Hello Race fans,
I throughly start to enjoy catching up with the 2020 Pedigree® Stage Stop Race Mushers. Some are easier to reach than others. Fernando Ramirez was fast to respond and what an interesting talk we had. He is hailing from beautiful Peoa Utah ( near Park City for geographically challenged people like me ). This is how Fernando introduced himself:
“I’ve been racing sled dogs since I was in elementary school. I remember the very first year Pedigree was started. I was racing a 4 dog sprint race in Alpine, WY. Just before I was going to walk to the start line with my dogs, The announcer called everyones attention over to the tree line in the distance. “everyone look over toward the tree line” He said. “there you will see the best mushers in the world competing in the first annual International Pedigree® Stage Stop Race Race! I was hooked. I was determined to race this from that day on. Somehow, I would make it to the line. I must have been 9 years old at the time. It was in the mid 90’s. ”
He never let that goal out of his sights, started the Luna Lobos Race Team and in 2018 Fernando raced the 8 dog class, loved it and moved up to the full race last year finishing 17th out of 24 starters. There is something special about people who carry a deep passion. Fernando seems to be one of those guys. This video shows how passionate he is about his dogs, the lifestyle they afford him and of course his participation in the Stage Stop Race.
With running a tour kennel, touring and racing are a difficult balance. I know that from own experience all too well. Racing typically does not pay the bill, dog tours do. As much fun as it is to introduce novices to the sport of mushing and giving them a great experience, standing at a starting line of a race is pretty hard to beat. Fernando and his wife Dana have been giving educational tours for 10 years, the ride part ( on tandem sleds ) is short, only about 35 minutes using 7 to 8 dogs. While that is better than being away from home and working a 8 to 5 job, it is not quite the training the dogs need for racing.
There are 70 dogs in the Luna Lobos Dogyard, mostly Alaskans, a few Sibes. One thing they all have in common is that they are mostly rescue dogs. That reminds me a bit of my beginning years also, where I would pick up tour dogs from the Second Chance League in Fairbanks. A few of those ended up being good racers too, I still have fond memories of ” Grumpy Jack “. He was definitely not cut out to run tours, but boy did he excel racing. Giving tours and training the race team ” after hours ” in the dark, up into the mountains for sure make for long days for Fernando. If you do, what you love, no big deal.
Training in earnest started on October 1st and is now about 700 miles in. I think Fernando knows a thing or 2 about athletic training. He used to competitively run Marathon and 10K. Lately I am doing some running myself. I could not help asking him for his 10K runtime: Under 30 minutes. O.K…… that is more than a bit of casual running ( I am damn near dying of a heart attack trying to get under 40 minutes ). Not surprising to hear that Fernando used to run for the US NIKE TEAM. Am trading some dog training tips for running tips.
Just am afraid Fernando does not need any of my antiquated racing tips…. Having put your own body through some vigorous training will definitely give Fernando an advantage. He has first hand felt, what certain exercises did to his body and how it felt if you overdid it. He said that he held his dogs back a bit too much last year. Likely a wise choice doing so. It is much easier to up the game, than to come back from a nagging injury. Days off in Training are important. Equally as much as training itself. In the Luna Lobos World those off days mean playtime, romping around loose, as a pack, or going on hikes. That is a nice way to loosen up. One challenge Fernando is facing, that his training conditions are not as cool, as most of the other mushers can train at. Definitely much warmer than where Jeff Conn or Lina Streeper are training.
One of my questions is always how many dogs from last year are you running? ” I am running 5 dogs from last year, a few rescues and I got a call from Bruce Magnusson“. Now that is a good call to get. Fernando was quick to add how much those Magnusson dogs have benefitted his team. The youngest dog will be 2.5 years old, the oldest 7. The ratio of Female to Male dogs is half and half. Heather, Opra and Montana are his go to leaders. ” Montana is my little guy and much looks like a giant Jack Russel “. His training regimen is anything from 1 day on, 1 day off to also running 3 days on and 4 days off. Living only about 4 hrs from the start means he can wait till the day before the Vet Check to travel down. While the Stage Stop is his big race, travel will take the Luna Lobos dogs up the ” The Pas ” in Manitoba afterwards.
On a final note, Fernando wanted to point out:” We are racing for our non-profit called Sledding For Hope. Everything we make in prize money, we will donate to my grandmothers village in Mexico providing food program for children, clothing, and educational materials. This is something I have been passionate about doing for so long ” A bit more about that here: