SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tustumena 100: 1st and 4th Place

SP Kennel takes 1st and 4th in the Tustumena 100 race early this morning. Allen brought 20 of the dogs down south on Thursday and meet his daughter Bridgett in Anchorage on the way to the Kenai for the Tustumena races. Bridgett and her husband Scotty flew in from Nome were they live. The 100 mile race started on Saturday at 12 noon. Allen went out in 1st position with Stormy, Venus, Pete, Betsy, Butterscotch, Spicy, JJ, Bisquit, Meg and Rose. Bridgett went out in 11th position with Hoss, Petunia, Reeses, Snickers, KitKat, Heeler, Roy, Garlic, Sparky and Homebrew. As always, the Tustumena is a “true” 200 or “true” 100 mile race. They calculated the 100 as a 101 mile race.

Kenai is typically much warmer than Fairbanks and every year Two Rivers falls into a deep freeze on the Tustumena weekend. It was no different this year where temperatures dropped to 40 below on Thursday and didn’t come up until Sunday. Of course, Kenai wasn’t much warmer. It was less than 20 below at the start of the race, but it warmed up enough to start snowing in the Caribou Hills.


The race began at the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof and ran 50 miles up into the Caribou Hills to Caribou Lake. There was a mandatory 4 hour rest and then the race returns along the same route. There were blizzard like conditions during the run back down to the flats.


Allen At Start

Allen ran in first position the entire race and finished with all 10 dogs. He took the spot in a strong field of other Iditarod mushers. Two first places in two races this year.

Bridgett went through the first checkpoint (Gravel Pit) in 12th position and reached the half way point at Caribou Lake in 3rd position. Because she started 11th, the time differential had her going out of the mandatory rest in 2nd position right behind Allen. After running into a snow bank and getting into a bit of a tangle, Bridgett took 4th place in her first mid-distance race and her first race since she was a little girl. She finished with 9 dogs, having dropped Garlic on her way back to the finish.


Bridgett At Start

Congratulations to both Allen and Bridgett and the dog of SP Kennel!

Next on the calendar is the Yukon Quest 300 starting February 9 at 8pm. Aliy dropped off food drops for the race on Saturday. SP Kennel will be running 3 teams in the race. Aliy, Allen and Randy Chappel will all be running teams in the race. It will be the first time Aliy has been on the trail since she won the 1000 Mile Yukon Quest in 2000 and the first time Randy has been on the trail since a blizzard caught him on Eagle Summit 2 years ago. This will be the first time Allen has run the entire 300 miles of trail.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tustumena 100

A slight change of plans will have Allen and Bridgett running in the Tustumena 100 instead of the 200. This is a 100 mile race with 10 dogs per team. It begins on Saturday around 4pm AST. We will post the results as we get them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two Rivers Solstice 100

Aliy takes second in Two Rivers 100 miler!

Aliy took a mix of yearlings and two year olds on the Solstice 100 this past Saturday, January 19. They were the group of dogs that didn’t go on either team for the Copper Basin. The race does a 50 mile loop out to Angle Creek Lodge and then a 50 mile loop back to the start line at Pleasant Valley Store. The race normally runs on the Winter Solstice in December, but was cancelled due to lack of snow. We have gotten over a foot of snow in the last 5 days, thank you!!!

Aliy took 2nd place behind Jessica Hendricks “A” team. We are very proud of this.

Allen heads off for the Tustumena 200 on Thursday with his daughter Bridgett running a team as well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CB 300 Update, 01-15-08 7:00 AM AST

We spoke to both Allen and Aliy last night after they warmed up and had a bite to eat. Our Champion told us the story of his catching Sigrid. Apparently the trail markers were difficult to discern at one particular turn. Both Sigrid and Allen took the wrong turn, but Allen figured out and corrected his mistake early. Lance never made the wrong turn since he was able to follow Allen's team on the correct route. Thus Allen was able to gain time on Sigrid while losing time to Lance.


Both Allen and Aliy said that the last 20 miles of the trail were very tough and cold. They both ran beside their teams most of the way. Hopefully both humans and dogs slept soundly last night.


