Team Petit’s Road to Iditarod 2018
By Peter Erickson
Glacier City Gazette Intern
Iditarod 2018 is rapidly approaching and Team Petit is hitting the preseason hard.
Having finished third in last year’s race, Nic Petit is anything but complacent.
“Seaveys are the team to beat,” said Petit during a visit to his home/kennel in Willow. “The last few years it’s been Dallas or his dad Mitch.”
Petit is referring to four-time champion Dallas Seavey and his father, Mitch Seavey, a three-time Iditarod champion. The two have dominated the race for the past five years running, but now folks are saying if anyone’s going to give them a run for their money, it’s Petit. And he certainly seems to have the formula down.
Preseason training days begin and end with food, and the dogs seem to have a wide and varying menu.
“We’ve got this power formula, high protein and fats and then we have some tripe over there, some chicken skins, beef, several kinds of beef and then kibble. We mix that together with some hot water, add some fiber and there you have a soup for the dogs,” said Petit, showcasing his meat trailer.
It was amazing just how much time is spent on feeding and food prep. At the end of the day, after all the dogs were put away, Team Petit would be out in their food trailer, sorting the next day’s meals and consolidating food bags for upcoming races.
“It dominates our lives,” said Petit, elbow deep in a bag of frozen chicken. “We gotta have two of these 50 lb. bags prepped and ready for drop off at each of the checkpoints before the race starts. You see these bags? They’re for a race with just one checkpoint. Now multiply it by each [checkpoint] in the Iditarod and you can see where a lot of the work goes.”
“Thinking about all the drop bags rules our lives from now until we leave on the Iditarod. After doing all that [food prep], going on the race is kind of relaxing,” added Team Petit musher Emily Maxwell with a grin. This year on the Northern Trail there are 22 checkpoints. Twenty-two 50 lb. bags times two gives you over a ton of food (2,200 lbs.), and every pound is hand packaged. That makes for a lot of nights in the meat cooler.
Now that Maxwell is joining in for her first Iditarod, that number doubles. She managed to qualify just last year, so she’s making the training push, with a little added challenge.
“Training season is really just building miles on dogs,” said Maxwell. “We have a lot of new dogs and a lot of them are running with me, so it’s getting to know them and seeing who I think shows the promise to do the mid- distance and Iditarod races.”
Maxwell runs with 12 dogs, the maximum allowed in mid-distance races. Five of those dogs were bought just this year from local mushers and five were borrowed from Scott Janssen, the Mushin’ Mortician, “which helps him because those dogs are getting run and that’s fewer dogs that need to be trained at his kennel,” Maxwell explained.
Besides all the time and effort put into food prep, the team takes the dogs on training runs almost every day.
“We might go do a 70-mile run and then the next day do a 10 or give them a day off,” said Petit. “We’re known amongst mushers for not having a set training schedule. We base it off what we’re seeing from the dog,” added Maxwell.
Team Petit is certainly in touch with its dogs, maintaining a bond and understanding that comes from mutual reliance in the wilderness.
“You gotta take care of the dogs, ya know? You take care of them because they take care of you out there. Happy friendly dogs make fun races,” said Petit.
The list of awards under Petit’s belt is quite impressive. Besides awards in the Willow 300 and the Knik 200, Petit has won the prestigious First to the Yukon award in last year’s Iditarod which consisted of $3,500 and a five-course meal.
“That meal actually kinda slowed me down,” joked Petit. I’m not saying it cost me the race, nothing near that, but you know it was a big meal and I sat there for a while with all that going on.”
The races are the third piece to the preseason training puzzle, and there will be plenty of chances for Maxwell to determine where her new dogs are at.
“It’s helpful for the dogs to run them because they know when they’re in a race,” Maxwell said. “Last year I had a dog that wasn’t too excited to go on training runs but then LOVED races. So there’s that, and it works both ways too so it helps you see what you’ve got.” said Maxwell. There will be plenty of chances for her to determine where her new dogs are at.
Team Petit entered three teams in the Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Sled Dog Race Jan. 6-7. Petit finished the race first for the second consecutive year. Team Petit musher Bradley Farqhar finished seventh while Maxwell was fourteenth.
The next race is the the Copper Basin 300 starting comes up this next weekend on Jan. 13th. Team Petit will field four teams: veteran Iditarod musher Nic Petit, rookie Iditarod musher Emily Maxwell, rookie Iditarod musher Bradley Farquah and Handler/rookie qualifier musher Kelby Dillon.
Coast Pizza sponsored the team by paying Petit’s entry fee for the Copper Basin 300. Petit, Maxwell and Dillon live in Girdwood during summer and train in winter at the kennel in Willow.
Then there is the Tustumena 200, the Willow 300 and three weeks of prep before the Iditarod itself. A full schedule to be sure, but business as usual for team Petit.
“It’s exciting to be going on races now after having a race season under my belt,” said Maxwell. “This year is different because I have a few years’ experience, which gives me a lot more autonomy. I go out on my own runs and we do our own thing. I still go to him [Nic] with questions… look to him for guidance, but as far as going out and training them I decide a lot of that on my own.”
It’s exciting to see our neighbors and their dogs making a name for themselves, especially in such an iconic race as the Iditarod. Perhaps a first place or another rookie of the year is in store for Team Petit.