Friday, December 30, 2011

Denali Highway and Maclaren Lodge

Training the SP Kennel dogs involves much more than simply running them mile after mile. The veteran dogs know the basic routine, but just like us mushers .... practice makes perfect. The young dogs need to learn. A lot. Therefore, we train in different trail conditions, weather conditions and terrain. At times, this means leaving our comfy home in Two Rivers with our well traveled trails.

This past week, we packed up the entire SP Kennel crew (minus Wendy, the puppies and a few retired dogs) and headed south to the Denali Highway. This highway is not plowed in the winter, so Alaska Route 8, is actually a snow machine and dog team "highway" from November until April. It is 134 miles in length and connects Paxson to Cantwell (two booming Alaska bush communities with populations, 22 and 200, respectively.) We drove to the Paxson side since one of our favorite spots on the highway is only 42 miles from there - Maclaren River Lodge
. Susie and Alan always have a camping spot for our dogs, a warm cabin, hot coffee and homemade meals. It's almost like we didn't leave home!

The dog training went well. We ran the first 42 mile leg in the dark and dealt with small snow drifts and 30 mph wind gusts. The dogs acted like pros and pulled us through every obstacle. Even the youngsters who hadn't seen much wind or white out conditions acted professionally.

The next leg was a challenge. Allen and Aliy took two 14 dog teams and broke trail for 28 miles. At times we traveled no more than 4 mph in deep, wind blown snow. These two teams would rotate lead every 30 minutes in order to keep the trail breaking enthusiasm going. It worked great! After a short break, we turned back and "cruised" back over our freshly broken trail. We were pretty happy to be the ones to benefit from this trail breaking endeavor! The same day, Ryne, took the younger dogs down this freshly broken trail. She and the dogs enjoyed the sunshine and gorgeous mountains scenery. Watch this video and you will see the love and joy that these SP Kennel dogs have for their mushers!


The final leg was the 42 mile run back to Paxson. We knew that the Gin Gin 200 Race had started just south of Paxson, but we were told that the route would bypass the highway for the first 8 miles. We were surprised when we passed every race team in the event the last 8 miles of our training run. We knew that the trail conditions were not favorable for a fast race, so we wished all the teams "Good Luck" as we passed.

The Denali Highway, winter or summer, is a magnificent Alaskan place!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sammy the Musher

And Mystery Dog Number 5?


DINGLE!
Sponsored by Alice Van Dorn

Congratulations to RJL for being the first correct guess! Send us an email at SPKDogLog@gmail.com with your t-shirt size, color preference (Red or Black), and address, and you'll be sporting SPK gear in no time!

A bit about Dingle:
When Dingle was only two, Allen decided he was the one to lead the team to Nome. Ever since then, Dingle has been a main 1000-mile lead dog (I say 1000-mile because he is not known for his speed). Last year, Dingle led the Black Team through all the hazards of the Yukon Quest and into the Iditarod. Not only does Dingle have ChaCha's leading capabilities, but his siblings Pud and Kipper are leaders as well.

Check back in on Monday, January 9th for the next Mystery Dog!







Monday, December 26, 2011

Guess That SPK Dog Week 5!


Since each dog at the kennel has their own personality and history, we thought it'd be fun to see how well the SPK followers know the athletes. Every other Monday, we'll post "Guess that SPK Dog" at 1:00 PM EST, and the first correct answer posted in the website comment box wins a SP Kennel t-shirt! Limited one shirt per person.

(The answer and winners will be posted on Thursday instead of tomorrow. I apologize for the delay, but we're escaping the cold interior for the warmer Denali Highway. The next couple nights, we'll be away training and staying at Maclaren River Lodge!)

Game #5 Dog Clues

1. I've been Allen's main 1000-mile lead dog since I was two.

2. Bridgett wanted to name me Silver.

3. All my siblings are leaders.


Who am I?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours.......

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Enjoy the friends, family and loved ones who make life so special.

All our best,

Aliy & Allen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wes and Wendy's Weather Five

It's great weather for the mushers right now, but the current 20 degrees might be a bit warm for the dogs. Fortunately for them, there's a lot of fresh snow available for dipping. We have a chance of snow every day for the next 7 days and this should ensure that the trails are great for the next month of training. But, temperatures will start to fall this weekend and could get as low as -40 again; a sharp reminder that we are officially into winter.

