Here’s the Scoop on Dog Racing and the Iditarod from Identical Twin Mushers (Kristy and Anna Berington)

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Nothing about Alaska captures the imagination quite like sled dog racing and mushing. Imagine bundling against sub-zero temperatures and then forward standing on a sled pulled by a team of dogs — and, for the long distance events, doing it for days on end. And while the races are only in the winter, keeping and caring for the dogs is a year-round thing. Dog racing is truly a lifestyle.

In this special episode of Humans Outside, two world-famous mushers and identical twin sisters, Kristy and Anna Berington, share with us not just everything you’ve ever wanted to know about mushing, but also a window into the special connection the sport creates with the outdoors.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:36] Kristy and Anna Berington’s favorite outdoor space

[6:40] What is dog racing?

[8:09] All about sled dogs

[10:12] Is mushing cruel to dogs?

[16:41] What do sled dogs eat?

[19:17] What is the iditarod?

[22:24] What are the costs of dog racing?”

[24:38] How dog racing connects them with nature

[30:15] About their relationship with the dogs

[33:14] Can you replicate the experience of dog racing in another way?

[35:58] How to have the same experience with nature

[37:03] Kristy and Anna’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[41:39] Their favorite outdoor moment

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Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. These two sound identical, so rather than trying to figure out who is speaking when, this transcript treats their statements as either person.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

AB 0:53

Alaska is full of really fascinating people having big adventures. Just like my family did, people often move to Alaska chasing a dream of being outside more, of doing something epic, or just finding the wild – whatever that may eventually mean. But nothing captures the imagination of Alaskans and non Alaskans like dog racing and mushing. Imagine spending 10 days in sub zero temperatures in areas hundreds of miles from cell signals, towns or cities, racing to the next remote pitstop, with 10 or so dogs pulling you there. It’s you, the dogs and the wilderness. That is, unless you’re Anna and Kristy Berington, identical twin sisters and the leads to Alaska based mushing teams who tackle the Super Bowl of all dog races, the Iditarod, together as much as they can. These women and their families operate Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing in Knik, Alaska, not far from where I live. Today they’re going to talk about mushing, dog racing, and the unique connection to nature they find through their sport. Kristy and Anna, welcome to Humans Outside.

K&A 1:55

Thank you. Yeah, thank you. Hi.

AB 1:59

So we talked a little bit before we started about the fact that you guys sound identical in addition to being identical. So listeners, you are hearing to separate people, not the same person weirdly talking to themselves.

So that’s something we’ve not had on this podcast before. It’s really exciting. But we start all of these episodes just imagining ourselves in our listeners’ favorite outdoor space, as if we were hanging out with you guys having a conversation outside somewhere, instead of communicating over the phone, or however we’re recording this podcast. So where are we with you today?

K&A 2:36

As far as favorite outdoor place, I would kind of say it’s just on the back of the runners with the dogs. It doesn’t matter where we’re going. It’s just to be in that spot, overlooking them and us traveling together. That is just one of my favorite places to be. And I agree with that. And I, I enjoy that spot to be someplace where I can physically exert myself. So I feel even bigger part of the team and our goal of traveling so it’d be going up a mountain somewhere, I guess.

AB 3:14

Yeah. Great. So those are adjacent to my favorite things, too. So I love to hear from my guests, how did you guys become people who like to go outside? What’s your story?

K&A 3:28

Oh, we grew up in northern Wisconsin, on a very small farm in a very small town. And our mom was great about letting us go do things. And later in life, she was like — I feel like I was a terrible mother. I let you guys do things I never should have let four and five year olds go do. Our dad encouraged us and allowed us to just be outside and it was a safe place to be outside. We lived on 40 acres and we had animals, so I think animals kept us going outside. We had chores to do every morning and every night as soon as we could carry a dish to feed the cows or the go pick eggs or anything. We’re outside with the animals. So I think that connection with animals really kept us going outside. And that’s why we do what we do today. We just absolutely adore the dogs and love doing things for them. And with them. It’s just it’s a lifestyle. Yeah, northern Wisconsin. I mean when we say northern Wisconsin, it’s like the most northern part of Wisconsin – you’ll fall Lake Superior if you go any further north. So it was just a very inviting wilderness place, tons of the swampy national forests and just very small towns like yours, just walk in the woods and just go and be in the woods and that kind of thing. And we love all of the seasons. Obviously we love winter, but just to get outside and be outside all the time. That’s where home is – is the outdoors.

