Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Rivers Valley Finale-Final

For those of you waiting breathlessly at home for the results of the Two Rivers Race today, you can breathe now. The race went well. The weather was cooperating, with an overcast sky, and soft snow falling all morning. This kept temperatures hovering right between 20-30 degrees above zero. Wes was bib #5, and it wasn't long before we were busy harnessing, and getting the dogs ready to run. He pulled the hook and quick release right from the back of our pick up truck. I think this must be an indication that we have become "mushers"....when you hook and release your team from the back of your own truck!
He soon found the two bags of dog food he was carrying to slow down the team were really not needed. Sprint mushers were flying past him. The trail was fast, but with the new half inch of snow it slowed down, and was just about right for a short distance race. As he mushed past our house (aka Casa de Kaz) he threw out the bags of dog food and immediately caught up to the next musher, and began overtaking.
Overall, the trip around was uneventful, and he was sixth into the finish line. However, the overall race is decided on who can finish the course with the fastest time not who crosses the finish line first. As you can see from the standings list, Wes placed a respectable 9th in the overall race-within seconds of three other mushers. For a first race, it's a fair place to be--the middle of the pack!

During the races, Kaz and Sammy hunted Easter Eggs in the field behind the store, and won some great prizes and lots of candy! Everyone ended the day with a wonderful community potluck, and lots of laughs watching the kids race 1 and 2 dogs around the track. Thanks to those of you who came out to visit and cheer us on! And a BIG THANK YOU to the Two Rivers Mushers Association, who organizes the race each year; and Pleasant Valley Store for hosting us. It was truly a Fun Run! - WB

Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Rivers Valley "Fun"ale Race

In the last Wes and Wendy's Weather (edition10), we mentioned considering entering a team in this weekend's Two Rivers Valley Finale, depending on how the dogs looked. Well, the dogs are looking strong, and ready to run! Wes is entering a team of 10 dogs into the 20 mile race. The dog team includes: Olivia/Dingle, Chica/Boondocks, Rambler/Lil Debbie, Kipper/IV, Sissy/Rose.

If you are familiar with the Two Rivers area, the race course is set to run south down Pleasant Valley Rd and to the intersection with Baseline Rd. It will turn West on Baseline and travel directly past the kennel. (We hope the dogs won't want to go home after only a few miles!) It then heads out over Jenny M Creek, to the "four way" intersection, and around Jenny M hill. It connects with the Rosser trail leading down to and crossing the small bridge on Pheasant Farm Road. It then heads East out on to the Slough and winds on the back trails North to the Pleasant Valley Store. All in all, it should take between 1-2 hours to complete the race course. Good viewing areas include sitting in the driveway at "Casa de Kaz"; or in the SP Kennel driveway.

The race will begin at Pleasant Valley Store at 11:00 AM, Saturday-March 31. Local fans are welcome to join us at the Start/Finish line and cheer for our Red & Black Team. There will be kids races-2 dogs, Youth-8 dog/10 miler, and an Easter egg hunt (11:30). It's supposed to be a warm, sunny day, with highs around 40 degrees ABOVE zero. A bit warm for racing the dogs, but great for the spectators and kids!

After the finish, stick around for the community potluck at the Pleasant Valley Store. There are no official prizes for placing in the race, except perhaps some great food! If you have a few spare hours in your Saturday, come on out and join some of the SP Kennel crew at the Two Rivers Valley Finale. We'll have plenty of dogs to pet! For those of you following by Blogspot, we'll post the race standings as we can from our IPhones; and photos and commentary later in the afternoon after the festivities--Wendy

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

North Slope Trip Underway

Aliy, Allen and the SP dogs are mushing through ANWR with 4 guests. They began their trip on Sunday with a visit to the kennel and then a flight to Coldfoot on Monday. Tuesday morning they took off on their sleds into the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Weather is looking perfect!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wes and Wendy's Weather Ten

It looks like Spring has finally started here in the North! We've had consistently sunny weather, blue skies, and above 0 temperatures since returning from Nome. (Which was AMAZING to be in the finish chute!!) We still have over 12 inches of snow hanging around from our big storm the first week of March. This guarantees we will be running dogs for a few more weeks, and enjoying some "fun runs" around the area. The Two Rivers "Valley Finale" is scheduled this Saturday and it's expected to be a warm 20 mile race. We are still debating whether to enter a small team in the race as most of our sleds and dogs are gone; enjoying a vacation up on the North Slope. We do have some great dogs left in the yard-Olivia, Boondocks, Butterscotch, Dingle, Chica, who are resting after the Iditarod. We'll just have to wait and see how they look on Friday.

Since Spring is here, it's time to think about PUPPIES! Last week, Aliy decided it was time to start the Latino puppies' training. We found small traditional harnesses for each of five puppies
and managed to get them on to the main line. We chose a team of slow, steady veterans including Cha Cha and Bullet in Lead, Teddy and Mismo in swing, Hank and Nelson, Pepe and Felix, and Izzy in Wheel by herself. Aliy jumped in the sled bag, and I (Wendy) on the runners and off we went down the driveway. I fully expected to have a slow, trotting run; with puppies stopping and sitting down, not knowing what to do with themselves. "How much can 20 lb puppies pull anyway?!" I wondered. Much to my surprise, we rocketed around the first corner and I found myself off the runners and running down the driveway after a puppy team and sled! They go MUCH faster than I imagined. Aliy had them stopped and waiting for me as I jumped back on and we took off again--this time I was much wiser!

Puppy training takes patience and enthusiasm. Every 5 minutes or so, we'd stop the team. I stood on the brake while Aliy went down the line clapping, petting and praising the puppies; sometimes untangling or straightening puppy lines. She'd hop back in the sled and off we'd go again. Our total trip was about 2.5 miles down the Baseline trail and around Pheasant Farm Road and back. We stayed to the wide hard packed trails to give plenty of room to turn around. People ask, "How do you train the puppies to run on the mainline with harnesses?". Aliy always responds, "It comes naturally, we really don't have to train them". Though I had heard this discussion a few times before, I really didn't understand how naturally it comes until I watched the Latino puppies. They have NEVER been in a harness before last week. We put them on the mainline and they ran in straight lines following their teammates. They had tight tug lines and pulled immediately. They pulled the whole way without resting or sitting down until we stopped them. They had their tails tucked and ears back and "smiles". In case we thought the first run was a fluke, Wes hooked the puppies up again with the veteran adults. This time only 2 or 3 puppies went on the line. Each one performed great again! Nelson and Mismo, the two largest puppies, seem to really "get" the running part. Felix and Pepe gettangled when stopped because they love to play. Izzy continues to pull with all her strength. At the end of the day, they were born to run, and that's what they are doing. Their parents, Biscuit and Quito, just finished both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in 2nd place. It's in the puppies' bloodlines to be champions, and they are well on their way to becoming just that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Off to the North Slope

Aliy, Allen and 36 SP Kennel Dogs left the kennel this morning heading towards the North Slope of Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They will be spending the next couple of days putting in trails into some of the most incredible wilderness in the world. They will be running one trip into the refuge.

