The Junior Iditarod is 3 days from starting and preparations are starting to be made. Last night four eager Junior rookies sat in the front row at the annual Junior Iditarod rookie meeting held at Iditarod Headquarters. The night was filled with speakers providing advice, information, and guidance as they begin their journey as a Junior Iditarod musher. The rookies heard from Dr. Jayne Hempstead, Danny Seavey, Larissa Myers-Mccoin, Jim Uhl, Marilyn Mapes, Meredith Mapes, and Richard Plack.
Dr. Jayne is one of the veterinarians that will be checking out the teams before and during the race. She also happens to be this year’s Junior Iditarod honorary musher. One topic Dr. Jayne stressed to the young mushers was foot care for their dogs. This is her favorite subject and something she truly feels can make or break a team. She expressed to mushers when they show up to vet checks tomorrow if their dog nails are not trimmed, she will be handing them clippers and telling them to clip away. Going along with foot care she spoke about the importance of effective bootying; no holes, correct size, and when to change them. Besides foot care, Dr. Jayne spoke with the rookies about overall care of the dogs out on the trail. She left them with telling them if they take excellent care of their dogs they will get to the finish.
Attempting to persuade the rookies to enjoy some of the chili and cookies, Danny sat along side of the rookies and talked with them about the importance of racing how you have been training. Danny comes from a family with a long, rich, history of mushing. Danny told the kids right away, “most of your decisions have already been made.” He is speaking of all the decisions the rookies have prepared for during the training they have been doing. Danny stressed time and time again that they should not worry about the other teams and do whatever they have been doing in training. The dogs are used to this; don’t change how and when you snack, don’t change your speed limit, don’t change your interaction with the dogs, just stay calm and have fun. Danny also left the kids with a contest. The team that has a time in the first half of the race closest to the time in the second half of the race will win a $50 Cabela’s card donated by him. This encourages the teams to stick to their speed limit and not get out too fast.
Larissa spoke next with the rookies about snacking their dogs. She showed the kids some of the snacks she gives to her dogs. She talked about fish, chicken, and beef. She said fish is a great snack because it also provides the dog with water. It is important to keep the dogs hydrated. She did leave the kids with the message that they should not start using snacks that their dogs are not used to in the race, again use what you have been using in your training.
Each rookie receives a sled repair kit to carry with them along the way. Jim Uhl spoke about what will be in the kit and other ways to use the items. He started by telling the kids it makes him proud that they are doing the Junior Iditarod, “you guys really got your act together.” Some items in the repair kit are zip ties, garbage bags, mini hacksaw, pliers, toothbrush, floss, and much more.
Marilyn Mapes spoke with the young mushers about the importance of having a well stocked first aid kit. As a nurse, Marilyn’s daughter always had a well stocked kit. She also talked with the kids about cold weather gear. She stressed the importance of not wearing anything made of cotton, it will not keep you warm. Along with cold weather gear, she told them to make sure to include as much reflective material on their gear as they can. She said her daughter was always lit up like a Christmas tree. She ended with telling the kids to have good boots and good socks. It is no fun mushing with cold feet.
Meredith, Marilyn’s daughter, is a former Jr. Iditarod musher. She came up to talk with the rookies about the new trail this year, the Denali highway. Due to icy conditions out on the trail this year, the Jr. Iditarod was moved to Cantwell. Mushers will start in Cantwell and mush out 65 miles to the Alpine Creek Lodge where they will take their 10-hour mandatory rest. They then head back to Cantwell after their rest. She let them know the trail is not flat, it starts out flat, but don’t let it fool you. There are a lot of big hills going out that seem to never end, but coming back you will be going down those hills, so use your break often.
The evening ended with Richard Plack talking with the rookies about the trail markers. There will be many trail markers with reflective tape out on the trail. If the mushers see just one stick, they just stay right on the trail. Two sticks on the right side of the trail means they will turn right and two sticks on the left side means they turn left. Sticks that form an X equals do not go this way. Mushers also may see sticks that form what looks like an asterisk made with tree sticks.
This morning the Junior mushers made their way back to headquarters for vet checks. Vets will do a thorough examination of the dogs. They will check their heart, their lungs, their feet, feel their weight, and talk with the mushers. Terrie and I made our way to vet checks after a school presentation just in time to see the last vet check. Jordan Seager, rookie, was getting his dogs checked out by the vets.
Tonight all the Junior mushers will be out at headquarters for the final mandatory musher meeting. Then, it is time to race. Everyone will head out to Cantwell and get ready for the Sunday afternoon start at 12:00 p.m. Good luck to all Junior. mushers.