The CB 300 Awards Banquet is this afternoon. After that, the SP Kennel contingent heads back to Two Rivers...to their own beds and dog houses.


For more insight on the CB 300 finish read the article in today's Anchorage Daily News at http://www.adn.com/sports/story/265236.html .

Monday, January 14, 2008

CB 300 Update, 01-14-08 5:04 PM AST

Per the CB 300 website, Sigrid Ekran found her way to the finish line in 4th position. Brent Sass finished in 5th. Check the website for official times.

Aliy just finished in 6th place with 9 dogs in excellent condition. She crossed the finish line at about 4:20 PM AST. She is very happy with the performance of her young team.

Sebastian Schnuelle finished about 20 minutes after Aliy in 7th position.

Our dog handlers have transported Allen and Aliy back to the hotel to warm up and eat. All racing dogs (including any animals dropped at checkpoints) are well and happy.

More later. Thanks for following SP Kennel teams in this exciting race.

Allen Wins 2008 Copper Basin 300

"It ain't over 'til it's over." Yogi Berra reportedly said that years ago but the quote describes this race perfectly.


Allen Moore has won the Copper Basin 300 again in 2008!! He crossed the finish line at 2:26 PM AST with all 11 of his dogs wagging their tails. Allen must have been smiling under all that frost!


Allen has won this challenging arctic race 3 times in the past 4 years. Congratulations to our SP Kennel Champion.


Lance Mackey finished about 40 minutes after Allen. Then Linwood Fiedler finished about 10 minutes after Lance. We don't have official times yet.

Sigrid Ekran apparently lost her way in the last 20 miles of the race. Reports say that she is back on the trail but these are rumors so we are unsure of her location.

Aliy is expected between 3:30 and 4:00 PM AST.

Stay tuned. We'll update you as we get more information

The Plot Thickens - 1309 AST

The rumor is that Sigrid who was in the lead, has taken a wrong turn. The trailbreaker thinks that both Allen and Lance have passed her. We expect Allen to come onto the trail by the road anytime now, so we will know if this is fact or a rumor.

Aliy should be through Tolsona any time now.

CB 300 Update, 01-14-08 11:15 AM AST

The front runners are through the Tolsana Lake checkpoint. Sigrid Ekran blew through at 9:35 AM AST. She completed the 26 miles from Wolverine Lodge to Tolsana in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Our dog handlers report that she has 10 dogs in her team.

Allen went through the Tolsana Lake checkpoint at 10:17 AM AST. This leg took him 3 hours and 17 minutes. He still has an 11 dog team.

According to our handlers, it will be very difficult for Allen to catch Sigrid in the 20 miles remaining to the finish in Glennallen. However, his dog team appears to be very eager and excited to continue the race. Both he and the dogs are healthy and positive.

Expect Sigrid to finish the race at about noon AST. Allen should finish at about 12:40 PM AST.

Lance Mackey is about 1 hour behind Allen. We understand that he had to drop several dogs in Sourdough and is running with a team of 8.

Aliy was in and out of the Wolverine checkpoint as planned. She had to stay for 1 hour and 3 minutes at this checkpoint to complete her 12 hour mandatory rest time. She departed Wolverine at 9:19 AM AST with 9 dogs. She dropped Mouse and Garlic due to slightly sore hind quarters. She was probably being super careful since these two dogs are potential Iditarod stars. She should run through Tolsana at about noon AST. Expect her to finish the race at about 2 PM AST.

The race for places 3 through 7 could very well be a close and exciting one. Stay tuned for more updates.

CB 300 Update, 01-14-08 6:10 AM AST

The race front runners are out of Sourdough Creek checkpoint and should be arriving at Wolverine Lodge checkpoint, 57 miles down the trail at about 6 AM AST. That is now!

Looks like the CB 300 web updater is taking a snooze so we will let you know the Wolverine arrival times as soon as our dog handlers check in.

Allen departed Sourdough Creek at 12:35 AM AST with 11 dogs. They were eager to go after eating well and resting for 6 hours and 6 minutes. All team members, human and canine, are pumped as they head into the last hundred miles of the race.