Both Aliy and Allen have gotten some rest since they returned on Tuesday morning from Nome.

Off on the 12 hour drive to the edge of ANWR and the North Slope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quito Earns MVD - Most Valuable Dog

There was a small ceremony today as Quito earned her SP Kennel MVP honors and her red roses that Aliy promised her during the Iditarod Finish Banquet.

All of us at SP Kennel are lucky and honored to have Quito as part of our team!

Quito has certainly matured into a powerful and confident leader in the two years since her "Meet The Dogs" video was filmed!

While we're at it, click here to revisit the original story of Quito's sponsor over in New Zealand!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Iditarod Finish Banquet

Aliy takes the podium and shares a story or two from the Iditarod Trail.

Ryne shows off her Iditarod Finishers belt buckle!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Beautiful Day in Nome

11 Days 1 Hours 33 Minutes 40 Seconds

Ryne Approaching Nome

Up Front Street

Up the Shoot

Olson Family
The Media

Stormy and Ranger Lead the Way


Ryne Finishes in NOME!!

Ryne finished her Rookie Iditarod just about 4:45pm Alaskan time. She is currently enjoying a lovely meal, and drink after her long trip. All dogs and team are fine and resting in their straw. We'll be posting pictures and more details a bit later on in the day. wendy

Ryne heads for Nome! Hunts down Kelly Maxiner

Ryne spent 2 minutes at the Safety checkpoint and took off in pursuit of Kelly Maxiner who is 8 minutes ahead of her and she has nearly caught.

It's a beautiful day here in Nome with sunshine and minimal wind. Dog food is soaking and Ryne's family is really getting excited to see her. This is a huge event for the Olson family and rightly so. Crossing the burled arch of Nome symbolizes a huge achievement and reward for Ryne for so much hard work and applied learning.

From a personal view, I could not be more proud of her achievement. Most of my training runs this season have been with Ryne and although she is 10 years my junior she has taught me so much.

Go Ryne!


Nome, AK Web Cam Link

For the SP Kennel fans, who are anticipating Ryne's finish later on today, we found the link to the Nome, AK webcam. The camera is pointed at the finish chute and refreshes every 1-2 minutes. We expect her sometime between 4PM-6PM Alaskan Daylight Savings Time. Of course, we could be wrong, it could be earlier...or later--Just our guess. Hopefully you can see some live footage of the team coming in. Enjoy!

The Final Stretch

Ryne and the Red & Black team are about 60 miles from Nome. She has already passed Jim Lanier and is cruising along at a steady pace.

Her family and the rest of the SP Crew proudly await Ryne's arrival in Nome. She should arrive late afternoon, early evening. We are so proud of her!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ryne into White Mountain

As I am typing this, Ryne is pulling into White Mountain. The past 48hrs will probably end up being some of the most challenging and memorable parts of her adventure.

Yesterday a storm was blowing across the Bering Sea and mushers were piling up in Shaktoolik. Ryne came along from Unalakleet, rested a few hours, and then led a charge of about a dozen mushers out onto the ice. Her lead did not last long; with winds still whipping, Ryne's dogs needed a lot of encouragment and ended up following other teams across the ice. In addition, somewhere out there, Ryne managed to bust a runner on one of her sleds. She was able to get through to us by phone from Koyuk and this started a frenzy of activity in Nome. With permission from the Race Marshall, Aliy's sled was flown to Elim to await Ryne there. This involved calls late at night to pilots in Nome and friends of friends in Elim to ensure that the sled was flown to the airport there, picked up and delivered to the checkpoint in time for Ryne's arrival. It's a lot easier to write this than it was for Bridget to make it happen.

Ryne was in the thick of the pack and after a 2hr rest in Elim she took off for White Mountain to jockey for position for the final push to Nome. It took only a few miles to realize that this was in nobody's best interest. She returned to Elim, dropped two dogs and rested for another two hours. This seems to have worked because she has flown along the trail to White Mountain in about 6hrs. She will take her mandatory 8hr rest and leave tommorrow morning at about 7am for Nome. A lot of her family is here and the rest of the SP Kennel crew is excited to see her and the dogs.

Aliy and the dogs have had lots of rest and are recovering quickly after their historic run. Yes, I said HISTORIC. As you know, this year was a personal best for her, with a total run time of 9 days, 5 hours, 29 minutes, and 10 seconds. However, it was more than just a personal best -- it made Aliy the fastest woman on the Iditarod trail to date. Though we haven’t officially heard this from the Iditarod Race Organization, we did ask long time race volunteers to verify run times. They are quite certain this fact is true. Previously, Dee Dee Jonrowe held this title with her run in 1998 when she finished second with a run time of 9 days, 8 hours, 26 minutes, 10 seconds. However, this year Aliy beat that time 3 hours and 3 minutes.

When I informed Aliy of this fact, in her typical Aliy style, she turned to Chica resting on the couch and said “You are also part of that history as one of the fastest females on the trail”. Chica twitched her ears, let out a yawn, and went back to sleep. Though both Aliy and Chica take this record in stride, it is one more reason to be proud of this amazing Iditarod Race.

We'll have more updates for you tomorrow, as her run progresses towards Nome.

Ryne On Norton Sound

I've been looking for info on what's going on with Ryne. It appears she left Elim earlier today, went a few miles, then returned to the checkpoint. The GPS shows her still there.

In the process, I came across this video of her on the Sound. The caption reads: "I was going toward Norton Sound and happened to see this Iditarod dog musher. It shows the challenging part of mushing."

If we hear any news, we'll let you know!

Update: Ryne's back on the move out of Elim!

Aliy Zirkle Iditarod 2nd Place Finish.wmv

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

9 Day 5 Hours 29 Minutes 10 Seconds

Aliy arrives in Nome in Second Place

A monster race and valiant competitive effort ended for Aliy when she crossed under the burled arch on Nome's Main Street at 8:29pm in second place for the best Iditarod finish of her mushing career. The crowd who had come to watch Dallas Seavey cross the finish line hung around for an hour to show Aliy their appreciation for her incredible effort. Aliy threw the other competitors a curve ball by doing a 3 leg 220 mile run from Takotna to Galena. By the time she reached Galena she had established herself as a contender and played her role in making Iditarod 2012 a thrilling race until the end.

The dogs are curled up and resting and Aliy has had a good meal and is headed to bed. Thanks so much to everyone for their support and comments. I, like you, am looking forward to Aliy's post which will tell us more about her trip.

Our focus is now shifting to Ryne's race, who this morning led a charge out of Shaktoolik into the wind and pack ice of the Bearing Sea taking her from 33rd to 24th place in the current standings. She is in the middle of some adventures of her own which we will share with you tomorrow.

Thanks and good night,

Aliy seen Double Ski-Poling

Ray Crowe has flown into Nome and seen Aliy out of the plane window. He texted us that she was double ski-poling and about 5 miles apart from both Dallas and Raymey. This means she is still giving it all she has got. After passing through Safety she knows how far ahead Dallas is but not how far behind Raymey is. She is double ski-poling incase Dallas makes a big mistake that she can capitalize on and also to ensure that Raymey does not catch her.

