Musher Highlights (1,000-Mile and YQ300)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Life is full of fun facts and as we get closer to the race, we thought we'd ask some questions to the 2017 1,000-Mile and YQ300 mushers! We'll be posting some of their answers to Facebook once or twice a week. We have asked each musher five questions and will include all their answers below, updating as we post them on Facebook. Check back regularly to read more!

Torsten Kohnert - 1,000-Mile

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ?
Pretty traditional training. In November runs between 30 - 40 miles on punchy soft trails. In December I bump the mileage up to 50 - 60 mile runs, 4 - 6 times / week. Some camping trips and as many prep races I can get to before the Quest.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?
Waking up at 6.00, putting my guys into work (construction). Doing dog chores and some guiding with dogs and hunting. Running my team. Try to work out a little myself. Make food for the family dinner. Evenings I spend hanging out with the family mostly and doing some paperwork if needed. 

3. How do you choose your team?
We do have about 35 dogs in training and I just pick the ones who stand out most; not just running but eating and how they behave on camping trips. I want to have dogs who are easy to get along with, low maintenance. (Easy keepers make your life a lot easier on the trail).

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why?
All dogs in the team are special to me , but Rufus maybe stands out. He´s a very good leader and just a nice friendly dog who never get into fights and never get injured. Just super easy to get along with.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
I really want to thank my wife Peggy big time for her support, all her work and care taking of our family, her job and our dogs while I´m gone racing, and usually taking the job as the head handler too. I never could do that without her. Will also thank my parents for helping out with the kids many times when there is to much to do during the race season.
 

Jeff Deeter - 1,000-Mile

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ?
We are spending a lot of time focused on slower runs. Also getting the dogs really comfortable camping and living away from the house.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?
I've quit drinking caffeinated coffee in order to prepare my system for consuming lots of it during the race! I'm currently working with my main team, running 4-5 days/week, an average of 5 hour runs. In between runs we are thinking about food drops and other logistics. Also trying to plumb our house! It will be really convenient to have hot, running water from the tap instead of warming up pots on the stove top.

3. How do you choose your team?
I'm looking for dogs with the best feet, best appetite, and looking at who comes back from the runs with the highest level of energy.

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why?
That's probably a better question for my wife, haha... I've got some stubborn dogs who consider what I have to say, but usually end up just doing what they want. I'm probably most like that, but I obviously don't like that in my dogs, haha.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
Of course my wife, KattiJo; she makes sure that all of the non-dog related things in my life go smoothly. And thank you to our buddy, Ian A. Johnson, who will be driving truck with KattiJo this year and taking some amazing photographs along the way. We also have some wonderful individual Dog Sponsors this year: Melissa M., Marilyn C., Doug P., Caleb K., Grace and Dirk, The Fowler Family, The The Sacramento Gals, and my niece, Laurel, and her family. Our Dog Sponsors go above and beyond to show support and love for our kennel. We would also like to thank Craig and the crew at Northern Power Sports in Fairbanks. We have been heavily reliant on our ATVs for dog training and giving tours so far this season and they have helped us out tremendously with those. Finally, we have to thank all of our Black Spruce Dog Sledding tour customers whose interest in dog mushing truly sustain us.
 

