Tuesday, November 24, 2009
What would it be like if 8 of your 16-dog team all refused to run simultaneously?
Or if you had a 6-dog team and 3 wouldn't stay on the trail?
Well, it happened to me. I have a 2-dog team and half of them balked.
Oh, did I mention I'm a rookie?
She doesn't LOOK like trouble...
Alice, my female, has always been nervous and skittish. She's fine while running, but anytime we stop, she acts scared of the quad. Last weekend, she just didn't want to go. She turned sideways, put her head against her brother's side, and pushed him off the trail. Repeatedly. Even when he wanted to go, we couldn't move. I left her behind, but after a single loop, Nick was ready to go hang out with her.
This went on for two days.
What's a musher to do? Look at the problem and come up with a solution.
I've been working them fairly hard, especially considering we're a 2-dog team. We have over 200 miles behind us, usually running 12 - 16 miles on the weekend, and maybe a couple of 8-mile runs during the week. Even though I don't have an actual race in front of me, I am trying to learn how to train for when I have a full team and want to run a 30 miler. So I gave them the week off.
I drove the quad every time I went to the dog lot, so they would associate it with good feelings. I parked it where they could sniff it and check it out. I left it there for hours some days.
I drove it around the farm, grooming trails, letting them get excited. I also lengthened the rope from the quad to the gangline to get them a little farther away from the noise.
My trail started at their houses, twisted around the farm and headed down a cornfield waterway, where it looped at .8 miles, and ran back. I straightened out part of it, avoiding the stretch where it ended right at their houses. I gave it a new half-mile stretch, and put the loops so that there isn't a true beginning or end, it is actually an endless loop for 2 miles.
I also decided to do some basic obedience work, so I taught them to "stay down". Alice is doing pretty good, she still wants to put her paw on my leg at first, when she is excited. After watching me work with Alice, Nick learned in 5 minutes!
After a week, it was time to put the plan into action. And once we got moving, it seemed to work. The new stretches are great, we are running fast when we pass near the houses, and we don't stop on the loops. There are still a couple of moments when we argue, at the new turns that they are learning, and I still have to stop and pull them on the new path. I'd say we are 80% improved.
But I know that in mushing, it is "2 steps forward, one step back" so a setback is expected.
Who knew that mushing would be so mentally taxing?
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Nearly half an hour later, over five miles, we had to stop running. We didn't want to, didn't have to, but I needed to. Chores and off to work. Work to afford this pleasure. This union of souls and goals - we just like moving!
It was the wind in my eyes that caused the tears - no, really!
Monday, September 7, 2009
There is a Zen thing with the dogs - feeding, cleaning, harnessing, running - it seems to make sense that their happiness depends on me, and my happiness depends on them.
The simple, daily act of caring for them is a routine, a ritual, that is soothing and familiar. In it, I find a calm feeling of balance.
There is nothing dirty, or gross, with them. (Well, maybe their breath! “BBID” – Bad Breath In Dogs!) As a new parent learns the joys of baby poop and vomit, so, too, the musher learns the intimate details of his dog’s waste. We learn to recognize subtle changes in texture and color. The poop, it speaks to me!
And then, the running. There is something about the early morning...it is quiet, calm and peaceful. The weather is cool, but not cold yet. Mist is in the air, and fog over the river. Birds are singing, dogs are barking. They want to run. They know that I know they want to. I try not to talk to them and get them excited, which they quickly learn means we ARE going to run!
Hooking up can be an adventure, as the dogs tremble with excitement and can hardly contain themselves. (Or can NOT, in Alice’s case!) But once we are in motion, the dogs change. They RUN! They were born to run, bred to run, they have it in their genes, from generations of ancestors, they are runners.
Muscles rippling, bodies in synch, we go. We go. We don’t like to stop. They look at me with that inquisitive look dogs have, the “What the devil?” look. Alice gets nervous, Nick just stands there, slowly wagging his tail, waiting to go. Oh sure, I can give them some loving attention, but that is not what they are wanting. They want me to ask them “Are you ready?” The answer, as always, is “YES!”
And we’re off, down the trail, through the landscape, moving, enjoying, loving life and each other.
Nature, peace, love, happiness - what a sport!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Crisp and clear, 52 degrees, cool weather forecast for the rest of the week, so I decided - "Let the season begin!"
The dogs knew it, could sense the change in the air. When we have cool days, they've been looking at me like, "Well?" We all knew it was time.
Two dogs are not a lot, but they're what I've got - for now. Which one to hook up first? The other one will throw a fit. Hmm, as I did last Spring, start with Alice, because her fits are worse. Of course, she tangles herself up before I even get Nicky harnessed - first tangle of the year and we're not even hooked up yet!
But eventually, both are harnessed, hooked to the tuglines and the neckline in tact.
"Line out!" I command. (Suggest?) They respond!
So far, so good. I snap their picture, like the first day of school, and climb aboard the quad. Man, do I like this view:
"Ready, guys? Let's go!" We take off, and immediately go off the trail.
Now, these are sprint dogs, and not "Gee Haw" leaders, so I know that we'll struggle as we learn the new trail. This trail goes around our acreage, across the yard, around the garden, a couple of loops through the trees and tall grass, until it straightens out for a nice long stretch through the cornfield waterway. A full loop is 1.33 miles. Today's goal: complete a loop!
Where the trail is obvious, we run. When it opens up to the yard, they stray off the trail. Alice runs on the left and pushes against Nicky's shoulder, and pushes him off the trail, towards the dog yard. I stop a lot, pull them over to the trail, love 'em up, jump on the quad as I tell them to "Hike!" We take off, and run anywhere from 5 feet to 100 feet down the trail. It's exhilarating when we're moving - we start to air it out just a bit to stretch our legs, but there are areas that take excrutiatingly long to get through: the big loop through the East Lawn is only slightly worn down and although marked with flags, we have trouble finding our way. But, eventually we make it all the way back, with much more success on the return run. The doggers do great with all the intersections, and Alice actually pulls Nick the right way on occasion! I'm so proud!
One lap and we're finished. I could go more, but they're both straining towards their houses. Ok, it's the first day, we're done. Water all around. Easy unhook, time for breakfast. Life as a sled dog is eating, sleeping, running.
Fall is here, dogs are running, life is good!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Alice can be trusted to free run around the farm. She doesn’t run off and she comes when she’s called. After she runs for a while, she is ready to be back on her chain again. Nicky is another story. He totally ignores us. He refuses to even return to the part of the yard that we are at. The last time he was free, he went onto the road and into a field. He just cannot be trusted.
So last night I put Nicky on the zip line and let Alice free. Usually whichever one isn’t on the zip line whines the entire time, so I thought this way they’ll both get to run around. But Nicky was jealous and he wanted to free run, too! He ended up pacing and running back and forth along the line, which is actually the intended use. Normally he just sniffs around the trees and bushes and doesn’t exercise. So they both burned off some of that pent-up sled dog energy. I think it was quite the success!
Now, come on cool weather, we want to hook up that quad and hit the trail!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Since I hope to pick up another couple of dogs to race the 4-dog class, I made it one-and-a-third of a mile in length, so three laps is 4 miles. It's got a lot of sharp corners, but that can't be avoided. There are a couple of nice, long straightaways.
After the corn is harvested, I have permission to run a snowmobile trail through some nearby woods that would give me a 2-mile loop.
I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to race this coming season, as I still need to invest in a couple more dogs and a good sled, but we'll see.
At least I get to run around it on the quad, but it sure makes Alice mad: "Hey, I want to pull that thing!"
