Aniak's Richie Diehl finished 6th in last year's Iditarod. This year, before he began his run up and over the tough Alaska range, Diehl took time at the Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage to talk to KNOM's Ben Matheson.
Ben Matheson: Richie Diehl. You’re coming off your top Iditarod finish in 2018 and a good Kusko run this year. How has your training so far set you up for this year’s race?
Richie Diehl: After the Kusko we had a pretty good warm spell there where we lost a lot of our snow, but we were still able to get out. After that week it’s been pretty good, consistent running. It will be a good run.”
Matheson: What does your team look like in terms of veterans? Young?
Diehl: There’s 11 Iditarod veterans in this team and three 2-year-olds that will be going. It’s a pretty solid group.
Matheson: What do you look for in Richie Diehl-style dogs? What characteristics that you really shoot for?
Diehl: I don’t know. I like a bigger, smooth-trotting dog with a nice coat. That’s what a lot of these guys are. It’s definitely taken me a while to get to this point. I really like the dog I’m starting to get now.
Matheson: How do you mentally prepare yourself for, given all that is going to have to happen over the next ten or so days? What are the mental techniques that you may have developed?
Diehl: A lot of it is just acclimating yourself the first couple of days in the race, and after that it’s pretty much, you know, get into a rhythm and pretty much turn into a robot and do your thing.
Matheson: How do you choose the dogs you take now. Have you made your decision on your 14?
Diehl: I have my 14 picked out here. The 11 veterans that I have here, they have been solid for a while. There’s no doubt that most likely they would be going. Then I wanted to add a little more youth to the team too, so that’s these three 2-year-olds that I have. They’re a fun group. I really like them, so it will be fun taking them.
Matheson: I suppose the first couple of days there’s a little more ups and downs, maybe a little more technical mushing than some of the later sections. How do you train your dogs to do the steps, do the gorge, and do the most technical parts of the trail?
Diehl: Well it’s kind of hard to train for that because you don’t, especially coming from Western Alaska where there’s a lot of flat land, you don’t really see windy trails. You don’t see the mountains and stuff. It’s not new to us, but I mean, we know what to expect and we’ll deal with it when we get there.
Matheson: If we can shoot forward to the future and look back to the 2019 race, what do you want to look back on and say you did this year and that you and your team accomplished?
Diehl: You want to get a good healthy team to the finish line. That’s the number one priority. And then once you take care of the dogs, if the dogs are taken cared of, well, then good things happen. Just take good care of them and we’ll move down the trail at a nice clip.
Matheson: Well thanks Richie, and we’ll see you down the trail.
Diehl: Thanks Ben.