Diehl runs the Real Diehl Racing Kennels which has about 40 dogs. He is 27 years old, and like him, most of his dogs are young up and comers. They include Jeff King and John Little blood lines.
Diehl says he caught the mushing bug very early on. As a child, he watched teams racing the K300.
“As a kid, I just loved watching teams cruising through Aniak,” Diehl said. “And then we’d go to Kalskag and watch. I think when I was little I knew right away what I wanted to do.”
The way was paved for him by his father, Dave Diehl, who was also a musher. Growing up, Diehl helped with daily dog chores feeding and cleaning up the yard.
“You know, it was never really a chore to me,” said Diehl. “It was something fun being around the dogs because at the end of the day my dad would let me take a small team out and run them.”
His dad even gave him a retired leader named Smokey for a pet, who would follow him around town. It’s just one of many fond memories he has of growing up with dogs.
By the time Diehl was in his early 20s, he knew he wanted to race professionally. To that end, he has worked his summers in Bethel trying to make as much money as he can to let him train full-time in the winter. He relies on his father to care for the dogs when he’s not in Aniak. He says the most important thing for taking mushing to the next level is having the right support around him. And he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
“You have to have people around you who are willing to sacrifice a little bit to help out,” Diehl said. “In some ways, it kind of seems a little selfish. . .I mean, I’ve been lucky because my family is in to it, my dad really likes it. And so, I’ve got pretty good support around me.”
As a rural musher, he also relies on feeding his dogs a combination diet of food from the land, like fish, as well as a commercial diet. He says buying commercial meat is expensive but it helps keep weight on the dogs.
Diehl has several mid distance races under his belt. He took third place in last year’s Sheep Mountain 150 and 4th place in the Paul Johnson 450. He plans to run his first Iditarod this year, which is playing into his K300 strategy. It will be a balance of being competitive and running safely.
“I have a smaller kennel so I need to get as many dogs as I can to the finish line on the Kusko so I can have these dogs to pick from for the Iditarod,” said Diehl. “And I think that to me I’ll keep as many dogs healthy and trying to run at a decent pace too at the same time.”
This will be Diehl’s fourth running of the K300.