What it takes to run the Pedigree Stage Stop — Part 2
by Jerry Bath
With only a couple months until the 2019 start in Jackson, mushers are making preparations for the race. What kind of training are most mushers doing to get ready?
This is the most frequently asked question by fans and mushers alike. It all starts when the weather begins to cool a bit — anywhere from late August to early October depending on where you live and train. Some mushers start with a free-running program; others have exercise wheels (a modified hot walker of sorts for horses) or hooking them up to an ATV or a truck.
They start training their teams just a few miles at a time, then work up to a comfortable race distance. Too much of an increase too soon can slow a team down and for stage racing that can be a big problem; but this year it should be much easier to train than in the past due to the shorter distances of each stage — 30 to 35 miles instead of the usual 50+ miles per day. We should see faster racing speeds with the shorter distances. Always keeping the team's spirits high is also important. All of these adjustments are weather Training temperatures can range from minus-40 degrees and icy trails to 60+ degrees F and slush in the same week in some areas.
With the new changes in mileage and less than half the field being veterans to the Stage Stop we are entering uncharted waters. Most of this year’s new-comers are used to 3-day races at best. Will they be able to be competitive for the entire 8 stages? With the increased MPH for the shorter distance, will the veteran finishers be able to hold on? The new changes from a 16-dog pool to 14 total dogs and the daily allowance of dogs being dropped from 12 to 10 will also change the strategy for most.
I’ll be writing more on this topic as I visit with a few more mushers before the final count-down January 25, 2019 in Jackson, Wyoming.