AB 5:04

Hmm. It’s, it’s well, first of all, I’m sort of chuckling like, how to make sure kids are safe – produce your very own tag team. Yeah.

K&A 5:14

That’s why moose have twins, don’t they? So one of them can get eaten, expendable.

AB 5:22

Let’s not use that analogy for you guys please. But I’m sure we could say that, I have an eight year old and an 11 year old and so not twins, obviously. I guess they watch out for each other. It’s more like fighting. Is that a problem when you’re an identical twin that you’re at each other’s throats?

K&A 5:45

Um, no, I don’t think so. I think we’re really close. And I’m not gonna deny like — Oh, we never fight. When you’re with somebody as much as we are and know somebody as deeply as you do, there’s bound to be spats here and there. So yeah, we do get in disagreements, but it’s not horrible. It never turns into a fistfight.

AB 6:07

So Anna would not leave Kristy in the ditch. Sometimes I think my boys might. Okay, so there’s a lot of misconceptions and mythology and sort of, you know, in its own way surrounding mushing and dog racing, especially for people who don’t live somewhere where it’s an uncommon sport, which is really I mean, is most of the world right? So, can you just start by talking to us about what the sport is itself just to describe what is dog racing?

K&A 6:40

90% of races, it’s one person that is the dog driver, the musher, and they have a sled that’s pulled by a team of Huskies. We use mixed breeds. And we are traveling a set course that has checkpoints along the way to get to the finish line. So that one musher that one dog driver is responsible for their team. It’s not a team sport with human beings. It’s a team sport with dogs. Right? There’s no pit crew. There’s no relaying. It’s one musher and one dog team working together to get to a specific destination.

AB 7:29

And you’re on a sled specifically designed for this purpose. And your team is harnessed to ropes pulling the sled and your job as mushers to steer, essentially, and take care of the dogs.

K&A 7:47

Yep. Yeah, and the amount of training that goes – you can’t just show up to a race and be like — Okay, let’s do this. The amount of training that goes with it is it just totally engulfs your life. It changes your life. You can’t just do it half heartedly.

AB 8:09

Right. Well, people don’t really think through that part. You know, like, when you are racing dogs, you own the dogs, so the dogs are there all the time. This is not just a – when it’s in the wintertime here are the dogs, here we go. Right. These are your teammates, who are literally in your yard all year round. And then that means you are invested in them. And they in their way are invested in you and you’re caring for them and, you know, just on and on and on.

K&A 8:42

Right. They’re not like a snow machine that you throw a cover on in April. They’re living things and they need us and we need them. They’re a huge part of our lives. And I would feel lost if I didn’t have a dog, let alone 50.

AB 9:03

So yeah, so how many dogs are in your yard, in your kennel?

K&A 9:07

Right now in our yard? We have 53 dogs.

AB 9:11

And you race 10 to 12 at a time, right?

K&A 9:15

For Iditarod we can have 14 on the line at a time and when you start a race that’s what you get. With the distance racing we do, there’s no like — Oh, just switch that one later. So most all races that we participate in are 10 to 14 dogs, with the exception of the one race that we did together called the Denali Doubles. It was two mushers with one dog team and you could have as many dogs as you wanted. We took 20.

AB 9:43

So when you do a two person race like that and double, you’re both on the same slide?

K&A 9:53

Right – and then to haul enough supplies we actually tethered two sleds together like a train and then had the 20 dogs pulling that, so there’s different ways you can do it. You know, one, we could do one sled. But we had two sleds tied together with 20 dogs pulling us.

AB 10:12

Cool. So let’s then also get out of the way this idea that mushing is somehow cruel to dogs. I know that’s a common misconception or sort of rumor talk. Let’s talk about that before anything else, is that true? I mean, you obviously don’t think it’s true. But what do you think about that concept?

