During our drive to Dawson Aliy took the time to tell us about her race and each of her team.
She said it was the cleanest 300 mile race she's run in a long time which surprised her as the YQ300, especially run from Fairbanks can be horrid with Rosebud and Eagle Summit to climb and Birch Creek to negotiate, twice, which can be especially cold and windy. The trail was incredibly hard and fast for the first 100 miles so she worked hard to slow the team down so that they had enough left to go fast for the next 200 miles and especially for the last leg as she was nervous about Chase Tingle behind her.
The team on Eagle Summit
Her team could be divided into two: All the dogs were either sons or granddaughters of the legendary ChaCha or they were Quito/Biscuit pups. She is especially excited about how the four latino siblings raced. She concedes, of course, you can't do a race without a front end but for her to see these four young dogs really step up and compete was thrilling.
NELSON didn't run the CB300 so she was curious how he would race an ultra-competitive 300 mile race (remember he did run the Sheep Mountain 300 at the end of the season last year so he's gone the distance before). Turns out he was perfect! He ate well, he ate all his snacks along the trail, rested MOST of the time except for one occasion when Aliy stopped short of the Two Rivers checkpoint to camp for four hours. She had set her sleeping bag on top of the mainline by the leaders but Nelson was circling and not settling down to rest so she could feel every time he did it. He figured it out by the end of the race. He had a strong tug-line from start to finish and he never slacked off. He a really athletic dog and reminds her of her Uncle Tatfish in his being. He does need to work a little on his "dipping" technique (when the dogs dip their heads into the snow to grab a mouthful) as a couple of times he face-planted into some deep snow. She feels he is proud of himself now and so he should be!
Nelson ran with MISMO, our Shetland pony. Mismo is a big dog who wants to run; he's powerful and yet very sweet. He was super excited and Aliy was really happy with the way he performed in Meghan's CB300 team and felt it was a really good stepping stone for him. He was banging on the line at the finish line wanting more.
Felix, Nelson and Rambler await the start
IZZY is the most vocal of the four. Even though she physically resembles her Dad Biscuit, Izzy is starting to remind Aliy more and more of Quito and to see her gaining confidence each race is exciting. She has a steady energy and likes to run fast, like Quito. Her one flaw is she doesn't quite have her eating down: she doesn't dive into her meals but she did snack on the trail which is just like her Mom.
FELIX is a tough dog, he wasn't quite 100% but he stuck to it and Aliy is predicting he is going to be a main dog at the kennel. She likes to run him in wheel as he can balance being a hard-pulling dog with the ability to negotiate the main line which, for wheel dogs, can be tougher to do than for those further up the line because the line is anchored in place more by the sled. That is one of his dad Biscuit's strengths and he is going to be just like him.
The "ChaCha front end" is strong!
The oldest of the bunch is PUD. Twice Aliy looked up at him in the shadows and she saw Pingo, his dad and one of the best dogs Aliy has run. He had his head down and was pulling hard the entire time. He did super well in lead but she pulled him back on the last leg and put Waylon up front as he could drive the team a little faster. Pud's having a stellar season so far!
RAMBLER was perfect and back to his best after a mediocre CB300. He wanted to to it and wanted to be the boss. He even pushed Waylon around which was the opposite way around to the CB300. He ate well during this race which has been an issue in the past and why he was able to perform so well this time. There's not much more to be said about Ramble-dog, he was awesome!
WAYLON is always excited to go and cheers the team on with his unique frog-like bark. This race was a little hard on him but he got through it well. He really is a good dog!
SISSY is also a cheerleader but after a few cups of coffee to wake her up (much like Aliy!). She's not really a "morning person" like Scooter, she's more of a night-owl. She, like Nelson, just needs refine her dipping technique as she also face-planted a few times. This is not something we can teach them, they just have to figure it out for themselves. Her funny quirk is that she doesn't really like to eat out of a bowl, she prefers her kibble straight off the ground. She's a really good dog and coming in to her own this season - she's a serious contender for the main Iditarod team this year.
WILLIE was perfect. He always wags his tail and not just an indiscriminate wag, he is really sincere about it and looks right at you. He's a happy, good natured dog. He's also a FAST dog, one of the fastest in the kennel and likes to lope. Aliy feels she could and perhaps should have run him in lead but the others were doing such a good job too. Willie is good at everything: camping, eating, he wakes up quickly and he consciously watches the trail and does his best to avoid stepping in holes and falling off the trail into deep snow. He's a dog she does't need to think or worry about out there but she sure does notice him.
VIPER was 100% team dog during this race which is a different role for him; he is usually in lead. Viper can be a little too smart for his own good, for example on the return leg from Circle to Central he started looking for their campsite they had used on the previous leg.
HONDA: when Aliy picked the team she didn't realise how talented the four "kids" were and how there were able to kick the team up a notch speed wise so Honda was just simply out-paced. She picked him specifically to keep the speed down and he tried 110% like always and pulled hard up Rosebud but going so fast down the other side proved to be just too much for him. He struggled a little during the next two legs to Circle where she left him with Wes and Bridgett. He is a great dog but he is not a fast dog.
L-R: Aliy with Honda and Pud at the start line; the team leaves Circle City checkpoint
Aliy wants to thank the YQ300 officials, volunteers and fellow competitors for a great race. She enjoys running the YQ300 and the camaraderie of other mushers and handler teams make it special. She also thanks very much all her family an friends that got her off at the start-line and Meghan, Moira, Wes and Bridgett for handling during the race. It was a hugely successful team effort!
L-R: Aliy's start team; Bib #56
All photos by Jen Nelson and used with permission - thanks Jen!