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.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sheep Mountain Dog Sled Race

This is Kennel Mom, Aliy’s mother, adding to the blog from a slightly different perspective. Aliy’s dad, Doug, and I will be watching the Sheep Mountain Sled Dog Race this weekend on our computer in Florida. It is always a bit challenging to get the whole picture from afar, so I interviewed Aliy via phone about the race. Thought I would share her thoughts and our observations with you.

The Sheep Mountain Dog Sled Race is the first competitive race of the Alaska season. It begins Saturday, December 13 at noon, Alaska Standard Time. Teams will finish about 24 hours later. According to Zack Steer, the race organizer, this race is for “early season distance training and competition”. The snow cover is ideal this year and the forecast is for cold, clear weather. Great for racing!


Fifty teams, the maximum allowed, have pre-registered for the race. You will recognize many entrants who are top performers: Jeff King, DeeDee Jonrowe, Hans Gatt, Ken Anderson and, of course, Aliy. The full race field is listed at http://gomush.com/SheepMountain150.html.

This web site also explains the race trail and links to the Sheep Mountain Lodge web site for maps and general info about the area. A simplified explanation of the race trail is as follows: the teams start at Sheep Mountain Lodge; they run 50 miles east to Eureka Lodge; they rest for 5 hours at Eureka; they make a 50 mile loop in the hills east of Eureka; they rest for 5 hours again at Eureka; then they run 50 miles back to Sheep Mountain Lodge.

Since the teams leave the starting chute 2 minutes apart, the starting differential is made up at the first Eureka Lodge rest stop. The team that begins in 50th place, rests exactly 5 hours. The team that starts in 49th rests 5 hours and 2 minutes; the 48th team rests 5 hours and 4 minutes and so on. The teams that start near the front will have longer rests. Our understanding is that Aliy and Allen start in places 11 and 12, so their rest times will be longer than those in slots 13 through 50. This is good!

Aliy also talked a bit about teams and the race strategy. Aliy and Allen will each start with a team of 12 dogs, the maximum allowed by race rules. The dogs have been trained identically and should be very ready for 150 miles. Aliy believes that Allen’s team is the faster of the two.

She emphasized that an important aspect of this ‘shorter’ race is to run CLEAN. Leaving the checkpoints on time and passing other teams without incident are critical, especially in the first third of the race when teams are bunched together. In a 150 mile race there is no time to make up for mistakes.

Aliy says that they must keep the dogs and themselves healthy. In a shorter race, there is a fine line between racing ‘in control’ and ‘out of control’. The Sheep Mountain Race is very hilly (really mountainous) and they plan to pace their teams going downhill, a prime place for knee injuries. To counter this the mushers must then keep up speed on the uphills and the flats by pedaling and ski-poling. This is where Aliy and Allen’s hydration and fitness levels become critical. They have their insulated bottles with long straws ready to pack in the sleds. They have been working out regularly. Aliy thinks that Allen is in the better physical condition.

So it looks like the basic strategy for this race is to run a fast, clean and controlled race for the first 100 miles so they still have 12 healthy dogs (and a healthy musher) for the final 50 mile push to the finish.

So let’s all cheer on Aliy and Allen from afar. The web site noted above will post updates during and after the race. Macgellan will be at the race with the SP Kennel crew. We don’t know what kind of internet access is available in race territory but he will post stories, videos and pictures whenever possible.


Here are the teams as of Friday morning. This could change as they load the dogs into the truck:

Allen – ChaCha, Skittles, Oddball, Tony, Teddy, Venus, Butterscotch, Biscuit, Tatfish, Meg, Rose, Snickers.

Aliy – Bullet, Stormy, JJ, Dingle, Petunia, Spot, Roy, KitKat, Nacho, Chica, Spicy, Garlic.


Linda said...

Great post, Kennel mom! Looking forward to following the race tomorrow and Sunday! Good luck, Aliy and Allen!

Dawn said...

Great post! Looks like we both will be watching via internet from Florida. In case you don't remember me I'm Bridgett's friend Dawn from Nome & Florida!

davidlukosik said...

Thanks Kennel Mom for the informative post about the Sheep Mountain Dog Sled Race! Wishing Allen and Aliy a great race!