K&A 10:34

I think that the people who have a negative opinions of mushing are the ones that don’t understand it, or are getting their information from bad places and that kind of thing. Anybody who questions — go to a kennel and see the relationship with the dog, see that this is what they love to do. And they’re not forcing them to do it in any way. They are trained athletes who are not showing up to a race with a not conditioned dog team. They eat better than we do. And it’s just like, with different people like different things. Some people would never want to live in Alaska in a small cabin with a bunch of dogs and be outside upwards of 20 hours a day. Some people would just hate it, but we love it. I would never want to live in Florida. There’s nothing wrong with Florida. I just wouldn’t want to live there. I don’t like the heat. I don’t like that humidity. Our dogs are designed for this. They are what they are raised and bred for. So it’s just, they love it. And there’s no denying that.

AB 11:39

I like to think of the times I’ve been to dog races too. I just feel like it when you see it like firsthand, see the team’s getting ready to race. You cannot deny like this dog is into this big time.

K&A 11:53

Right? It’s like a Labrador likes to chase the ball. You don’t throw a ball and any lab you meet can be like — Fine, I’ll go get it. They bring it back. Yeah, throw it again. So that’s a love that’s that they get joy out of.

AB 12:08

Yeah, or if you have a dog that is I mean, that’s a great analogy. If you have a dog that does not want to chase a ball, that dog is not going to chase the ball. Like he’s gonna sit like my dog does. So I have some experience. Like I will throw this ball and she will sit there and look at me.

K&A 12:27

We take our sled dogs on free walks and then I’ll pick up a stick and throw it. They run towards it like — okay, that was cool. That was it. No one’s gonna get it and bring it back.

AB 12:36

Right. But to that end, like if you put a dog that you expected to pull you on a line if that dog does not want to do that it ain’t happening. You know, you cannot make the dog pull the sled. Like that’s just all there is to it. I mean, I guess you could drag it along but that’s not what’s happening here. This is full participation or it doesn’t work out.

K&A 13:01

Yeah, exactly. Even though our dogs are mixed breeds, that Husky is a huge piece of their lineage, that desire to want to pull and to travel and be in Arctic conditions – that’s there. Just like Kristy had said a Labrador wants to fetch things up. A Collie wants to control and herd things. There’s that innate desire that you don’t even have to nurture. It’s there. They want to do it.

AB 13:33

You raised two things that I want to talk about really fast about the dogs. Mixed breed – when people in the lower 48 think of or outside Alaska, think of dog racing and Huskies, they have a very specific picture in their mind and it’s not what we have up here for dog racing. I think they think of, you know, the blue eyed, you know, fluffy, Husky. And that’s not an Alaska Husky. Can you describe a little bit like what Alaska has Husky dog looks like compared to that.

K&A 14:11

We call them Alaskan Huskies. And I’m sure most people are familiar with the Siberian Husky, which are beautiful dogs, and they do pull and they do perform. I say the major difference between the two is that a Siberian Husky, which is very old breed of dog, will only give you about 80% of their capability, because they have that survival mode in them that if there’s a storm, if there’s a shortage of food that I can still go that extra distance – versus an Alaskan Husky gives you 110% all the time, every time. So you really have to rein that in and make sure that you know, they don’t overdo it. So we really have to keep an eye on that. But yeah, there are dogs in our yard – there’s so many different looking ones. They all have a different bloodline. So if you might walk into our yard in particular, we don’t have a bloodline and we don’t do a lot of breeding. So we get, you know, we’ve got a dog from Wade Marrs or Dean Osmar, Nick Petit, the Redingtons. And you can almost look in the yard and be like, those ones look alike. Yes, because they, you know, are somewhat related. And it doesn’t look anything like this one because they’re not related. So we also call the Siberians “Hollywood Huskies” because that’s the image that everybody has in their head.