The whole crew is here at Bridgett and Scotty's house in Nome except for Wendy who arrives in a few hours. The floor here is way to small for all the pacing that is going on!


Got Valium?

As I'm sure you all have seen, Dallas left White Mountain 63 minutes ahead of Aliy. That means the Red Team has a big -- huge, maybe insurmountable -- challenge to catch him. They will have to average almost a minute a mile faster to do it. That would be an enormous accomplishment!

But you just never know what might happen in the Iditarod. Remember when Aliy broke her sled at White Mountain and had to limp to Nome on one runner? Anything is possible in this race!

Also very stressful for all of us -- and certainly for Aliy, too -- is that Ramey Smyth has also just left White Mountain, less than an hour after her. Ramey is well known for very fast finishing speeds, so we'll all have to hang on tight and hope the Red Team can stave him off!

I expect none of us will get anything done today besides clicking refresh buttons and checking our blood pressure!

Going to Nome

Sorry to leave everyone in the lurch. We are all rushing towards Nome, hoping to be there to greet Aliy at the finishline.

From the plane in Anchorage, I just saw that Aliy is gaining on Dallas, but Ramey is gaining on both. What a race!

Post from Nome.

Day 10 Iditarod 2012- Homeward Bound

Hi, this is Wes. I am sitting here in Nome and am doing this update because Kaz is in transit to Nome and Mickey is sitting in the departure lounge in Anchorage on standbye trying to get an earlier flight. Alaska Airlines are aware she is Aliy's mom and are doing everything they can to get her on this flight but it is fully booked. If she doesn't get on the next flight, she is at least confirmed on a flight that lands in Nome at 8:30pm. This is so close to Aliy's expected arrival time that it is touch and go if Mickey will get here in time.

As Aliy is in the very early stages of the final run of what is turning out to be the most exciting Iditarod in years, she is now focused on two things; Seeing what she can do to break into Dallas's 1hr lead and then keeping a wary eye behind her on Raymey Smith whose ability to hunt down competitors in the dying stages of this race is legendary.
As I am writting this, Allen is informing me of all the things that Aliy will have done to ensure she has the best trip possible.

1. She will have walked the dogs individually and gotten them to pee up to 30 minutes before departure so that they will start on time. Many times in races a musher pulls the hook to start and then the dogs immediately spend 5 minutes relieving themselves from their large hydrating meals.

2. She will have dropped everything unnecesary from her sled like her cooler, dog blankets, cooler, second hook, and even the the lid from her cooker.

There is a possible X-Factor in this race. The temperature is 4 degrees F and winds are supposed to get up to 30mph and it is already blowing in White Mountain. The Blowhole, just before Safety will likely have gusts much faster than that! It cannot be taken for granted that each team will handle the wind and especially the Blowhole with the same tenacity. For those of you who are not familiar with the Blowhole, it has claimed many victims in the past due to high winds and low visibility.

Just earlier this year snowmobilers were rescued by Blackhawk helicopters from the blowhole. Safety is actually a roadhouse providing refuge to people who have just made it through the blowhole. Here is a link to video that Aliy got coming through this section last year.

Here in Nome we are getting the crates and dog boxes ready for the dogs to rest when they get in this evening. Other than that we are joining you on refreshing our screens every few minutes.

Its great to have all of you here with us for the greatest Iditarod race Aliy has ever run.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 9 - Iditarod 2012 - Approaching White Mountain

This is Aliy's mom, Mickey, doing the local color commentary for the evening.

There is not much I can say about Aliy's current position and running times that isn't on the Iditarod website, Anchorage Daily News website or myriad other blogs and news outlets.

I can tell you that as of this writing Dallas and Aliy are about 2 hours out of the White Mountain checkpoint, where an 8 hour rest is mandatory. Over the years I have devised an easy formula for estimating the expected finish time of a team. Simply add 18 to 20 hours to the White Mountain arrival time. This means the first teams should reach Front Street in Nome sometime tomorrow (Tuesday) night. A Tuesday night finish will likely break Iditarod speed records. We'll see. Weather conditions can always surprise us on this last stretch.

SP Kennel family and supporters have been streaming into Nome for the finish. Allen and Doug, along with Scotty, Bridgett and Timber, flew back there from Unalakleet yesterday. Derrick flew his own plane in from Two Rivers yesterday. Today Wes, all of Ryne's family and a gang of folks from Horizon Lines flew in. Tomorrow Kaz, Ray and Sammy fly to Nome. Wendy and I are on a flight that arrives at 8pm tomorrow. I fear we may not make Aliy's finish!!!

My job for the past few days has been to retrieve dropped dogs flown into Anchorage by the Iditarod. Tonight we got Bonita and Scooter, both bropped in Kaltag. Scooter had a sore wrist but is fine now and simply wants to eat and play. Bonita was dropped because she wasn't eating well on the trail. Her appetite and attitude are great now. They go to our friend Margie's kennel in Wasilla tomorrow morning. Aliy dropped two dogs today in Elim but we expect them to be flown directly to Nome to be reunited with their team.

Ryne is cruising along the Bering Sea coast now. What an experience that must be! She departed Unalakleet at 8:59 PM, after resting there for 5 hours. And she still has 13 dogs. Ryne is currently in 33rd place and she is 5th in a field of 14 rookies, some of whom have years of experience.

Thanks for joining us on this wild ride. Now let's see what tomorrow brings.

KNOM Interview With Allen In Unalakleet

Here's a KNOM interview with Allen in Unalakleet, talking about how Aliy and the dogs look on their way up the coast.

Macgellan's Mid-Iditarod Musings -- Part 2

First of all, I'm a wreck. No doubt like many of you, I've been glued to my computer screen, clicking non-stop between a dozen browser tabs, constantly looking for a new nugget of information. I'm napping for a few minutes only from time to time, eating badly at weird times and checking my blood pressure regularly. My experience is nothing compared to what Aliy must be going through!

Second, Aliy and the Red Team are in a fantastic position: Hunting down the lead team less than a mile ahead of them. The dogs can smell the leading team's trail, and the veterans know they are "heading to the barn" in Nome. The energy in the team must be palpable, and I'm pretty sure I see it in their faces in the photo below. I feel humbled every time I look at it.

It was barely a month ago that we all watched an eerily similar scenario play out with Hugh Neff chasing Allen during the final legs of the Yukon Quest. It isn't easy being out in front, constantly encouraging your dogs to go as fast as they can. I'm certainly not saying it's easy chasing them down, but there is some merit to the point that dogs are naturally motivated to chase their "prey" rather than extend a lead over some abstract "predators." The mind of the dog has become a critical factor in this race.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Aliy has taken all these factors into consideration and made a conscious decision to have Dallas in a short-lead position. Besides her awesome physical stamina and incredible dog care, Aliy is a smart, experienced and savvy competitor. It may be unconventional to "give up the lead" but it's a reasonable strategy now that we've entered a "match race" phase in the Iditarod.