We are back in Two Rivers after an exciting weekend at the Sheep Mountain 150, which turned out to be a real glove biter. We are straight back into dog training with the Sheep Mountain dogs getting a gentle stretch out, and the ones that stayed behind picking up their regular training schedules.

Allen and Wes keep the Red Team lined out in Eureka

Sheep Mountain was Wendy and my first ever dog race. It gave us the chance to observe the logistics of race preparation, transporting two teams across the state, and what handlers can do to ensure a smoother race for the mushers. We watched and learned from Allen and got a good idea of what we need to do to support our three teams in the upcoming Copper Basin 300.

One of the key things that we learned was how tiring and sleepless it was to do absolutely nothing. The rules of the Sheep Mountain 150 permitted handlers to do nothing but pass on useful information to the musher and keep an eye on the dogs while the musher rested. Keeping an eye on dogs involved ensuring that dogs didn't chew any lines, get pregnant, or get involved in altercations.

With this race, it was the threat of dog altercations that ended up being the biggest risk. Aliy's team's designated resting spot was very close to the Eureka checkpoint entrance. Aliy was the first racer in from leg two, and therefore immediately fed and bedded her dogs. They soon tried to sleep. But, since the dogs were so close to the checkpoint entrance, incoming dog teams would run in and turn a corner while the musher slammed on their brake to converse with the checker. These dogs, having been stopped and hearing no instruction from their musher, sometimes assumed that they had taken the wrong trail and would start moving, trying to find the right trail. On more than one occasion, dogs meandered over Aliy's sleeping team. Fortunately none of these encounters ended badly. However, with 45 teams coming in, it didn't take Wendy or I long to figure out that whenever we saw a headlamp coming in, one of us needed to stand near the sleeping dogs to make sure that the incoming dog teams did not wander into our team.

When there were no SP Kennel teams at a checkpoint, we were busy trying to update the Dog Log and Facebook page. Many of you may have noticed this didn't always go as planned. However, we hope that you felt relatively up to date.

Sitting back in Sheep Mountain Lodge waiting for the winner to cross the finish line was nerve-wracking. We knew that Aliy had started with a 15 minute lead but there was a blizzard going on and finding the trail might be a challenge for her. We also knew that Jeff King was the only musher from the back of the pack to post a 5hr run time on a deteriorated trail and this indicated a very strong team. His support team indicated that he was also racing with a broken runner. Two mushers coming into view at the same time provided a lot of excitement at the finish line. In the end, it was Jeff King balancing on a single runner that crossed the line first and barely had time to exit before Aliy crossed.

Emotions were high for Wendy and I as we followed the various stages of the race. At the end of leg one, both SP Kennel teams had the fastest run times. We arrived in Alaska knowing nearly nothing about mushing or dog care yet Allen, Aliy and Ryne took the time to train us and had enough confidence in our progress to include us in all dog training activities. This included many fantastic hours on a sled and countless much less fantastic hours on a 4-wheeler freezing our toes off. It was very satisfying and nearly overwhelming to see a dog team that we had spent so much time working with engaged in such a brave push for a first place finish. We are so proud of these dogs and every one of them is special; we even get to take one home at the end of each day to warm our frozen toes.

SP Kennel Handlers at Sheep Mountain 150

We can't wait for the Copper Basin 300, on January 14. It feels like so far away. Yet, there is a lot to be done before the race. The dogs will have their training schedules adjusted for this race and there are a lot more miles to run. Drop bags will have to be prepared and race equipment fine tuned. The time is really going to fly and it will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sheep Mountain 150 Aliy Comments

We had a successful weekend at the Sheep Mountain 150.

However, the newspaper and website reports were not exactly correct. But, that is understandable. Any sled dog race held in rural Alaska has its communication limitations: often times there is no cell phone service and very limited internet access. But, the end result - that I took second place to Jeff King, is correct.

The SP Kennel Red team "rolled" from the start of the race. They were GREAT! Quito in lead, partnering with either Scout or Butterscotch, created super energy for the entire race.

The first two 50 mile legs were not completely flawless - I did have to turn the team around once - but all in all, we had a great first 100 miles.

