Friday, January 30, 2009

Aliy Talks About... Dog Commands

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We're Officially "On The Clock"!

You've no doubt noticed a small addition to the header above... That's right, we're now officially "on the clock" and counting down to Iditarod!

As the saying goes around here, "We've got a lot to do!":
• At least 32 dogs must be brought up to Iditarod levels of fitness, so that means we'll be running most of the dogs in the Kennel practically every day!

• The "drop bags" of supplies have to be packed up and shipped out to about 20 checkpoints for both teams. At an average of two bags per team per checkpoint, that's a total of about 80 bags and a total weight of almost two tons!

• To get the "drop bags" ready, we will spend many days cutting snacks, bagging food, sorting booties, counting out batteries, hand warmers, etc.

• Dog boxes need to be refurbished and shipped to Nome -- for the dogs to travel in on their way back to the Kennel.

• The list goes on and on...
We look forward to sharing all our activities and progress with you, so stay tuned!

We're "on the clock" and going at full speed!

Meet The Dogs: KitKat

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let There Be Light!

Finally! The sun came out for a few minutes... and just when Aliy was heading out for a training run, too!

I've been pretty frustrated about trying to get good photos in the dim light around here. Everything I've shot so far seems to just be flat and blue. So, after helping Aliy hook up her team I grabbed my camera and ran down the chute to catch this shot as the team raced through a light-filled gap in the trees. What a difference a little light makes, eh?

Those of you who are photographers will see in the photo below that I didn't have quite enough light for a fast shutter speed and good depth of field, but one learns to be happy with what one can get around here!

As the sun goes higher in the sky and the days lengthen, I hope to bring you many, many more -- and even better -- photos. Stay tuned!

Tales of the Trail: Musher-less Dog Team

I was doing some housekeeping on my Mac yesterday and found this photo from the CB300 that I thought was worth sharing with you:

The story goes like this: I was at the Tolsona checkpoint -- in the lodge warming up, actually, after Allen had passed through and before Aliy had arrived -- when I saw this musher-less dog team coming across the lake. I grabbed my camera and got this long-distance shot -- through a window -- just as someone had gotten out in front of the team to grab them.

There was quite a commotion in the lodge as people speculated about whose team it was, how it had happened, where the musher was, etc. For those who are not so familiar with the sport of sled dog racing, it seemed that this was a surprising -- almost astonishing -- turn of events. The truth is that it's actually common enough.

There are several ways a musher and team can be separated. Often, there is a particularly nasty point in the trail -- icy, steep, twisty, etc. -- where the musher's momentum in one direction is sufficiently different from the team's momentum in another that the musher simply cannot hang on to the sled. Also often, it is possible for the dogs to pull the snow hook free while the musher is off the sled -- attending to gear, for example -- and to head down the trail on their own. On certain very long races, it sometimes even happens that the musher falls asleep and simply falls off the sled.

There are also several things that can happen after the musher/team separation occurs. In every case you can be assured that the musher will call out "Whoa!" just as loud as possible. Sometimes the team will stop -- depending on the dogs and particularly on the quality of the lead dogs -- but most often they will continue down the trail. One thing that a musher will try to do when being ejected from a sled is to tip the sled over on its side in the process. While the dogs are physically capable of dragging a sled that's off its runners, they will not appreciate the added burden and will probably stop on their own. Also, the sled or a dangling snow hook may catch on a tree or some other obstacle that will stop the team. In any of these happy events, the musher is likely to have a relatively short walk to be reunited with the team, to thank their good fortune and to get back on the trail.

In other cases -- like the one you see here -- the "worst case" has happened and the dogs have continued down the trail with an upright sled -- probably even energized about running with a reduced load! It is the nature of dogs to automatically follow the trail for a variety of reasons. For one, they are creatures of habit and following trails is what they do. For another, they can smell/sense the teams that have gone ahead and are naturally inclined to follow. Also, it is simply easier to run on the trail than to break a new one, so the dogs will naturally take the "easy" route.

So, in many -- maybe even most -- cases where there has been a musher/team separation, you can expect to see a musher-less team arriving at a checkpoint in otherwise good order. As is the culture of the sport, the team will be grabbed up by someone at the checkpoint, steered into a "parking place" and tended to in normal fashion until the musher arrives.

How does the musher arrive? Well, most often -- as happened in this case -- they are picked up in short order by the next team to come along the trail and given a ride. Sometimes, though, on especially long races it can be a very long time before another team comes along. In those cases, you will just have to picture a musher walking the trail: Footprint, footprint, footprint, footprint... For as long as it takes until they somehow, somewhere catch up with their dog team.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Aliy Shoots Back!

