By Ed Moreth 

DOG DAYS OF WINTER

Mushers give kids new experience

 

March 21, 2019

Ed Moreth

SLED STUFF – Patrick Roy shows the Plains Elementary School students what type of items he takes on his sled when competing. His daughter, Alyeska (left of him) and his girlfriend, Kiyha Brost, helped with the show.

Students from Hot Springs and Plains schools took a break from spelling and arithmetic to get a ride in the snow, compliments of Patrick Roy and his girlfriend, Kiyha Brost, both of Plains, who brought six Alaskan husky sled dogs to the schools.

Roy and Brost spent about two hours last Thursday at Hot Springs Elementary School, where his dogs pulled a dozen second-graders from the class of Felicia Wickum, Roy's mother, on a path at the school. Two weeks ago, he took the dogs and one of his sleds to Plains Elementary School, where Brost took kids, two at a time, on a trip around the football field. Roy used his snowmobile the day before to make a path in the two-foot high snow at the school.

"They loved it and I loved it," said Plains teacher Meg Feist, who had a musher give students rides in 2009, when she was a teacher at St. Regis Elementary School.

Feist said she was grateful that Roy shared his dog sled knowledge at the school. The students of Feist and Lindsey McGee, also a second grade teacher, followed the 938-mile Alaska Iditarod race this year, tracking the teams as they navigated the course from Willow to Nome. Her students picked one of the competitors and wrote a short biography on their musher. "They checked on their musher each day and recorded their progress on a sheet," said Feist. "Each classroom purchased the Iditarod Insider so we could watch all the videos and also access the GPS Tracker which shows live time. Our classes also followed the weather and made comparisons between the places," she added.


Feist drove Roy's dog sled team around the football field twice, getting stuck for a short time once on a sharp corner. "I was nervous driving the team around the track the first time, then I was amazed at how quickly I figured out what I needed to do to keep the sled on the trail," she said. "It was truly a dream come true as I have followed the Iditarod for years. I would have tried doing this in my youth if I had discovered it then, but I think I'd best just observe it at this time of my life."

"The kids were super excited about this experience," said McGee, who also took kids for a ride with the dog sled around the track. Roy and Brost spent about two hours giving the 32 students rides and showing them what he packs on his sled, but he said petting the dogs seemed to be their favorite part of the visit.

It's the Ididarod that Roy has his sights on for 2021. "That's like the Super Bowl or World Series of dog racing," said the 32-year-old Plains man, who's no stranger to dog sled racing. He competed as a youngster, taking first place in one race, but he's been wanting to get back into the competition ever since. About 10 months ago he bought 20 dogs to start working toward his dream. He and Brost now have 31 dogs with pups expected this year.


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"I love doing this. There's nothing else that I've done that ever challenged me like this," said Roy. "It's the most extreme thing that I've done. You're going for five hours at a time, but you're not just standing; you're pushing and running and steering and braking when going down hills. It's tough but I love it," said Roy. "After five hours, you get pretty exhausted and that's when sleep deprivation really kicks in," he said. The dogs get a good workout, too. After every run, he gives each animal a full body massage.

Roy took fourth place in the 100-mile Race to the Sky in Montana in February with a dozen dogs pulling his nine-foot sled. He normally carries about 100 pounds of food and gear on his sled during a race. Competitors in February started out in Lincoln Valley with temperatures dipping 59 degrees below zero, with the wind chill. Roy finished the race at Seeley Lake 18 hours later with the temperature around 12 below.

The racing isn't just for Roy. The 27-year-old Brost and his 10-year-old daughter, Alyeska, "Aly," are training nearly every day for races this year and next. In December, all three will compete in the West Yellowstone Rodeo Run Dog Sled Race. Roy is also planning to participate in the 200-mile Eagle Cap Extreme in Oregon next January and the 300-mile Sled Dog Challenge in Idaho in February.

The three started training in August with the dogs running alongside a four-wheeler. Once the snow came, they used the sleds, going on different surfaces and for various distances and at different intervals. They also tackled longer distances and camped for short periods of times to rest the dogs, eventually getting up to 200 miles. Roy said he tries to pick areas that would simulate terrain of the Ididarod.

They also mix up the teams and lead dogs during training, but his most experienced dogs are "Shout," at 8 years old, and "Harley" at 9. He said he has a special bond with all of them and can tell which dog is barking without looking. With 31 dogs, it takes about an hour every day to shovel up poop and he goes through about 40 pounds of dog food in a day and a half. He also gives them meat and fat every day.

To get familiar with the Ididarod route, he plans go to be a volunteer at next year's race. He said he knows one thing for sure – he'll never quit dog sledding again. "I love it. It's something I'll be doing forever."

Ed Moreth

SNOWY THRILL – Plains Elementary School teacher Meg Feist takes Zoey Halden and James Dyck on a sled ride at the school.

 

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