Welcome to the blog of a teen and her life with 9 dogs!
These ramblings are best read with a hot cuppa' coffee in your hand and warm slippers on your feet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Snow? What's that?

It's December 27th and we have NO snow.

That's right, no snow in Northern Michigan in December.

This is the first time this has happened in my 17 years of living here. I've had a Christmas with barely any snow but never no snow after Christmas.

As you can imagine, this is very depressing for a dog musher. I'm sure it is for the skiers and snowboarders too but hey, at least you guys can make snow.

What do you do in this situation?
You improvise. Continue "fall" training with the rig and curse the weather. lol

I guess that's the way life is a lot of the time. We don't know whats going to happen tomorrow or 10 years from now. We just kind of have to "go with the flow". The only thing we can fully depend on is God. Jobs change, people change, weather changes; God never changes, He's the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I guess I'm just going to have to sit tight and enjoy the ride. Can't do much about the weather...unfortunately... ;)

Peace, Love, Sled Dogs

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sled Dogs and Endurance--Are They Capable of More Than We Think?

These are bits and pieces from a really cool article my grandma sent me from the Alaska magazine about sled dogs and endurance.

The article is called "A Changing Race". Its from 2009 so the number of race wins for the mushers aren't right but enjoy it anyways!

"When Lance Mackey shocked the dog mushing world by being the first musher to win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, it wasn’t just that he was able to succeed in two 1,000 mile races 2 weeks apart, it was that he did it with many of the same dogs. Thirteen of his dogs that ran the Quest were in harness at the Iditarod starting line in Anchorage, less than one month after finishing the Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks race. Nine of those dogs finished with him in Nome.

“I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have the fastest team, but I have the steadiest, happiest team out there,” Mackey said. “As long as they have fuel in the tank and their feet are healthy, my dogs are enthusiastic about running.”

Mackey’s unprecedented streak of four consecutive Yukon Quest wins (2005-2008) and back to back Iditarod titles (2007-2008) is reminiscent of Tiger Woods’ golf dominance or Lance Armstrongs’ seven straight victories in the Tour De France. The big question is, mill Mackey’s Comeback Kennel continue to dominate the Iditarod, or has the rest of the field figured out his secret?

The answer might be somewhere in between.

Chief Iditarod veterinarian Stuart Nelson believes that the key to Mackey’s success isn’t a secret at all. Advances in sled dog science have gone hand in hand with breakthroughs in the field by Mackey, four time winner Jeff King, two time champion Robert Sorlie and a handful of other mushers who are challenging the status quo of sled dog racing. “There is a trickledown effect where everyone benefits,” Nelson said.

Dr. Michael Davis, a professor at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, has been studying Iditarod dogs for more than 10 years. In a paper presented to the American Physiological Society last year, Davis outlined three key areas in which sled dogs have a huge aerobic capacity, they adapt to exercise very well and they are superefficient in their use of food -especially fat- as fuel.

“Lance recognized that dogs that ran the Yukon Quest were better at the Iditarod than those that didn’t. He didn’t understand the physiology of it, but he saw it. About the same time Lance stood on the back of the runners, gazing out over his dogs and coming to this conclusion, we were doing this physiology research generating this data that’s showed the same thing,” Davis said.

Chief veterinarian Nelson saw it coming as well.

“Mackey has definitely come to something that we hypothesized in the past. I saw anecdotal evidence that dogs could do higher mileage before the start of the race. Dogs were getting stronger during the middle of the race, and we saw metabolic evidence that this might benefit the team.”

So what exactly is going on? To put it simply, sled dogs are super athletes.

“Dogs are capable of far greater endurance and challenges than we ever thought,” Davis said. “It boils down to the fact that the 1,000 mile Quest or the 1,150 mile Iditarod, are just another element of training.”

If the average human male runs all day, his body will break down at a cellular and muscular level, and fatigue will set in as the muscle runs out of energy. The same thing tends to happen in a sled dog after a day on the trail, but, unlike humans, a sled dog is able to adapt to stress. After a few days, sled dogs develop an enhanced ability to pull nutrients out of the blood stream so the exercise that was energy depleting on Day 1 is sustainable on Day 4. As Davis says, “at that exercise level, with the proper nutrition, it renders the dog (almost) fatigue-proof.”

The crucial element that makes this all work is fuel, especially high-fat fuel. Sled dogs are capable of this adaption only if they get enough calories. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, who is three times the weight of a sled dog, eats 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day when training. During the Quest and Iditarod, dogs eat upward of 12,000 calories a day.

“Dogs rapidly adapt to the demands of strenuous exercise and go on a sort of cruise control,” Davis said. “I preach to mushers, ‘You can only go as far as the food you got your dogs to eat.”

Mushers have stumbled upon this discovery through a series of steps starting with Norwegian Robert Sorlie proving that long runs at a slightly slower pace paired with shorter rests could win the 2003 and 2005 Iditarods.

The new data on dog endurance point to the musher as the weakest member of a sled dog team."

And that's it. There is a little more to the article but these are the important parts. I couldn't find the article on the Alaska magazine website so I had to copy it from the article itself. Then I went and lost it so I couldn't copy the rest of it.

This just goes to show that dogs are truly amazing athletes!

Peace, Love, Sled Dogs