AB 15:31

Yeah, yeah,

K&A 15:33

And the dogs of breeds that are mixed are, there’s different kinds of hounds. This is from a long time of mixing things. There’s Salukis, or Brittanys, or Border Collies, or German Shepherds. There has been an accidental lab mixed in there and that kind of thing, but German Shorthaired Pointer Anatolian Shepherd, so a huge mix of things in that kind of thing. And what it’s come to now it’s just like mushers trying to breed their best dogs with their best dogs to get more amazing dogs. So that’s why they are all different sizes and colors and builds and things. So we have dogs that are 45 pounds. We have dogs that are 75 pounds. It’s just kind of what happens.

AB 16:19

I had a friend move up here and say she was looking at getting a dog from rescue and that it was described as part Husky. And I knew right away she’s thinking Siberian, right. And I’m like — oh, like in Alaska, that does not mean what you think it means.

K&A 16:41

She’s got to know that any dog that’s in a shelter that’s not a purebred is going to be part Husky.

AB 16:51

So that’s how it goes. Okay, so we did have a listener question before we sat down to record this today, asking what your dogs eat. And you mentioned that they eat better than you do. So what do your dogs eat?

K&A 17:04

They eat a lot of raw meat. They eat king salmon, beef, chicken, horse, beaver, lamb – awide variety of raw meats with high quality commercial kibble. And this isn’t the kind of kibble that you feed your pet dog because it’s fat and protein content are like 35/22. And, you know, a handful of this would probably get your Labrador overweight in a couple weeks. So it’s really high fat and calories. Yeah, yeah, we cook for them. So I mean, it’s when we’re out on the trail, we’re, we have a cooker, we’re melting snow or heating water and cooking a meal for them. So it’s always, take care of them before we take care of ourselves. Yeah, and that’s how it should be. And the raw meat that they eat, we cut in specific shapes of snacks, based on what we need to use the snacks for. And also, sometimes the dogs enjoy just a different shape of a snack. And it’s funny. It’s like when you have a pet dog and you know, spill a bowl of popcorn or dry cereal, right away, they’re over there picking it up. And the faster you’re saying no, no, no, no, the more they’re intensely going after it. So sometimes we cut our snacks up into, we call them french fries. So that’s about the size they are so you can kind of spill that on the ground. And we’re running with another dog. It’s almost that competition of eating it faster than the other one that it really gets their appetite. And then just without even thinking about it. Oh, well, you’re really into that, you know, those salmon fries. Me too. And then they really eat well. So it’s almost like a, you know, trying to figure out the best way to feed them, as well as what they like to eat.

AB 18:57

That’s so great. But that’s such a great visualization. Thank you for that. Okay, so now, last question about like, specific to the art and science of dog racing. Can you describe the Iditarod for us? I know everyone’s heard of it. What is it? Describe it.

K&A 19:17

It is a 1,049 mile sled dog race across Alaska that starts in Willow and ends in Nome. The actual mileage is around 950-1000 give or take, just because there’s little altercations along the routes that we do but they call it 1049 miles to honor that Alaska is the 49th state. And we do take the same route every year, with the exception of, we have a northern and a southern once we get about a third through the race. When we get to the checkpoint we either go north or south and then reconnect on the trail and continue on to Nome. It’ll take the winner, like at the fastest eight days and some change or nine days. And it’ll take the teams that are coming into the end at the end, it’ll take them 12 to 14 days. And there’s no outside assistance, but there are veterinarians and race marshals along every checkpoint. Two weeks before the race start, or almost three weeks before the race start, we send out almost 2000 pounds worth of supplies that are distributed along the checkpoints. So we have access to our dog food and anything that we think we need along the trail. So we’re not carrying our supplies, we’re not hunting and trapping animals along the way to survive. Everything is strategically planned out of how long you hope to stay where, what you hope to feed at what spot, and that kind of thing. So it’s definitely a lot of strategy involved in it.

AB 20:55

Yeah, and you’re racing this year?

K&A 20:57

Yes, we both are.

AB 20:59

So when people are listening to this podcast, it’ll be right before the race, which starts on what date?

K&A 21:07

It’s always the first weekend in March and the ceremonial start is March 6. I think that’s a Saturday and then the actual race start is March 7.

