One of the Valley Snow Dogz crew is heading to Alaska today for an amazing experience. Lidia Dale-Mesaros is going to be a handler for SP Kennel during the upcoming Copper Basin 300, a qualifier for the Iditarod.
Lidia will provide support for Aliy Zirkle’s professional racing team. Aliy finished second in last year’s Iditarod. Aliy and her husband, Allen Moore (who finished in first place in last year’s Yukon Quest), own SP Kennel and will field three professional sled dog racing teams in the Copper Basin 300 which starts on Jan. 11, 2014.
I asked Lidia how this fantastic opportunity came to be, and she answered, “Long story short, I went to a mushing symposium in September where Aliy Zirkle [who happens to be a New Hampshire native] and her husband Allen Moore were guest speakers. By chance, I ended up having dinner with them. We were like soul buddies instantly! … Next thing I know I’m saying yes to her invitation to head to Alaska to be a part of her team.”
Lidia’s support role includes helping with all the race prep before for the teams head to Glennallen for the start of the Copper Basin 300. Prep includes packing drop bags for each checkpoint for each team. This involves making a detailed list of everything to go into the bags. For the dogs they pack snacks and kibble, vet-kits (including wrist wraps, Algyval, anti-ulcer medications), extra dog jackets, fleece throws, booties and harnesses. For the humans the pack snacks and meals, basic first aid and comfort packs (hand warmers, Kleenexes, Chapstick and dry socks), extra clothing and tool kits. They also need to pack fuel for dog food cookers, spare sled parts and runner plastics.
Advance prep also means packing the dog trucks for the handlers, which is what Lidia will be doing. The handler’s job at checkpoints is to not only help park teams and support the musher, but also clean up after the team has left the checkpoint. They need trash bags, rakes and a sled in order to clean up the straw beds from the team and any gear that the musher has left behind. Handlers will take any dogs from their musher if he or she does not want the dog to continue the race. Mushers are not allowed dog substitutions, so if any dog is left with a handler (the musher lingo is ‘dropped from the team’), then the musher will continue with one less team mate. There are veterinarians stationed at the race checkpoints in case a dog needs medical care. There aren’t any human doctors, though. If a person needs medical care, that would require a trip to Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Lidia’s confident in Aliy’s prospects. She said, “Aliy will be competing in the Iditarod this year again and I have no doubts she has her eye on a win. Allen will be in the Yukon Quest AND the Iditarod – two x 1000 mile races!”
Lidia will be posting about her experiences on the Valley Snow Dogz Facebook page and is documenting her adventure so she can do a talk and slide show presentation when she returns. There will also be regular updates on Aliy’s blog.
Join me in sending best wishes for safe travels and success for Lidia and the SP teams.