Something I didn't mention in "We're Back To Running Dogs!" is that another part of my "filming strategy" for the day was to mount a camera -- yes, my "shock and waterproof" new Olympus 1030 SW -- on Aliy's sled and to have her "shoot back" from the other side of the camera.

My original idea was to edit the clips together and make a back-and-forth video for you. Unfortunately, that kind of editing requires skills that are pretty far beyond my abilities. So, I had to go with the "one-sided" video that you saw the other day.

But, Aliy had gotten some really great footage -- to which she had added some very interesting narration along the way -- and I didn't want it to go to waste. So, I've taken part of her footage and edited it into this video for you.

For purposes of "artistic consistency" I've used the same great Hobo Jim song, so maybe you can imagine what it would have looked like if I'd been able to edit the videos as I first imagined.

Mostly, though, I think you'll enjoy just riding along as "Aliy shoots back!"
(Note: Along the way you will see that because I cannot be in two places at one time -- and because I can barely drive the 4-wheeler faster than the dogs can run! -- Aliy had to stop the team to give me a chance to drive up ahead of them. I was really hustling the whole time, and when she got back to the Kennel I told her that if I'm going to do much of this "on the trail" filming I'm going to need a driver!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Little Help... Please!

I've gotten occasional comments, messages, etc. from some of you about having difficulties playing the various media on this Dog Log.

I want to get some good "data" about how widespread the problems are...

So, I have put a little poll over to the right in the sidebar -- just below the Kennel Sponsor links -- which will let you "vote" on which media -- video, audio, both, neither -- your computer can play.

I've posted a second poll below it which asks what kind of internet connection you have.

Your answers to these two questions will help me gain a much better understanding of what's going on...

So... A little help... Please! Take two seconds to click and vote in both polls... Thank you!

Hooray!... We're Back To Running Dogs!

Between the extreme cold, the extreme heat, the vet visit, the physiology research and the human sickness... Well, let's just say we've had a lot of pretty much everything going on around here lately... Except running dogs!

Yesterday, Aliy let out a shout: "Hooray! We're back to running dogs!"

This gave me an idea, so I inquired about her training route and mapped out a strategy. I took one of the four wheelers and headed out on the trail, cutting corners to catch some video of Aliy and the dogs at a few places on their run.

I was pretty happy with the footage I got, but wasn't sure what to do with it until -- as usual -- I browsed through some music and found this great song by Alaska's Hobo Jim.

Well, the video quickly took shape after that, and I hope you enjoy this little celebration of the SP Kennel Team finally back to running dogs!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Physiology Research At SP Kennel

It's been a big veterinary week here at SP Kennel. Besides the visit from Dr. Stu Nelson -- chief Iditarod veterinarian -- that you've seen in the past couple of posts, we've also had a lengthy visit from Dr. Michael Davis and his team from the Oklahoma State University Department of Physiological Sciences.

Dr. Davis has been working with Alaskan Husky Sled Dogs as part of ongoing research for the past decade, studying various aspects of their physiology to try to unlock some of the mysteries of their amazing performance and endurance. His research has broad ranging applications not only for canine medicine, but for human medicine as well.

"Dr. Mike" has made many visits to SP Kennel over the years and has become a good friend and colleague of Aliy and Allen. In this video, Mike introduces his current work and speaks at some length about the modality, intentions and ramifications of his current work.

For those of you who may get a bit queasy at the sight of needles and such, I will warn you that the video includes a little bit of "medical stuff." Mostly, though, it shows the fabulous dogs of SP Kennel participating in important physiological research and describes the essential part they play in improving the health of their canine and human friends.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Iditarod Veterinarian Program

While Dr. Stuart Nelson -- chief Iditarod veterinarian -- was at the Kennel, I asked him for an overview of the Iditarod veterinary program. He very graciously allowed me to record this for you:

For those of you who can't watch the videos, I've ripped the audio into mp3 format:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vet Visit (and ChaCha Outtake)

Dr. Stu Nelson -- chief Iditarod veterinarian -- came by the Kennel yesterday and had a lengthy visit with Aliy and Allen to talk about a broad range of topics, ranging from food and hydration to training and medication. Afterwards, he and Aliy went out into the dog yard to take a look at the hounds, and I followed along with my camera.

Their examination of the dogs began, of course, with ChaCha (aka "Top Dog") and proceeded thoroughly and methodically throughout the pack. They conversed in a manner that was pretty technical, yet obviously comfortable and familiar for them. Although I shot a number of clips of particular examinations, they didn't strike me as being all that interesting to watch so I've left them out of the video.

What I've left in are an introductory clip and a "human interest" clip in which I ask Aliy how she feels about having Dr. Nelson examine her dogs. In the latter you get a sense of the examination process... and a special treat!