AB 21:18

Got it. So just for everyone else’s knowledge ceremonial start, they pretend to start.

K&A 21:24

It’s basically a parade through Anchorage.

AB 21:30

On Saturday. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But I just when we moved here, I thought that was so funny. We’re not starting. Yeah. Let’s get really into it and have to drive really far. And then start again. It’s fine. Yeah.

Okay, and I lied, I have one more question about, like, specific to dog racing. And like the how tos. Racing, just the Iditarod, I read on your website costs, like, you know, well into 20 grand per musher. So what that doesn’t cover, like the cost of taking care of these dogs, I just want to give people a picture of the investment that this is, and that, you know, just like the love that must follow that and the need for sponsors and all that stuff. So what is the cost of taking care of these dogs through the year?

K&A 22:24

Yeah, whether you race Iditarod or not, having sled dogs is expensive. The kibble we feed is between $50 and $70, a bag ]for 40 pounds, and we feed like a bag a day. So that’s just the kibble. And then we also feed a lot of meat, like Kristy said, and will feed around 50 pounds of meat a day. And then when you’re racing and training that goes up, because your miles are going further and they need to eat more. And then you’re adding supplements and things because they’re athletes and they need supplemental nutrition and things. So then that adds on. So think the largest cost of having the dogs and when you do perform with them and race is the food. Yeah, right. And then there’s miscellaneous and continuing vet bills, I mean, the rabies that they need, they get annual, you know, booster shots just like a pet does. They eat supplements that we put in their food because they’re working athletes. So it’s all very expensive, and we kind of figured it out, roughly it’s about $1250 per dog per year to you know, keep them in racing form and also to compete in the races.

So Kristy and I, our whole winters and the fall and the late in the early spring is 100% dedicated to the dogs. So we do have a little part time work we do for a neighbor, which is just helping him take care of his sled dogs when he’s working. But our whole summer is like you know, work your butt off so you can do this in the wintertime and we couldn’t do it at the level we do it at without our sponsors. So they’re a huge part of our team. And we try to save money where we can. I mean, we harvest fish for and get fish from the hatcheries when they’re done with them. And we process livestock ourselves and we take donations of people’s freezer burnt salmon or whatever. So we try to do the best we can to cut costs, but ultimately what the dogs need, they will get it. Whatever it takes.

AB 24:38

Yeah, yeah, sure some folks in the lower 48 are like how could you possibly have freezer burnt salmon? Right, right. It’s a thing guys, it happens up here. Oh my goodness.

Now that we have the good, like all of the basics of mushing, which I really appreciate you sharing that stuff, and, you know, so informative. I want to talk about getting outside, the good stuff here. Okay, so what is the experience of mushing and the connection to nature that comes as you slide, if you will, over the snow? How does that feel?

K&A 25:25

I think Lance Mackey said it the best when he said –it’s as close to a magic carpet ride as you’re gonna get. When you pull the snow hook, which is our anchor that keeps them stopped, all the chaos goes away, and it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, the dogs quit barking because they get what they want. They like relentless forward progress. So when you pull that hook in, they get to travel forward as a unit. And that includes you if that’s what we all want to do. So there’s a quiet glide, the runners on the snow, you can hear a little puffing from the dogs, maybe a jingle from a collar. Maybe it’s some footsteps, depending on the snow conditions, but it’s a very, very quiet sport. Yeah, super peaceful. You got the cool, cool wind on your face from the dogs, we’re traveling anywhere from like on average, 8 to 12 miles an hour. And just the things you’re able to go and see with them. And night and day too. I mean, we’re out there with the dogs traveling at night, a lot of people are in bed at 2am. But here you are traveling with your dog team, you know, in the wilderness of Alaska. And just the things you experience with them with the weather and trail things, it’s never the same even though you could take out the same 12 dogs and go down the same trail, it’s going to be a different experience every time and it’s so you’re so connected to nature, I feel because it’s a very organic, ancient way of traveling. And you see things like — well, why didn’t you drive to said location. You can drive to Willow, why mush a dog team there, it’s 50 miles through the woods to get to Willow, you can drive there in like, you know, 25 minutes. When you’re moving at 8 to 12 miles an hour, you really absorb your entire surroundings, you’re moving so much more slowly. And to do that with the dogs. It’s just a really beautiful connection.