A match race is a race between two competitors going head-to head, a format that is common in sailboat and horse racing. It's important to keep in mind that the appropriate strategy shifts from "going as fast as you can" to "beating the other team." The concept of "covering" your opponent comes to the fore. You do what he does, maybe just a little better. You take breaks when he does, maybe just a little more efficiently. You have fewer "decisions" to make on the trail, you have less stress of making a trail mistake. You know where you're going and you are looking ahead not back.

If all goes well, you've saved a little energy, your dogs are highly motivated, they've got a fire in the belly and visions of a nice straw bed in mind. The "no man's land" on the approach to Nome is flat and pretty wide open. This race could come down to a pass on Front Street. It could be as close as that.

I'm even more of a wreck now than when I started writing.

Note: For the record, I am not counting out any of the other top competitors. I've got way too much experience of what can happen on the Iditarod to do that. Aaron Burmesiter left Koyuk almost exactly two hours behind Aliy, and John Baker is sure to be hot on his heels. They are not to be ignored, but I think a two hour lead at this point is significant, especially when the two lead teams are obviously running so well.

Red Team Approaching Shaktoolik

This photo by Sebastian Schnuelle of Aliy's Red Team approaching Shaktoolik is simply breathtaking! The dogs look fantastic!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 8 - Iditarod 2012 - The Coast

Aliy and the Red Team are currently on the trail to Koyuk. They left Shaktoolik at 9:15 pm AST, 12 dogs still in harness. Dallas Seavey went through Shak, but appears to have stopped at a small cabin right before the trail heads out over the frozen bay. He too is under way again about 2 miles ahead.

At this point in the race, the strategies have all been played. Now it is time to see how they worked. It is all up to the dogs' and mushers' training and force of will as they make their way to White Mountain and then on to Nome.

A video of Aliy and the team out of Shaktoolik was posted on Aliy's Facebook page. Thank you, Sandra. Here is the link:

Ryne is in Kaltag, having made excellent time down the Yukon. Derek flew over her, poling down the river and waived his wings at her. She waved back heartily. Hope she knows how much we are thinking of her and cheering her on.

The Portage Trail this evening will still be cold for her, but Unalakleet is a light in the tunnel for her. I expect that she will begin to race a bit more seriously once she gets there and with the amount of rest her dogs and she have had, she could easily start passing people.

I spent the day emailing strategy with Randy Chappel yesterday. His first Iditarod's schedule was very similar to Ryne's (Aliy's influence there too) and he began "picking teams off" once he hit the coast. A good omen for Ryne!

The SP Crew in Unalakleet reported seeing Bonita in the dog drop area, having been flown over from Kaltag. It was indeed Bonita and Scooter that Aliy dropped there.

Now my biggest worry is if my flight will get me to Nome in time!

Up the Coast

Aliy is out again on the trail with all 12 dogs. She left out 3rd from Unalakleet at 1:01 pm after resting 5:30 hours. She is with in 2 miles of Dallas and Aaron. Off down the coast!

Iditarod 2012 has been an exciting one so far, especially for SP Kennel and the SPK friends. It has been nonstop excitement and nerves. Dog mushing is such an extraordinary sport and Aliy, Ryne and the SPK dogs have such a strong following. Not just in Alaska. Not just in the USA. All around the world. I don't get a chance to answer ever comment on the blog, but I hope I am answering all the questions. Mac and Wes are have been manning Facebook and doing an excellent job there. Please keep posting all the interesting videos, interviews and reports as well. It is what is allowing us all to follow the race so closely.

Mushing is a unique sport, unlike any other I can think off. Men and women compete on equal ground with no consideration to gender or origin. Aliy often refers to the musher as the "coach" of the team. It all comes down to how well you can read your dogs and how well you can maximize their potential. I know we say it so often, but it really is all about the dogs.

In the last year, Aliy has taken on even more responsibility with the Iditarod. She has taken over as the Iditarod musher's representative on the Iditarod's Board of Directors, a position voted on by her fellow mushers. She has long been a highly respected musher.

What will happen here in the last 300 miles? We'll soon find out.

Aliy First to the Coast

Aliy arrived at Unalakleet at 7:28 am AST. She and the dogs looked good coming into the checkpoint, though Aliy did look like it had been very cold out there on the trail. Unalakleet is reporting temperature of -35 degrees. That means that spots on the trail were likely much colder.

Being the first to arrive in Unalakleet, Aliy received the Gold Coast Award presented by Wells Fargo. Scotty Watkins, Nome's Wells Fargo Branch Manager and Aliy's son in law, presented her with a beautiful gold cup, $2500 worth of Nome gold and a Van Zile print. SP Kennel will be paying for dog food with gold this summer!

Dallas Seavey arrived in Nome 51 minutes after Aliy and Burmeister shortly after.

Video of Ryne and the Red & Black Team

Iditarod Airforce took this. Finally a look at Ryne on the trail!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 7 - Iditarod 2012 - Portage Trail

March 10, 2012 10:30 pm AST

Aliy and the Red Team left Kaltag after a 5 hour 41 minute rest at the checkpoint. She dropped two dogs before heading out on the trail. It is easy to start to try to put her run into a category, where she is in relation to the other top runners, but use caution. She has done nothing on the race that the "experts" have expected and will probably continue to do so! Reports from the trail say that Scooter was one of the dogs dropped, but there was no information about the other dog.

John Baker, Mitch Seavey, Aaron Burmeister, Dallas Seavey and Jeff King are all close on her tail. At present Aliy is 9 miles ahead of Baker, 10 miles ahead of Burmeister (with 15 dogs), 11 miles ahead of M. Seavey and 15 ahead of D. Seavey. King seems to be falling off a bit. She seems to be gaining and losing time at any musher at any given minute. It's enough to make a person crazy!

The Kaltag Portage trail is one of Aliy's favorite parts of the race. She feels awed by the people and animals that have uses this trail for a millennia. This trail has been used by the inland Athabaskan Indians and the coastal Inupiat for trade. It kind of puts the world into perspective.

Here is a link to the Aliy Cam video of the Portage Trail 2010 if you would like to see where Aliy and the Red Team are right now.

Ryne just keeps plugging away. She arrived at Galena at 3:29 pm AST with her 13 dogs. I expect she is booting the dogs now and will be heading out soon. If the weather holds, a friend will be flying out along the trail tomorrow. Maybe we will get some news.

All of Ryne's drop dogs are back in Anchorage and in excellent condition. Honda was picked up about a half hour ago. He was dropped for a sore shoulder in Cripple, but isn't even limping now. Meg and Viper from the Red Team also arrived in Anchorage this evening. They are all eating well and look good.

Doug, Allen, Bridgett, Scotty and Timber are all in Unalakleet awaiting Aliy's arrival. We should have some good information in the morning.

Mini-Quiz for SPK Fans!

KNOM in Nome has been doing a great job -- I think -- of covering the race and providing timely, useful information. I was just listening to a couple of clips and noticed -- finally! -- the photo in the banner:
How quickly can you SPK fans recognize and name those dogs! Put your answer in the comments and show your stuff!