You see, ChaCha (who -- have I mentioned? -- is "Top Dog" around here) really doesn't like it when other dogs get special attention. As a result, she had a little "acting out" episode that I might normally put into an outtake but have included here just for fun.

So, with no further ado, I offer you this video of our "Vet Visit" with a "ChaCha Outtake":

Macgellan Is Back...

Greetings! I'm back, more or less, after a pretty nasty cold knocked me down over the weekend. I'm not 100% yet, but feeling pretty much on the mend and I think I'll be good to go in another day or so.

Aliy mentioned in her post that I had the company of my new best friend Stella, and that she wished she had a picture. Well, I'm happy to provide this photo to show that beyond "sharing" my bed, Stella is actually quite a bed hog! Given half a second, she will maneuver to exactly where she wants to be and give me a sad doggy look when I move her back. It's actually very sweet, and she is an excellent companion.

There's a lot more to the "Stella Story" that I may post some day, but for now let me just say that I'm very happy to have her as my new best friend and that my convalescence was indeed enhanced by her presence!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Around the Kennel

Well folks .... Aliy here.

Macgellan is down for the count, perhaps a flu bug in combination with no sleep during the last month. He is resting up in his little cabin down the road. Don't worry he has plenty of vitamin C and his new "best friend", Stella, keeping him company. I wish I had a picture! Just imagine a blond, blue eyed bed hog, with long legs and a nice howl "sharing" a small bed with a sick man.

The kennel is a buzz, as usual. Since returning from the Copper Basin we have had three primary goals.

Number one was to tend to the Copper Basin race dogs. They had a tough last few weeks with cold temperatures, a heck of a 300 mile race and a life confined in a dog truck. So, those 24 dogs have been have pampered daily with fish snacks, massages, loose running and a slow but steady 2 hour "stretch out" training run. Over the next few days we will continue to train them on short runs.

Number two was tend to the Copper Basin mushers. We also had a tough last few weeks. That 50 below seems to knock your socks off, and quite literally, a few toenails as well. So, Allen and I have slowed our pace (just a hair) the last few days. Our days are filled with tending to dogs, trying to stay limber ourselves and for some reason, those frigid temperatures makes a human gastrointestinal furnace burn on high - so our food consumption is ridiculous. I estimate Allen is eating ,just as a snack between meals, 1 1/2 pounds of mixed nuts a day.

Number three was to train all of the other dogs who were left at the kennel while we were racing this past week. These dogs, some simply by "luck of the draw" and some due to slight injury, are now behind in training miles. We have to train them with a rapid, yet steady schedule in order to bring them up to par with the Copper Basin racers.

It is snowing as I write this and the temperatures are actually reasonable at 20 degrees above zero. We will see what happens next.

Friday, January 16, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

I've recently mentioned two phrases that you will often hear at the Kennel: "We've got a lot to do!" and "It's never easy!" You may recall that the latter was prominently featured in a video about some, um, challenges we had driving home from a race. Well, I can now report that one of my own personal favorite sayings -- one that I have used often since I got here two months ago -- has also found its way into the Kennel's phrase book: "You can't make this stuff up!" As you will see, it is prominently featured in this video. Here's the story:

It was snowing lightly as I drove over the mountains from Glennallen back to Two Rivers on Tuesday night, but there was little accumulation and traction remained good. So, I took it easy -- averaging about 35 mph -- and had a pretty decent trip. The drive took longer than "normal" but the miles kept clicking by and in due course I was home in good order.

Well, with the abrupt temperature swing we've just had, the snow that gave me good traction must have melted and then re-frozen, because by the time Aliy, Allen, Bridgett and Bob drove the same road on Wednesday it was nothing but a thick sheet of clear, glare or "black" ice. No matter how careful you are, when you hit that kind of ice you're in trouble.

Big Red ended up with his nose in the show bank, and there was so little traction that neither truck was going anywhere. Even the DOT trucks that were there had no traction and could only move by going in reverse and spreading gravel "ahead" of themselves as they went. What a mess!

The SP Kennel Team was able to get Big Red away from the snow bank, but because every vehicle that tried to drive on ended up off the road, in the ditch or worse, they decided to stay put and visit with the DOT crew for a few hours until things cleared up enough to let them proceed. When they finally got going again, it was many hours of driving at very slow speeds before they cleared the problem area and eventually got back to the Kennel, all safe and sound.

Bridgett and Aliy shot some photos and video of the experience -- about which she said to me, "You can't make this stuff up!" -- and I have edited it into this video. It was so windy that most of the soundtrack is completely inaudible, but I was able to salvage a few parts of it. To fill in the gaps I've dubbed in a song called "Everything Is Great" that just strikes me as fitting the experience.