During the last 50 mile leg the team was again nearly flawless despite the blizzard conditions that came in Saturday morning. The wind and snow created awesome drifts and blowing snow. I had to keep a keen eye on the sled's main tow line and every dog's harness because we were breaking through snow drifts as deep as Boondocks and in these type of conditions, it is easy to get a line or harness tangle. We were completely focused and driven this last 50 mile leg. I was pretty happy with the run .... until I saw a broken down snow machine and the driver walking down the trail about 9 miles from the finish.

It was the Race trail breaker. I stopped to ask if he was okay. He was. I couldn't offer him a ride because at this point, the trail that had been so consistent, stopped where his machine had stopped. He told me that there was one other Race trail breaker snow machine a few miles ahead of us. He said that he was doing his best to find the trail, but the blizzard had pretty much erased all of the existing Race trail.

So, from here it became obvious that my dog team was now the trail breaker. All I can say is: I sincerely appreciate what snow machines do to establish our dog trails. We could not have a race with out them.

My dog team then began to wallow in neck deep snow. We followed the scout trail breaker's freshly laid trail which often had no bottom as it got lost in willow bushes and through ravines. At times I could see a faint outline of the old hard packed trail, but I couldn't get Quito to switch trails. I don't blame her, it wasn't an obvious trail! So, we got tangled in bushes, flipped the sled in ravines and crept along. I had to get to the front of the team to untangle a dog from a bush and literally crawled through snow that was over my hips. I will tell you, the dogs and I did our best.

I looked back periodically (as I did the entire race) and knew that someone would be catching me. And soon, I saw Jeff's team at a distance behind me. At one point, I thought that I should just stop my team and have him pass me so that he could break trail. But, that's not in my nature, so we plugged away until he caught up. He legitimately passed us.

I think it surprised him at first that there was no trail. His team struggled just as mine had in the bottomless snow, but they are a nice group of dogs and trudged along. To his advantage, the trail soon went down hill and connected to the old highway where the trail got better for the most part. We were still several miles from the finish.

We both raced hard to the finish. Jeff is a true competitor. At one point I almost caught him, but my team simply could not over take his squad in the end. Our teams traveled exactly the same speed. We crossed the finish line 20 seconds apart.

We spoke later and Jeff said "I would have let you pass me if you got close enough." All I could say was, "I knew that.... and trust me, I tried my hardest."

So, thanks Zack and Anjanette for a thrilling SM150. I look forward to seeing Jeff on another race this season.

Teams Heading Home

This is Aliy's Mom, Mickey, checking in from South Florida.

I received a phone call from Aliy today at about 10 AM Alaska Standard Time. She and the SP crew were driving north towards Two Rivers. They had spent the night at the Sheep Mountain Lodge after the Sheep Mountain 150 Race and post race festivities. She reported that all humans and dogs are healthy and eager to get home.

Most of you have checked the final Sheep Mountain 150 standings and know that Aliy finished second with all 12 dogs. Ryne finished 11th with 11 dogs. They will update you on the last half of the race when they get home and get the dogs and equipment unloaded.

There is an article in yesterday's Anchorage Daily News about the race finish. You can access it at www.adn.com/2011/12/18/2224293/zirkle-breaks-trail-to-finish.html

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eureka Lodge Layover Two






4:00AM is an exciting time around Eureka Lodge Checkpoint---at least for the SP Kennel team! Aliy was expected any time between 4:30-5:00 AM, and the SP Kennel team was ready and waiting. To our delight, she pulled in at 4:26AM with a run time of 5.01. She is 21 minutes ahead of the now second place, Jeff King who pulled in at 4:47AM. Her out time is 9:26AM. She was happy with the run, the trail improved with less overflow in this stretch. However, a stiff wind came up, and running over the hills with blowing snow was a bit more challenging. The dogs look good, and Quito and Butterscotch led the team to first place on the second leg.

Aliy's Red Team after Leg 2 of the Sheep Mt Lodge 150 Quito and Butterscotch in lead.


Ryne arrived at 5:34AM, with a run time of 6.02 on this second leg with Pud and Beemer in lead. She had already overtaken Bruce Linton to move into second place when she took a wrong turn on the trail. However, she righted herself and is currently 11th in the overall standings of the race. She is really happy with the way the team is running, and says she feels "quite spry" after the run. She is looking to make up for lost time on the third leg of the race and break into the top ten again. Her out time is at 10:34AM.