Aliy departed Sourdough Creek at 1:03 AM AST with 11 dogs. Her dogs are also eating and resting well. This is a young, training team. She feels they are performing fantastically considering their age.

We continuously figure and refigure the teams' checkpoint places and their mandatory rest times. At this time it looks like Sigrid Ekran, Allen and Lance Mackey are leading the race. That could change at any time.

Reports from our handlers say that the temps at Wolverine are around -20 degrees F, clear and windy. The Northern Lights were glowing and dancing during the night to encourage the racing teams.

Depending on the trail conditions, the top placing racers should finish in Glenallen between 10 AM and 2 PM AST today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aliy into Sourdough

Aliy arrived at Sourdough 7:47pm AST in the 11th spot. She moved fom 13th position out of Paxson to 11th. Both she and Allen will be heading out in the early morning hours. We will update and report on the dogs and mushers after they leave. There is no phone service in Sourdough.

Allen into Sourdough

Allen arrived at Sourdough at 6:29pm AST. He was the 4th musher in and did it in about 6 1/2 hours. He left Paxson 42 minutes after Brent Sass, but arrived at Sourdough 2 minutes behind him. Lance Mackey who has rested less than the other front runners arrived at 4:30pm. By my calculations, Sigrid is presently in the lead and still has all 12 dogs.

The cold weather is moving south with -30 to -35 tonight. Luckily the mushers have a warm place to sleep at Sourdough this year. The wind is also picking up. There were rumors of 4 mushers getting turned around on Paxson Lake because of wind conditions and were heading back to Paxson.

We also have reports that Zoya has scratched at Paxson, not confirmed.

Hopefully Aliy has already arrived at Sourdough as well.

CB 300 Update, 01-13-08 5:28PM AST

Our dog handlers have been lost in the land of no cell phone towers. This is to be expected in this unpopulated segment of the race trail. We finally heard from them as they were driving to the Sourdough Creek checkpoint to meet Allen and Aliy.

The Copper Basin 300 website reports that Lance Mackey was first to arrive at the Sourdough Creek checkpoint at 4:26 PM AST. He completed this 58 mile stretch in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Reports are that the trail is wind blown and icy. This means fast times! Most teams will complete this leg in 5 1/2 to 7 hours.

Sigrid Ekran departed Paxson an hour after Lance, so she should be arriving at Sourdough any moment.

Regarding the SP Kennel teams, we know that Allen left Paxson as planned at 1:02 PM AST with 11 dogs. He dropped Tony, who had a sore back leg. Expect Allen into the next check point at Sourdough Creek at about 7 PM AST.

Aliy departed Paxson as planned at 1:36 PM AST with a team of 11. As previously reported, she dropped Dill in Paxson. Expect her in Sourdough Creek at about 7:30 PM AST.

The rules of the Copper Basin 300 state that each team will take an 8 hour rest at the Paxson checkpoint. During the race each team must also take an additional 12 hours of rest (cumulative) at any of the other checkpoints .

To figure out which teams are in the lead, check the rest stats and the departure times from Paxson on the CB 300 website. We theorize that Sigrid Ekran, Lance Mackey, Brent Sass and Allen are running in the top positions. Will those places hold after the 58 mile trip to Sourdough?

Check back for more information.

CB 300 Update, 01/13/08, 7:32 AM AST

Again, we thank our diligent dog handlers on the trail for this update. The CB 300 website has not been updated since 2:19 AM AST.

Allen and Aliy are both safely into the Paxson Lodge checkpoint. Paxson is about 130 miles into this 300 mile race. All teams are required to stay at this checkpoint for their 8 hour mandatory rest and their start time differential.

Allen arrived at 4:36 AM AST. The run from Chisto to Paxson took him 7 hours 51 minutes. This is about the same pace as Lance Mackey and a bit slower than Sigrid. Allen has two dogs with minor aches who have already been vet checked. Allen and his team have all eaten well and are resting at this time. He can depart the Paxson checkpoint at 1:02 PM AST.

