One day before the race starts, dogs entered in the race must undergo a complete physical examination at the Official Vet Check. This ensures that all dogs participating in the Yukon Quest are suitably fit to complete the 300 mile sled dog race. Veteran Yukon Quest mushers are permitted to have their teams examined by a Yukon Quest approved veterinarian, but all rookies and most veterans bring their teams to the Official Vet Checks.
Each musher must leave the checkpoints with a minimum of 8 booties per dog, either in the sled or on their dogs, and enough food and equipment for themselves and their team to safely travel to the next race checkpoint. Mushers carry a wide variety of food for their sled dogs, and will utilize favorite snacks to entice picky eaters to eat well on the trail. Dog food makes up a significant amount of the weight of the dogsled and emergency rations as well as special nutrient supplements are always in the mushers’ sleds.
Strategy and routine are an important part of the race. Generally, mushers run their teams in a 50-50 run-rest schedule. Typical patterns are “four on, four off”, meaning a four hour run followed by a four hour rest for the dogs. Longer runs are becoming more common as sled dogs are bred for greater endurance and training techniques improve.
Mushers must be prepared for very cold weather-- temperatures of -40 and colder are not unusual. Very warm temperatures (25F/-4C) and above would cause a musher to consider running more in the cold of the night and rest longer during the "heat" of the day.
Teams generally run and rest around the clock, using the schedule of the dogs to determine their progress rather than the time of day or night. During a typical rest stop, mushers remove their dogs’ booties, feed their dogs, cook their next meal, check and re-check their dogs' feet, coat, harnesses and attitude…then grab a bite to eat for themselves and if they are lucky, catch a few winks of sleep.
There are 32 hours of floating mandatory rest taken in three Checkpoints, (Braeburn, Carmacks, Pelly), and four Time Stations Dawson Trail, Mandana Lake, McCabe (also a dog drop), and Stepping Stone.
Mandatory rest served accrues and will be recorded in 30 minute increments. For example, 2hr 48min in a Time Station or Checkpoint will be counted as 2.5 hours toward Mandatory Rest served.
Of the 32 hours of Mandatory Rest, there is one 6-hour mandatory stop in the mushers’ choice of either Braeburn or Carmacks. During this mandatory 6-hour stop, each team will be evaluated by a YQI Veterinarian. The musher must be present during the evaluation. The Race Veterinarians will report their findings to the Race Official.
Time penalties will be served at Pelly Crossing Checkpoint. Any time penalties assessed after Pelly will be added to the overall finish time.