Now that it is all over and everyone got home safely, I can invite you to enjoy another little episode of Alaskan winter life... You can't make this stuff up!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

106 Degrees Of Separation

I got back to the Kennel late Tuesday night and Aliy, Allen, Bridgett and Bob returned yesterday afternoon. There was some drama -- of course -- which I will share soon, but for now please be assured that everyone -- human and canine -- is safely home, pretty tired but quite well.

The biggest surprise we found upon returning from the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race was the thermometer reading you see here. That's right, the temperature was 50 degrees above zero and stayed that way all day! As I write this, it is still well above freezing and simply everything is melting. Snow is cascading off the roofs, there are puddles everywhere and we're all walking around in shirtsleeves. After two weeks of devastatingly cold temperatures, this experience is downright astonishing. It occurred to me that between our previous temperature of below -55 and our current temperature above +50, there is at least "106 degrees of separation." I'll tell you, winter in Alaska is quite an experience of extremes!

The dogs don't seem to be phased by it at all, though their behaviors are remarkably different. Instead of being huddled in their dog houses, burrowed into their straw and not showing even a nose except at meal times, they are now mostly outside their boxes playing games with each other, on top of their boxes howling at everything or nothing, and generally enjoying what must be like a vacation in the tropics for them. Teddy has gone so far as to stretch out on the "snow beach" for a nice nap. With a coat as thick as hers, she is probably sweltering!

Instead of not being able to run the dogs because it is too cold, we cannot run the dogs today because it is too warm. It's probably just as well, because nobody really feels like running today anyway. Aliy and Allen have taken Bridgett to the airport and plan to do some "stuff in town" afterward. Considering the long weekend we've all had, a day of "catching up with ourselves" is very much in order.

Thanks as always for tuning in! I've got a few tidbits that I'll post over the next few days as activity ramps up again here at the Kennel. Then, before you know it, we'll be back on the road for the next race of the SP Kennel Teams!

Stay tuned!...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CB300: Race Recap

I drove up to Wolverine this morning and met up with the teams. Everyone had gotten some sleep and eaten some food, so they were in pretty good shape. Aliy and Allen both recorded recaps of their experiences in the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race, but the internet connection wasn't stable enough for me to post them from there. So, I have driven back down to Glennallen and am posting from here.

Rather than drive all the way back up to Wolverine for the evening, I am going to continue back to Two Rivers. Bridgett has offered to phone in a follow-up if anything interesting happens at the banquet tonight, but I wouldn't count on it. The teams will spend the night at Wolverine then drive home to the Kennel tomorrow.

Here is Allen's Race Recap:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.
Here is Aliy's:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.
I think that brings you completely up to date! As soon as we all get back to the Kennel and get ourselves a bit sorted out, I'll post something to fill you in on whatever is next in this amazing world of sled dog racing!

CB300: Finish

I left Aliy, Allen, Bridgett and Bob in Wolverine at about 11pm and drove back to my headquarters here in Glennallen. Although you will have to wait until I see them again tomorrow before I can record any kind of post-race report, I wanted you to at least see them at the finish. So, I've edited the two clips together in this video.

I didn't do any narration during the footage because I wanted to try to pick up the ambient sounds, dialogue, etc. As it has turned out, I think it does even more than give you the "sounds" of the finish line. I think it gives you a pretty good "feeling" of what it is like to be amongst a few hardy souls, standing on a frozen lake in the middle of the night, to greet mushers who have just finished a 60 hour ordeal.

Monday, January 12, 2009

CB300: Aliy At The Finish

Aliy has just crossed the finish line of the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race, in eleventh place. She is sitting in the lodge with Allen as I write this, having a hot drink and something to eat. Considering how tired they are, I'm not going to press them for a race recap tonight. The entire team will probably reconvene in the morning and I will try to get you a full report then.

CB300: Allen At The Finish

Allen has just crossed the finish line here at Wolverine to take fifth place in the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race. As always, his immediate focus is to take care of his dogs so he, Bridgett and Bob are at the dog truck giving them snacks, removing their booties and harnesses, and preparing to give them a hot meal. So, we will have to wait a little while to get a report from Allen about the race.

We expect Aliy to arrive sometime in the next hour or so and will report her arrival as soon as possible. Stand by for details and video to come soon!

Update from Wolverine

As mushers are crossing the finish line at Wolverine Lodge, Bridgett, Macgellan and Bob are awaiting Allen and Aliy's arrival. There is a team on the lake about 15 minutes out of the checkpoint right now. Hopefully it is Allen.