AB 27:22

I love that. I love that description. I’m sort of chuckling because you both are also ultra runners. Right? You run ridiculously far.

K&A 27:30

Kristy does that more. tI have pace run a couple things and am there to cheer her on and that kind of stuff. But yeah, I enjoy outdoor endurance type things as well, but Kristy’s the ultra runner.

AB 27:44

So I’m also a runner. And you hear that in the running community too. Like, why would you run there if you could drive? I mean, if you drive you miss all that stuff, just exactly what you’re describing. You know, I’m getting ready to hopefully run the Resurrection Pass 100 in August, and I was sort of convinced by the compelling runner logic to do that instead of the 50. Because somebody pointed out that logistically, it just made more sense. Because if you do the 50, then you’re at the end and you don’t have a car and you have to figure out how to get back. And only runners would think that having to figure out how to get a ride is a pretty good reason to run an extra 50 you know, everyone else would be like, that’s stupid, but good point.

K&A 28:43

I’m just gonna run back. I don’t want to try to find a ride.

AB 28:47

Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s fine.

K&A 28:50

That’s awesome.

AB 28:52

So but you know, with that in mind, I’m wondering if you consider mushing to be an extreme sport, because well, you didn’t mention how cold it is out there. When you’re in the middle of nowhere and in, you know, January, February, March, what’s the temperature?

K&A 29:07

The coldest temperature – ambient temperature – we’ve ever seen was 65 below.

AB 29:12

Okay, so that’s a little chilly.

K&A 29:14

Alaskan winters can be really odd. I think it was 2015. Yeah. 2015 was a year that they moved the start to Fairbanks because of lack of snow, believe it or not. And yeah, when we did the ceremonial start in Anchorage, it was 40 above and raining. By the time we got to the halfway point it was minus 65. So that was four days from when we started to the midway point and it was minus 65 – over 100 degree difference. And it’s really amazing what we have to be prepared for. So it is very extreme. You have to be prepared for so much weather, gear breaking down, tending to 14 individual animals. You’re self reliant when you’re out there. It’s just you. Another musher can come along and help you out. But you can’t depend on that, you have to be self reliant.

AB 30:15

Yeah. How does your relationship with the dogs factor into, into how you feel about nature and, and, and the sport? You talked earlier about animals being a part of your growing up and not being able to imagine your life without the dogs. And then you talked about just the experience of being alone and hearing just nothing? How does the dog relationship factor into those things?

K&A 30:44

The most important part is your relationship with the dogs, because it’s a relationship built on trust and respect, that’s constantly growing. And without that, you’re not going to get where you want to go, or the results that you want. And it’s something we all work really hard to do together. It’s funny, sometimes when it gets really hard, you’re, you know, maybe, you know, seven days into the race, you’re tired, you’re getting very little sleep, you’ve been in you know, constantly cold temperatures, you know, you’re not eating regular meals, or using a bathroom, all the things that go along with being a dog musher that you’re used to, but it starts to wear on you, when we’re competing that hard. There are times I look at the dogs be like — Man, I wish I was just pulling the sled instead of, you know, dragging the straw bale around, and, you know, packing for the next run. And it’s just our relationship is, like I said, trust, respect and understanding that you can’t expect to have if you don’t spend that time with the dogs. And it’s the little things that build those relationships. That’s, you know, the cleaning up every morning and night that we do and it’s the cutting the snacks and the feeding them, the more they see you and the more time they spend with you, the more they’re willing to do things for you. And then that goes into training as well. Yeah, your understanding of each of them. They’re each individual, and they have their own personalities, a lot of people like how can they all have names like of course, they all have names, they all have nicknames. And I’ll tell you who their grandparents are. I mean, it’s like, they’re all individuals and we love them each one all so much. So you know, each dog you know, their favorite snacks, you know, who they get along with best, you know, their size of everything that they wear and the position on the team that they like to run in best, their whole race history and performance abilities and that kind of thing. Their strengths and weaknesses. What they’re afraid of. Some of them are timid about crossing open water and you have other ones that just dive right in. So it’s just it’s the huge, like Kristy said, understanding of each other. And them knowing you that way too. They just can tell by the pitch of your voice or whatever how you’re feeling that day or what’s going on. So just that relationship is key.

