Q&A with the 2018 mushers

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We want to get to know the teams who intend to run the 2018 1,000 or YQ300 mile race, so we've reached out with some questions! We'll update the website weekly (as available) for fans to learn more about the teams they'll be watching in February.

Cody Strathe, YQ300 rookie (1,000-mile veteran)

1. What does a typical training day look like for you as you prepare for the YQ300?
There is no typical day as a long distance dog musher. This is why it is so awesome. Every day revolves around what the dogs need on dog time. As the training season gets closer to racing, every minute is spent caring for and training the dogs. Any additional moments are spend preparing for the race.

2. What do you feed your dogs?
Our dogs eat lots of fat and protein. We feed a high fat, high protein kibble called Inukshuk. We combine this with ground beef, beef fat, fish oil and other special additions. We also snack dogs with chum salmon, chicken skins and beaver meat. During races when they may run as far as 150 miles in a 24-hour period, they can consume as much as 12,000 calories a day. 

3. Do you have a favourite dog?
They are all my favorite! Some are slightly more special than others.

4. What do you enjoy most about being a dog musher? 
Time spent exploring Alaska with my best friends.

5. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember about running dogs?
The dogs make me laugh every day!

6.  What do you look for in a lead dog?
I look for a mentally strong dogs with a strong bond to me. A dog that will do anything I ask. In return they get to hang out on the couch!

7. What do you think your most important piece of equipment is during a race?
My most important piece of equipment is my brain. I have to be smart to care for my dogs and my self.

8. How did you get started in mushing?
Skijoring and winter camping.

9. What are some of your future mushing goals?
Be the best musher I can be and always have a team that looks like they want more.

Mark Stamm, 1,000-mile Yukon Quest veteran

1. What does a typical training day look like for you as you prepare for the Yukon Quest or YQ300?
Running dogs various miles depending on stage of training and adding camp outs later in the training season.

2. What do you feed your dogs?
Commercial dog food, meat, chicken, and fish.

3. Do you have a favourite dog?
My leaders, Elmly and Blaze who are brothers. They are half border collie and very smart and loyal.

4. What do you enjoy most about being a dog musher?
Bonding with the dogs.          

5. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember during a race?
Although not funny at the time, when I ran the race in 1988 I was feeding strictly meat and my sled weighed 600 pounds going over Solomans Dome. The runners kept sinking in, sled tipping over and the sled was to heavy to lift so I had to unpack it and repack every time. Some times only to go 10 feet, 100 feet, or maybe a mile just to do it all over again. For this race I have commercial dog food.

6. What do you look for in a lead dog?
Speed, drive and one that listens.

7. What do you think your most important piece of equipment is during a race?
My lead dogs.

8. How did you get started in mushing?
My love of dogs and the outdoors.

9. What are some of your future mushing goals? 
To keep getting on the runners.

Severin Cathry, 1,000-mile Yukon Quest rookie

1. What does a typical training day look like for you as you prepare for the Yukon Quest or YQ300?
As the snow conditions are really poor around Wasilla this winter we have to load up our dogs to train on the Denali highway or on the trails around Eureka. We usually stay there for four days in order to be efficient.

2. What do you feed your dogs?
We feed twice a day, with a combination of beef/moose/fat, along with kibble and lots of water since we believe water is the most important thing in feeding Huskies. While training we also give a lot of snack to the dogs, which includes, fish, fat and more fish. 

3. Do you have a favourite dog?
I'm always trying not to have a favorite dog but there is a female I like a lot in the other kennel I used to be with. Her name is Tennis and I would consider her as an average dog but she just plows the white stuff out of the trail while trail breaking and many times I've trusted her decisions and it proved to be the right thing to do.  

4. What do you enjoy most about being a dog musher?
I think I already mentioned this in my bio. When I'm mushing I simply feel like a free man. These days laws are ruling our lives so much and come and sense are gone. People who do backcountry skiing understand what I'm talking about.

5. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember about running dogs?
They always make me laugh when their real personality shows. They are so human-like. But one of the most amusing training runs was up in Bettles when I was mushing home from a long training run and almost ran with the whole team over an Eskimo whose snow machine broke down and was napping on the trail. He didn't know what's going on anymore when 24 eyes were staring at him.

6. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember during a race?
I have very little race experience so I don't know what to tell but I remember I "bad-mouthed" my team last year whenever a vet, competitor or somebody else was asking me how the dogs were doing, although they knew I loved them and am more then happy with their performance.

7. What do you look for in a lead dog?
I don't believe in super dogs or have one favorite lead dog. They're all individuals with different skills and weak points just like us. I always say the right character in the right position.

8. What do you think your most important piece of equipment is during a race?
I can't name anything. They're all important. We don't carry items they don't have any use for us.

9. How did you get started in mushing?
I got started with mushing up in Bettles with a musher based out of Fairbanks and got hooked immediately.

