Iditarod 2023 will be our first 1,000 mile race. A big deal! Since 2011, I have dreamed of racing 1,000 miles across Alaska. I set a couple of goals in 2014 once I got my first few sled dogs... do it by the time I'm 40 (I will turn 41 a couple of weeks after the race) and do it with dogs I have raised myself. Nothing beats that bond. Most of my team has been born at my house and a few were given to me as pups from other mushers.
So, here we are! It's finally happening! We have completed 1,350 miles of shorter, mid-distance races since 2017. In prep for Iditarod we will also be doing the Knik 200 in January and the YQ550 in February. You can see pictures and read about those races on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Iditarod starts on March 4th, 2023. The best way to follow that race is through their website Iditarod.com. To watch the trackers and see video updates (including live finishes!) you must purchase an Insider subscription.
The first race was run in 1973. The idea was put forth by historian Dorothy Page and the race was set into motion by Joe Redington Sr. and many volunteers including the US Army. Redington wanted to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies (a non-AKC breed), that were being replaced by the invention of snowmobiles, and preserve the historic Iditarod trail between Seward and Nome. There was also a historical event that took place in 1925 that exemplifies the spirit of the race, and the grit and determination of Alaskan huskies and their mushers, which is still prevalent in the teams racing Iditarod today. A life saving diphtheria serum was delivered via a relay of 20 different mushers and their dog teams from Nenana to Nome, almost 700 miles, in just over 6 days. The Alaskan husky is truly a remarkable being and should be celebrated for generations to come. Read more about the history here.
These days the Iditarod trail has two different routes. The southern route is run on odd years and the northern route is run on even years. There is a ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 4th and the re-start is in Willow on the 5th. In 1973 it took the winner 20 days and 49 minutes to finish. Mitch Seavey holds the fastest record now, finishing in 8 days, 3 hours and 40 minutes (except for the 2021 race which was completed in 7 days, but that was a shorten route due to covid). A lot has changed since the early days. The amount of time it takes depends a lot on weather and snow conditions. Sometimes teams also get held up longer in checkpoints caring for their team if they pick up a stomach bug. The trail takes mushers over the Alaska Range, along frozen rivers, through native villages, into the Interior across the open tundra and then across the frozen sea ice into Nome. Vets and officials are flown or snowmachined to checkpoints throughout the race, and all the checkpoints are manned with many dedicated volunteers, some local and others from all over the country/world. Without the efforts of volunteers and supporters this race could not happen.
Training and prep
Running and conditioning the dogs, the fun work, begins in September. After a relaxing summer vacation we start out with 3 mile runs. Slowly the miles increase to where we're doing 50 mile runs by late November/early December. We do campouts and back to back runs also. Those runs consists of two or more runs with short (3-6 hour) rests in between. We determine the length of the runs either by miles or time. Depending on trail conditions, sometimes 50 miles takes 5 hours and sometimes it takes 10 hours. Fast runs on hard packed trail and slow runs on fresh snow with the dogs breaking trail are both great training runs. The dogs and mushers must be both physically and mentally tough. Behind the running scene, mushers spend a lot of time cutting meat for meals and snacks, repairing sleds/machines/trucks, drying gear, giving doggy massages and cuddling with our buddies, cleaning and mending doghouses, maintaining and grooming trails, making vet visits, and continuously trying to figure out the most efficient way to do things and take the best possible care of our furry friends. It really is a lifestyle, not just a hobby, and competing in these races normally takes years of preparation and training.
Not only is training very time consuming and mentally and physically exhausting, it is also quite the financial endeavor. The entry for Iditarod is $4,000. That covers having all supplies flown out to remote locations. However, mushers still have to spend a couple thousand dollars flying themselves, their dogs and theirs sled home from Nome. A few other expenses for the season include:
--$6,000 in dog kibble
--$5,000 in meat and fat
--$2,500 in dog booties
--$3,000 in fuel for training travel and supply runs
--$1,500 in vaccines and other vet expenses
--$2,000 to a handler to help run the dogs
Fundraising for iditarod 2023
If you would like to help us out this season you can...
--sponsor a dog
--purchase a booty bundle ($50)
--make a donation to the "Iditarod Dream"
Bronze - $50-$250 - Friends of Team LaBar
Silver - $250 - $500 - Partners of Team LaBar
Gold - $500 - $1,000 - Receive a logo on a dog jacket
Platinum - $1,000+ - Receive a logo on Jen's parka or sled
A percentage of each donation will be given to The August Fund, a non-profit foundation for Alaska's retiring racing sled dogs. They help to provide veterinary care and loving retirement homes for racing sled dogs from Iditarod, Yukon Quest, and professional sprint kennels. So, by sponsoring me, you are also helping Alaska's retired sled dogs! The August Fund is a registered Non-Profit 501c3. Their tax ID number is 46-3701510.
A dog can be sponsored by more than one person and any amount towards the "Iditarod Dream" is greatly appreciated. To meet the dogs, click here, then send a note using the message box at the bottom of the page to let me know which dog you would like to sponsor. Booty bundles are a set of 12 which covers a team of 12. We go through thousands of booties each season! Funds can be sent to our kennel Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Venmo (@jenlabar) or snail mail (PO Box 225, Healy, AK 99743).
For a tax deductible donation you can donate directly to The August Fund and add a note that it is also for a Rockin' Ridge Kennel sponsorship. The August Fund has Paypal and Venmo as well (AugustFund@outlook.com). Just don't forget to let them know the donation is also to support Rockin' Ridge Kennel. Click here to donate through The August Fund site.