AB 33:14

Yeah. I joked earlier that I understand the middle of nowhere thing because I run. But do you think that how you guys experience nature while being out there mushing can be replicated by doing other things, maybe other than running even? Because, of course, a lot of people don’t live ]where we can do this. How can someone find their inner nature connection, you know, that you find in mushing without doing that?

K&A 33:44

Get about three hours of sleep a night. But as our sport is so amazing, as peaceful, as we described it, it’s also hectic and scary at times. So it’s like, you know, being a runner and running an ultra marathon, like you mentioned the Resurrection and like — Oh, it’s that quiet, peaceful trail running. It must be just amazing. It’s like well, you throw in, you know, pouring rain or bear country, a snowstorm and then this insane decline and all of a sudden, you’re this alpine skier going down a black diamond hill and that’s what that experience feels like. So it’s a sum of so many different experiences and it’s hard to compare it to one sport, I guess. Yeah. But I mean, if you could just get outside and slow things down a little bit and just appreciate all the things that are around you. Mushing lets you take everything in at a little slower pace. And you know, breathe deep outside and just to be outside, like you know, any and all hours of the day and places and to be able to have a companionship to share that with someone or something like we do with the dogs. And also getting to where you know, cars can’t go. So hiking up a mountain. There’s only one way to get up there and if you hiked up, that’s great. And that’s a lot like with dog mushing, there’s places that we go with the dogs that you can’t take anything but a dog sled.

AB 35:17

Yeah, yeah. So from like, a practical advice perspective for people who are looking for that, wherever they live right now, you know, be it Florida with the snakes. What I hear you saying is just get out, like, leave behind the things that tether you to the you know, to the world, and get outside. Slow down and put yourself, you know, intentionally in a situation where noticing what’s around you and your natural environment and being sort of just absorbed into that is your only option.

K&A 35:58

Yeah, and I think also the most memorable outdoor experiences that you can have involve all five of your senses. It’s what you can see and feel and smell and even taste at that time that makes something that much more memorable and exhilarating, and the journey it took to get wherever you’re at. As amazing as it is to be at the top of Pioneer Peak – it’s a gorgeous view – but the struggle to get up there is probably what you’re going to remember the most.

AB 36:34

Oh, what great advice. Okay, I can’t believe we’ve been talking this whole time. But we’re coming to the end. We’ve got some leftover stuff. I’m so excited to hear what you guys say. It’s such a unique sport. And I’m sure there’s unique stuff to go along with it. So tell me if you guys wouldn’t mind what your favorite gear is. Maybe it’s maushing specific. Maybe it’s not. But what’s something you just love?

K&A 37:03

We talked a little bit about this last night and we have so much stuff that we use that is necessary, not only necessary, but you you like to have all your mushing and it’s seasonal things like in the fall, you have this like set of things that prepare you for 35 degrees and raining and mud or whatever. And then it graduates to your winter things. And then you graduate to your summer things. One thing I feel like that I use all the time is just a baseball cap. Because if it’s and as a runner, you know this, when you’re running if you have a baseball cap on and that rain isn’t hitting you in the face and can keep your eyes open. That’s really nice. So

AB 37:41

It is nice to keep your eyes open.

K&A 37:43

So I like to wear a baseball cap. And if it’s cold, I even still wear it and I put, you know, a beanie over it. But that’s nice. It’s nice if it’s snowing, it keeps snow off your face. If the sun’s out, that’s nice. Yeah, even in the wintertime, we get our five hours of sunlight up here. You still might want that ball cap. Yes, I think that’s something that when I am working outside all summer, I wear it all the time. And I think that’s why in the military, it’s part of your BDU uniform, unless you’re wearing a beret, but that’s part of your uniform, is a cap with a brim.