Aliy arrived at 5:06 AM AST. The run from Chisto to Paxson took her 8 hours and 27 minutes. Apparently she had a few more challenges than Allen. She had to change footwear after her feet got wet in creek crossings. She also had some problems with Dill in the last 5 miles, in the mountains. He is not feeling up to par and will be dropped in Paxson. Aliy and the remainder of her team have also eaten and are currently sleeping. She can depart Paxson at 1:36 PM AST.

Seven teams arrived in Paxson before Allen. Twelve arrived before Aliy. You can check the musher names and their times when the CB 300 website is updated. Be sure to check the accumulated rest times of all teams. Allen and Aliy have rested more than all the other front runners.

According to Bridgett, it is cold. She guessed it to be about 20 degrees F below zero. The winds are occasionally gusting into the 20 mph range.

Stay tuned for more updates on this blog.

CB 300 Update, 01/13/08 at 5:12 AM AST

The CB 300 website has not been updated since 2:19 AM AST, but SP Kennel has a recent report from our vigilant dog handlers on the trail.

Lance Mackey arrived at the Paxson Lodge checkpoint at 2:31 AM today, Sunday, January 13. He completed the 70 mile run from Chistochina in just under 8 hours. That is fast!! His dogs looked energetic and positive.

The race spotters have seen Sigrid coming confidently down the trail. She was expected into Paxson around 3:15 AM AST. She has made up about 30 minutes on Lance in the Chistochina to Paxson run.

Allen is expected in Paxson at about 4:30 to 5:00 AM AST. Aliy should arrive at about the same time.

Note that Lance took only a 3 1/2 hour rest at Chisto. Allen rested for almost 6 hours. Aliy rested for 5 1/2. Allen and Aliy have planned their rest/run strategies very carefully. Can you figure out what they are doing??

At Paxson, the teams will rest for at least 8 hours.

Watch for the next installment when Allen and Aliy arrive at Paxson.

Out of Chistochina

Allen left Chistochina at 8:45pm after a 5 hour 52 minute rest with all 12 dogs. ChaCha and Skittles lead the team out after eating 2 good meals and a nice rest. Aliy left a few minutes before Allen at 8:39pm also with all 12 dogs. Her veterans rested well during their stop, but the younger dogs were a little confused about the whole thing.

They are now running up out of the valley and into the hills where they will spend the night in the higher elevations working their way through the “foot hills” of the Alaska Range. After crossing the Richardson Highway at Summit Lake in the early morning hours, they will work their way across several lakes and low hills, dropping in elevation into the next checkpoint, the Paxson Roadhouse. Paxson is the eastern end point for the Denali Highway that crosses through the Alaska Range to Cantwell (famous in the movie “Into the Wild” out now).

Reports have the trail fast and hard ¼ to ½ of the way and “pretty good” the rest of the way into Paxson. The river crossing up in the hills has less overflow than it has in recent years. Fastest times from Chistochina to Paxson are around 7 ½ hours, so depending on trail conditions Aliy and Allen will both be reaching Paxson between 4:30am and 7am AST. It could be longer if the good conditions have been exaggerated.

Bridgett has confirmed that the two top competitors Lance Mackey and Sigrid Ekran have amazing teams. Lance only stayed 3 ½ hours in Chisto before heading off into the hills. Sigrid stayed a little over 5 hours. Both team looked strong heading out with all their dogs. Brent Sass’s team didn’t rest well at Chistochina, but are a very strong team as well and worth keeping an eye on. He left Chisto at 8:21pm after about 5 hours.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Weather

AKZ141-131400-COPPER RIVER BASIN-INCLUDING...GLENNALLEN...EUREKA...MCCARTHY...PAXSON...SLANA400 PM AST SAT JAN 12 2008.

TONIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS 20 BELOWTO 25 BELOW ZERO. NORTH WIND 10 TO 15 MPH. WIND CHILL READINGS 30 TO40 BELOW ZERO...MAINLY NEAR THE ALASKA RANGE. .

SUNDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SNOW. HIGHS ZERO TO10 BELOW. NORTHWEST WIND 10 TO 15 MPH. .SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY IN THE EVENING THEN CLEARING. PATCHYFOG AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOWS 20 BELOW TO 30 BELOW ZERO. NORTHWEST WIND 10TO 15 MPH. WIND CHILL READINGS 30 TO 40 BELOW ZERO...MAINLY NEAR THEALASKA RANGE. .

MONDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY IN THE MORNING THEN BECOMING MOSTLY CLOUDY.PATCHY FOG. HIGHS AROUND 15 BELOW. LIGHT WINDS BECOMING SOUTHEAST 10MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. .MONDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS AROUND25 BELOW. SOUTHEAST WIND 10 MPH.

Teams in Chistochina

As I just posted the information about the trail to Chisto, the teams arrived. Twenty of the teams have made it to the 1st checkpoint in 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours. Allen moved up from his start position of 13th to 2nd arriving at 2:53pm. He has posted the fasted speed to the checkpoint at 12.9mph. Sigrid, who started in 5th position arrived to Chistochina 6 minutes ahead of Allen at a speed of 12.5mph. Aliy moved from 11th position to 6th position arriving at 3:06pm with a 12.2mph speed. Lance Mackey made the largest position shift from 21st to 7th position at a speed of 12.7mph.

Adjusting for starting positions:
1st - Allen (Bib #13) with a speed of 12.9mph
2nd - Lance Mackey (Bib #21) with a speed of 12.7mph
3rd - Sigrid (Bib #6) with a speed of 12.5mph
4th - Brent Sass (Bib #23) with a speed of 12.4mph
5th - Sven Haltmann (Bib #20) with a speed of 12.3mph
6th - Aliy (Bib # 11) with a speed of 12.2mph

There is no cell service in Chistochina and limited phone availability. I do not expect to get an update about the dogs and the mushers until Bridget, Ken and Amy head out towards Paxson at 9 to 10pm AST.

On the Trail to Chistochina

We have some pictures from the start!! This is down the road from the start line, where the trail is running along the Richardson Highway.

Allen along Richardson Highway



Allen out of Glennallen



Aliy Out of Glennallen


Aliy Off Richardson Highway

We got a update from our “reporters on the ground”. The trail towards Chistochina is looking better than it has in years. There is a bridge the trail traditionally goes under that in the past few years has caused problems with lack of ice or heavy overflow. Two years ago, the trail actually had to go across the bridge. This year though, the river is frozen solid with no overflow. It will be icy there but a smooth trail otherwise.

The last 10 miles or so of the trail into Chisto runs along the road. Hopefully the snow is deep enough to cover the willows. Nothing like getting hit with those little whips! Often people go out a bit too fast because this section can be “speedy”. New racers can easily “burn” their team out in this section and end their race early. Pacing them is a necessity.

I expect both Aliy and Allen to pass at least 5 or 6 people before they reach Chistochina, possibly more. Allen is one of the front runners to win. Sigrid Ekran (part of “Team Norway”) has an amazing looking team. Lance Mackey will have an excellent team as well. Sebastian Schnuelle always has a steady, strong team that could win this race. The dark horses are Brent Sass (a Two Rivers musher that does very well on mid-distance races with fast, strong dogs), Ann Ledwidge (a Yukoner who continues to get better and better each race she runs) and Aliy with the talented younger SP Kennel dogs.

The weather was holding steady at about 10 below with cloudy skies. There is a possibility for snow this afternoon and evening.

We are expecting Allen and Aliy into Chistochina sometime between 3 and 5pm depending on trail conditions.

And They're Off!

Mandatory vet checks for all CB 300 racing dogs took place at 7 AM (Alaska Time) today. SP Kennel passed with flying colors.

Then, the SP Kennel teams were finalized. Allen decided to take Nutmeg. Aliy added Petunia to her team. Poor Roy was feeling poorly so he will stay in the dog truck with Bridgett.

By 9 AM Allen and Aliy were able to recheck their equipment and shift focus to the race. They were very eager to start!

The first of 26 teams started the Copper Basin 300 at 10 AM from the Hub, just east of downtown Glenallen. Teams depart the starting chute at 2 minute intervals. Aliy started in 11th position at 10:20 AM. Allen started in 13th at 10:24 AM.

Depending on Trail conditions, they should arrive at the first checkpoint, Chistochina, between 3 PM and 5 PM Alaska Time.