CB300: Allen Out Of Sourdough Checkpoint

This just in from Bridgett:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Outtake: Doggie Duet

To help pass the time until we can get an update on the teams from the race, I thought I'd share another little outtake with you. It may just be that I'm pretty punchy, but this clip really cracked me up.

While Aliy was rigging up her team in Chistochina yesterday, "Our Man Manny" was up to his usual, um, antics. This time, however, he really got Moonpie going with him. I wish I could say they reminded me of "Two Tenors", but the fact is they reminded me more of Archie Bunker and Edith from the beginning of the old "All In The Family" TV show.

So, see if this doesn't crack you up -- or at least bring a smile to your face -- while you wait. Enjoy!

CB300: En Route To Sourdough Checkpoint

I just wanted to let you know that I got a follow-up call from Brdigett in which she said that the teams are en route to Sourdough and that she is on her way there as well. Sadly, there is no cell phone service in Sourdough, so we will all be "in the dark" for a while. The "plan" is that after Allen leaves Sourdough, Bridgett will drive down here to Glennallen and we will have a little confab to catch up and figure out something for the finish sometime this afternoon.

You may have all seen the route map of the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race before, but I have included it here because I think it may help explain some of the logistical issues that we are dealing with. Keeping in mind that the teams run on the purple lines and we all drive on the orange lines -- and that there's really no accurate way to predict how long it will take either mode of transport to travel each segment -- I think you can see why it's not easy to co-ordinate meetings, let alone hi-tech updates in low-tech terrain!

So, it may be a while until the next update, but we'll do what we can! Stay tuned!...

CB300: Paxson Update

Your early morning field report from Bridgett and a special guest!

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CB300: Aliy In Paxson

This voice message came in just five minutes ago from Bridgett via iPhone...

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

CB300: Allen In Paxson

This photo and voice message came in exactly ten minutes ago from Bridgett via iPhone... Is this great or what!

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Outtake: Dogs On The Run

To keep myself from pacing the floor while waiting for Bridgett to call with an update from Paxson, I decided to occupy myself by sorting through all of the footage I've shot this weekend that didn't make it into a video. I came across this clip and thought it was worth sharing with you.

In Tolsona yesterday, I had positioned myself at the entrance to the checkpoint in order to get the still photos that you've seen in previous posts. I had hoped to run over to the exit chute to catch Allen leaving, but he was out of there so fast I never had a chance. But, I fired up my camera anyway and got this long-distance footage of the dogs on the run. It is a vantage point that I haven't had before, and I found it interesting. I hope you enjoy it too!

CB300: Both Teams Are Out Of Chistochina

As you can see, Allen left Chistochina -- the third checkpoint of the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race -- at 10:29 this morning. All 12 dogs were looking great as they pulled out. As Kaz pointed out in the last post -- Thanks Kaz! -- race position is almost meaningless at this point in the race. Until all the rests have been taken, you'd have to do some pretty fancy figuring to know who's where and in what position. That said, however, you can be sure that it is a very close, competitive race and that Allen is right in the thick of it among the very front contenders!

Although you can't see it in the picture -- because I had to shoot it and bolt from the checkpoint to get back here before the race officials updated the sheet -- Aliy left Chistochina at about 12:30 this afternoon, also in very good position. She dropped one dog -- Garlic -- but the rest of the team looks great. The teams will now travel over some pretty tough mountains and rugged terrain on their way to Paxson.

Bridgett just called me from Paxson and we formulated a "plan" for tonight. We figured that since Allen will be arriving there in the dark, there's not much point in me driving up there to try shooting any video. Besides, if I went up there I would not be able to post an update until I got back here in the wee hours of the morning. So, instead, I am going to wait here in Glennallen and she is going to try to phone in a field report as soon as she can after Allen arrives. Hopefully we will be able to give you the latest information at the earliest possible time.

But, of course, you know how "plans" go around here, so there's really no telling what will happen. You can be sure, however, that Bridgett, Bob and I will do everything we can. So, stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here's a video from Chistochina to bring you up to date:

What's going on!

What is going on on the Trail?

As I am writing this, Aliy and Allen are both resting at the Chistochina Checkpoint. Chistochina is a Native Village of less than 100 people on the edge of the Wrangel- St. Elias National Park. It is also a cell phone “dead zone”. We haven’t heard from the handlers since they were heading there last night after helping the mushers out of their rest at Glennallen. Bridgett reported that the area from Tolsana to Glennallen had snow recently and the trail had only been “broken out” on Friday. That didn’t give the trail enough time to harden and the teams were “swimming” through deep snow. Allen, who was running in the front position, had the worst spot - “breaking” trail for the rest of the teams. Both he and Aliy decided to stay in Glennallen longer than they had planned to give their dogs a bit more rest.