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
1 Matt Hayashida Willow AK
2 R Kurt Reich Divide CO
3 Ken Anderson Fairbanks AK
4 Ryan Redington Wasilla AK
5 R Jane Faulkner Kasilof AK
6 Lance Mackey Fairbanks AK
7 Karin Hendrickson Chugiak AK
8 R Nancy Yoshida Thompson ND
9 Jessie Royer Fairbanks AK
10 R Newton Marshall St. Anne Jamaica
11 R Quinn Iten Kotzebue AK
12 Sue Allen Wasilla AK
13 Lynda Plettner Houston AK
14 Cindy Gallea Seeley Lake MT Canada
15 Jeff Deeter Wasilla AK
16 Jim Lanier Chugiak AK
17 Robert Nelson Anchorage AK
18 Cim Smyth Big Lake AK
19 Jeff King Denali AK
20 Sven Haltmann Willow AK
21 Terry Adkins Sand Coulee MT
22 Ramey Smyth Willow AK
23 Michael Suprenant Chugiak AK
24 Hans Gatt Whitehorse YK Canada
25 Sonny Lindner Two Rivers AK
26 R Emil Churchin Anchorage AK
27 Kirk Barnum Seeley Lake MT
28 R Kim Darst Blairstown NJ
29 R Justin Savidis Willow AK
30 R Kathleen Frederick Willow AK
31 R Hank Debruin Haliburton Ontario Canada
32 Ross Adam Grande Prairie Alberta Canada
33 Linwood Fiedler Willow AK
34 Martin Buser Big Lake AK
35 Allen Moore Two Rivers AK
36 Mitch Seavey Seward AK
37 R Tamara Rose Fairbanks AK
38 Gerald Sousa Two Rivers AK
39 William Pinkham Glenwood Spring CO
40 R Scott White Woodinville WA
41 Dallas Seavey. Seward AK
42 Zack Steer Sheep Mtn. AK
43 R William Johnson Unalakleet AK
44 R Pat Moon Chicago IL
45 Sebastian Schnuelle Whitehorse YT Canada
46 Blake Frekking Finland MN
47 Fabrizio Lovati Brenua Italy
48 R Dave DeCaro Denali Park AK
49 R Michelle Phillips Tagish YT Canada
50 Zoya DeNure Gakona AK
51 Aliy Zirkle Two Rivers AK
52 Dee Dee Jonrowe Willow AK
53 Paul Gebhardt Kasilof AK
54 R Wattie McDonald Stonehaven Scotland UK
55 Karen Ramstead Perryvale AB Canada
56 R Chris Adkins Sand Coulee AK
57 Ray Redington Jr. Wasilla AK
58 John Baker Kotzebue AK
59 R Kristy Berrington Kasilof AK
60 Warren Palfrey Quesnel BC Canada
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
She journals the entire race, checkpoint-by-checkpoint, detailing the stops along the way. From the personal logic behind each decision, to the descriptions of the obstacles along the way, this is an insider's view of the race that few outside of the participants ever get. Whether you're a professional musher looking for an edge, or an amateur hoping to learn, or a fan just wanting the entertainment, Aily's notes are required reading!
Monday, June 22, 2009
To the north is our windbreak, behind that is a cornfield and across that is the woods that we'll run in the winter. I chose this location to be close to the house and easily viewed from inside. Each dog has a tree to the SW to provide shade, plus they can dig at the base. There is room for four more dogs, one more in this row and then three could be in a row across from them.
I used some old water pipes we had on hand, and bought the rebar swivel from Cold Spot Feeds for their stake outs.
I made the single-sheet plywood dog houses with the plans from Jon Little.
Alice and Nicky can reach each other and have a nice big hole between them. I gave them a nice log to play with and they take turns pulling it across the hole to their individual circles.
Alice loves to run around her entire circle, while Nicky runs along this side of his, then hops around to jog back.
They can see the driveway when cars pull up and they can see to the farm dogs in their run out by the barn. With bird feeders nearby they can watch them, as well as stalk the chickens who come to feed beneath.
I have a fifty-foot zip line behind them between two trees that they can run around on for exercise. Alice does great free-running but Nicky won't return reliably, so he is limited to the zip line for now. I hope to build a larger fenced in area for them to run, time and money allowing.
It sure is heartwarming to look out and see sled dogs in the yard!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Jan DeNapoli has great photographs of mushing and other outdoor activities, plus she offers mushing tours and other adventures.
Northern Light Media
Owned by Mark and Helen Hegener, they provide race coverage, photos, and information about sled dog racing in Alaska, as well as producing books and videos, including “Appetite and Attitude: A Conversation with Lance Mackey,” the popular DVD with the champion musher.
Veteran television producer Donna Quante has released the well-received "Pretty Sled Dogs" DVD about Iditarod veteran Karen Ramstead and her siberians, plus other mushing-related video projects, with more in the works.
A complete source for all types of mushing information, operated by Theresa Daily. News, race updates, photos and videos, and links, this is a comprehensive collection of information on all types of mushing and mushers.
Your time would be well spent perusing these fine websites, no matter what your interest or knowledge of mushing may be!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I get out the quad and the harnesses - this is gonna be great! The dogs are fired up, they want to go! I get them hooked up (Alice was a challenge, she can't stay still) at the quad, parked by the trailhead, twenty feet in front of us.
I had cut a short walking trail around an acre of mostly grass and weeds with a few trees and scrub brush - the "East Woods" as we hope it will become. It is crossed by a grassy waterway that runs a quarter mile down through a cornfield. "They will just follow any trail" I was told, and I think that the waterway "looks" like a trail. I fire up the quad and yell "Hike!" and the dogs pull completely to the side, around towards the back! So I go up and talk to them, and pull them toward the trailhead. A couple of false starts later (I am working on remaining calm) and we actually get moving! We make a fifty foot run and hit the junction with the waterway. "Haw" commands the dog driver. Straight run the sled dogs. I stop and pull them to the left. "Right here, let's go" I tell them. Eventually, we head down the waterway. Hmm, it's really wide and nothing like a trail, I realize. Part way down, we stop and I physically turn them around and we actually RUN back up to the East Woods trail! Yay, I'm a MUSHER! Sweet, this is fun! We go around the trail (they DO follow a trail) and come back to the waterway. "Haw" commands the driver, straight run the sled dogs. Time to jump off the quad and pull them to the "trail". This is a good workout for me, I'm working up a sweat already! Down the waterway, stop, drag them around, back to the trail. This is fun when we're running, but we need to work on our "Gee" and "Haw".
After about a mile and a half, I turn them around and we head back to the kennel. Hey, they'll run that way! We unhook and get petted and watered. I was a bit frustrated, I waited years to actually "mush" and it wasn't very smooth. Mrs. Loon reminds me that it is our first run and I knew that we will ALL be learning, but you know, I just wanted it to be easy!
Stay tuned for more later...
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
June 5, 2009
Ocho Rios, Jamaica Three-time Iditarod and four-time Yukon Quest champion Lance Mackey will be training Jamaica Dogsled Team musher Newton Marshall as he prepares to race the Iditarod in 2010.
“I was fortunate to have Hans Gatt train me over the past two years and help me finish the Yukon Quest” said Marshall. “Now I will get the chance to work with another champion – he has won three Iditarods! I know I can do this race.”
Marshall successfully completed the Yukon Quest last year in thirteenth place. He was awarded the Spirit of the North Award by the Race Officials of the Yukon Quest. Last week in Jamaica, Marshall was presented with a special award from the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce for his success in dog sledding and the whole team was there with him to celebrate.
“We are thrilled to be working with Lance Mackey’s Comeback Kennels as we prepare for the Iditarod,” said Danny Melville, President and team founder. “The new terrain, dog team, training races and style of Lance and his kennels will all help Newton as he prepares for the Iditarod.”
Marshall and sprint musher Damion Robb both have an impressive schedule of races planned for 2009-10 that will culminate with the Iditarod in March.