Aliy Interview In Kaltag

Most of you have probably heard this great interview with Aliy in Kaltag, but just in case!

Off the Yukon

Aliy cruised off the Yukon River and into Kaltag at 11:14 am AST. There is an excellent video of her coming in and the dogs look FABULOUS. She commented that she wished she looked as good as the dogs. "I'm about to fall over asleep!"

The dogs looked like they got an excellent parking place, though there doesn't seem to be much wind. The trails were hard and fast and obviously agreed with the Red Team. They will likely take a good rest before heading out on the Portage Trail to Unalakleet. I can't say how long that rest will be. Only Aliy know that at this point.

We have SP crew heading out to key positions on the trail. Hope to hear from them sometime tomorrow.

Joe Runyon article very positive this morning. Here's a link.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 6 - Iditarod 2012 - The Mighty Yukon

March 9, 2012 11 pm AST

Aliy and the Red Team arrived in Galena at 3:53 pm AST and declared her 8 hour Mandatory Yukon River Rest. She and the dogs looked great coming in. Head Checker and fellow musher Jon Korta greeted Aliy with a hug and an excellent parking place.

Aliy said the trail was a bit punchy and slower than she had hoped. It was a good time for the dogs to have a nice long rest. We hope to hear from her before she leaves this evening. She can pull the hook at 11:53 pm AST.

As we know, Aliy is running her own race and at the moment, it is unlike any of the other top mushers'. The Seaveys are running their own race as well. It appears that Aliy gained time on Mitch with her run into Galena, but lost some time to Dallas. What this will mean in the end is anyone's guess. Both Seaveys will need to stop again along the river before Kaltag. Aliy may or may not.

Temperatures will become a player tonight, possibly dropping off to 40 below on the river as the leaders head to Nulato. This should firm up the trail, but will be harder on the dogs and especially the mushers.

Ryne is continuing to cruise along. She arrived at Cripple at 8:05 am AST with 14 dogs and rested there for a little over 6 hours. She did drop a dog before heading back out on the trail. Ryne and 13 dogs headed out towards the Yukon River at 2:06 pm AST. I wish I had more information to share with you about them, but Iditarod media seems to be focusing entirely on the leaders of the race this year.

At this point, we know that the dog Aliy dropped in Ruby was Viper. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Aliy said he was getting too thin. We don't know who Ryne left in Cripple though. Meg should be back in Anchorage this evening. Doug is helping the Iditarod pick up a large number of dogs flying in tonight.

As a quick final note, I have been receiving a lot of comments and emails about the Iditarod's coverage of Aliy on the race. I felt like I needed to respond to this. First, I would like to point out that the video coverage by Bruce Lee have been excellent. He seems to be really trying to give an overall view of the race. There are several videos on the Iditarod Insider of Aliy and the dogs.

As Aliy's sister, I do get frustrated in the lack of coverage of her by Iditarod's print journalist, but Aliy is speaking for herself with her race and her dogs. Many other news outlets are hearing her. With the large number of comments we at SP are getting, I am sure the Iditarod is getting more. Perhaps they will ask why the musher who has been in the lead much of the race and who, even when resting, hasn't fallen out of the top 5 was the only top musher not discussed today.

Just remember, Aliy isn't doing this for headlines. She is just running her race to the best of her and her dogs abilities.


A good article about Aliy in Galena:

Allen wore a camera for the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage for APR. Here is the link to it.

News From Ruby

After resting on the trail between Cripple and Ruby, Aliy and the Red Team stopped in Ruby long enough to pick up some supplies and drop a dog. It looked like she and the dogs rested about 4 hours on the trail.

Laureli Kinneen, the trail reported for Nome's radio station KNOM, called Bridgett after seeing Aliy pass through the checkpoint. Laureli said that the dogs were wagging their tails and were ready to go! Laureli asked Aliy about her schedule since it is so different than the other top mushers. Typical Aliy, she said she is running what is best for the dogs!

Laureli didn't know anything about the dropped dog. Although we can guess that it is Rambler, it could easily be any other dog. Let you know as soon as we get information.

Many people have been asking about the ALIY CAM. We hope to get a video card from Aliy in Unalakleet.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 5 - Iditarod 2012 - 24 HR Done

March 8,2012 9:30 pm AST

Day 5 on the Iditarod trail started early for SP Kennel. Aliy and the Red Team headed out of their 24 hour mandatory rest at 1:16 am (my calculation was off by 2 minutes last night). Aliy left Takotna with 15 dogs in harness, leaving Meg with the wonderful vet crew and volunteers. She stayed between Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey until they began to take breaks. Aliy stopped about 70 miles into her run to Cripple, having blown through Ophir. A great sign that she didn't drop Rambler there.

After what looked like a 4 hour rest on the trail, Aliy and the dogs continued down the trail at a steady pace. She passed through Cripple about 6:30 this evening, all dogs still on the line, and returned to the front of the pack. Mitch Seavey, who had been resting in Cripple, quickly headed out after her. It is a 60 miles trip to Ruby and the start of the trail on the mighty Yukon River. Aliy is once again running her own race and staying out of checkpoints.

Ryne finished her 24 hour mandatory rest almost 12 hours after Aliy finished her rest. Ryne left Takotna with 14 dogs at 1:30 pm AST. We were not able to talk to Ryne directly, so all information we have is through Aliy and others out on the trail. Rumor has it that she forgot her calling card!

Ryne is pleased with her dogs and her runs. Although tired, she is reported to be happy and very upbeat. She arrived at Takotna within 5 minutes of her plan, an amazing feat! She is planning to run conservatively along the Yukon. It is my belief that if she continues to manage her runs and dog team as she has, she will begin to pick off teams in front of her once she hits the coast.

The Zirkle / Moore family is beginning to reposition for the final half of the race. Allen arrived in Nome this morning. Bridgett kicked him out of the house and away from the computer this evening, an excellent call! Doug is awaiting Meg in Anchorage before heading to Unalakleet on Sunday. Allen, Bridgett and Scotty will meet him there (as I assume will Timber). By Tuesday, most of the clan will be out in Nome waiting for Aliy and Ryne's arrival.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 4 - Iditarod 2012 From Takotna

March 7, 2012 9:30 pm AST

Aliy arrived at Takotna in the first position at 11:30 pm last evening. Rambler was riding in the sled, but wasn't injured. After missing a call early this morning (Allen is still kicking himself), he got to talk to her early this afternoon and again about an hour ago.

As you may guess, Aliy is pleased with how the dogs are looking and how the race is going to this point. The reporters at Takotna are all commenting about how good the SP dogs are looking and how upbeat and focused Aliy is. She will be leaving with 15 dogs. Meg just isn't "looking right". Aliy has already signed the paperwork to drop her. No injuries are evident, but she just isn't able to keep up and isn't herself. Rambler, who was in the basket upon their arrival in Takotna, will be continuing on at least as far as Ophir.

