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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Red and Black 100 Team Wrap-Up

Racing the Two Rivers 100 was the highlight of my time helping out at SP Kennel. I had one of the most recognizable 'front ends' in Alaska; it was like being handed the keys to Daddy's Ferrari! Most recently I have found myself managing the SP Kennel Mentorship Program. This involves taking some of the most talented kennel dogs and having them show the 5 yearlings how it's done. For this race the mentors were Quito, Olivia, Chica, Boondocks, Nacho, and Biscuit. The five yearlings were Chica and Clyde's litter of Five, Ernie, Ginger, Rodney, and Scooby who had never raced before let alone been in a dog truck; so many new experiences for them.



The 100 race started an hour after the 200 and I started 8th out of 10. The race temperature was around 0F but the biting wind made it feel colder at the Chatanika lodge. I have camped with the same team several times and know how long it takes to harness, booty, and prepare to leave. What I didn't know was that when the pups are so excited with other teams leaving the entire process takes longer. I nearly missed my starting time but a concentrated effort from all handlers got me to the starting line on time.

The trail immediately started climbing one of multiple Chatanika hills but the team was so energized that I still used my drag going up-hill in order to pace them and make sure their muscles warmed up properly. It didn't take long before I was passed by musher #39, Dakota Schlosser. We started what essentially became a private race that lasted until almost the finish line. We passed each other almost a dozen times during the course of the race. Every time someone stopped to fix booties, tangles, or snack, they were passed.

The Chatanika hills were hard work but one of the most serene mushing experiences I have encountered. It was slightly overcast but the wind stopped by the time I was in the hills and large fluffy snowflakes started to fall. It was like mushing in falling cotton candy in a winter version of Charlie's Chocolate Factory! The amazing views were panoramic all through the hills.

Hard up-hills soon became steep down-hills and required my full attention. Having over 30 teams brake downhill ahead of me resulted in a trail with not much for the brake to work with and some very rapid descents. The trail eventually flattened out in a valley and most of the remainder of the first run was very flat and fast.

One of the concerns I had going into this race was how the yearlings would handle being passed, and passing from behind. We had a shaky start and the first pass by Dakota Schlosser required a bit of untangling. The next pass was our turn to pass a lady and her team. She was about to pull her hook from adjusting something when she saw us so she waited for us to pass her by. Quito and Olivia perfectly led the team quickly by on a left hand pass. The entire team followed suit except Rodney who decided to pass her on the right. His tug line clothesline'd her behind the knees and caught her off guard. I jammed on the brake fearing that both musher and dog were injured. Rodney was fine and the musher assured me she was also and we kept going. Most of the rest of the passing was done by us and the yearlings gained confidence with each pass.

The Two Rivers Lodge checkpoint was great with well organized parking on a frozen pond. On private camps, Scooby and Rodney had eventually learned to settle down and be quiet, however with so many other teams around them it took a bit longer this time. Eventually they got it and lay quietly as other teams left. It wasn't until the team next to us got ready to leave that they could no longer contain their enthusiasm. Unfortunately I had to leave Nacho behind at Two Rivers Lodge; the fast down-hills caused his right shoulder to get a bit sore and he ended up returning to the kennel early.

The second leg of the race was on familiar turf and we took the trail at a pace that neither pups nor musher had experienced before. It raced along Two Rivers trails before heading out to an even faster river trail and then back into the Two Rivers forest. The river section involved multiple passings with Dakota's team except when we both had to jam on the brake when two large moose tumbled into the trail right in front of us and proceeded to race each other across the ice. They were either the largest moose I have ever seen or I was just way too close.

As the race went on and on you could see the pups wondering what was going on. They had never run this long and fast before. To their credit, they never stopped pulling and couldn't wait for each snacking. The older dogs knew the game well and just kept going as fast as I would allow them.

Here is a Team Summary of everyone's performance:

Quito- It's amazing to have her on my team. I think her passing skills saved us at least 5 minutes of tangles. She never slowed down and her drive and desire is as strong as ever. It's time to start running some of the younger dogs in lead with her since she has so much to teach.

Olivia - Is a bundle of energy and her leading abilities can rival Quito. Combined they are a complete Power Steering Unit that can make minor trail adjustments on command.


Olivia, Scooby, Ernie and Rodney

Chica - It's hard to know what Chica is thinking as she has such a mellow personality. I always suspected she may tire but she never did and was as strong as ever the entire race.