“We cannot wait to work with Newton,” said Tonya Mackey of Comeback Kennel, Inc. “He has shown his dedication to the sport of sled dog racing and we are excited to have the opportunity to get him ready for the Iditarod. Plus, we will get to show him some Alaskan hospitality!”
The team dogs in Jamaica are rescued from the streets or from the Jamaican Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (JSPCA). A portion of proceeds from the Jamaica Dogsled Tours and DVD sales on the team website benefits the JSPCA. The Jamaica Dogsled Team is sponsored by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Chukka Caribbean Adventures, WestJet Vacations, Alpine Aviation and Annamaet Petfoods.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
They landed in Minneapolis about 5:40am, about 15 minutes early. We were at the Northwestern Cargo office at about 6:45, as they said it would be about an hour until they would arrive there after landing. After 15 (nervous) minutes waiting, they were here! I signed some papers and backed my pickup to the loading dock. Pulling up on a forklift were the 2 carriers on a pallet. We quickly loaded them into my truck. Both dogs were nervous and growling. Nothing to do at that point but get them home as fast as possible!
About half an hour towards home, I received a call on my cell from the cargo office. You "forgot" the paperwork! What, after I signed the receipt, I asked if that was all I needed. Oh, the veterinary certificates and the Pedigrees were left behind. Did I want to turn around and get them? Oh, and add an hour and a half to the 4-hour drive home for the poor doggies who have been cooped up for 10 hours already? Can they mail them to me? We should be able to...
After we got out of town, we stopped at McD's for breakfast, and I talked to the dogs. Nicky was a little less bothered, and he accepted treats. Alice was quite concerned and wouldn't take the treats from me. But at least they had both settled down some.
Four hours later we arrived home in Iowa. I had their chains and houses set up and ready for them. We locked up the farm dogs (see earlier mushing posts) so there would be less distractions. Then came time to reach into a kennel and grab the growling dogs by their collar and pull them out! I knew to be calm and confident and Nicky came out easily, he was glad to get out of that box. Alice was more nervous (foreshadowing) and I had to be a bit more forceful with her. Once out, they were excited by all the smells! That evening, we took them for a walk around their new farm and we all got along fabulously!
These photos are from their first night with us. You can see they are still a little uncertain...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Nicky is a nice strong boy with some leader training and Alice is a pretty little girl who just wants to go fast. Both are being worked in lead during the off-season ATV training.
Born two years ago in New Jersey, they spent the last year living and working in Willow Alaska for Mushing Magazine publisher Greg Sellentin and has wife Jane.
Stay tuned for much more about these fine athletes and their integration into our kennel in the coming weeks.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Recommended reading: Laughing Eyes Kennel Journal by Hugh NeffThis quote from Hugh's blog gives you an idea of his personality:
"Known as one of the more 'oddball characters' of our sport allows me the opportunity to speak my mind w/out fear of repercussions from sponsors. All of our sponsors are our friends, not just someone looking to make a buck off of our name. Hugh Neff , I promise you, will never be some 'walking billboard'- we're here to play with dogs not sell our soul."
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennels will be featured on the Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe starting this Sunday, April 12, at 9:00pm Eastern.
It will repeat several times during the week.
Check out the Discovery Channel schedule here http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-schedules/s ... 321.4062.x
Monday, April 6, 2009
1 Lance Mackey
2 Sebastian Schnuelle
3 John Baker
4 Mitch Seavey
5 Cim Smyth
6 Dallas Seavey
7 Aaron Burmeister
8 Jessie Royer
9 Ramey Smyth
10 Hans Gatt
11 Sonny Lindner
12 Jeff King
13 DeeDee Jonrowe
14 Ken Anderson
15 Hugh Neff
16 Paul Gebhardt
17 Aliy Zirkle
18 Martin Buser
19 Warren Palfrey
20 Ray Redington, Jr
21 Matt Hayashida
22 Sven Haltmann
23 Linwood Fiedler
24 Gerry Willomitzer
25 Rick Swenson
26 Judy Currier
27 Gerald Sousa
28 Bruce Linton
29 Robert Nelson
30 Chad Lindner R
31 Jake Berkowitz
32 Ed Stielstra
33 Allen Moore
34 Robert Bundtzen
35 Jim Lanier
36 Ryan Redington
37 Harry T Alexie R
38 Bill Cotter
39 Rick Larson
40 Karin Hendrickson
41 Cindy Gallea
42 Mike Williams
43 Jen Seavey R
44 Tom Thurston R
45 Rachael Scdoris
46 Tim Osmar
47 Wade Marrs R 18 year old rookie and this years’ youngest musher
48 Trent Herbst
49 Michael Suprenant R
50 Eric Rogers
51 Heather Siirtola
52 Dr. Timothy Hunt R Red Lantern
Alan Peck R
Lou Packer R
Blake Matray R
Kim Darst R
Kurt Reich R
Rob Loveman R
Nancy Yoshida R
* R = Rookie
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The final mushers are in Nome:
47 Wade Marrs, the 18 year old rookie and this years’ youngest musher
48 Trent Herbst
49 Michael Suprenant
50 Eric Rogers
51 Heather Siirtola
And the Red Lantern winner in 52nd place:
Dr. Timothy Hunt, a former veterinarian many times on the Iditarod may times, a rookie musher on the Iditarod, experienced on many other races, the Grande Odyssee in Europe.
Complete standings, recap and trail stories to come.
Monday, March 23, 2009
44 Tom Thurston, rookie
45 Rachael Scdoris, blind musher and her interpreter
46 Tim Osmar
18 year old rookie Wade Marrs is on his way to Nome
In White Mountain
On their way to White Mountain
Alan Peck scratched in Shaktoolik
Sunday, March 22, 2009
38 - 42 have finished:
38 Bill Cotter
39 Rick Larson
40 Karin Hendrickson
41 Cindy Gallea
42 Mike Williams
Jen Seavey has left White Mountain, heading for the finish
In White Mountain
Timothy Hunt is in Koyuk
Alan Peck is in Shaktoolik
David Sawatzky scratched just outside of Nome
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Rookie Chad Lindner is the top finishing rookie, in 30th place. Linder, 30, is the son of Iditarod veteran Sonny Lindner . Born in Fairbanks, Chad will return to Boston, Massachusetts, where he will begin his legal career.
Runner up rookie and National Guardsman Harry T Alexie is also in Nome, finishing in 37th place.
30 Chad Lindner
31 Jake Berkowitz
32 Ed Stielstra
33 Allen Moore
34 Robert Bundtzen
35 Jim Lanier
36 Ryan Redington
37 Harry T Alexie
Everyone is across the Norton Bay except these are crossisng
Dr. Timothy Hunt is movving up the coast to Shaktoolik and
Alan Peck is resting at Old Woman Cabin, heading to Unalakleet.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Rookie Chad Linder left White Mountain 18 minutes before Ed Stielstra, fighting for the final paying position. 30th receives $1,800 while the rest of the fnishers receive a symbolic $1,049 (representing the stated miles of the race, and the 49th state in the Union)
Ray Redington, Jr
Ray Redington, Jr
Chand Linder is in White Mountain and should have Rookie of the Year wrapped up
19-year-old Melissa Owens turned around and returned to Elim to scratch.. The Nome musher stated it was in the best interest of the team.
Similar to Ed Iten, apparently the trip across the Norton Bay wore the team out.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Battle for top 20
Ray Redington, Jr
Scratched in Elim
Mitch Seavey is leading the race for 4th by 40 to 50 minutes over this tight pack:
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
John Baker to get 3rd
The race for 4th (with White Mountain out times):
Aaron Burmeister 18:26:00
Mitch Seavey 18:30:00
Cim Smyth 18:53:00
Dallas Seavey 19:04:00
Jessie Royer 19:20:00
Lance becomes 3-time consecutive winner.
Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker are racing to 2nd place, reportedly less than a minute apart, just outside of Nome!
Lance Mackey is leaving White Mountain right now, 5:20am CDT. Depending on the weather, it could be 8 to 12 hours to Nome.
Sebastian Schnuelle led John Baker into the mandatory 8 hour rest by 26 minutes. Should be an interesting race for 2nd.
Jessie Royer is next into Elim in the exciting race for fourth. Behind her, back to outside of Koyuk:
Rookie of the Year Battle:
Chad Lindner is in Unalakleet
On their way
Harry T Alexie
Out of Grayling are
Jeff Holt scratched at Grayling
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Apparently, Dallas Seavey reached his father Mitch, holed up Aaron Burmiester at the cabin on the edge of the Norton Bay ice. Did the son bring supplies? I imagine so.
Jessie Royer and Cim Smyth are also on the move. Who will attempt to travel across the ice?
Teams are spread out from Grayling to Shaktoolik.
In Grayling are
Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker left Koyuk 11 minutes apart and appear to be 2 miles apart on the trail.
Lance is resting in Elim, and can easily leave for White Mountain before they arrive.
Lance is on his way to Elim.
John Baker made it in to Koyuk, to join Sebastian Sebastian Schnuelle.
The rest of the front pack is still shut down and not moving.
Hugh Neff and Jeff King both returned to the Shaktoolik checkpoint several hours in the elements. Hugh has severe frostbite, Jeff had lead dogs who refused to move into the wind.
Mitch Seavey and Aaron Burmeister are still on the edge of the Norton Sound, unable or unwilling to head out on the ice into the wind.
Two Other Rookies Scratch as Well
The Iditarod Air Force was sent to find the last three rookies on the trail Monday afternoon, after they were extremely overdue into the Shageluk checkpoint. They spotted Lou Packer, who signaled he was in distress. Upon reaching him, it was discovered that he had two deceased dogs. The cause is yet unknown.
The two other rookies, Blake Matray and Kim Darst, were found by snowmachines. Deep snow and high winds had closed the trail, making movement extremely difficult.
Monday, March 16, 2009
2nd place musher arrives off the Sound 6 hours behind leader.
John Baker is 10 miles out of Koyuk but stopped moving.
A group hunkered down together off the ice - against the weather?
Hugh Neff appears to be heading back to Shaltoolik, after earlier reports of severe frostbite.
On the trail to Shaktoolik
After being holed up from the wind on the Yukon River, there is a large jumble of mushers moving including rookies within an hour of each other
Harry T Alexie
In Anvik are rookies
Trying to get to Anvik are rookies
Lance hits the checkpoint in Koyuk 5 hours ahead of Sebastian Schnuelle.
Laura Daugereau becomes 6th musher to scratch - reportedly with dog problems - at the Grayling checkpoint
Lance Mackey arrives in Unalakleet 6 hours ahead of the others, rests for 7, and is 20 miles towards Shaktoolik.
Into Unalakleet a minute apart
Within 2 hours
Rookie Kurt Reich scratches in Ophir
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Lance hit Kaltag 4 hours before Mitch Seavey, rested for 3 and a half, and is headed towards Unalakleet on the Bering Sea Coast
On the river heading in to Kaltag
Rookie Scrathes in Ophir
Friday, March 13, 2009
Lance follows the leaders into Graying by half an hour, then leaves them in his dust as they take their 8. They will be off 7 and a half hours after he passed. He still has all 16 dogs.
The next pack has already taken their 8, but are 30 or so miles behind Lance
These are the only mushers who have a chance at the title, should something bad happen to Lance
The Rookie of the Year contest heats up!
The top 3 rookies all left Iditarod within 3 hours of each other, with their 24s done.
Harry T Alexie
Back of the Field
Is still moving.
Kim Darst is out of McGrath after her 24
The rest are still moving, a couple still have to 24 yet.
The Versus Television Channel , available on cable and satellite, begins a three-part series on this year's Iditarod this Sunday, March 15th, at 7:00pm CDT. For listings, check http://www.versus.com/schedule
He is now over 20 miles in front of the nearest competitor, and he has passed Shageluk
The battle for 2nd place
Presumably 24ing in Takotna
After her 24, on the trail to Takotna
24ing in McGrath
Lance is 15 plus miles out of Iditarod and moving strong.
The lead pack has stopped in Iditarod
Dallas Seavey is on an impressive run, in the top ten
Martin Buser is 25th, his gamble has not paid off
The last two rookies are still moving, out of Nikolai and heading towards McGrath
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Lance arrives at the halfway point with a 13 mile lead over Aaron Burmeister. Martin is off his 24 in 24th place.
The bulk of the field is stretched out between McGrath and Iditarod, fairly close together.
The 3 rookies in the rear are still moving toward McGrath.
BSSD IDITAPROJECT FORUM
The forum was created by the Bering Strait School District in Alaska. They have many mushers as members as well as a few musher's relatives and dog handlers. Several members are extremely knowledgable about the Iditarod and mushing in general.
Look for their "Ask the Musher" segments, where posters can ask literally anything of the top mushers in the business.
Check it out!
Rookies at the back of the pack are nearly all in to Nikolai
According to the race standings, Bjornar Andersen scratched in Takotna, after being injured in a wreck on the trail after Rohn.
Below is a prior report from an internet poster:
Just got of the phone with Bjornar's wife, and she told me Bjornar has had an accident just after Rhon.
The sled tipped over, and Bjornar fell off, just hanging after the sled in his security line.
He has been pulled over some distance, laying on his stomack on a wery icy surface.
He was an hour with the doctor in Takotna, trowhing up and peeing blood.
The doctor suspect some kidny damage, but not so critical that he has to withdraw.
He is currently still on his "24", and has one more appointment with the doctor.
The norwegian tv crew following Bjornar, talked to him in Takotna, and he was in good spirit.
He could report on the strongest pack of dogs in years!
"It's almost scary at times, they really are on fire", he told them.
He want's to continue, as long as the doctor gives him the OK!!
With their 24 hour rest over with, Aaron Burmeister and Hugh Neff have left Takotna, with Sebastian Schnuelle not far behind, then Lance Mackey about an hour behind. They should reach Ophir in 3 or so hours, passing by Martin Buser, who will still have another 7 hours to wait.
The bottom of the pack have all made it to Nikolai, with the exception of Kim Darst and Rob Loveman, who are just outside.
Rookie Blake Matray is alreday there, he must have dropped his GPS transmitter outside of Rohn.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
With reports of deep, blowing snow on the trail to Iditarod, the front of the field seems to be taking their 24. This is going to get real interesting when they start moving again!
Martin Buser is out front in Ophir. The rest are in Takotna or McGrath.
On their way to McGrath
Aaron Peck (Already took his 24)
Out of Rohn, heading to Nikolai
Cause of dog's death remains unknown after necropsy
By CRAIG MEDRED Anchorage Daily News
A necropsy -- the canine version of an autopsy -- done on a dog that died Tuesday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race found no obvious cause of death, according to Iditarod race marshall Mark Nordman.
Further tests are under way, officials said today. Veterinarians say it is not unusual for a gross necropsy to fail to determine the cause of death. They note dogs die across the country every day due to unexplained heart arrhythmias and other reasons.
The Iditarod screens all the sled dogs for unseen heart irregularities prior to the race, but problems are not always detectable.
A study of 23 dogs that died in the race between 1994 and 2006 found that though 16 of the deaths were eventually explained after extensive study, the reasons for seven of the deaths were never determined.
Sometimes, veterinarians note, dogs just die without a clear cause.
