Mushers are tough. The brave men and women that come across Canada and the United States to compete in the Preeceville 10 dog race certainly have no shortage of toughness, both mentally and physically.
They’ll need it. The race is 30 miles -- over 48 kilometres -- and racers typically finish in under two hours with blisteringly cold weather.
How cold? Well, to give you an idea, the weather felt like it was pushing the minus forties, especially factoring in the windchill.
Weather was rough on the Saturday, leading to the cancellation of some races, but on Sunday the 10 dog race was on for noon sharp.
A lot goes into training for a race like this. “We start with shorter runs and then build up endurance,” said Ray Cook.
“We feed the dogs a mix of beef and grain so they get all they nutrition they need.”
If you’ve watched movies like Iron Will, you’ll notice most of the dogs featured are Alaskan and Siberian Huskies. Occassionally the breeds themselves are mixed with Alaskan malamutes.
“It’s true it used to be a bit more like that,” said Kevin Cook, a veteran dog racer and organizer of the event with his wife, Sandy.
“By the 1970s or so, we found that there was a speed hit of fifteen to twenty percent with breeding in malamute or purebred husky,” he said.
“You’ll notice now we breed more greyhound in them. More speed. It’s really its own breed now that’s been developed, but typically you’re looking at a husky mixed with greyhound now. The dogs still have the endurance, but they also have the speed needed for a two hour race.”
Gone, too, are the traditional wooden sleds. They are now made of exceptionally strong but lightweight carbon fibre, the same material used in the frames of Olympic racing bikes. This allows for a much lighter load, which substantially increases speed while reducing resistance.
Fundamentally, though, it’s the same traditional dog race.
There are two main race types: six dog and ten dog.
Carl Knudsen took first place in the 10 Dog Classic, while Danny Beaulieu and Rob Turner took 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
For the 6 Dog Race, Knudsen took first place yet again, Aaron Campbell in second with Loretta Dykun finishing third.