After the time differential, Aliy and the Red Team will be cleared to leave Takotna at 1:14 am with their 24 hour mandatory stop checked off. Mitch Seavey leaves minutes before Aliy after his time differential and Dallas Seavey will be leaving minutes after. A Iditarod Champion and two Yukon Quest Champions back on the trail!

Aliy did have an interesting story about her run out of Rohn. There was considerable gravel and ice on the trail. It was VERY rough. When Aliy stopped to camp, she flipped her sled over to check her runner plastics and they WERE NOT THERE. They were completely gone and she had been running directly on the aluminum runner! It took an hour and a half to clean out the rocks and ice in the runners so she could put new plastics on them.

Aliy saw Ryne when she got in. She is doing very well. She came in with Ranger and Stormy in lead. Aliy didn't believe Ryne was planning to drop a dog at this point. Ryne and the Red & Black team are sleeping now. She has been right on her plan and no doubt she will continue to run a great race!

Ryne was laughing about a "tent malfunction" in Nikolai. Sure we will hear more about that later. Hopefully we will get to talk to her before she finishes her 24 hour rest.

The weather out on the trail will be cooling off. It was already dropping when Aliy talked to Allen. It was still snowing lightly, but the trail to Ophir has been travelled just a few hours ago and the trail breakers are sitting at Ophir waiting for the next wave of mushers.

Let the games begin. Again!

Macgellan's Mid-Iditarod Musings -- Part 1

I've been looking at the Google Analytics stats for this DogLog, which shows that the number of "page views" is running just about double what it was this time last year. That number coincides with the ratio of "New Visitors" to "Old Visitors" which is running about 50/50, meaning that about half our DogLog visitors are new to the site… and maybe new to the Iditarod, sled dog racing, etc.

I've also been reviewing the comments, and I see some really good questions that deserve at least decent answers. So, I'm going to use a bit of our "mandatory 24" to volunteer a few thoughts, observations -- even "musings" -- that I hope will explain a few things. Most of you "veteran fans" probably already know this stuff, but maybe there will be a nugget or two that's useful to you, too.

First of all, Aliy is in a really excellent position. Her dog team is obviously "long and strong", which means they are making long runs between (significant) rests, at good speeds, and finishing their "work day" with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Apparently they are eating well, eating everything, and doing what Alaskan Huskies are famous for: Converting 10,000 calories per day from raw meat into pure energy. There is nothing better a musher can hope for than a long, strong, happy, healthy, eating machine of a team.

Aliy will NEVER do anything that will put her dogs at risk. If anything, it can be argued that she has at times been overly conservative and that may have had an adverse impact on her finishing position in previous races. Whether there is any merit to that or not, the fact that Aliy was first into McGrath for the Spirit award -- and then first into Takotna -- shows that she is letting the dogs do what they want, run as they please and really "get after it." She obviously has immense confidence in them, and especially in her main leaders Quito and Olivia. For all you ladies out there, this really is a "girl power" team all the way.

The Red Team is almost certainly taking their mandatory 24-hour rest in Takotna. There is no conceivable -- at least to me -- reason they would be there this long except for it to be their "24." Thus, the team will be leaving Takotna 24 hours plus the "differential" after their arrival. For those of you who are new to this, the "differential math" is pretty straightforward: Teams left the start line in two-minute intervals, which means there was 104 minutes time-span between when Aliy started in position 14 and the last team's start in position 66 (66-14=52x2=104)… Got it? To even out the timing for all teams, each team (besides the last team) has a differential added to their 24-hour mandatory rest.

So, if my math is right, Aliy should be pulling out of Takotna at 1:14 in the morning (11:30 plus 104 minutes). I haven't done all the math for every racer, but it looks like only the Seaveys will pull out ahead of her. This is because even though they arrived after her, their "high starting number" differentials are lower: They have shorter mandatory "24" rest periods.

If that doesn't all make sense, don't worry. There are a lot of "moving parts" to this business of racing sled dogs and it takes a while to get accustomed to it. The bottom line is that Aliy may not be the first to pull out of Takotna, but her team is positioned within minutes of the lead team. That's the key thing!

But, you might ask, what about the Busers? They're "in the lead" in Ophir! Well, yes and no… They are geographically ahead of Aliy (and all the other teams) in Takotna, but they still have to complete their 24 hour rests! Martin arrived in Takotna about 9 hours after Aliy, so it is likely that he will still have something like 9 hours left in his "24" when she passes him by, with her "24" already behind her. And here you have the gist of part of what makes the Iditarod so exciting and confusing: You can't tell who is "in the lead" until you factor in all the other circumstances of rests, differentials, etc. Frankly, you often can't really tell who is in the lead until they're running down Front Street in Nome!

Again, don't worry if you're feeling confused. A couple of years from now you'll be trying to explain this to other people!

I hope this post has helped clear things up a few things rather than make them more confusing for you. If you've got questions, please put them in the comments and I'll try to answer them over the coming days of the race!

Wes and Wendy's Weather Nine

What do you do while you wait for your mushers to finish their 24 hour required rest on a big race like the Iditarod? You take your 24 hours! SP Kennel is now taking their 24 hours—we are giving the “refresh” button a break, and are doing the chores around the kennel. We’ll be ready to watch the GPS tracker when Aliy leaves this evening.

Monday was a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures hovering right around 10 degrees above zero, a great day for a training run. Since Wes is preparing for his first race this weekend here in Two Rivers, we hooked up two teams of eight and went off for a nice two hour stretch out. It was a great run, and dogs and humans were happy.

Then…it snowed…and snowed….and hasn’t stopped. Monday night we were to get 4 inches which is a nice snow for the trails and makes things pretty. However, Tuesday morning it was still snowing and we’d reached six inches of fluffy white stuff. As it was the last day to train, Wes and I decided to head out for a long run. I went ahead on the snow machine (mobile) to clear the trail for him, and pack down the fluff. He followed behind with 12 dogs who will most likely make up his team. I’m NOT a professional trailbreaker by any means. Though I do know my way around a snow machine, it has been a few winters since I spent any extended time on one. Things went quite smoothly, until I decided I needed to turn around in a “wide spot” in the trail. With drifts of powder snow all around, I quickly realized how easy it is to get a snow machine stuck! Luckily as I left home, Allen had yelled, “Don’t forget to take a shovel”. So I untied it from the luggage rack, and went to work. After 15 minutes of intense work and a graceful 25 point turn, I got unstuck, and continued to my destination. The remainder of the trip was fairly uneventful, though I did have to dig myself out of snow drifts a few more times along the way. Snow plows are NOT a snow machiner’s friend!

Wes, however, had an interesting trip with his twelve dogs. On the return trip, snow machines had come along my carefully groomed trail, and turned it into mush—which funny enough—isn’t great for mushing. Wes hit sloppy trail on his way home, with fresh snow, overflow, and tree drop snow making the trail more difficult than usual. His 6 hour trip took a few more than expected. As we waited for Wes to come home, we watched Aliy finish her run into Nikolai and then Takotna for her rest. I was pretty proud to be a part of the SP Kennel team, as she received her “Spirit of Alaska” award. Wes finally made it home—surprising us by coming into the yard backwards! Luckily, not sled first! Apparently, with all the fresh snow, our in trail to the kennel yard had blown over and the dogs could not find a way through the drifts to get to their houses. Taking the path of least resistance, they followed my snow machine tracks up the driveway and into the yard through the “out” trail. Allen has dubbed Wes, “Wrong Way Wes” after this particular sledding adventure.

