SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Rookie's View on Winter Gear

With my first 1,000-mile race fast approaching, I’m rethinking all my previous winter gear. Three pairs of work gloves might last me a 300-mile race, but what if I have 700 more miles to go after that? Or what will I do if my clothes are soaked from kicking and poling, and I have another campout before my next checkpoint? How many booties will the dog team need for 1,000 miles? I’ve always had the mindset of two days in the arctic wilderness....not two weeks.

One of the biggest changes to my winter wardrobe is the switch to Northern Outfitters gear. Previously, I used Mountain Hardware Compressor Pants and one of Aliy’s old parkas. The compressor pants are incredibly warm and a favorite for around the dog yard; unfortunately, once soaked, they lose all heat retention. The problem is after one section of overflow or a couple good hills, you're soaked to the base layer and hoping for a warm checkpoint. Solution? Northern Outfitters.

Northern Outfitters have the unique capability of keeping you warm, yet also wicking away any moisture. Essentially you're wearing a big sponge that soaks all moisture from your body and transports it to the outside of the shell, keeping you nice and toasty. While it does feel a bit as if you're wearing one big puffy diaper, Allen can attest to the usefulness of the material when he found himself in knee-deep overflow. Rather then having to change his pants and boots, he simply took them off, wrung them out, then continued down the trail as warm as before. Few types of gear are as effective when wet.

So with the human gear now covered, how is 1,000 miles different for dog gear?
The first shock was the number of dog boots needed to run over 1,000 miles. Sixteen dogs times four feet per dog times 21ish runs....that's fourteen hundred booties! Ok, booties check.
Most of the other gear like harnesses or dog jackets I'll just carry in my sled and will last the entire race. However, dog tosses (fleece blankets that are laid over a pair of dogs while they're resting) are sent out to each checkpoint. Thanks to Barbara Boucher's class, I now have enough tosses, complete with race reminders and motivational comments written on each one! Thank you!!

Slowly but surely, I'm accumulating the gear needed for a 1,000-mile race (or at least what I think I'll need). Luckily, Aliy and Allen's experience provide a good idea of what might be useful and how the gear differs depending on the length and type of race. I just have to remember that even with all their advice, the term 'rookie mistakes' was coined for a reason!


babs said...

Happy New Year, Ryne! I can't wait to tell the kids you got tosses! I'm so glad they got there in good time. It was fun watching the kids work on them & pick the checkpoint. I hope they'll remind you that we're following your progress- & Aliy's- & wishing you a fantastic rookie Iditarod.
Almost forgot, love to Bonita ;)

Pia Eaves said...

You will be just fine Ryne. You may be a rookie, but look at the teachers you have, they are the best, that will make you the best rookie out there!