Both Allen and Aliy were planning on doing an 8 hour rest in Chistochina to prepare the dogs and themselves for heading into the mountains. The trail from Chistochina to Paxson is very mountainous and can be cold and windy. The weather was showing a wind advisory for last night in that area. Luckily, today the weather expected to be better, with only light wind and highs 10 to 20 below. (For more up to date weather, go to An average run time from Chisto to Paxson, 72 Miles, is 10 to 12 hours, depending on trail conditions. That would put Allen in Paxson around 10pm this evening and Aliy in at about 1 to 2am Monday morning.

Until all of the teams’ rest is taken, the positions on the trail are all relative to rest, not to the mushers actual place in the race. Many mushers only took 4 to 5 hours of rest in Chistochina, but they will need to take that rest at some point on the race.

We are looking forward to hearing from Macgellan with stories from the trail.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CB300: Allen Is Out Of Glennallen

Allen is safely out of Glennallen -- the second checkpoint on the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race -- and on his way to the third checkpoint at Chistochena. Aliy will be leaving Glennallen very soon.

Here's the video:

And with that, you are completely up to date. Bridgett and Bob will drive to Chisto in the dog trucks where they will -- hopefully! -- arrive ahead of Allen and Aliy with a couple of hours to spare for a nap. I'm going to get a few hours of sleep myself, then head up there early in the morning. I will probably be out on the trail most of the day, so don't expect much in the way of an update until later in the afternoon or early evening.

Just in case, though, stay tuned!

CB300: Checkpoint 2 - Glennallen

Bridgett sent me this photo (from her iPhone!) which shows Allen into Glennallen -- Checkpoint 2 on the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race -- in first place. If you look a little down the list you will be able to count that Aliy came in number 17, up a few places from her starting position number 23. Both teams have all 12 dogs in good shape.

Bridgett also called in this field report (from her iPhone!) in which she brings you up to date. You will notice that she is rather vague about plans going forward -- times, stops, etc. -- and this is because the CB300 is an extremely competitive race and we don't want to take any chances of tipping anybody off about the Team's strategies via the internet. So, keeping that in mind, I hope you enjoy this audio post from Bridgett:

If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

CB300: Checkpoint 1 - Tolsona

I posted a photo below of Allen arriving at Tolsona -- the first checkpoint of the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race -- so it seems only fair to give you a photo of Aliy arriving as well!

I haven't heard anything more from Bridgett, so I'm going to pack up and head down to Checkpoint 2 here in Glenallen and, hopefully, meet up with the teams!

Stay tuned!...

CB300: Race Start

Here is the video of the start of the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race.
(Sadly, YouTube has done another very poor job of converting it to their format. So, if at all possible, I strongly encourage you to stream the high quality video directly from my server by clicking this link. Even if you have to wait a while for it to download, I think you will find it well worth the time.)

CB300: Quick Update...

Howdy! I have just returned to my headquarters after covering the Copper Basin 300 since early this morning, and in -40 degree temperatures! I have a ton of good media that I will put into posts as fast as I can, but I didn't want you to have to wait... So here is a quick update:

The teams started at Wolverine in fine shape -- I have video that I think you will really like -- and this photo is of Allen arriving at Tolsona -- the first checkpoint -- in first place! He stopped for less than a minute to clear the formalities then went right back out on the trail, whooping to his dogs as only Allen can. Aliy arrived in good order shortly afterward and also seemed in fine shape and spirits. Her stop was maybe a second or two longer than Allen's and then she was right back on the trail as well. Sometime in the next few hours they should arrive at the second checkpoint here in Glenallen.

So, there's your quick update... Now my fabulous Mac and I will slaughter a ton of electrons to bring you some in-depth coverage just as fast as we can!

Stay tuned!...

Friday, January 9, 2009

CB300: Pre-Race - Part 2

The mushers' meeting and banquet at the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race was a pretty casual affair, more like a gathering of friends at a local pub than an official ceremony. Nevertheless, the mushers were all briefed on weather, trail conditions, checkpoint rules, etc. The drawing for bib numbers was the highlight of the evening, with Aliy drawing #23 and Allen drawing #3. Both of them were satisfied with their positions and the evening ended on another positive note. So, all in all, it has been a very good, very easy pre-race day here at the CB300!

The teams have gone to their overnight accommodations near the starting line at Wolverine Lodge and have promised to get a good night's sleep. They will be up and active pretty early, getting ready for the start at 11am.

Stay tuned!...

