People often wonder what goes through a musher’s head right before a race. For both of us, the closer we get to the starting countdown, the more impatient we get to be on trail. The mushers have all had months of preparation leading up to this point. Their drop bags all wait for them along the trail, representing the bulk of their logistical gymnastics. They’ve thought their way through their run/rest schedules, considered mileage, looked at forecasts, finalized (hopefully) their dog teams, checked & double-checked their gear, & are poised for the moment wherein they relinquish all care of the normal daily world to their partners, families, handlers or friends. They have traveled thousands of miles this year with their dogs & know each of them on a level that is difficult to convey; the natural gait of each dog down to how hunger, tiredness, soreness or attitude effect biomechanics; the comportment & behavior of each dog under a dizzying array of circumstances; which dog is the best company for snuggling in the straw; which dog will likely lead the charge up Eagle Summit, etc. What is certain, without a doubt, is that each of these mushers fosters the utmost care & respect for their traveling partners, & that the next couple weeks will demonstrate over & again the mushers’ insistence on advancing the care & comfort of their dogs over themselves.
For now, though, there is the waiting. One last warm bed for a while, or one last beer. One final opportunity to gather oneself before the fraught & frantic energy of the start line. One last chance to try & visualize what lays before them, though each of them know that the trail never tells the same story twice, never affords the same view & never fails to revitalize & redefine the very reasons why they’re here in the first place.
Kristin Knight Pace and Andy Pace own and operate Hey Moose! Kennel in Healy, Alaska