Ryne's R&B Team after the second leg of Sheep Mt. Lodge 150. Beemer and Pud in lead

As mentioned, the weather is a bit uncooperative at the moment, with a wind kicking up, and really blowing over the hills. There is snowfall overnight, and with the wind drifting has occured. Aliy and Ryne are both resting up for the final leg of the race, and both teams are quietly sleeping in their straw despite the wind.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pictures from Sheep Mt Start

Here are a few pictures from the start of the race today







Aliy's Red Team starting out




Ryne ready to race the Red & Black Team

Eureka Lodge Layover One

EXCITING NEWS!!!! OUR SP KENNEL LADIES ARE IN THE TOP THREE fastest running times for this leg of the race!
Aliy came first into the checkpoint, with a run time of 4.51, only beaten by Linton with 4.47. Ryne is holding her own closely with a run time of 4.58. Of 27 teams to check in so far, only these 3 mushers have run in less than 5hrs. Aliy says her team is running strong, and is enthusiastic on the trail. Ryne commented that she is pleased with her run so far, and both are resting for the next leg.

There are some big names that pulled hook in the second half of the start so we will see who else joins them under 5hrs. Observers will note with interest that Jeff King's run time in the first leg of this race in his first race on his return from retirement is 5:00 The trail is very soft in places with reports of some overflow so mushers at the back of the pack might find it difficult to make up time on the leaders.
Aliy will pull anchor for leg 2 at 11:25pm and Ryne at 11:32.






/;;/

The first race of the season has begun

Aliy and Ryne have just left the start of the Sheep Mountain 150! With 48 mushers in the race, Aliy and the Red Team were one of the first on the trail leaving in 5th position. Ryne and the R&B team were not far behind leaving in 10th. To start the race Quito and Scout led the charge for the Red team while just 10 minutes later Skittles and Beemer led the chase for the R&B Team.

The Weather is perfect, sunny and around 10 degrees with the suggestion of light snow later this evening. Wes and I are about to head to the first checkpoint in Eureka where Aliy and Ryne are expected shortly. This checkpoint is 50 miles by dog trail but only 13 miles by road.

Here are some observations from Allen Moore:


  • The area has had a lot of snow and the trail at the start of Sheep Mountain Lodge
    is very soft and deteriorating quickly

  • Due to trail conditions, mushers will want to be at the front of the pack rather
    than the back

  • If dogs step off the groomed trail, they can quickly sink up to their shoulders in snow; this means that snow can get into their booties and cause feet problems

  • Its much more fun to run a race than to have to watch from the sidelines


More photos soon. Wendy

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sheep Mountain Red Team Roster

Aliy will be starting in Position Number 5.


Sheep Mountain Red and Black Team Roster

Ryne will be starting in Position Number 10.





Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sheep Mountain 150






It's finally here:
the 2011-2012 RACE SEASON!






To start off the season, the SPK Red Team and the SPK Red and Black Team will be competing in the Sheep Mountain 150 in a competitive field totaling 51 mushers.

Sheep Mountain Lodge is located on the Glenn Highway between Palmer and Glennallen in the middle of, as the name suggests, MOUNTAINS. I capitalized the word to emphasize the immense size and ruggedness of the peaks surrounding the lodge. And unlike many races that follow rivers or the lowlands, the Sheep Mountain 150 traverses the steep terrain, crosses sections of glaciation, and crests the summits.



The race consists of three 50-mile legs with five hour rests at Eureka Lodge between each leg. The first leg goes from Sheep Mountain Lodge to Eureka Lodge; the second is a large loop that returns to Eureka Lodge; and the third leg returns back to Sheep Mountain Lodge. Zack Steer, owner of Sheep Mountain Lodge and race director, has been putting in the trail the past couple of weekends. Here is a trail update for the first 50-mile leg:


