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From Michigan to Alaska: Dr. Tim Hunt Explains Iditarod Trail Training

By: Dr. Tim Hunt

I have two full-time jobs – running a veterinary hospital and a pet food business – so I made the decision to actually train the dogs I will race the 'Iditarod Trail with in Alaska; instead of home in Michigan.  I have been able to do this by utilizing a friend’s second team of huskies that he has in his kennel.  Mitch Seavey, winner of the 2004 and 2013 Iditarod Trail, offered me a chance to pilot his “B” string of Alaskan Huskies and I accepted that challenge. 

Traveling by plane back and forth to Alaska this winter to spend time training has put many miles both of my frequent flyer plan and the dog team as well. Learning from a sled dog master like Mitch has been great. 

Training a dog team starts typically around early September, utilizing a four-wheeler that the dogs pull at various speeds for various distances depending on the conditioning plan.  Several days on and several days off in a row was the primary method we used with increasing distances as the dogs began to build on their base of conditioning.

[Related: This is why Dr. Tim Hunt competes in the Iditarod Trail]

From those early days of 5-7 mile runs, the dogs then moved up in increments of 25-percent per week until getting into the 30-40 mile range.  This year the snow in Alaska has been very scarce and has actually caused us to have to travel many miles to the north (seven hours from home base) to find snow appropriate for proper training.  What does that mean? More beautiful Alaska to see, of course!

As fall turned to winter and the dogs turned into the conditioned athletes they had worked hard to become, the team members began to sort themselves out as to what they prefer to do, what level they can perform at and who they like to run with in preparation for the big race. We have one more training session in February before the race officially begins March 7.

Please follow Voyce on Facebook and Twitter to see more of my adventures, including photos leading up to the big race.  I will be posting from the trail as well.  Wish me luck, and good luck to all of my fellow competitors and dogs!

Voted America's Favorite Veterinarian in 2014, Dr. Tim Hunt provides expert content to Voyce. His role with Voyce is one example of the many terrific expert partners that have dog-specific content featured in the Voyce member portal. To join the Voyce Experience, click here.