AB 38:19

We didn’t mention that earlier. You guys are also Army National Guard veterans, as well from Wisconsin Army National Guard. Right?

K&A 38:27

Yeah, we both joined together at the same time. And that was a fun and good experience. And yeah, yeah.

AB 38:37

Yeah. Yeah, it’s a thing. Okay. So most most essential, I mean, I know you’ve just said that. It just depends on the season. But if you had to narrow down, I guess we could focus on like getting ready for Iditarod, what’s something that is among or perhaps your most essential?

K&A 38:58

Yeah, we have mandatory gear that you have to carry in the sled and I mean, it’s things like a cooker so you can cook and melt snow for the dogs. It’s, you know, an extreme cold weather sleeping bag. It’s an axe, dog booties, dog food. Yeah, even though snowshoes. I’ve never used the snowshoes ever on a dog sled race, but you got to have them and when you do need them, you’re going to be happy you do. But yes, those are mandatory things, but I don’t think about them because I’ve never used them. I’ve used my axe before. I mean, my sleeping bag. I’ve used it and that kind of thing. Let’s say a knife and a lighter, probably two things that you use every single day when you’re out on the Iditarod.

AB 39:42

We had a listener question in this subject vein. She wants to know what your favorite chapstick is. She says she’s on the hunt for a perfect one. And I mean, I’ve spent enough time outside in Alaska, not like you guys, but enough time to know that it does get dry and your lips do get chapped. So do you have something specific that you can recommend to this poor woman?

K&A 40:03

I really like one that has sunscreen in it because in March we start getting our sunlight back in. I think the sunscreen one is really nice to have. Otherwise I do like the Burt’s Bees one. We’ve had some friends make chapstick for us and those are nice. Sorry, listener, that you can’t get Ira Edwards. chapstick. Um, yeah, Burt’s Bees is nice, and just something with organic natural ingredients. Yeah, sunscreen and some of the best chapsticks I’ve gotten as little freebies, maybe your dentist gave it to you. It’s like, well, this is you know, smells nice. It’s nice and you know, smooth, it doesn’t have taste.

AB 40:58

You’re so right, though. Also on the sunscreen thing, I think people don’t think about that for Alaska that, you know, in March, it would be a sunburn situation. But of course, the snow really magnifies that. You know, it’s got that reflection. It’s like a thing. So, yeah. Don’t forget your sunscreen, guys. Yeah, if you’re coming up to Alaska in March, yeah. Okay. Last but not least, walk us out, giving us just like a description of your favorite outdoor moment. If you were gonna close your eyes, and envision yourself in your favorite moment outside? Where are you? And what are you doing?

K&A 41:39

Oh, that’s such a hard question to answer. And I talked about this last night. Yeah, just because we’re, you know, we are year round lovers of the outdoors, not only with the dogs, but just like with running and cycling and skiing. Yeah, and hiking, all those kinds of things. I think my favorite moments have been with the dogs. It’s been on the Iditarod trail, because there’s places we’ll go on the Iditarod that you can only get there by dog team or a snowmobile. But you only get to go to those places once a year. So when you leave a checkpoint, like Unalakleet, and you climb up above, and you’re up at the top of the Blueberry Hills, and you’re able to time it right to where the sun is coming up. It feels like you might have mushed to a different planet or something. The things you can see in the fact that you got there with the dog team. And you’re already like a week into the race. So just you’re tired, that kind of thing. But the way that lights up and the way it feels and the things you see, nothing else can exist at that point. It’s just you and your dog team at the top of that mountain overlooking the Arctic world. So that’s a very special unique experience between just me and my dogs. And I really like night mushing like, especially with the full moon that we’re getting right now where you don’t even need a headlamp. The stars are out. The whole night Aurora. I think minus 10 to zero is probably the perfect temperature.

AB 43:18

Thank you guys for coming on the Humans Outside Podcast today. It has been such a pleasure to have you.

K&A 43:23

Yeah, thank you for having us.

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