RSH Racing Editor: Would the basic pace of a group of dogs
change because a person decided to run them only 6 miles
rather than 12 miles?
Jim Welch: When conditioning dogs, one usually builds from shorter miles to
longer miles. If the distance is increased gradually, the basic pace can be maintained for
longer distances. There comes a point, however, when as the distance increases the basic
pace will drop off somewhat unless the team size is increased or the load lightened. This
is why Open Class teams can maintain the same speed for longer distances than limited
This is why drivers of Open Class teams will increase the size of their training units
when they start going longer miles (over 12 miles). The first two times I ran the (Fur)
Rendezvous, I had been finishing in the top three in all the races leading up to it. I had
a small kennel and was used to training in 8-dog units, so
when I started putting 16-mile runs on them, they handled it with no problem, BUT THEIR
PACE SLOWED DOWN. The answer was to increase the team size of the training unit when the
distance was extended to those levels.
This is about as productive as running a motor behind a team of
slack-lined dogs. You can be sure that when these dogs have to pull during a race, they
will slow down. Who could blame them?
For the same reason, this is why limited class teams should avoid training in larger
units than they are intended to race in. If you plan to race the 6-dog class, don't train
in 8-dog units. I know of one fellow who races in the 5-dog class who likes to put all 10
of his dogs together for "speed" runs. This is about as productive as running a
motor behind a team of slack-lined dogs. You can be sure that when these dogs have to pull
during a race, they will slow down. Who could blame them?
The shorter the race, the closer the basic pace can be to the physical speed limits of
the dog team. A longer race requires slightly more efficient pacing.
The shorter the race, the closer the basic pace can be to the
physical speed limits of the dog team.
In Anchorage, the Exxon Open (two 16-mile heats) occurs two weeks before the Fur
Rendezvous (three 25-mile heats). Charlie Champaine will not run farther than
16-mile runs run to the Exxon Open. Two days after that, however, he goes home and starts
putting 20-mile runs on his dogs, running them every other day. This breaks their pace
down just enough so that they can race the [Rondy's] long distance more efficiently. He
wants to go into the Rendezvous with a basic pace of about 18 mph.
So the answer to the original question would depend on how many dogs are in the team in
question, and how fast they were traveling at a distance of 12 miles. If a 5-or 6-dog team
has been running steadily at 12 miles, their most appropriate basic pace for a six-mile
run would almost certainly be faster. Shortening the miles in their training runs would be
a good first step to increasing that basic pace.
In Part Four, Jim will address this question: "If basic
pace training entails conditioning dogs to run steadily at a speed they can't yet hold to
steadily, how do you get enough 'relevant' conditioning on them so they are able to hold a