CB300: Race Poster

In my previous post I mentioned that Aliy and Allen spent some time autographing copies of the official Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race poster. Well, as it turns out, the photo used in the poster is of Allen, taken just a few miles before he crossed the finish line to victory last year. So, if Allen is able to "three-peat" this weekend, he will receive a very nice framed photograph of himself!

CB300: Pre-Race - Part 1

The SP Kennel teams loaded up for the Copper Basin 300 Mile Sled Dog Race early this morning. It was dark and very cold -- almost -50 degrees! -- but with Aliy and Allen plus their "handlers" -- Allen's daughter Bridgett helping him and Bob Hauer working with Aliy -- the process went quickly and smoothly. Unlike our past two trips to the Copper Basin area, we had no problems along the way and even got to see some of the beautiful scenery as the sun made its low arc into the daytime sky.

We reached race headquarters in plenty of time to deliver the bags of supplies and extra race gear so that they can be forwarded to the major checkpoints and be on-hand for when Allen and Aliy need them. This is a vitally important part of successful sled dog racing, and as much care as went into packing them back at the Kennel is repeated in the field to make sure the bags get to their proper destination!

Then there were the usual formalities of signing in, checking dog veterinary certificates, autographing race posters, etc., plus some visiting with other mushers and friends who were on hand. It all went so smoothly, frankly, that I hardly recognized the experience! I have checked into my own "headquarters" and found that the place I'm staying not only has the internet connection they promised, but it also works! So, you can color me happy and wish me luck that everything continues to work as I try to bring you as much up-to-the-minute information as I can.

Here is a video that I have quickly edited of footage I've shot so far today which will pretty much bring you up to date. In a little while we will be going to the mushers' banquet and whatever else is involved in the pre-race activities. I will try to get some video and edit a follow-up video later tonight, which is why I've entitled this video "Part 1".

Stay tuned!...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tales of the Trail: Worn Brakes

Aliy was overhauling her racing sled in preparation for the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race this weekend, and called me down to the shop to show me the items you see here. When she told me the story, I thought you might like to hear it too:

On the left you can see a brand new "brake spike" which screws into the very end of the brake pedal and is what digs into hard packed snow and ice. Well, if you recall the GinGin two weeks ago, you know that some of the trail was on the paved Denali highway and that much of it was completely blow bare.

By now you've probably figured out what the item on the right is. Yup, it's a completely worn down brake spike from Aliy's sled as a result of trying to control it on the bare highway in those high winds. Can you imagine what that must have been like?

It reminds a little bit of a time long ago when I'd been in a fight and somebody commented on how bad I looked. My response, of course, was "You should see the other guy!"

So, with apologies to the Alaska Highway Department for what the Denali Highway must look like, I'm delighted to have brought you this "Tale of the Trail"... Something I doubt you'll find anywhere else but here!

The Copper Basin 300 is this weekend!

The Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race is this weekend!

Allen has won the CB300 in three of the past four years, and with his back-to-back wins in the last two years he is looking to "three-peat"!

The pace here at the Kennel is at full speed -- packing gear, loading sleds, training dogs and everything else that goes on before a big race! As you can see above, the "drop bags" -- containing food and gear which will be forwarded to race checkpoints -- are all packed and ready to go.

SP Kennel will be running two 12-dog teams in the CB300 this year:

Allen's "A-Team" will be ChaCha, Butterscotch, Rose, Nutmeg, Tony, Teddy, Biscuit, Petunia, Snickers, Skittles, Oddball and Homebrew

Aliy's "B-Team" is not yet finalized, but will be drawn from Bullet, Hoss, Manny, Sparky, Heeler, KitKat, Garlic, Spicy, JJ, Stormy, Spot, Chica, Nacho, Quito, Moonpie and Kipper

You can meet many of these dogs "up close and personal" in our "Meet The Dogs" posts on the SP Kennel Dog Log.

Each team will have a dedicated dog truck and handler for this big race, with Allen's daughter Bridgett flying in from Nome to support her father and Bob Hauer pitching in to support Aliy. I will be in a race of my own, chasing down the teams at checkpoints and various points where they will be viewable from the road, then racing back to our team headquarters to go online and post all the latest news, pictures and videos.

So, this is also a really good time to make sure you have bookmarked the Dog Log!

For general information you can check out the CB300 website.

Meanwhile, let's hope that the weather co-operates and the SP Kennel Teams have safe and successful races!

Stay tuned!...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Head For The Hills!

I just wanted to let you know that it is still REALLY cold around here, with the thermometer still stuck below -40 degrees!

So, Aliy and Allen have fired up the dog trucks, packed up the hounds and headed for the hills!

According to reports, it is only -25 or so at higher elevations, so the dogs -- and mushers! -- can get in some much needed exercise before the Copper Basin 300 this weekend.

