Training for the Yukon Quest

Doug started training the dogs on August 1st. From that date until November 30, he trained the dogs after his regular day of work. Doug's days started at 4:30 am with feeding the dogs (you should not run the dogs on a full stomach) and cleaning the dogs. After that he would go to work until 5:30 pm, when he would set off with the dogs on a training run until 10:30 pm. In August, training started with the dogs pulling a running four-wheeler, until there was enough snow to use the sled. This year, we were unable to use the sled until the beginning of December, which coincided with the time that Doug began his full time training. Doug took three months off work, to dedicate his time to training for and competing in the Yukon Quest.

Training started with regular runs of approximately 2 to 3 miles in August, and gradually increased to 35 miles towards the end of November. It is necessary to gradually build up the distance, to prevent injuries from occurring to the dogs.

Doug Harris' Lead Dog,Fjord, waits patiently for a training run!

From December onward, Doug has taken the dogs on longer runs to different locations to train and camp with the team overnight. When you go camping with the dogs, they learn to rest as soon as you stop and camp. This is essential for the Yukon Quest, because you want the dogs to get as much rest as possible. You also experiment with race strategy i.e. run for six hours, rest for six hours, run for six hours, etc. The musher finds the best combination that works for the team. During the runs, the musher stops frequently to snack the dogs (you must keep their energy level up) and at the beginning of the six hours of rest the dogs get a substantial meal!

Lately, Doug has taken the dogs for several 60 to 70 mile runs. The dogs have now totaled over 2,000 miles and their heavy duty training is over. They are ready for the race! From now until the day of the race, the dogs will only go for short runs (15 to 20 miles) to keep their muscles in shape and to keep them happy.

Doug climbs aboard to run the anxious team.

As of today, we have 16 good dogs that have performed well during the entire training period. From this group we will select the racing team of 14. Of these 16 dogs, 13 are either veteran racers or very steady, hard working dogs that are sure to be included in the team, unless something unfortunate happens prior to the race (i.e. an injury). So, we still need to pick one more participant out of three remaining dogs, and that decision will likely be made the morning of the race.

As you can see, training for long distance races demands a lot of time and work on the part of the musher, handler and the dogs. It is something that is often overlooked at the start of the race. The dogs and the musher are like Olympic athletes who have dedicated many hours to long and hard training to qualify for the competition.

Doug's view from the sled.

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