Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 17, 2005

Sled dog racer is ready for season

By Heidi Stutelberg

The excitement of 10 Siberian huskies was quite obvious as they howled, yipped, and leaped because they knew it would soon be time to run.

As Lowell Schwarzrock of rural Lester Prairie, talked about his dog sled team, the training, and the races they’ve experienced and won, he spoke in the terms of “we.”

“‘We will be racing there, or ‘we’ go out for 12 mile runs,” he would say.

Schwarzrock watched his first sled dog race back in 1999 on Lake Minnetonka.

He had the chance to help somebody at the starting line with his team and ended up buying two dogs from him after the race.

“I fell in love with the power of the animal.,” Schwarzrock said.

Since that day, Schwarzrock has built a team of his own with 21 dogs ranging from 6 months to almost 9 years of age.

His six six-month-old puppies will soon be ready to go into harnesses and start pulling.

Generally, Schwarzrock and his team start training for races in the fall using the 120 factor.

“When the temperature and humidity get to 120, then we start training,” Schwarzrock said. They usually start training around Labor Day, but this year it wasn’t cool enough and weren’t able to start until the end of September.

Due to the lack of snow this winter, the team pulls Schwarzrock riding his four-wheeler instead of a dog sled.

When Schwarzrock and the team head out of Lester Prairie for racing, the huskies ride in the back of an ’85 Chevy cube van with the dog sleds strapped on top.

Last year, Oreo and Asia, the most powerful dogs, along with two other dogs, won a freight race in Coon Rapids.

The sled carried 50 pounds of dog food per dog plus Schwarzrock a little over four miles. His dog team also placed second in another sprint race a previous year.

They compete in about three races a year.

Providing there’s snow, Schwarzrock and his dogs are going to a 6 mile sprint race in Cannon Falls, the Beargrease Race, a 150-mile race in Duluth, and also to Drummond Island, Michigan, where they will be ferrying across a river to the island in Lake Huron.

This will be their first year of competing in a long distance race of more than 100 miles. Previously, the races have been 12 miles or 36 milers.

By competing in the 150-mile Beargrease Race, they will qualify for next year’s 430-mile Beargrease Marathon.

In the marathon, a minimum of five dogs must finish the race, so Schwarzrock will need to figure out which dogs can make it.

In case a dog is injured, rest stations along the way are provided to care for injured dogs until the end of the marathon.

Schwarzrock also mentioned that a good family movie to watch about a teenage boy and his dog sled team, based on a true story, is “Iron Will.”

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