The dog that perished Tuesday was a 6-year-old male named Victor. He was in the team of Jeff Holt from North Pole.Holt, who is running a team made up largely of family pets, was on the trail between Rainy Pass and Rohn when Victor faltered. Holt was unable to revive the dog. He carried Victor in the sled to the Rohn checkpoint, where veterinarians pronounced the dog dead. Holt's team was the 50th of 65 teams to arrive in Rohn.
Given that Victor's death is unexplained and there is nothing obvious Holt could have done to prevent it, race officials said he was allowed to continue toward Nome.
After a 6 hour rest in McGrath, Martin Buser blows through Takotna, barely taking the time to sign the log!
While this puts him clearly in first place, he will still need to take his 24 somewhere later - while those behind him will be rested.
Wonder which of the early leaders will take off after him?
Martin Buser is in the top 20 and moving up. Don't count him out!
Karin Hendrickson has been moving smoothly and appears to have Rookie of the Year in command - barring unforseen difficulty.
So, can the "Quest Guys", Sebastian and Hugh, who along with Aaron, have been leading for several checkpoints, hold off Lance and Jeff, the cream of the crop for the last few years?
I'd have to say "no". Lance and Jeff know what it takes to win this race. I look for the running order to be quite different by the Yukon, as the 24 strategies play out. I don't know if Paul has what it takes to win. Mitch and Bjornar could very well be major factors in the outcome, and I wouldn't counnt out Martin - he runs fast on the southern route and I am looking forward to see what he does, as well.
This is shaping up to be an exciting race!
Martin Buser is picking up the pace, approaching McGrath in 15th place.
A few stragglers are on the Burn.
A group of rookies are camped in Rohn
The final 2 rookies are making their way to Rohn, delayed in part by helping Nancy
After a the crash and rescue on the Steps, rookie musher Nancy Yoshida scratches.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
With Aaron, Hugh and Sebastian over an hour in front, Paul, Lance and Jeff leave Nikolai after a rest.
From the blogs:
Martin's wife Kathy said, "Remember, Martin is running this race with a bit of a new strategy so keep faith."
Jeff's wife Donna said:
o far Jeff is running the race as planned. He wanted to be in the
top 20 by Skwentna and then try to "hang" in the 5th-10th spot for a
It is too soon for me to be commenting on the other teams. I believe
this has been a forgiving trail and I am sure there are plenty of
shining teams right now. I'll stick my neck out when the first teams
hit the coast in Unalakleet! Pre-race, I thought to keep my eye on
the Norwegian, Bjornar Andersen. We have a soft spot for Norwegians
and they have historically proven to be avid competitors. I'm sure
Sebastian Schnuelle, this year's Quest Champ, would love to pull a
"Mackey". He is a happy, crazy German that captivates your heart.
Rick Swenson, as always, is running a beautiful race and should never
be disregarded. Martin Buser is showing some uncharacteristic
restraint that may have big payoffs down the trail. And Lance Mackey
is always full of surprises. This will undoubtedly be a spectacular
race to watch!
Unconfirmed information from the boards:
Why Bob Hickle sratched: He had 4 dogs in heat and became so wet stopping the fighting, etc he couldn't get dry.
Hugh Neff and Aaron Burmeister leave simultaneously, after a rest of 5:17 and 4:35, respectively. Sebastian Schnuelle was 6 minutes behind them, after a rest of 5:24.
The remainder of the Top 20 have arrived into Nikolai.
The back of the pack is less clear. Based on the GPS and the Checkpoint Standings, it appears that Heather Siirtola lost her GPS tansmitter on the Steps.
Rachael Scdoris and Tim Osmar appear to be resting in Rohn, with Trent Herbst and Jen Seavey approaching.
These all appear to be at the Rainy Pass checkpoint.
And it says that Nancy Yoshida left Finger Lake before Rob, so either she left her GPS unti behind, or has scratched and it's not been reported yet.
The rest of the pack, including Martin and DeeDee and Melissa, are stretched out across the Burn, making their way to Nikolai.
Reports are coming in that a dog in Jeff Holt's team died today between the Rainy Pass and Rohn checkpoints, according to a press release from the Iditarod Trail Committee. A necropsy will be conducted by a board-certified pathologist to try to determine why he died, the press release said
While that is the same section of the trail that rookie musher Nancy Yoshida had trouble, it is not clear if the two incidents are related.
A rescue attempt was made, as it was reported that Yoshida had lost both of her sled runners and her team blocked the narrow trail, causing wrecks behind her.
More information as it comes available.
The last place rookies, Nancy Yoshida, Blake Matray, Kim Darst and Rob Loveman have left Finger Lake and are heading for Rainy Pass.
The top 30 teams are all out of Rohn, heading towards the Burn and Nikolai beyond.
There are two rookies, Blake Matray and Rob Loveman, still in Finger Lake. All others are further along.
Recent snow on the interior will make the trail from Ophir to Iditarod easier going than usual. Traditionally, that section of the trail, unused except for alternate years as the race trail, has been a challenge of grassy tussocks. The trailbreaker expects to have his work cut out for him on this stretch, turning all the deep snow into a nice doggy highway!
Officially out of Rohn:
And the back of the pack at Finger Lake:
Everyone else is spread out over the mountain. All 67 teams are still in the race!
Monday, March 9, 2009
I'll try to run down the entire field, based on observations of the Official standings and the GPS.
The lead pack, in two groups, seem to be trading the lead back and forth as they take different rests.
The Top 30 is rounded out by these mushers, also moving down the trail well.
Out of the top 30, but still hanging around include:
Ray Redington, Jr
The final group, bringing up the rear includes:
and most of the rookies
No scratches yet!
Perhaps the GPS has the locations of the checkpoints off, which would explain the discrepancy.
The standings out of Rainy Pass, per the Official Standings:
1. Sebastian Schnuelle
2. Paul Gebhardt
3. Rick Swenson
4. Aaron Burmeister
5. Hugh Neff
6. Melissa Owens
7. Ed Iten
8. Bjornar Andersen
9. Lance Mackey
The group at Happy River remains stationary.
The rest of the pack has left Skwentna.
As far as I can tell, these are the eight that stopped along the way:
And these are the mushers that have passed by on the way to Rainy Pass:
Sebastian Schnuelle, Paul Gebhardt, Ed Iten and Cim Smyth seemed to be stopped together and now others are joining them...
Is there an obstruction or other problem on the trail?
Rounding out the group is 4-time champion Jeff King, who took over an hour rest, while none of the others stayed for more than 5 minutes.
1 Sebastian Schnuelle
2 Paul Gebhardt
3 Ed Iten
4 Lance Mackey
5 Cim Smyth
6 Jessie Royer
7 Hugh Neff
8 Mitch Seavey
9 Bruce Linton
10 Rick Larson
11 Bjornar Andersen
12 Ramey Smyth
13 Aliy Zirkle
14 Jim Lanier
15 John Baker
16 Hans Gatt
17 Ken Anderson
18 Jeff King
Melissa Owens, Rick Swenson, Aaron Burmeister and Aaron Peck are currently in Finger Lake.
All other mushers are in to Skwentna.
Young Melissa Owens set a blistering pace to move from 30th to the top ten.
Lance Mackey, Aaron Burmeister, Hugh Neff and Dallas Seavey have all run hard to get into the top 15 from Lance at 47 through Dallas at 62.
Martin Buser is uncharacteristically taking extra rest, including two hours at Yentna and 4 at Skwentna.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The 2009 Iditarod is underway. A seemingly smooth start, at least for the teams. For the viewers, it was a little rough, with the Iditarod.com pages slow-to-impossible to access. Most users missed some if not all of the live video of the restarts.
The first mushers have passed through the Yentna Station Roadhouse Checkpoint.