Rob Cooke – 1,000-Mile

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ?
We try to build up training as we move from August through to February. A lot of what we do is dictated by the weather: both temperatures for the dogs and also creeks and lakes freezing up so we can get longer distances in. We'll begin in August doing really short runs, normally around 1/2 to 1 mile to begin with and running at around 3am. As temperatures cool we slowly increase distance and also by the time we are into late September we are often able to train in the evening. Depending on when we get snow in Whitehorse we may start running on sleds in mid November by traveling down to the Canol Road 2 hours south of Whitehorse. This is a public road that is closed to regular traffic in the winter and tends to get early snow. By the end of November we will be trying to do 50 to 60 miles with lots of camping. By this time we are trying to replicate how we will run on the Quest i.e. run for x miles and then camp on the trail for 5 to 6 hours. We also try to sign up for a few mid distance races in December and January (this year we have signed up for the McGrath Mail Trail 202, Knik 200 and Kuskokwim 300) so that the dogs, and musher, get into the race groove. We would hope to have between 2000 and 3000 training miles on the dogs by the start of February.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?
Both Louise and I work full time so our days are a bit hectic. At the moment (end of November), I'll get up at 5am so I can feed all the dogs before going to work. I try to be in the office between 0700 and 0730 so I can work a 'full' day and still get home at a reasonable time. Most of my colleagues are based centrally in Canada so an earlier work day for me fits in with their time zones. I am normally home by 5pm; it takes about an hour to sort myself and the dogs out and we try to 'pull the hook' by 6pm. I'll then try to run for 4 to 5 hours. Once the run is finished I normally have whatever food Louise has prepared whilst we were out training, give the dogs an hour to recover from the run and then feed them. I'll then try to do whatever social media/sponsorship things need to be done online and go to bed - hopefully in bed before midnight. Weekends tend to vary a bit. If we are running at the Canol Road I try and leave as early as I can on Saturday morning - it is a 2 1/2 hour drive to the trail head. I'll then run for 6 to 7 hours, camp for 5 hours and then run back to the truck and drive home (often stopping en route to catch a nap). If we are training from home I'll use the weekends to do the longer runs that we can't do during the week. Whilst I am training, and when she is not working, Louise is looking after the dogs that are left behind and making sure the kennel is in order. She tends to work most weekends so we don't see a lot of each other from September onwards.

3. How do you choose your team?
They pretty much choose themselves. We will start the late summer with around 30 dogs in training, running multiple teams. By the end of October I have probably identified which dogs I think have what it will take mentally and physically to make this year's races and so drop down to around 21 dogs. The other dogs will continue to run with the puppies and retirees but on a more relaxed basis. I normally have a good idea in September who will likely make the team - at least I will probably know 12 of the 14 that early on - as long as they stay in top condition. Spending so much time training (as well as spending all year close to the dogs) you know their abilities and personalities and you get a feel for which dogs have what it takes to run 1000 miles. I think this year could be a difficult selection - as of today I think I know 13 of the 14 that will start Quest but I would be happy if any of the 21 we are currently training are on the start line. We have a couple of litters that are shoe-ins for being selected: the Crazies and the Atheists - they are from repeat breeding between Kraken's Kermit the Frog and Penkhala's Medea. Of the 5 in the Crazy litter (Psycho, Nutter, Skits, Loonie and Maddie) between them they have started 23 x 1000 mile races and finished 20. Nutter and Loonie have finished all five 1000 mile races that we have started. Of the three we kept from the Atheists (Hitch, Dennie, Dawkins) between them they have started 12 and finished 12 - all three have finished the Quest and Idiatrod in the same year - twice. I can pretty much guarantee in August that these 8 dogs will be on the final team even before we have done one mile in training. This makes team selection fairly easy.

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why?
Scoobie Doo - I like food, speak incoherently and am a coward. Of our own dogs probably Maddie (although Louise would disagree and I am nowhere near as accomplished as Maddie). I don't suffer fools, I try to be determined, if I can I would rather get on and do things without making a big fuss (although again others may disagree), if I start something I really want to finish it.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
First and foremost obviously Louise. There is no way I could do this without her support - just trying to maintain a training schedule without her help would be impossible let alone all the handler support she provides. She has suffered a lot over the last four years (off-grid living, 55 dogs, no money, etc.) just so I can run distance races. Both our families for the tremendous support they give us constantly. Chris Leyland who has come across from the UK to handle for us on the last two Quests (and Zara for letting him come), Hugh and Judy Wakker for all the support they constantly give, for believing in us from the very beginning and for being there whenever we have an emergency (Hugh has been known to drop everything and fly over from Scotland to handle at very short notice). Then all our sponsors - kennel, dog and corporate. It would take a while to list them all (and I would forget some) but we are so appreciative of all the help we get and really couldn't do this without that support.