Stay tuned to this blog for continuing updates on SP Kennel teams.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Teams

The race will begin at 10am tomorrow morning. Aliy will be leaving out at the 11th position at 10:20am and Allen will be heading out in 13th at 10:24. Although both would rather have gone out 1st or 2nd, they are happy with their draw positions.

Allen’s “A-Team” will consist of the kennel all-stars. He will be leaving the starting line with ChaCha and Venus in lead. Healer and Rose will also run in lead for him. He will also have the “Black Boys” - Hoss, Tony and Oddball and their younger sibs the “Candy Litter” - Butterscotch, Snickers, KitKat and Skittles. The final spot is still under consideration and will either be Petunia or Nutmeg. We will find out his decision at the start line.

Aliy’s team is a group of powerhouses, but have a bit less experience than the crew on Allen’s squad. The exceptions are the veterans - Bullet, Heidi and Teddy. Mouse and Betsy both ran with Allen last year on the Iditarod. The youngsters are Garlic, Peterbuilt, Dill, Biscuit, JJ, Tatfish and Roy. Only Roy has not run in a race.

I will update you on trail conditions and weather tomorrow as the information becomes available.

Go SP Kennel!!!

Weather for the Copper Basin 300

On the eve of the Copper Basin 300, temperatures in the Fairbanks area have dropped. They are calling for -40 tonight. Luckily, the Copper Basin is run out of Glennallen. The forecast for tomorrow for race time is +5 to -5 degrees with 10 mph winds. The temperatures are expected to drop to -15 for Saturday night and continuing to fall until reaching -25 on Sunday night. For the end of the race on Monday, the temps should start on an upward swing again. Along the trail, the bigger enemy is the wind. Along with cold temperatures, the winds are forecast for 10-15mph out of the northeast and as Allen says, that’s the worst.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Talk with Allen: Copper Basin

Allen about the 2008 Copper Basin 300 race.


video

A Talk with Aliy: Copper Basin

A little one on one with Aliy.

video

Heading for the Copper Basin 300

Tomorrow, SP Kennel will pack up two teams of 12 dogs and head down the Richardson Highway towards Glennallen, Alaska for the 2008 Copper Basin 300 race. Check in and drop bags are due by 2pm Friday. Both Aliy and Allen will be running teams in this years race. Allen will be racing the "A Team" as he has for the last several years. He is the reigning Champion and has won the race twice in the last 3 years.

Aliy will be racing a group of "talented youngsters", most of whom ran in the Tustamena 100 last year with Randy Chappel. Although they are young, Aliy really thinks it is a strong team. Aliy hasn't run the Copper Basin since 2002.

Aliy with Food Drops

Aliy and Allen are working hard getting their gear together and planning out their drop bags. Allen has been waxing runners and working on lines and other equipment. Aliy has been working with the dogs.Allen Fixing His Ski Poles

The Blog will be updated through out the race with the latest information from the trail. This year, the handlers will be Bridgett Watkins (Allen's daughter) and Ken and Amy Wheaton will be up from Michigan to help out.

We will get the list of dogs before the race begins, 10am AST Saturday.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SP Kennel Training Goals

Training in the Mountains on the Denali Highway.
Skittles and ChaCha in lead.

December 24, 2007



At SP Kennel we have four primary goals for our sled dog athletic training program.

1. Improving Endurance

By the first of January, the SP Kennel dogs have been in serious training for over 4 months. We have slowly built up their ability to run mile after mile without tiring. We are careful not to push them to the point of complete fatigue. Dogs’ muscles, like ours, get tired and consequently prone to soreness and cramping. The more consistent our training program, the better our dogs feel and the more miles they can travel at competitive speeds.

Our dogs continue to increase their endurance throughout the preliminary race season. In training, they will have successfully completed runs as long as any leg of the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race. During the Copper Basin, in mid January, familiar length runs are bunched into consecutive days. The result is a “bump up” of endurance to 300 miles in 3 days. Throughout January and February, longer training runs and mid distance races (100 to 300 miles) continue to improve each dog’s endurance. The successful completion of 1,000 miles in less than 10 days is the ultimate goal for March first.