It's called a "temperature inversion" around here, and caused -- I think -- by the coldest, heaviest air settling into the valleys and leaving the higher elevations comparatively warmer.

Whatever and why ever, I'm just happy the SP Kennel Team has gotten out to run today. Nobody -- canine or human -- is in a particularly good mood around here when there's no running to be done!

Stay tuned!...

Meet The Dogs: Stormy

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I thought you might like a little update on the temperature report...

It's COLD!!!

(If this keeps up, I'm going to need a bigger thermometer!)

It's Cold Around Here!

It's cold around here. Very cold! So cold, in fact, that you really can't go outside for more than a few minutes!

As a consequence, none of us is doing much outside. The dogs are all tucked into their cozy, straw filled houses. Aliy and Allen are working on gear in the shop. I'm catching up with a whole bunch of web stuff.

Since I'm not getting any new video, I thought I'd use the opportunity to post some more "Meet The Dogs!" So, you can expect to see more than the usual frequency of them... Unless, of course, it warms up and we can get back outside!

With the Copper Basin 300 coming up next weekend, we can't let the cold keep us inside too long! We need to get out there and have the teams in top shape!

Stay tuned!

Meet The Dogs: J.J.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's Never Easy!

In a few recent posts I have used the expression "It's never easy!" On reflection, I thought it might be useful for me to explain a little more about that. So, here goes:

If you spend some time at the Kennel, the two expressions you will probably hear most often are "We've got a lot to do!" and "It's never easy!" Both are equally ture. The former simply because of all the many demands of racing over 60 sled dogs, and the latter because, well, things just never are easy in the interior Alaskan winter.

To illustrate this point, I've dug up a little video clip that I shot on our way home from the Sheep Mountain Race a couple of weeks ago. Here is the situation:

We were all exhausted after the race, but we wanted to get home. So, we hit the road for the 6 hour trip at about 6pm, "planning" to be back at the Kennel by about midnight. By now, however, you've probably gotten the picture that "plans" aren't much good around here.

I drove the first leg of the trip and pulled into a place for us to get some coffee and change drivers. As we were getting out of the truck we heard, "Hey Allen... Alliy!" It was the voice of a fellow dog musher who was also on her way back from the race and had stopped at the same place, but whose truck would now not start.

Okay, so one of the things I've noticed around here is that everyone really goes out of their way to help others. I'm sure this is partly because it is just their nature to "do the right thing", but I think it is also because they know that a problem which might be an "inconvenience" for someone in most places can truly be "life threatening" in these harsh conditions. You just don't leave people to fend for themselves, because it could easiy be you in their place. Whatever the reason, folks really do go out of their way to help others around here, and this is especially true of Aliy and Allen.

Thus, we proceeded to spend about an hour trying to jump the battery on her truck -- along with everything else we could think of to try -- but to no avail. Despite all of our exhaustion, the dark, the cold, etc., we were able to diagnose that her alternator had gone dead and there was nothing to do but have a new one sent out. So, making sure that she had enough food for her dogs and that she could spend the night at the place we stopped, her friend Gregg joined us for the rest of the trip into Fairbanks to make arrangements.

Since I had driven the first leg of the trip, I stretched out in the back of the truck and took a little nap. I woke up a bit later, probably because the truck had stopped moving and there was some lively debate going on in the front seat. I looked out the window to see a real blizzard going on around us and a car stuck in the snow ahead of us. The driver of the car came back and asked us if we had a shovel he could borrow to dig out his car and Aliy said "Sure!" then proceeded to give him the shovel we use to clean up after the dogs when we drop them.

Now, that shovel is a truly vital piece of equipment in my current line of work, so I made the remark that "I hope he gives us our shovel back!" Well, in our mutual exhaustion my dark humor struck everyone a little funny and we had a bit of a laugh. A few minutes later, however, the cab of our truck became very quiet as we realized that the shovel alone was not going to be sufficient for the guy to get his car unstuck.

As you will see in the video, Gregg and Aliy went to the rescue of the driver -- and our shovel! -- just before a plow truck came along to both clear the road ahead for us and to pull the stranded vehicle to safety. The audio track is not very clear, so I've added subtitles to most of the dialogue in hopes that you will be able to appreciate -- and perhaps forgive -- our exhaustion-induced dark humor. After all, the point is that we stopped to help they guy, not that we had a few laughs at his expense, right?

This episode had added another hour or so to our travel time, plus we then had to make an hour long detour to take Gregg where he needed to go in Fairbanks. Thus, our "planned" 6 hour trip home eventually took us about 10 hours and it was early morning by the time we finally pulled into the Kennel. Like we say around here, "It's never easy!"