sleeping bag and axe. In addition I carry dog coats and straw (if we're camping), a cooler with after-run food/water or snack, Algyval, wrist wraps and foot ointment.
    Running in the lower 48, I've learned to keep a tarp and rain poncho handy (after running in the rain you NEVER forget this!).
    In the pockets I toss in several extra tugs, snaps, necklines, a collar and a harness or two with the extra gangline section and some extra rope. I keep some rubber "twist ties" handy (these are AWESOME!) and an extra set of runners.

    I think that is pretty much it - if there's something you think I miss or wonder why/why not; comment below and I'll let you know!