At 40 miles into the race, the leaderboard reads:
1. Ed Iten
2. Aaron Peck
3. Warron Palfrey
4. Allen Moore
5. Rick Swenson
The teams are now arriving at the staging area in Willow for the re-start, slated for 2:00pm Alaska time, 5:00pm Central DST (spring forward!)
Stay tuned for updates from this year's exciting race!
Friday, March 6, 2009
1. Lance Mackey
2. Martin Buser
3. Jeff King
4. Mitch Seavey
5. Paul Gebhardt
6. Bjornar Andersen
7. Hans Gatt
8. Ken Anderson
9. DeeDee Jonrowe
10. Ramey Smyth
(But don't count out Ed Iten, Jessie Royer, Aliy Zirkle and Sebastian Schnuelle...)
(Oh, also John Baker, Aaron Burmeister, the Redington boys...This is impossible!)
ROTY: Karin Hendrickson
Arriving downtown we found a parking garage right across from the convention center and followed the crowd over to the musher's banquet. There were people coming in 4 or 5 different entrances and the front of the building contained this huge serpent of a line waiting to get in.
Lance Mackey showed up in the middle of this mess and signed autographs and posed for pictures for a few minutes. He was spinning like a ballerina for a while trying to take care of all the fans.
There were more than 200 tables and we were seated 10 to a table. Each table had either a musher or an Iditarod volunteer seated at the table.
Some people paid $100 a person to be there (hope they got to sit with a musher, because we didn't).
They auctioned a couple of high dollar items one of them being a bib #1 with autographs from 7 former Iditarod champions including Jeff King, Lance Macey and Martin Buser. This thing went for $5150. Then they auctioned a bear watching trip. They fly four people along with Lance Mackey and his wife up to see grizzlies catching salmon during their spawning run. Winning bidder paid around $10,000 for that little vacation.
Funniest person at the podium tonight was Jeff King when he said "OK, now can we stop all the alarm clock and park service jokes?" Referencing his sleeping while Lance tip-toed out of a check point to take the win last year, and also his run-in with the authorities for shooting a moose that was some distance outside of a legal hunting zone.
The mushers drew for their bib numbers which took a while and a lot of them signed autographs and posed for photos. Not all the mushers, but most. Martin Buser had a crowd around him.
3 Nancy Yoshida Thompson ND Rookie
4 Ed Iten Kotzebue AK Veteran
5 Rick Larson Sand Coulee MT Veteran
6 Allen Moore Two Rivers AK Veteran
7 Warren Palfrey Yellowknife NWT Veteran
8 Rick Swenson Two Rivers AK Veteran
9 Blake Matray Two Rivers AK Rookie
10 Ray Redington, Jr Wasilla AK Veteran
11 Michael Suprenant Chugiak AK Rookie
12 Jake Berkowitz Anchorage AK Veteran
13 Ryan Redington Wasilla AK Veteran
14 Gerry Willomitzer Whitehorse YT Veteran
15 Paul Gebhardt Kasilof AK Veteran
16 Ramey Smyth Willow AK Veteran
17 Jessie Royer Fairbanks AK Veteran
18 Bjornar Andersen Elverum NORWAY Veteran
19 Matt Hayashida Willow AK Veteran
20 Trent Herbst Ketchum ID Veteran
21 Mitch Seavey Seward AK Veteran
22 Judy Currier Fairbanks AK Veteran
23 Robert Nelson Kotzebue AK Veteran
24 Aliy Zirkle Two Rivers AK Veteran
25 Hans Gatt Whitehorse YT Veteran
26 Chad Lindner Brookline MA Rookie
27 Tom Thurston Oak Creek CO Rookie
28 Linwood Fiedler Willow AK Veteran
29 Karin Hendrickson Chugiak AK Rookie
30 Melissa Owens Nome AK Veteran
31 DeeDee Jonrowe Willow AK Veteran
32 Alan Peck Eagle River AK Rookie
33 Martin Buser Big Lake AK Veteran
34 Sebastian Schnuelle Whitehorse YT Veteran
35 Jim Lanier Chugiak AK Veteran
36 Gerald Sousa Talkeetna AK Veteran
37 Cim Smyth Big Lake AK Veteran
38 Bob Hickel Anchorage AK Veteran
39 Mike Williams Akiak AK Veteran
40 Bruce Linton Kasilof AK Veteran
41 Jeff King Denali AK Veteran
42 Sonny Lindner Two Rivers AK Veteran
43 Lou Packer Wasilla AK Rookie
44 John Baker Kotzebue AK Veteran
45 Laura Daugereau Port Gamble WA Veteran
46 Ed Stielstra McMillan MI Veteran
47 Lance Mackey Fairbanks AK Veteran
48 Wade Marrs Wasilla AK Rookie
49 Cindy Gallea Seeley Lake MT Veteran
50 Rob Loveman Seeley Lake MT Rookie
51 Robert Bundtzen Anchorage AK Veteran
52 Kim Darst Blairstown NJ Rookie
53 Sven Haltmann Willow AK Veteran
54 Ken Anderson Fairbanks AK Veteran
55 Hugh Neff Skagway AK Veteran
56 Aaron Burmeister Nome/Nenana AK Veteran
57 Tim Osmar Ninilchik AK Veteran
58 Rachael Scdoris Bend OR Veteran
59 Kurt Reich Divide CO Rookie
60 Eric Rogers Eagle AK Veteran
61 Jen Seavey Seward AK Rookie
62 Dallas Seavey Seward AK Veteran
63 Heather Siirtola Talkeetna AK Veteran
64 Timothy Hunt Marquette MI Rookie
65 Bill Cotter Nenana AK Veteran
66 David Sawatzky Healy AK Veteran
67 Harry T Alexie Bethel AK Rookie
68 Jeff Holt North Pole AK Veteran
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Iditarod trail missing under deep snow
WEATHER: Parts of the route buried with more in the forecast.
As Anchorage began gearing up for Saturday's ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a hunt was under way to the north to find the track that will guide mushers 1,000 miles to Nome in the days ahead.
Deep snows across the south slope of the Alaska Range and on into the Interior have buried the trail in many places.
Not only is there a lot of snow along the trail, Nordman said, more is forecast.
Steve Perrin, owner of the Rainy Pass Lodge at Puntilla, said on Monday that Merchant's new, 120-horsepower Yamaha Viking Professional -- a snowmobile designed to go through deep snow -- ended up so bogged down that two of Perrin's sons had to help Merchant dig it out.Early trailbreakers who did ended up with snowmachines sunk in open water along the South Fork Kuskokwim River in a place called Hell's Gate. Eventually, however, that group reached Rohn and was teaming up with others already there to pack a trail back through the Dalzell Gorge to Rainy Pass.
The going is never easy. The Iditarod through the Dalzell exists only as short openings cut through the brush on whichever side of the Gorge offers a patch of ground, as opposed to a cliff. To connect the segments, the trailbreakers build bridges out of whatever materials they can find -- ice blocks, brush buried under piles of hand-shoveled snow or, where available, trees.
"They didn't get very far (Tuesday),'' Kathi Merchant said. "They had only put in a couple bridges.''
"I wonder if our race will stall out for the first time?''
The serum run mushers, however, didn't have to deal with heavy snow. Nordman said it is at near-record levels across much of the Interior.
Still, he was optimistic that come Iditarod race day, there will be a trail. He had snowmobile crews at work across the Interior and all were reporting progress.
All of which might mean nothing, added Diana Moroney, a former Iditarod musher who now volunteers as a pilot for the all-volunteer Iditarod Air Force.
The Iditarod Trail, she noted, can be fine today and gone tomorrow.
There was, for instance, a well-packed trail through parts of Rainy Pass after the Iron Dog race in February, but Moroney flew through there earlier this week and saw hardly a hint of trail visible beneath all the new snow.