We took 3 snowmachines and a 4 foot groomer over the first loop again yesterday (sat 12/10). The trail was in better shape than last week with only a few sections worth noting: There are 2 sections of glaciation that will need to be negotiated: The first is right at the intersection of Martin Road and Squaw Creek (mile 15/135). There is snow on the low side which is easy to navigate at this time. Looks worse than it is. The other section of glaciation is a short valley about halfway between Squaw creek and Alfred Creek (mile 30/120
). We built a bypass trail around it, but the glacier is growing and I suspect that by next weekend it will be ice again. It is less than 50 feet, you just don't see it till the last minute. There are 6-8 ice bridges across Alfred creek as you work your way through the mining district. They are all "moving" and about half had collapsed since last week. We built new ones, but I suspect that some of those will also fall, and new routes will need to be made. It is not dangerous, as the ice shelfs are low, and the water is always less than 6 inches. Just expect to get your dogs feet wet at some point. There was a small avalanch across the very top of the Belanger Pass trail. There is a temporary route down the middle of the valley (good base, just a little steeper). I'll try to get out this week and put the original trail back in on the road.
We saw 50+ moose along the trail, most in a 20 mile section - lots of small herds of 10-15 animals. Pay attention, especially down the Squaw Creek trail and the return up Alfred creek. There is not so much snow that they won;t give up the trail, but I wouldn't want to surprise them comming around a corner. Somehow, the hunters missed two nice 55 and 65 inch bulls...
All-in all I would say the trail is really good. Last weeks wind and snow storm on Sunday night helped fill in the snow gaps. Now if I could just get the darn moose to stop knocking over my trail markers.
I'll be out today re-marking the middle loop.

-Zack

Whatever the condition of the trail, it promises to be an exciting race!

As I'm sure many folks noticed, Allen Moore is not on the list of mushers. Unfortunately, Allen will not be competing in this year's Sheep Mountain. Earlier this season, Allen strained his lower calf muscle while working out. The past few weeks, he's been busy rehabbing and will be back and competing in no time.




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And Mystery Dog Number 4?

MALIBU!

Sponsored by Jan Reinhardt

Congratulations to kb for being the first 'eligible' correct guess! Julie Quinn was the first correct guess, but she's just too good and already won Guess That Dog! Send us an email at SPKDogLog@gmail.com with your t-shirt size, color preference (Red or Black), and address, and you'll be sporting SPK gear in no time!

A bit about Malibu:
Malibu ran and finished the Sheep Mountain 150, Copper Basin 300, Yukon Quest, and Iditarod last year! Very impressive, especially considering she's a mere 35 lbs!
And yes, Allen did refer to her as dolphin/large muscle in last year's Iditarod at the Unalakleet checkpoint---



Check back in on Monday, December 26th for the next Mystery Dog!




Monday, December 12, 2011

Guess That SPK Dog Week 4!


Since each dog at the kennel has their own personality and history, we thought it'd be fun to see how well the SPK followers know the athletes. Every other Monday, we'll post "Guess that SPK Dog" at 1:00 PM EST, and the first correct answer posted in the website comment box wins a SP Kennel t-shirt! Limited one shirt per person.

Game #4 Dog Clues

1. I finished every race last year

2. According to Allen, I resemble a dolphin

3. My favorite show is Two and a Half Men


Who am I?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hill Training

In preparation for our first race, the Sheep Mountain 150, we've been training in the hills around the kennel to get the dogs fit for climbing. Lucky for us, the steep hills get the mushers in shape too!



I apologize for the darkness of the video, but with the winter solstice fast approaching, we're getting used to mushing in the dark!

Rising and setting times for the Sun

Length of daySolar noon
DateSunriseSunsetThis dayDifferenceTimeAltitudeDistance
(106 km)
Dec 10, 201110:43 AM2:45 PM4h 02m 04s− 3m 35s12:44 PM2.5°147.315
Dec 11, 201110:45 AM2:43 PM3h 58m 43s− 3m 20s12:44 PM2.4°147.298
Dec 12, 201110:47 AM2:42 PM3h 55m 38s− 3m 05s12:45 PM2.3°147.281
Dec 13, 201110:49 AM2:41 PM3h 52m 50s− 2m 47s12:45 PM2.3°147.266
Dec 14, 201110:50 AM2:41 PM3h 50m 19s− 2m 31s12:46 PM2.2°147.251
Dec 15, 201110:52 AM2:40 PM3h 48m 05s− 2m 13s12:46 PM2.2°147.237
Dec 16, 201110:53 AM2:40 PM3h 46m 10s− 1m 55s12:47 PM2.1°147.224

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Iditarod Rookie Meeting

This past weekend, I travelled down to Anchorage for one of my first events as an Iditarod rookie, the mandatory rookie meeting. Every December, the Iditarod gathers all the rookies (this year there are seventeen of us) in Anchorage to review important race information from dog care and vaccines to drop bag logistics and trail descriptions.


