Jim and I went to see the start of the Tustumena 200 sled dog race last Saturday morning.
For some mushers, this is a qualifying race for the Iditarod. The full race is a 200-mile round-trip course starting and ending in Kasilof, about 20 miles south of us. Mushers must start the race with no fewer than 10, and no more than 14, dogs in harness and end the race with no fewer than five in harness. Although some dogs obviously preferred to drive rather than run.
It was -4 degrees out when we left the house that morning. By the time we got to Kasilof to watch the mushers harness up their dogs, it was an even zero degrees. Jim and I were quick to realize we do not own enough furs to keep warm on a windy negative temperature morning, but that's for another post...
There was a yurt for a musher's meeting place, and yurts have become an ongoing inside joke for us and Amy for oh, more than a year now, I guess. So you know we had to take a picture of it for her!
This is what it looked like inside. Like a nice big collapsible baby gate with canvas on it.
Strollers are *so* Lower 48.
And in case you're wondering, not all the mushers are rough hairy men. This is musher Kristy Berington.
Going to this race gave us a lot of perspective on Moya's attitude. Many of the dogs looked much, if not VERY much, like her - leggy and lean. Had she remained with the musher who originally owned her litter, she would have been a good racer. Well, if she would have learned to obey, that is! This dog (and thank goodness it was tethered at each end of its traces) couldn't wait to get started. And helped us understand Moya's Miracle Vertical Jump.
This is Iditarod favorite DeeDee Jonrowe. Her distinctive breast-cancer-awareness pink kuspuk and gear makes her easy to recognize.
Even her dog team wears pink.
This is another Iditarod favorite and back-to-back Yukon Quest and Iditarod winner, Lance Mackey. I included this picture so you can see that his team is tethered to the yellow snow machine to keep them anchored and avoid a false start. A dog team can literally move a parked car if they decide they want it moved.
Lance tops the hill past the starting chute and off he goes...
And this is Jeff King. Iditarod favorite and winner of this year's T200!
Cim Smyth came in second, and DeeDee Jonrowe came in third.
A few dog sled racing fun facts from the T200 website:
A working sled dog requires between 10,000 and 26,000 calories during a 24-hour period. Contrast that to a Tour de France cyclist, who burns 7000 - 8000 calories per day.
The booties the dogs wear to protect their feet on the trail cost about 80 cents each when purchased in bulk, and an average musher will go through approximately 200 booties during a race.
The T200 has the largest purse for a 200-mile nationwide.
The fastest time for the T200 was Paul Gebhardt's 1996 run in 26 hours, 4 minutes - an average of 7.7 miles per hour!
We didn't stay to see the T100 (the half race) mushers start off. It was getting pretty cold and I forgot to wear heavy socks (duh) so we headed on back. The race ended the next day but we opted to stay home waiting for race results on the 'net instead of waiting at the finish line.