Any trail put in over the course of the days ahead, she said, could just as easily disappear if the winds pick up and start moving snow around.
And then, there's always the possibility the Mount Redoubt volcano could explode. It remains on watch status.
Moroney was in the 1992 Iditarod when Mount Spurr exploded and showered mushers with three to four inches of ash.
It was a reminder that Mother Nature still dictates in Alaska -- even if 21st century technology has evolved to the point where, as former Iditarod Trail manager Jack Niggemyer put it, almost anyone can now get on a snowmachine "and drive to the North Pole without even having to change a belt.''
Given, of course, that there's some sort of trail to follow.
Jeff. Great to have you with us.
Let's get right to it. What were your feelings REALLY when Lance pulled his dastardly trick at Elim?
Were you upset? or do you take a little pride in knowing that the younger racers may have learned a trick or two from
So, the Elim sneaky right off the get go, huh? Was I upset? Yes. Was it a 'dastardly trick' by Lance? No. My mistake. It actually goes straight to one of what I have considered one of my very best ideas concerning Iditarod and that is the 'white noise' I pump into my i-pod allowing me to sleep in a noisy environment. As big as it backfired in Elim in '08, the white noise i-pod combination has actually made me a much better racer allowing me to get quality rest in an area that I could otherwise never expect to sleep. More power to Lance for turning one of my strengths into a momentary vulnerability.
Life's way too short to get too serious about a dog race.
Also, how important is it for you to catch up to (and pass) Rick Swenson for that 5th and 6th win?
As for question 2, who is Rick Swenson??
And yes, I really do know who Rick Swenson is. However grumpy at times, he truly is one of the sports all time greats and I would love to tie and go on to beat his Iditarod victory record.
And this vitally important question from a fellow mustache wearer - You always have such impressive icicles hanging from your mustache every year. As a matter of fact I believe your mustache icicles are the best in ALL of Iditarod. So have you ever measured the longest? Any records? Inquiring minds want to know!
I have been blessed - or cursed - with the most humongous snot cicles known to man ever since I started mushing. I have noticed it as well and I don't know why.. .maybe it's an excess of hot air. I am not keeping track of lengths, girths, or contents... but I have no doubt that I hold the record in all of those categories.
Did you enjoy the Discovery filming or was it a bother? Do you think it portrayed the events accurately?
The filming during the race was a little bit of a bother from a competitive point of view, but well worth the effort considering such a fine product it offered the dog mushing viewers. I actually haven't seen the whole thing yet, but I've seen enough to know that they kinda picked out a story line and then encouraged us to 'play the part'. However I don't think it was way off base. The Discover crew certainly "baited" me to say things I would have never probably said without such bait. I actually feel the Discovery media and editors downplayed the drama that they and I felt in Elim. After years of complaining about the press making crap up, they really sheltered me in their coverage by not displaying the actual intensity of my anger, embarrassment, frustration. But I repeat - it's really not Lance I had those emotions about, but myself and at the actual moment I felt it towards those people around me I felt had watched my demise without assistance. Of course within the hour of departing Elim, it was crystal clear that those same people had done the right thing by doing nothing. I'm over it. And you can bet it won't happen again. Overall I gotta give it a B+ and I hope they do it again.
I love watching your team motor along, they are so beautifully matched. I did keep asking myself if there was one or more dogs you kept in the team that kept the pace lower than it might have been, but.....obviously if they would have been holding up the team, you would have dropped them, right?
There's not much more I feel that's in my teams best interest than training and selecting the dogs in how they move, how they feel, how they eat, their needs and their energy. Nothing is such a big turn on to me either than watching a perfectly matched team that is not fatigued, nor crazy to go. When I get it right, the team is like a single living organism - each dog a tentacle on a squid swimming in the shallows. I'm sure genetics plays some part - as does training - but I believe the most important thing I need to do to reach this sled dog nirvana has to do with the actual "driving" of the team. Cooing, coaxing, calming. Like kneading bread over and over until it's just right and ready to rise into beauty. Difficult to put into words - but that's my best shot.
Do you still have the altitude barn for the dogs to sleep in? and do you think it has given you an advantage on the trail?
Yes, I do have the dogs in the altitude barn. They sleep at an equivalent of 9,000 feet and are in there at about 8-10 hours at a time. With the help of canine physiologist Arlie Reynolds, we were able to see on paper a definite advantage in things like red cell, pac cell, lactic acid reduction ~ stuff like that. But I don't think I've won a race since I had it, so it's clearly not a runaway must-have. Lucky for you cause it's 50 grand worth of equipment. It is very fun though, I like to sleep out there as well. I sleep sound, and wake up feeling great. Don't try to light a candle though, 'cause it don't work.
During the 2006 race I became totally enamored with Salem. He seems to embody everything a lead dog should be and more. Do I remember correctly that that was the year your team got away from you during the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet and Salem stopped the team? How is Salem doing?
You do recall correctly ~ there's a moment I'll never forget. To see my team disappear into the blowing snow without me - still sends shivers down my spine. There is no question in my mind that it was Salem's unwillingness to leave me that caused the team to stop and wait for me.
Salem hasn't raced since the '06 race. Had a very difficult to diagnose shoulder injury for the last two years, however after swimming all summer again this year, we haven't seen hide-nor-hair of this injury during the current training season. I have guarded optimism that he will again be leading the team this year.
Do you wish there was a 2000mile race? Would you have tried a Anchorage-Nome-Anchorage race?
Are you out of your freakin' mind???
Who do you consider your hardest opponents in the I'rod 09?
Just scan the stats, the same names keep poppin' up - and I don't see 'em going anywhere soon.
What is your favorite memory in racing (any race)?
Passing Swingley on my way into Unalakleet in the '06 race was right up there with nirvana.
Do you have an all-time favorite dog? If so, why is he/she it?
Oh lordy - don't ask me if I have a favorite dog ~ that's like asking me if I have a favorite daughter... the answer varies from day to day!
So my question to you is, having started basically from scratch in this sport, what did you find was the most difficult part of establishing that first stable and competetive dog team?
Finding the right woman to marry me. (I'm not joking.)
Thanks for the questions!
HOME sweet HOMEFrom the Happy Trails Kennels blog
We have been enjoying our few days at home before Round 2. Martin took several runs with the nonQuest dogs and is very happy with their performance. Our Vet, Dr. Beatsle, came out to the Kennel to do our official Iditarod VET check. We always depend on him to provide an objective, medical perspective of each dog. He was happy to see the recovery of the Quest dogs and in fact, said he probably couldn't tell who had gone and who had stayed home, had Martin not told him. Quest dogs weights are within +,- 2 pounds of their PRE Quest weight. He did find some minor issues to disqualify 2 or 3 dogs but we wanted him to do that since Martin can't take them all. His thorough evaluation finds any little weakness. Martin noted that DeVille had a strange bob of his head and the doc checked his eyes, even took him to the clinic to stain the eye to look for any problems and concluded that Deville was good to go and may have had sensitivity to light at some time in the past. We are always impressed with the care and attention our athletes get from Dr. Beatsle and the entire staff at the Big Lake Susitna Veterinary clinic. Their team is and has been for a long time, an invaluable resource to our kennel.
I've been doing last minute preparation for our departure, cooking the base for the moose stew for Open House and following up on the email and mail due to our absence on our Quest adventure. Nikolai will be 21 on March 21st so I had to get a birthday package in the mail to him before Martin and I leave. I almost had Nikolai in Nome and had to be medivaced back to Providence Hospital in Anchorage for his delivery. He was born right after the Nome Finish Banquet. he once even sang the Iditarod song on the stage in Nome.