I am immensely proud of the dogs and what they have achieved. I think just starting a 1000 mile race is an accomplishment for a dog, to finish is amazing. Our dogs have now finished three Yukon Quests and two Iditarods including, to date, the only Siberian Huskies to finish the Quest and Iditarod in the same year - and they have done that twice now, in 2015 and 2016. We are most certainly not the fastest team out there, and the team are held back by my own inadequacies as a 'musher', but I think they are truly amazing dogs nonetheless and I am delighted that we get to share our lives with such fantastic athletes.
 

Alexandra Rochat -YQ300

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ?
We run 3-4 times a week. We do a mix of short (10 miles) and longer runs (up to 60 miles) as well as some overnight trips.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?YQ?
I work in town during the week. My handler feeds/waters the dogs and clean the yard in the morning. When I come back home, we take the pups, the retirees as well as a couple racing dogs for a walk. Then we feed again and do another clean up the evening. Once or twice a week we take the racing team out for a short run after work. On the weekend, we typically go for two longer runs.

3. How do you choose your team?
I have a small kennel. Among 27 dogs, 16 of them are still running and 3 of them are probably getting too old to race (and keep up) with the younger dogs. So there you go, 13 of my younger dogs (2-3 year olds) will most likely make the team. They are also my first two litters so a very special group of dogs to me.

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why? 
I used to believe I was a lot like my first (pet) dog, Juska. She was a White Swiss Shepherd and had quite a personality, sometimes hard to handle. I believe we resembled each other a lot. We were both "just not for everyone". But blindly loyal to our people. She passed earlier this year. I have not yet met a dog that was so much like me in so many different ways.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
I am terribly lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people. That includes friends (Josi, who comes out and runs the dogs with me on a regular basis, Alicia who helps me keep my sanity), handlers, past and present, in particular Rachel who's here for the first part of this season, who has been doing an amazing job taking care of the dogs and the musher! My parents, who are behind me no matter what crazy decisions I make, and my boss, Jordan, at Cathway Water Resources who has now stepped in to be our first sponsor!

Melissa Stewart – YQ300

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ?
We start training in September though most of our dogs run year round running tours. When training them we try to expose them to as much as possible so that when they get to a race they know what to expect.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?
Dog chores, haul in wood, run dogs, cut meat, sew dog booties, and other random chores that need done.

3. How do you choose your team?
Picking my race team is not an easy job. I look at all the dogs and try to find the magic 8 ball that would tell me who is going to do well in any given race. A lot of it has to do with what I see in training and experience with the dogs. There's also the component of I just know and can't tell you why I just know to take or leave certain dogs.

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why?
My leader Loyalty is a fun-loving trail-devouring young man who loves to run and then my little up and coming star Airman is turning into a fantastic leader. Both of them want nothing more then to see the trail and what lies ahead.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
My amazing husband Jason for helping me achieve my goals and supporting me along the way. Then there's my sponsors who help fund our races. And Molly who is being a real trooper. Despite being sick, she's out training and is planning to come handle for me on the Quest 300. 

Susie Rogan - YQ300

1. What type of training do you do to prepare for the YQ300?
I walk the dogs loose in the summer, sometimes with a dirt bike, sometimes with me on foot. This builds their recall and our relationship and is just good to let them be dogs running in the woods, splashing in the river and so on. In September we start with 2 mile runs hooked up to the quad. I aim for 10 mph. As it cools down and as they start to build up a bit, we increase that distance bit by bit, very slowly, until we are doing 16 miles by mid-October. Lots of 16 mile runs. Then 23 mile runs from mid-November until we can get out to the Canol Road to start doing long runs on the sled. I do not want to bore them by doing super long runs on the quad. We can go from a 23 mile quad run straight to back-to-back 45 mile sled runs with an 8 hour break in between. I have done this for several years and know that the dogs are completely ready for it if they have about 400 miles + of the short quad runs on them. The idea is that they have not had any injuries, the runs have been safe, short, and fun and totally easy for them because we snuck the distances up a little at a time. Throughout late November and December we put pretty much all of our really long runs on the dogs. Fairly soon they are able to do straight through 90 mile runs, or 45 – 3 hour break - 45. By January we are already tapering down, like max 72 miles straight through, then 50's straight through, then by two weeks before the race we are only doing 35 to 50 mile runs, max. One week before the race we are only stretching their legs, like 16 miles to 23 miles again. I know some people now believe in doing long runs right into the race, believing they will be 'in the zone' and ready for super long runs right from the start line but that is not what I do. I stick with what feels right to me and I feel like the team is going to be fresher and more excited, perhaps with less chance of injury and fully recovered muscles, if I reduce the miles.