2. Building Strength

Our dogs provide the power that moves our sleds down the trail. The sleds are not heavy, only about 100 pounds at the start of the Copper Basin. But this weight still requires a dog to be strong and muscled. Most racing trails in Alaska manage to find hills and mountains to climb. When our dogs start a steep climb, they focus their energy and pull into the hill.

To develop the strength needed for these climbs, we train frequently in the mountains and hills. These training runs are longer and slower and they build the muscle mass needed during competition. There are two alternatives for strength and/or speed training near us in Two Rivers. We can cross the hills to the north for strength, or the river flats to the south for speed. We constantly assess the dogs’ strength and speed training needs and adjust our schedule accordingly.

3. Sustaining Speed

A competitive long distance racing team must be able to travel at a pace of 10 to 12 miles per hour. Our dogs have the innate physical ability to comfortably travel at this pace but we need to conscientiously train for speed to make it second nature. Rough trail conditions, deep snow or a heavy load all reduce the speed at which our teams can travel. We assess these conditions before every training run and determine the composition of each team and the ballast for each sled. On a cold day, with hard packed trails, we might pack 120 pounds of ballast. On a warm day, with 6 inches of fresh snow, the sled might carry only 40 pounds.

A dog team’s speed fluctuates. The dogs generally run slower in the mountains and faster on the flats. Mushers compensate for this fluctuation by physically assisting the team. We use a kicking technique, somewhat like propelling a scooter or skateboard, and we use a poling technique, pushing the sled forward with a single ski pole. These skills must be acquired and practiced. Allen and I have developed personal weight training programs to build specific ‘kicking’ and ‘poling’ muscles.

4. Supporting a Positive Mental Attitude

A dog’s mental attitude evolves with its training. When sled dogs are physically conditioned over time – never asking too much, never asking too little – they remain positive and exuberant about their jobs. The dogs believe that they can accomplish any task asked of them. This approach instills a strong trust and strengthens the ideal sled dog /musher relationship.




Allen wins the Copper Basin 300 in January 2007


'They believe that they can accomplish any task asked of them.'




With their bodies in prime condition, our dogs are empowered with extra energy. Lots of extra energy! They feel fantastic. They are happy. On their days off, these canine athletes engage in raucous play with their siblings and neighbors, run circles around their houses and talk to each other and to us as we complete dog yard chores. Their bodies are telling them that they are ready to run. It’s now critical that we factor this extra energy into the training program to maintain physical and mental balance. At this time of year the dogs rarely go more than 2 consecutive days without a training run or a race.

SP Kennel dog training protocols do change due to weather patterns, the conditions of individual dogs, dog and/or human injuries and many other variables. But every year dog conditioning is based on these four critical training goals: improving endurance, building strength, sustaining speed and supporting a positive mental attitude.

We are very pleased with 2007/2008 training so far. We are filling a fuel tank full of passion, fervor and enthusiasm. This tank will hold the reserves that energize the team during the 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.



Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wolf Update

We have heard no reports of wolf activity near us for about 3 weeks. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently conducted an aerial survey of both wolf and moose populations. No wolves were sighted but the moose population was confirmed to be in the normal to high normal range. Moose are the wolves’ main food source. Therefore, wolves are likely still in the area.

The results of the moose survey pose a question. With plenty of their normal food available, why did wolves decide to target dogs? My theory is that we didn’t have enough snow this fall and early winter. The wolves had a difficult time tracking moose on the bare ground. Wolves are smart! Dogs were an easier prey than moose.

Now we have more snow, so it seems natural that the wolf pack would return to its normal behavior. Fine by me!

Nevertheless, our wolf early warning system, mentioned in our December 19 post, is still operational. It is an array of motion detectors along our driveway and near the dog yard.

A week ago, in the early morning hours, the outside lights snapped on and the alarms inside blared. Allen and I were jolted from a sound sleep and crashed down stairs. Throwing on parkas and boots and grabbing our headlamps and guns, we were outside in less than a minute. As we passed through the door, our headlamps caught a flash crossing the driveway. With adrenaline at full throttle, we headed toward the action and focused our lights. There crouched the intruder. A huge Snowshoe Hare…..What a relief!!

Aliy