Yes the madness of any race begins with the packing and the preparation. And to be honest it may be the least fun part of the whole thing. Last year I did a blog “Anatomy of a Drop Bag” that explained the importance of them, and why they are so time consuming and nerve wracking.
Once again this year we will be dealing with lots of drop bags. We are planning on having Dan in the Copper Basin 300, at least one team in the Tustumena, possibly a team in the Denali Doubles, and of course I (Jodi) will be attempting to once again finish with a strong happy team in the Iditarod. It is safe to say we will be doing a LOT of planning and packing. After a recent trip to town to stock up I posted a photo (at left) showing just some of the supplies we will be packing. Which prompted the very kind comment “give us a list of things you still need for drops” from a dear friend and webmaster of GoMush (click the GoMush link to see some of her amazing photos of the 2011 Iditarod, including one of my favorite photos of Dan and I in Nome).
So for our many friends here it is, the list of things we will need to gather in mass for this seasons drop bags: before we head out the the races.
First, at Dew Claw, we like to support small local businesses. And some of our major needs can be purchased at local Alaskan businesses.
- Runner Plastic, for Rex Runners in blue, yellow, and gray. This can be purchased at Cold Spot Feeds (where we have an account, so people can call in and order) We also get the supplements for the dogs, kibble and meats, harnesses, and the supplies we use to make ganglines & tugs at Cold Spot.
- Booties! we use thousands of booties in a race season. After races booties are sorted and reused in training. With the amount of miles our dogs run it is critical that we take excellent care of the feet. At Dew Claw we have a saying, every foot of every dog for every run. We do recieve help from Paw Partners, but in addition to that we order hundreds from Kipmik Products (Anchorage Alaska, you can contact them by phone. John (owner) is very helpful and can help you) Sizes: small, medium & large, with Med Flex Velcro.
- And although not local to us, a wonderful small business Mountain Ridge makes the “Mushers First Aid” I carry for massaging dogs. the 4 oz. bottle fits nicely in an inside pocket of my pants where it can stay warm and always ready to use.
We also enjoy Odwalla Protein and Superfoods shakes, Tanka Bars (not spicy, just traditional) Caffeinated Sport Beans, Chocolate covered espresso beans, Starbucks VIA instant coffee, dried fruit, smoked salmon strips & dried meat, berries, craisins, & almonds. For some reason Almond Joy’s taste great on the trail, and we carry cup’o'soup and hot coco (Jodi) or Tang (Dan) in thermoses. PowerBar makes some good products (although neither of us much like the gels) as does Luna Bar. Wish I could say some of these fine products sponsored us, but…
In general we are looking for calorie dense food, that is tasty and nutritious. It has to be able to freeze, cause it will freeze in the drop bags. We defrost food either in an inside pocket or by dropping it in the dog water we heat. Protein is important as your muscles are really getting a workout, and fats to help you keep energy up in the cold. The dried fruits and juices are the best way to get our fruit and veggie servings, as any fresh ones would be destroyed in the harsh climate. Also last year a local bakery LuLu’s made us wonderful moist banana bread loaded with nuts and ground flax seed. Considering the amount of energy we are expending, we can certainly get away with eating more sweets and carbs then we normally would. But I still like to look for whole grains and natural ingredients. Now having said that I also have a super sweet spot in my drop bags for truffles, fudge, and homemade baked goods
Bottled water, nutrition/meal replacement drinks, sports drinks (which we can defrost in the hot water we make while camping to feed the dogs) & the Lithium batteries that power our headlamps, we can buy in bulk at our local Sam’s Club.
In addition we also use the following, and do not currently have a good local supplier.
- 2 gallon ziplock style freezer bags (can be bought in bulk online) We also use gallon and quart size, but they are avaliable at our local Sam’s Club in bulk. The amount of freezer bags we use is almost mind numbing. Everything from kibble for the teams meals, fats we add to dog food, trail snacks, people food, extra clothes, lineament & foot ointment, pretty much everything that gets sent out needs to be packaged in freezer bags.
- And ideally we would get a few new sets of these wonderful, cold tolerant, food grade, lightweight containers; which we use as dog dishes while camping and racing.
- Though not technically for drop bags, we would love to have 10-15 extra running coats made by Dogwood Designs in Two Rivers Alaska. (please contact us for more info on ordering dog coats or collars)
Also want to thank some wonderful members of Team Dew Claw who are helping make all this possible. And a thank you to Mariska Wright for this great photo from the start of the Solstice 100. Read my Solstice 100 race wrap up. And please visit Mariska’s Creations to see some of her amazing dolls.
Marlys Sauer, Pendra King, Lou & Fran Varndell, Orren & Judy Brownson, and Kirstie McGuinness are long time supporters at the Lead Dog status.
And we are very excited to have Mike Pickell (read how he is helping restore marital bliss in our home in my blog “Growing the Team“), John & Karen Meeks (who’s daughter is working with some of our retired race dogs this winter, read about her adventures here) Susi Marsh (owner of Arctic Paws Dogs Sled Tours in PA), and Daniel Faltyn (Iditarider extraordinaire) joining us this year. If you saw any photos of me at the ceremonial start of last years Iditarod you have already seen Daniel, he was the best Iditarider I could have asked for. Was great fun, totally got into the spirit of the event with his moose hat. And happily threw out the 200+ used booties I had washed and stuffed with lollypops for the fans watching along the trail. There is a great shot of us taking off at the start: click here.
Lastly as we all face the New Year ahead it is a perfect time to reflect on all that is important to us. Dan and I are very lucky and thankful for what this past year has given us. The wonderful friends we have, the amazing dogs we are privileged to live with, the beautiful state of Alaska that we travel in, our home, our health, our families.
And to all our friends we send this wish: may the year ahead be challenging enough to be interesting, worthy of photos, and full of love, laughter, and joy!