2. What does your average day look like, three months out from the race?
Wake up and have a coffee. Look at the list I made the night before of all the things I want to get done that day. Shove it aside and squabble with people on Facebook about things that do not pertain to my life for about 40 minutes. My 'social hour' out here in the boonies. It's like the old time Salons in Europe. Okay, not really, but I do like to read, debate, write and learn for a while first thing in the morning. Then I go out and run a team. Anja has already watered the dogs an hour earlier, and is out there to help me put harnesses on and to get them out the gate in one piece. Later in the day I am usually walking puppies, going to town, working on other stuff like rental related things or business related things. Cooking and cleaning and the normal daily stuff too. I like to cook. Today is salmon taco day with mango relish and a tahini sauce. Hans and I often jump in the hot tub and talk while drinking President's Choice de-alchoholized beer. At night I usually read for an hour before falling asleep. Last night was ridiculous! I was up until 4 a.m. reading a book that I could not put down. (Glass Castles)

3. How do you choose your team? We don't have that many to choose from.
Hans and I train both teams and right before the race we will decide what the priority is and we will choose the teams accordingly. We both know all of the dogs very well. This year I would like to do what I used to do as a kid playing games in the neighbourhood. He picks one, I pick one, and so on until they are all picked! (The poor dogs at the end won't know they were picked last though!) I have already done my list of attributes so I have a 1 to 26 list of the dogs and who I want in my team most, based on things that include loyalty, as well as the usual performance criteria. I REALLY like loyal dogs. That means a lot to me. Here are specifically the things I measure them by on my list: Loyalty, Speed, Age, Endurance, Cold Weather Resistance, Soundness (the type of dog who never gets injured), Great Eater, Loves to Go. Not necessarily in that order but I assigned them each a number in each of those categories, then weighted them for importance and added them up! Then on top of all that, I have a large 'L' beside them for 'great leader', and a small 'l' for 'leader'. Hans and I will probably have to put most all of the young, fast, raring to go dogs in one team and the older, more endurance, tougher headed, more loyal dogs in the other team. So that might mess up my whole concept of you pick one, I pick one. Then who knows which of us will get which team. We'll see what happens.

4. Which dog are you most like, personality-wise, and why?
Jinjiro. We are both the 'concerned citizens' of the team. He looks right into my eyes like he is connecting with me and like he is also taking the over view of everything that is going on. Most of the other dogs are absorbed in their own thoughts or are carrying on with the dogs around them or are just freaking out ready to go. Actually his sister Jembay is the same as him, but we'll talk about Jinjiro! Jinjiro is up there, usually in lead, silently looking back at me and looking around him at the rest of the team while we are hooking up. He keeps a steady good pace and does not even make a single pause or jump or move when I tell him Gee or Haw, he just does it like that's what he was thinking as well. So smooth. Many of the other leaders seem a bit shocked to hear 'Gee!' or 'Haw!'. They jump or maybe bark, maybe hesitate just a bit figuring out which was is 'Gee!' I always feel that Jinjiro is sharing my mind.

5. Is there anyone you'd like to shout-out to on your support team, including sponsors?
Ha ha! When I first read this question I thought it said, 'Is there anyone you'd like to shoot out on your...' I was like, what kind of a question is that? Who would I like to shoot? Then I squinted my eyes a little better and saw that it was 'shout out to on your support team'. Not shoot. Glasses are becoming a necessity. Well, Hans and Anja are my human partners in crime this year. Both do a ton for me.