We also had the privilege of listening to some of the top mushers in the sport like John Baker, DeeDee Jonrowe, Martin Buser, and of course Aliy Zirkle. Together they have a combined total of over eighty Iditarods! Nicolas Petit, last year’s Rookie of the Year, also spoke, giving tips and advice that he found helpful on his rookie run, such as the importance of a good alarm clock. Luckily, I get to learn from Allen and Aliy's experience, so potentially stressful details like where to park the dogs in Anchorage, when to schedule EKG and blood work, or how to fly the dogs back from Nome are already worked out.


In addition to mushers, we heard from other Iditarod staff including chief veterinarian Dr. Nelson, Jan Bullock with the pre-race EKG and Blood Work Program, the Iditarod Air Force, Communications Coordinator Andi Malard, and Iditarod Trail Sweep Will Peterson. Without all their help, much of it volunteered, the Iditarod would not be the race it is today. It’s incredible the amount of man hours required to put on a 1,000-mile sled dog race!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Bit of Winter Weather

After a weekend of warm temperatures, Monday finally brought some traditional Alaskan weather.


Let's hope the snow keeps coming!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wes and Wendy's Weather Four

As I sit and pen edition 4 of Wes and Wendy's Weather, I am filled with anxious trepidation; last night the thermometer hit 35 degrees and this morning, 45. Above zero!

The snow slid off our roof in avalanches last night forming a moat of slush around the cabin. Patches of brown are appearing all over the yard where the snow is melting! Weather forecasts predict mixed rain and snow over the next few days. Our meticulously groomed trails with their packed bases, face the threat of being good for nobody but Canadian curlers. For mushers, slick, icy trails bring training to a virtual standstill. Both dogs and mushers struggle for traction on icy trails and the snow hook is useless. In addition, the risk of injury to everyone increases. To add insult to injury, areas just west of Fairbanks have a foot of snow predicted. The National Weather Service has promised us some snow over the next few days but we are not holding our breath.

What does this mean for SP Kennel? It means that during the next week, trail conditions will be monitored closely and if it is considered unsafe for the dogs then we will start working the phones. "Has anyone checked out the trails in the White Mountains? What about in the Denali area?" If the right conditions do not come to mushers, then competitive mushers go looking for the right training conditions.

Since releasing the last edition of Wes and Wendy's Weather, my personal mushing skills have developed considerably. I am constantly being challenged with different aspects of team management. (If anybody is unfamiliar with my initial struggles managing a sled, you can read Edition Three HERE.) I am happy to say that I have found my sled feet, and am relaxed during runs. I now am able to harness, booty, and jacket all the dogs on my team; as well as hook up my sled with all the right cables and hooks. My confidence wavers however, when I look up from a narrow part of the trail and see another dog team barreling towards us. More than once panic has set in when I have realized that the person on the other sled is the legendary Rick Swenson. Thankfully the SP Kennel dogs are highly experienced and well trained. They "On By" with minimal encouragement and don’t lunge or bark at passing teams.

The smoothness of current team passing is a vast improvement from my first trail encounter. It was nearly a month ago now, Allen hooked up a large team and attached a second "whip" sled for me. After a disastrous start that saw me trail grooming more than sledding, my confidence in sled management was as low as it could possibly go. This was worsened by the fact that, due to prevailing trail conditions, snow and ice was being sprayed up from Allen's drag right into my eyes. I was mushing virtually blind. It seemed that with no warning another team was practically on top of us. Remembering what Allen had instructed, I jumped on the right runner with both feet expecting that the sled would slide to the far right of the trail. It did not and merely angled the nose of the sled straight into the middle of the oncoming team. "I'm going to kill that dog!" was my first horrified thought. I jumped off the runner and, holding on as tightly as I could, ran behind the sled pulling it away from the other team. Meanwhile, our dog team was delighted to be unleashed from the 4-wheeler for the first time in the season and were happily speeding along.

It was not so easy for me, who rarely ran 12 mph even in my prime. Struggling to keep up and desperately hanging on, I realized there was a second team further down the trail. I had no choice but to put my head down and keep sprinting until we passed the second team. By the time we passed them, my elbows were hooked over the handle bar and my feet dragged behind, as I managed an unconvincing "Hi" to the stunned musher.

The moral of the story is…If anybody out there is contemplating becoming a musher, please consult your physician first.