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, 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.


Louise Midkiff said...

I was, frankly, worried you would get what we got; rain with the wind, instead of snow. That would have been a disaster for the race. I am surely glad you all made it safe and happy. Next race? Way Cool!!

Pia Eaves said...

You and your team are AMAZING!!!!! Please give them 4 legged, hard working kids a big hug from me. Some day I hope to do that in person.

Linda Toth said...

You have a good, true heart, Aliy. Your goodness of spirit far exceeds what I would have probably felt under the circumstances.

Kudos to you and your team.


Deb said...

I read the Alaska Dispatch story. Thanks for the "rest of the story". The dogs are amazing. And thanks to the SP kennel crew for trying to keep us watchers up to date. Rock stars all! Deb in Ketchikan.

NCL said...

Once again I'm left thinking what a classy group SP Kennel is and how appreciative I am of all that you share.

babs said...

Thanks for the story behind the story. It adds depth to the race & exemplifies the kind of competitor you are. I was eager to hear your take on the race & was not disappointed. SP Kennel is one classy kennel with wonderful mushers & amazing dogs-way to go Quito- & a support team that supported both mushers & fans!!