10. What are some of your future mushing goals? 
For three years, I was looking for a property at home in Switzerland where I could have my own kennel. I gave up on it this summer. Instead, I set up a little garden yard next to my father's house for four dogs. I had liked to give something like bikejoring tours to disabled people in wheelchairs or on three-wheeled bikes to mentally disabled people, so I could use my dogs as huskies and therapy dogs at the same time. At Double E Kennel, we are continuing to educate everyone about Pediatric Cancer/Diseases and Disabilities. Children are our future and without them, we have nothing. Just because a child has a disease or disability does not mean that they can't go mushing. As our poster child, Remedy, is a living proof that it they set their minds to it, they can do anything. Cancer is such a ugly disease and we need to have more funds, research and education given to these young lives.  

Alex Buetow, 1,000-mile Yukon Quest rookie

1. What does a typical training day look like for you as you prepare for the Yukon Quest or YQ300?
The Denali area has had great snow this season and we have been taking advantage of both local trails and the Denali Highway. From home we are able to hit the mountains and the dogs see lots of hills and exciting trails. When we make the trip to Cantwell to run the DH the dogs and I are camping out for several days. We will be ready for the more technical and hilly sections of trail as well as the monotony of long river miles...in theory.

2. What do you feed your dogs?
My dogs eat whatever they want. More often than not I am able to read their minds and present them with what they are most interested in. Occasionally, I'll guess wrong and they will look at me sideways. If that happens I go mix up new buckets to make sure everyone has a full belly.

3. Do you have a favourite dog?
Depends on the day. 

4. What do you enjoy most about being a dog musher?
I like falling asleep at night not knowing what the next day will bring. The lifestyle and the community are huge for me. These are the people that I jive with; a bunch of badass folks who know dogs better than their own kind. 

5. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember about running dogs?
My early days when I packed sleds that looked like they were out of Beverly Hillbillies.

6. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember during a race?
Sending Mom's home cooking out to checkpoints and eating all of it paired with an inability to turn down the local fare. In checkpoints I eat till I pop...I wouldn't mind having a whole team like that now that I mention it...

7. What do you look for in a lead dog?
Stunning good looks and a never ending desire to know what's around the corner.

8. What do you think your most important piece of equipment is during a race?
A water bottle that doesn't freeze. 

9. How did you get started in mushing?
My parents had dogs before I was born and my dad finished this race in 1985. In come the kids, out go the dogs. I took 20 years off from mushing and got into the sport working as a handler in 2012. Several dog teams and a few good breaks later and I've found a way to work with dogs year round at Husky Homestead.

10. What are some of your future mushing goals? 
Dogs and mushing definitely seem to be my thing for the moment so I'm going to ride this as long as I can. Racing is a great deal of fun and I'm gonna give 'er hell but running the mountains with small teams is other worldly. I never want to stop exploring Alaska by dog team. 

Kristin Knight Pace, 1,000-mile Yukon Quest veteran

1. What does a typical training day look like for you as you prepare for the Yukon Quest or YQ300?
Wake up when the baby wakes up, split duties between changing, feeding and clothing a child and heating up dog water/feeding dogs/ scooping the yard. Then one of us goes on a training run with the dogs while the other takes care of a baby. Basically, a typical day is insane, long, tiring and fulfilling on most days.

2. What do you feed your dogs?
Our dogs eat a combination of water, ground beef, chicken or beef fat, liver, Caribou Creek Gold kibble, and supplements such as psyllium, probiotics and electrolytes. 

3. Do you have a favourite dog?
That's like asking if you have a favorite child! No, we each have dogs who perform differently for both of us, and will behave differently depending on who's driving. And we each have dogs who have done extraordinary things for us. Littlehead, our smallest dog, single-handedly guided my team over Eagle Summit in the 2015 Yukon Quest. And Cutuk, one of the newcomers to the race team this year, has always had a connection with Ada even when I was pregnant. And Solo, my extraordinary stalwart leader, has led thousands of miles of races for me and never wavered. 

4. What do you enjoy most about being a dog musher?
Being a dog for a while. 

5. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember about running dogs?
The dogs all do pretty funny things while we're running. Sometimes, Dolly or Kabob will grab a tree branch that's hanging into the trail and tear it off and prance around with it in their mouths. Or they'll chase birds down the trail. Sometimes Solo gets mad when other dogs slow down to poop, and he'll run after them and try to grab their tail. One time as we pulled into Slaven's, Hoss steered the team from the wheel position into a team that was already parked so he could eat all their leftover food. They always find a way to make me laugh. 

6. What is the funniest or most amusing moment you remember during a race?
When I was leaving Circle in the 2015 Yukon Quest, we were going SO slowly right out of the checkpoint. All the dogs were pooping and sniffing and just warming up. Somehow, even though we were going like 5 mph, I tripped on my brake and fell, and dragged behind my team. I looked behind me as I pulled myself up and Lance Mackey was dying laughing, hanging off his sled with his feet in the air, clapping and laughing his ass off. It was hilarious!

7. What do you look for in a lead dog?
Smarts, fearlessness, and a certain level of blockheadedness. 

8. What do you think your most important piece of equipment is during a race?  
Headlamp. And a good boot and glove system. 

9. How did you get started in mushing?
Volunteering at the Denali National Park Sled Dog Kennels through an internship with the Student Conservation Association. 

10. What are some of your future mushing goals?
To do some epic family trips with my husband and 1-year-old daughter. To keep on loving traveling with dogs through the wildest of country. To have fun - that's what it's all about.