Boondocks - ran in lead for about 30 seconds when her harness became unclipped. She passed Olivia and Quito but turned around once she realized she was alone. Her enthusiasm is as strong as ever and she was circling at every break and getting tangled with Chica up until the very last snack.

Nacho - is the perfect mentor for Five. They are both big dogs and have similar running styles. They never get tangled and just run side by side. Nacho's knowledge and attitude were impeccable as he demonstrated how to pass teams and lean into the harness in the hills. I hope Nacho and Five get lots more time together.

Biscuit - does set a good example for eating, sleeping, and enthusiasm. However, sometimes his enthusiasm gets the best of him and his line manners show it. Five moved back with Biscuit when I had to drop Nacho and that resulted in teaching Five how to circle and get tangled!

Five - (left) Is a big powerhouse who drops his shoulders and just gets on with the job. You never see his head come up and sometimes you wonder if he is in distress.

As soon you stop the sled to check, his head pops up and he looks at you as though you have just messed up his rhythm. I predict that he will become a key player at the kennel.

Ginger - (right) is solid with a continuous tight line. She does not get too distracted with anything and has learnt to camp very quickly. She is quick to settle on her straw and will keep her eyes closed until it's time to get bootied.

Rodney - has been learning from Biscuit. Everything gets him excited and he gets impatient if the snack breaks take too long. His passing improved drastically during the course of the race and I predict that once we learn to manage his energy he will become a very dependable dog. He also won't stop eating; I think he would eat a car tire if I gave him one.

Scooby- Wins the Most Improved award since I started working mostly with the yearlings in December. He and Rodney used to compete for the most chaotic hookups but now he is patient while he gets his booties put on and does not spin while waiting on the line. He looks around a lot while running and absorbs everything that is going on. He is well on his way to becoming a solid team member.

Ernie - Is a sensitive soul who thinks that getting booties put on is a form of being cuddled. He loves attention and craves approval. He is not as strong as some of his siblings but his line did not go slack once during the race and I couldn't have asked for more.

Wes - worked his tail off going up the hills and arrived at Two Rivers Lodge without one. Fortunately he did not need one on the second leg as the trail was so fast there was nothing he could have done to help the team's speed. His hat and jacket required wringing out at Two Rivers Lodge. Wes is still available for sponsorship.

31 comments:

Gaye Morgan-Walton said...

A great report, Wes, and I would definitely 'fan' you if your name and picture shows up on the page. ;-)I envy you the wonderful thrill of driving the special stars of SPK and also the newest members of the pack to make their mark in a race. It sounds like there is tremendous promise in the Surfiver bunch. Ginger is my special fave but I am an avid follower of them all. XLNT work!! I h ope like some other handlers that you can move on to race on your won in time. Good luck!

Dawn E said...

Love this Wes! So great to read about the yearlings successful race. Sounds like you might have had fun as well. Congrats

Anonymous said...

What a great wrap-up! Wes, you are just another reason to love SP Kennel.

Cindy Schaus said...

I'm not sure, but this may be the best team wrap-up since I've been following SPK. The comment of being handed the keys to Dad's Ferrari totally makes the experience relatable. I also hope Nacho and Five get more time together. I love seeing the old teach the young, which there seems to be a lot of going on in this race I had to smile about you almost missing your starting time because of the new experience for the young ones. And I also loved the fact that Olivia and Quito were demonstrating their passing abilities to the young students. You all, dogs and humans, are awesome! Looking forward to the weeks ahead.

Anonymous said...

What a great wrap-up. Wes, you are just another reason to love SP Kennel. Super race.

Bogey said...

Hilarious. It's like reading about kids at Chuckie Cheese. The youngsters all show potential which bodes well for SPK racing teams. Go Dogs Go.

Ruth said...

Great wrap up commentary.

Steve Parker said...

What a great summary - congrats to Wes and team. I can't wait to hear more results from the trail. Mush on: any trail, any time.

Linda Steiner said...

What an amazing report! I have no doubt Wes will be sponsered by quite a few fans. Will he accept dog bisquits?

Carrie Hopkins, Windsor, CT said...

Great write-up! I'm still laughing hysterically. Best medicine for a Monday! We need to sponsor Wes and keep him working with those babies!

Melissa Krahmer said...

Oh, I miss the write-ups from Wes. I still think of 'frost crack' and laugh.

Anonymous said...

Great summary Wes. Funny and informative. If I didn't know better, I'd think you ran in harness with Macgellan in your training years. Keep up the good work with those pups.

Peg

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is one of the best summaries describing the learning process for the yearlings. I am a fan of Five and love reading about him.

patricia lewis said...

