The weather forecast shows cold temperatures and winds adding a big chill factor to the race. Actually, those of us here in Whitehorse don't need a forecast to tell us that! All the mushers and officials are keeping a close eye on the forecast and are hoping the "warming trend" arrives early.
We can dress them in fleece jackets and/or wind jackets, we have plenty of fox-fur ruffs for the male "personal areas" to avoid frost-nip and T-shirts to cut the wind on the shoulders of those with shorter coats (pictured right). We also have more fleece jackets and throws out in the checkpoint bags for just this situation so they can rest more comfortably curled up together under their warm blankets.
Remember also that these dogs are Alaskan Huskies and are bred to thrive in colder temperatures. It's not like sending your pet labrador or poodle out into the weather. They have husky coats with the warm under-coat and long guard hairs to protect them. In cooler weather they sleep with their noses tucked into their bellies so their warm exhaling breath warms their underbelly, and their tail can curl over their nose. Of course, when they are running - just like when we exercise - their body temperature will rise.
Take a look at Aliy explaining how we dress the dogs for this weather and see a comparison between Waylon, who has a shorter coat and leaner physique, and Izzy who has a thick husky coat.
Nutrition is important in any race but with cooler temperatures the requirements change a little. Dogs will burn calories faster in the cold weather so we must do more to replace them. We continue to feed a warm meal of Eagle Pack kibble (which is already high in fat and protein) and we will add extra fat by way of poultry skins and other meats, soaked into the warm water. Snacks out on the trail will also be high fat skins and meat. You may remember posts during races where warmer than normal conditions were experienced and we described how the dogs prefer to eat more fish and leaner meats to help hydrate them, rather than fattier snacks. Its the other way around in these conditions so they instinctively know what their bodies need.
Our mushers are also well prepared with warm layers, fur ruffs and mitts and an extra wind-proof layer over the top. Hands become more of an issue as many of the tasks need some dexterity, such as bootie-ing and doing up harnesses and jackets, so a good stash of chemical hand warmers is imperative!