This morning (Wednesday) we awoke to more snow falling. We’ve now reached about 15 inches of wet, heavy, powder snow. This is more snow than Two Rivers has gotten all year! The dog houses are covered to their roofs. The Iditarod dogs are going to have to tunnel their way into their houses! The remaining dogs have been able to keep up with the snowfall, and packed down their circles. Even the Outlaws have kept their circles clean. Yes, the Outlaws graduated this week to “Big Sled Dog” status. They received their bright red collars and were tied out on chains in the dog yard. They are borrowing some houses right now, until we can shovel out a place for them to live. They seem to be adjusting well, and enjoy playing with their neighbors. Pud and Bullet are taking it in stride, and showing them how to be good, calm puppies.

It’s almost time to watch the GPS Tracker again—Aliy will be finishing up her 24 soon and heading out. We’re pulling for you, Aliy! Way to go, Ryne!

About the Mask

As Aliy is resting at Takotna and Ryne is making her way to McGrath, many people have asked about the artist who created the Spirit Mask. Artist Orville Lund of Bristol Bay created the mask to portray the union of the spirits of dogs and musher. Neat article about it:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Iditarod 2012 - Day 3 - Spirit Award

March 6, 2012 9:30 pm AST

What a day on the Iditarod trail!

Aliy is still leading the front pack. She just past through McGrath on her way to Takotna. She won the Spirit of Alaska Award presented by PenAir for the first musher to McGrath. It is a Spirit Mask depicting the joining of the dog team and the musher into one on the trail. Incredibly beautiful! PenAir will bring the mask to Nome for her and re-present it to Aliy at the banquet. There is a wonderful video of Aliy coming into McGrath on the Iditarod Insider.

Not only did Aliy win the Spirit Award, she was checked in to McGrath by her long time friend Mark Cox and his daughter Cameron. Cameron helped Aliy through her first Iditarod when her entire dog team was SO sick and has been away at school for the last several Iditarods. Aliy was looking forward to seeing her.

After the being presented with the award, Aliy quickly got back on the trail with all 16 dogs. It is less than 20 miles to Takotna.

Back in Nikolai, Ryne and her dog team have arrived at the checkpoint at 8:29. No information about them at this point, but she is running EXACTLY what she wanted to do. She camped for a good 5 to 6 hours on the trail, so she and the dogs should be strong.

Both the dogs that Ryne had to drop are back in Anchorage with Doug and eating well. Tony was the first dog dropped in Finger Lake for a sore shoulder and Puppet was the second dropped at Rainy Pass. Many thanks to the wonderful pilots, vets and volunteers for taking such good care of them and getting them back to us so quickly and safely!

What will tomorrow bring? We'll have to see. Here are some links to look at:

Aliy in the Lead into Nikolai

March 6, 2012 Day 3 Midday

Day 3 started with Aliy pushing into Nikolai. She arrived at 9:14 am AST in the first position. On the surface, she has been running a very different race than she has in the past. There seems to be speculation about her plan, going so far as calling her the "rabbit". I think it is important to remember two things about Aliy and how she runs any race.

She will always run the race that "her" dogs can run. What I mean by this is that she doesn't look at Hugh Neff, Lance Mackey or anyone else and say "he or she stayed at Rainy Pass for X amount of time, so I need to leave at that same amount of time." She plans a schedule based on what she thinks her team will be capable of doing, usually 3 different contingencies, and then runs that schedule, watching her dogs to pick what is best for them. I guarantee Aliy isn't trying to be in the lead at this point in the race, not that I think she is complaining! Her dogs and her schedule are allowing her to be at the front!

Secondly, she doesn't like to stay in checkpoints during the early part of a race and will choose to camp between checkpoints if that is the best schedule for her dogs. Staying in early checkpoints means staying with lots of other teams and people. They are loud and the dogs don't get as much rest as they could get out by themselves. If you watch any of the videos from the early checkpoints, it is hard to hear the announcers because of dogs barking, teams coming in and out, airplanes landing and snow machines (mobiles) zooming around. More quality rest means happier, healthier and faster dogs. Also, anytime there is a large group of dogs together, virus' and sicknesses begin to move through the teams. Aliy likes to limit the dogs exposure.

It is critical to have a strong dog team on the coast. Aliy will not jeopardize that by trying to stay in first place now. She will continue to run her dogs as they need to be run. It's a good sign that they are in the front pack, but it isn't critical for her to stay in first for her and the dogs to have a great race. And to win!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Iditarod 2012 - Day 2

March 5, 2012 10 pm AST

It has been an interesting day along the Iditarod Trail. After leaving Willow in fairly warm temperatures and blue skies, Aliy, Ryne and the other 2012 Iditarod mushers had a night of 15 to 25 below. That is perfect for the SP Dogs! Today the temps began to rise and the weather started to change. Snow is likely on the trail.

Aliy is moving along steadily and is doing what she wanted to be able to do at this point in the race. Many of the dogs on her team have already run a thousand mile race. This is allowing her to keep a strong pace and doesn't seem to be lacking speed. Aliy and the dogs have been running in the top 5 for most of the start of the race. She is currently running in the first position, out of Rohn with all 16 of her dogs.

The news on the trail has been very positive. Some of the mushers are calling it the best trail they have seen in years. Aliy commented on the great trail conditions as well as saying that the Happy River Steps were in great shape this year. The controversial Steps were taken out of the race, but due to wind blowing the alternate route closed, they were added back in. The mushers were informed of the change on Saturday night. It sounds like it was the correct decision.

Aliy has been featured in two Iditarod Insider videos. The best of the two was of her and the team coming into Rainy Pass. The dogs look wonderful!

Ryne is having a great run. She is sticking to her schedule, which is always a good sign! She did have to drop a dog in Finger Lake. She is now resting with her 15 dogs at Rainy Pass, having arrived at 6:30 this evening.

We won't know who she had to drop until the dog gets back to Anchorage. The Iditarod Air Force flies the dogs back in small 2 and 4 seat planes that are very weather sensitive. I don't expect to get word on our dropped dog until tomorrow midday at the earliest.

We had hoped to have some photos and video from the trail today, but the weather kept small planes out of Rainy Pass. The kennel hopes to have people out on the trail later this week, but everything is weather dependent.

Enjoy the race!

Aliy In The Lead!

Just in case you missed the latest update to the Iditarod leader board:
Aliy has passed through Rohn and is in the lead! She's probably only going to go just a few miles down the trail and camp, but still! Go Aliy!

Ryne Olson Iditarod 2012 Willow Start.m4v

Up, Up and Back to Anchorage

March 5, 2012

Mike Litzen and Doug Zirkle

The best laid plans often come to naught when confronted with Alaskan weather!!

