The long-distance dog sled races take place in the middle of winter, in some of the most demanding and often remote areas in the world. The duration of a competition is long, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty and challenges. The journey the teams travel through take days. There are animals, people and nature, all wrapped up in one unpredictable game.
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With such a complex picture of what dogs and people have to cope with, it pays off to divide the training season into smaller tasks. The training plan we follow lists all the challenges the team must be trained for, before the race season begins.
From October onwards we introduce our dogs to weekly double sessions. That means two workouts per day, morning and evening. Then in November and December, they will have one or more interval sessions per week. The dogs will participate in at least three campsites in the mountains and take part in a joint training with other teams during the period before Christmas.
Season build up
To be well prepared for the season, it is important that the dogs go through a handful of trips, which includes shorter and longer trails. We train with them to manage commands and intensity control, to bypass other teams, be trained to eat and utilize thousands of calories along the way, be able to rest on the trail, find tracks that are blown away and much more.
Every dog musher's goal is to perform each of these steps as best as possible. Once we are on a long-distance dog sled race, the things we learned during the training season help us to get through the challenges. During the Finnmark race or Iditarod, the weather can be very unpredictable. Just to mention a few, we can face heavy and demanding snow conditions, followed by a storm with zero visibility. It pays off to be prepared for all possible conditions as a team.
Check out: Dog Health & Well-being
The complexity of a race may quickly become overwhelming if you think of all the scenarios you may face during a race. You can lose courage or motivation, if you try to fix all the challenges at once. Therefore, I try to focus only on what's right in front of us. The more demanding the situation, the more focus and team-work is required from everyone. No matter how tough it is, we have to perform and do our best there and then. So when we face the biggest challenges, it is important to remember that a long-distance race, such as life itself, consists of many brief moments, where it all comes down to take one step at a time.