Sadly, this is our first Iditarod without the boys at the start and/or finish. We miss them lots. However, we are so happy that both boys are very independent and are enjoying college life.
Today, Martin gave a presentation for the Iditarod Teacher's Group here at the kennel. It's always fun to see such widespread interest in the race. Tomorrow night is the Iditarod Banquest where mushers draw numbers for their starting position. Will let you know how that all ends up!!!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
IDITAROD: Aging lead dog is Ramey Smyth's ace in the hole.
For eons, men have gone to pieces over babes.
But how many have fallen apart at the mere mention of a geriatric Babe, a four-legged Babe who can outlast a ground blizzard, a Babe who knows her way to Nome better than most babes know the way to a designer clothing store.
Yet there was Ramey Smyth of Willow at the podium of the Iditarod finishers banquet in Nome last March, unable to speak because his 10-year-old lead dog Babe had just earned the Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award, which is named after Smyth's mother, who used to sew the golden harnesses herself.
Choked up, Smyth tried to compose himself but left the podium without uttering a word. Moments later, carrying Babe adorned in her Golden Harness, the Willow musher returned.
"Receiving this award," he said, holding the microphone in his right hand, "is more I think than winning the Iditarod will ever be. This dog has kept me out of the poor house. She's paid the mortgage and put food on the table -- and I'm not joking."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Photo by Michael Machulsky - newsminer.com
Sebastian Schnuelle is the 2009 Yukon Quest Champion, setting a record for the fastest time of 9 days, 23 hours and 20 minute.
Runner up Hugh Neff was second by only four minutes, after recovering from a two-hour penalty for leaving the trail and traveling on a road for five miles.
Jon Little finished third, just over an hour after Schnuelle.
Official standings are at http://www.yukonquest.com/site/race-updates/
Stories are on the Quest page at http://www.yukonquest.com/site/current-news/
And from the Fairbanks Daily Miner http://newsminer.com/news/yukon_quest2009/
Monday, February 23, 2009
Follow the standings at http://www.yukonquest.com/site/race-updates/
Stories from the Quest page at http://www.yukonquest.com/site/current-news/
And from the Fiirbanks Daily Miner http://newsminer.com/news/yukon_quest2009/
Mushing in a blizzard-Iowa style
Saturday's blizzard was my first opportunity in weeks to take advantage of a little mushing. Brownie was already outside, on the loose. I went into the barn and harnessed up Biscuit, leaving Krunchy alone in the barn, crying to come along. No way was I going to let Krunchy come along with us. He ran half a mile ahead of us and did whatever he wanted to do. It is not fun when he gets the other two all excited and not paying any attention to me. After harnessing up Biscuit I brought the pretty vivid red harness for Brownie. She sat at my feet and let me put it on her. She usually is hard to get dressed but today she wanted to go for a run. Got everyone hitched and went to get the sled that hangs in the garage. We headed east to the waterway. There was about 4 inches of snow on the ground in places, and just covering the grass in others. Temperature was 12 degrees but falling. We saw a big green Chevy truck and thought it was Dad so we ran back home. It was not him. So we attempted for the second time to head east to the waterway. When we went about 30 yards and got to the same spot we were at when we saw the other truck, there was dad. So we ran back to the house to talk with him. Then we headed west out to the cornfield.The wind from the northwest was howling and blowing hard snow pellets into our face. I walked alongside the sled and let the dogs trot ahead not having to pull any wait. It is hard walking in the earth turned field. Bumpy and the remnants of corn stalks sometimes snags the sled. Alas, we made it to the waterway that goes to the timber. This was great, smooth sailing for the most part. The dogs were happy to run along and I would push off with my left foot keeping my right foot on the sled. Then we came to the edge of the timber. I stopped to get the newly made brake out because I knew the hill down to the river bottom was steep and fast as that is the one the Loon wiped out on weeks ago. So I checked out the new brakes and decided it would be safe and worked. SO mushing the dogs down the trail, ever so slowly we walked down the trail. The snow was too deep, it got caught up on the brake so every 10 yards I would have to stop to clear it. So much for going fast. When we got to the bottom of the hill I could see the river, the Wapsipinicon or the Wapsi as everyone calls it. IT was moving fast for this time of the year. I wanted a closer looked so anchoring the dogs I walked quietly and carefully to the edge of the river. IT has a steep bank and the edge of the river is frozen unlike the other side that was moving swiftly. I laid down on my belly to watch. I had to keep the dogs a distance from me or they would have given me kisses and licks and jumps and more kisses and licks and jumps. Biscuit loves to love. Getting up carefully, we left to continue on the trail. It is a snowmobile trail but no one had been along for weeks. The dogs did pretty good until we were on ice. Now, I didn't know how deep the water was where we were on. Usually during the winter months, the river is low and the bottom timber is dried up. But we were walking on ice. The dogs decided they didn't want to pull so much, so I ended up just walking behind the sled, laying my arms across the handle bar on the sled. The ice was cracking and we were watching closely, because the last thing I wanted to do was to fall into some waterhole that had just enough water to soak me, without drowning and I would have to walk back to the house pulling the sled. As we followed the river, I noticed we were below the level of the river, not sure what it meant but beginning to feel a little edgy. Just as I thought we were close to being out I slipped and fell. Oh shit. Was the ice going to break? That was my first thought. Quickly, I jumped up before the dogs could jump all over me. I notice the creaking of the ice and needed to get off this stuff right away. Looking to the south I saw we had a bank to go up and we would be high enough the water would not get us if there were a flash flood. We weren't in any real danger, but I think about stuff happening so I will know what to do if and when it ever does happen. Living on the edge. So there I was, just steps from climbing out of the river bottom and I couldn't climb up the bank, it was ice covered. I couldn't get a grip. I was yelling at the dogs, pull me pull me get going but they wanted to love me, kiss me, jump on me, and love me, kiss me and jump onto my face. WHY? Didn't they know we could be trapped out here, never to return until the spring thaw? After finally getting Biscuit to relax was I able to crawl on my knees and fingers to the top of the bank. And running as far as we could away from there. Walking thru yet another cornfield, partial plowed with cornstalks sticking up to grab onto the sled every twenty steps, and Brownie not wanting to pull at all now, it was still a blizzard and I was sore from falling on the ice, twice. About every 10 steps there would be a different smell. Rabbit? Deer? Fox? Squirrel? Only the dogs knew for sure and they wanted to check out every smell, one at a time. By now, the blizzard was rolling strong and I was having to just walk behind the sled. They would not pull me at all, not even with me pushing with my left foot. I had a good mile plus to walk. And I forgot to go to the bathroom before I left. I just wanted to get out there and forgot to go. Now I am a mile from home, beat up from falling on the ice, twice, and I have two dogs that only want to stop every ten steps to smell what lies below the snow. Needless to say, it was a long journey for half a mile until we reached the eastern waterway. Now, we were within site of home and I fell again. Into a big hole. I didn't see it, but it was there and so was Biscuit right on top of me. Love and kisses and jumping. Double duty for Biscuit. And Brownie didn't want to pull at all. I finally stopped the sled and tried to see what was bothering her. She let me take off her harness but in the process she began overly excited and ended up putting her mouth into my nose. OUCH! It hurt and she didn't mean to bite me, but that is what happened. So now she is loose, I am sore and have a bloody nose and it is a blizzard, and I have now almost wet my pants. I didn't have a phone with me and my husband was not around. I forgot to tell him where I was going and when I would be home. As good fortune would have it, he pulled in the driveway with his big-ass truck. He noticed my nose and wondered what happened. I told him he could read all about it on our blog. The blizzard continued for several hours, and I felt fine until the next day. Sore all over. My nose is ok and Brownie and Biscuit are ready for some more mushing fun. Tune in next week to see what happens.