Doug and I (Aliy's dad and mom) met our good friend and experienced Alaskan pilot, Mike Litzen at 0930 today. Mike had flown his 1953 Cessna 150 from his home on the Kenai Peninsula to gather us in Anchorage and make the hour and a half flight to Rainy Pass. We had all been watching Aliy on the Iditarod GPS tracker and planned to catch her shortly after she arrived at that checkpoint. We packed food, drink and extra layers in hopes of staying until 4 this afternoon to see Ryne too.

We were flying over the Cook Inlet at about 1500 feet when Mike got the Rainy Pass/Puntilla Lake weather report. At 1000 the ceiling was 16000 feet, broken with a visibility of 25 miles. Cool! Good flight conditions ahead.

We had great visibility at first. We could see the shoreline of the Kenai to the south, the mountains to the north. We could pick out the Alaska Range to the west. We flew over total wilderness- snow, spruce, rivers, creeks and an occasional moose.

Mike had been briefed before the flight about a snow event due in during the afternoon so, as usual, he kept a sharp eye out for developing patterns. About half way into the trip Mike pointed to the southwest and said, "It's getting a little fuzzy over there." And we continued our flight toward the Shell Hills in the distance. Fuzzy, huh?

The checkpoint, Skwentna, was a few miles to our north. We were searching for the Iditarod Trail and any teams along the way. Gradually the radio chatter among pilots increased significantly. We were looping around Shell Lake when Mike contacted one of his commercial pilot buddies who flies Iditarod photographers along the trail. He had breaking news. Rainy Pass was completely socked in and the owner of the Rainy Pass Lodge suggested that those en route 'don't even bother'. By that time we were about 10 miles from Finger Lake and about 40 miles from Rainy Pass.

We made a u-turn and landed to stretch our legs and eat a muffin at the Skwentna airstrip. Five or six other planes also stopped here to reassess travel plans. Some chose to wait there. Most headed back to Anchorage.

When we took off again to head east, the western horizon had become a white bank of snow and fog. Conditions had gone from 25 mile visibility to zero visibility in about an hour. No one was heading to Rainy Pass now!

So Aliy and Ryne, we have to send you our love over the miles. Stay happy, healthy and focused. There will be no trail visit at Rainy Pass.

Red Team Ready for Iditarod 2012.m4v

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Aliy and Ryne are off on their treks to Nome. They both left Willow with strong, happy teams of 16 dogs. It was a beautiful day for the start.

Pictures amid more info to come.

Ryne Iditarod Start Run.m4v

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Iditarod 2012 Ceremonial Start

It's been an exciting day here in Anchorage, where many of us participated in our first Iditarod ceremonial start. We started the day with a hot breakfast, then a walk down to the Start on 4th avenue. Our "Big Red" dog truck was parked down the side street where people quickly gathered around to see Aliy, Allen and the dogs. Ryne, with the new truck was parked a block away and also drew a crowd. The SP Kennel has earned quite a following here in Anchorage, in addition to people coming from all over the United States to see the teams start their 1000 mile race. Many of us were able to reconnect with friends we only see once a year at the Iditarod.

The dogs know the routine by now. They happily got out of their boxes to eat their breakfast with the crowds watching. Then, they received all of the petting, hugs and kisses possible from their adoring fans. They were the stars of the day, with people lining up to take photos with their "favorite SP Kennel dog". They waited patiently for the harnessing, and bootie process to be completed. As they were clipped to the main line, they suddenly transformed into
barking bundles of energy, ready to run. With everyone ready, holding the lines, we made our way slowly down 4th street to the Start line. Both Aliy and Ryne's teams behaved perfectly. It was a great trip down the chute, and very exciting to see all the people who come out to see the
start of the race.

The Idita-riders in both Aliy and Ryne's sleds were enthusiastic about their 12 mile
run. Ryne's rider was a young man from Wisconsin who recently graduated from college. His grandmother had bought the sled seat as a gift for him. It seems she grew up mushing, and wanted each of her grandchildren to have the experience. Several of us were able to watch Ryne andWes as they ran down the trail. We made it just in time to watch them as they went past our sponsors' Horizon Lines hot dog stand. This is an annual tradition for the Horizon Lines staff to hand out free hot dogs and water to hungry mushers, handlers, Iditariders, and fans who come to see them. Ryne and Wes decided to pull over and have a chat with us as we fed them hot dogs, fresh from the grill. It's a great
way to enjoy the race, and get lunch too! Both runs went without a hitch.

This evening, Aliy and Ryne enjoyed one of their last hot meals before the race with their families. Then, headed off to have a good solid sleep before the race really begins tomorrow. The dog teams are finalized, and the dogs are happily resting in their boxes. We leave early for Willow tomorrow, so we can get there in plenty of time to start the routine all over again. It's been a wonderful experience so far, and will be just as fun tomorrow. --WB

Final Line-Ups!

No changes to Aliy's Red Team, and only two changes to Ryne's Red & Black Team: Moxie in for Mac and Skittles in for Chemo!

Click here to view interactive team rosters!

Friday, March 2, 2012

SP Kennel Meets the Fans

Today has been a busy day for SP Kennel--canines and humans! Starting bright and early Friday morning, the dogs woke up for their first stretching and feeding of the day. They were full of energy and pulling on their leashes to run. Later, Aliy, Allen and Ryne visited with the Clarion, Quality Inn, and Rodeway Inn staff. The staff have been great hosts forall of us at the hotels. They love the dogs, and spend any free moments out at the dog truck.The day continued with a noon visit to the Horizon Lines office visit down at the Port. Three lucky dogs--JJ, Stormy, and Nutmeg--got to visit with the staff at the office. We had several photo opportunities, and enjoyed homemade dog shaped cookies (Thanks Kaz!) as well. The staff had a group photo with Aliy, Allen, and Ryne, so they can "ride along in the sled" all the way to Nome.

To finish off a successful day, Clarion Suites hosted their annual "Meet the Mushers" for Aliy, Allen and Ryne. Allen and Aliy shared their Yukon Quest and Iditarod Race wisdom with a crowd of over 150 people. They shared videos and stories of life on the Race trail, as well as a brief "show and tell" of the mandatory gear in their sleds.

Ryne received a warm welcome from the crowd as the "rookie". She shared stories of four special dogs which were able to tour around the room. Honda, Stormy, Dingle, and Tony visited with the crowd, and happily licked up dropped cookie crumbs from unsuspecting children's hands.
We are now ready to "drop" the dogs- walk them around the parking lot-and put them to sleep for tonight. Tomorrow will be a full and exciting day! We'll be sure to get lots of photos and videos to share with all of you out there. --WB

Aliy Featured In ESPN-W Article

There's an article featuring Aliy on the ESPN-W website.
(Thanks to Edwin for the link!)
You can click here to see it.

Here's another nice article about Aliy & Ryne in a Sierra Club blog.

SP Kennel 2012 Iditarod Teams

Click here to view interactive team rosters!