Insights from an Armchair Musher

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Written at 11pm on Monday, February 9th

Brent has moved to the front. He skipped a rest to do so. His team is trained to do this, but that strategy failed in 2014. Did he tweak it enough to have in work in 2015?

The cold has taken a toll on dogs; there have been 19 dogs dropped from the top ten teams. That includes the six Matt Hall dropped before he returned to Pelly and scratched. The last time the race ran this direction it was warm and only five dogs had dropped from the top ten. 

It is definitely tougher to care for dogs when it is forty below. The dogs get up stiff; moving them before rubbing them down or letting them walk around can lead to shoulder and back injuries. The musher gets less sleep, especially if camping out; that can lead to less than optimum dog care also. Dogs need a lot more calories in the extreme cold. Good eaters are a must. Water is another critical element that becomes extremely important at temperatures below minus 30. Dogs dissipate heat through their mouths and feet. At cold temperatures the moisture in their breath forms ice crystals that they lose as they breathe. Thus dehydration can happen more quickly when the temperature drops.

The experienced guys up front can handle this. The rookies are moving slower and their animals are taking longer breaks. They have the opportunity to get in an extra feeding or two. The middle of the pack is where the problems can occur. The mid-section of the race has been dropping quite a number of dogs. When that happens, one either has to slow down or drop out.

The weather is supposed to break soon, but it is still fifty below in Dawson City. Scroggie Creek, on the Stewart River, is one of the coldest places on the trail. It will be interesting to watch the trackers and see where mushers stop. Trail knowledge becomes a big plus.

John Schandelmeier