So grateful and thrilled this post was ready so soon. When I saw it, I settled down with a cup of tea to sit and savor the tale that unfolded.

Wes, you indeed had the Ferrari, and it seems you handled it well. Congratulations!

Thank you for a deepening glimpse into the veterans and the extra special youngsters with such thoughful, comical and reverent insights.

My heart is especially full for this team. How wonderful it is to hear that the veterans are still full of strength and enthusiasm for what they do best. Bittersweet.



A-town's Becky said...

Excellent write up!
"two large moose tumbled into the trail right in front of us" YIkES
I'm glad everyone made it out safely!!!!

What an exceptional experience for the Five pups to have the elders and Wes teach them the ropes.

Ditto on the Wes Fan comment.
:-)

patricia lewis said...

If I recall correctly, Chica sleeps until the last possible moment. Sounds like Ginger has the same trait.

Nessmuk said...

Dittos to all that has been commented thus far....a superb wrap up and then some!! I smiled and laughed so many times.....what an enjoyable Wrap Up post! Awesome to hear the Five Litter did so well....I can only imagine how they are going to contribute going forward....such talent and power!! Also hats off to the Mentors of the Team...."dog to dog" OJT is probably one of the best training tools a Kennel has to offer, and you definitely have the best Dog Mentors around! YES, Id like to Sponsor Wes.....where do I sign up!! Lol....you did awesome Wes....and it sounds like you really loved the spin in Dads Ferrari....what a great experience! Thank you so much for taking us along for the ride!

Lisa B said...

Great write up Wes! So glad you had a fun race and that many lessons were learned by the youngsters. Thanks for your funny yet insightful analysis of each of your four legged team members. Hope to be able to cheer you on again in future races. Aliy and Allen do a great job in choosing members of their support team that care about the dogs as much as they do.

J elliott said...

Excellent! It's a wrap up tail - err - tale ;-) more than worthy, of SPK. Reading about your start, now coincides perfectly with the high five shared, as off you all went. It was a race & a comedy - thanks for sharing all of it: from New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

Great wrap , great insight to the 'pups' also great hearing how the experienced members show the pups the ways of the trail Denali ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿพand Joanne ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

Anonymous said...

Woof, woof, woof!!!

Great report, and you certainly deserve at least one sponsor!!! Woof!

What fun!!!

Best,

Margaret

Anonymous said...

I think this may be the most wonderful post I've read. Bittersweet, indeed, to see the torch being passed from the veterans we all love to the babies whose lives were once on the line. Congratulations, Wes, for being such a good 12th member of the team.

Kathy said...

Great team wrap up Wes! Lots if laughs with that but Quito & Olivia
really showed there experience and the yearling will learn well.
Thanks for the wonderful report! Well Done!

Anonymous said...

It's great hearing your story, Wes. Here's to many more... love how the older classics are priming the younger generation!

Holly

Heidi Phillips said...

Fantastic discriptive wrap up Wes and well done on your race!! Working with the young and the veterans showing and teaching the way of a strong team mate. It is so much fun to read the summaries of the dogs and learning about their little quirks while running and resting.

Cheers,

Heidi

Anonymous said...

just adding to the praise, both for the dogs and for the great write-up. a real pleasure to read and get insights (and laughs). thanks wes and sp doggies

Anonymous said...

Terrific job Wes.
Always cheerful and had great stories to tell. you handled the oldsters and youngsters fabulously. I know you had fun.
Proud of you as you did have the future and past in your care. what pressure!
Mush on Spk.
padee
fairbanks

Linda Toth said...

HILARIOUS recap on WES! LOL LOL

Nick Brightman said...

I can assure you that if Daddy had a Ferrari Wes would not get the keys. As it is I have a Toyota pick-up to which I do lend him the keys, and as far as I know he has not yet clobbered any kangaroos. Well done Wes. Dad.

Barb, CO said...

When I read that 'Wes was still available for sponsorship' I raced out to my car to get my wallet. I was totally embarrassed that I did not know which dog Wes was!? but I was ready to sponsor him immediately after reading the post, not thinking too deeply obviously about what I just read. I just raced through the post thinking repeatedly, good dog. Good dog. So many little stories so much to learn from you Wes. Thank you.

And I love the idea of the elders teaching the younguns. I never thought about it in this way you so beautifully illustrated it.

Marilyn cozzens said...

Dittos to above comments. Wonderful to have a mentoring program. What a privilege to run Quito & Olivia with the Five pups. What does it cost to sponsor Wes??