Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Team Travels To Anchorage

The canine and handler team travelled to Anchorage today. It was a beautiful day for a drive!



Take a listen to the impromptu howl when we dropped the dogs for a rest stop at mile 202...

Team Eagle Pack In Anchorage

There's a lot going on as SP Kennel gears up for the Iditarod start this weekend!

Right now, the dogs and handlers are driving from the kennel in Two Rivers to their Anchorage home at Clarion Suites.

Meanwhile, Aliy and Allen are already in Anchorage to meet with sponsors, friends and fans. A highlight has been a get-together with "Team Eagle Pack" which includes Martin Buser, DeeDee Jonrowe and others.



Eagle Pack is a lead sponsor for SP Kennel and supplies the primary food for our amazing dogs. Thank you, Eagle Pack!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's In Aliy's Sled? Part 2

Here's part 2! In this video Aliy takes us on a tour of what she carries inside her sled while she is racing the Iditarod.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's On Aliy's Sled?

Take a tour of Aliy's racing sled! In this video you will learn a little about the construction of the sled and what is kept on the outside for easy access. In a later video Aliy will show us what she takes inside her sled for 1000 miles of racing.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Final Training Runs Before Iditarod

It has been gorgeous here in Two Rivers over the last few days as we do our final training runs before the Iditarod. The teams are out today for a few hours then will do a short, stretch-out run on Wednesday morning before heading down to Anchorage by truck on Thursday.

Aliy took a team of 16 out a couple of days ago; here's some photos from that run.



(Moira was riding a tag-sled behind to get these photos)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Home away from Home

The entire SP Kennel Crew and dogs will be in Anchorage for the Iditarod. Where do over 30 dogs and a dozen people stay? Our "home away from home" is Clarion Suites Downtown Anchorage. Not only are the pillows fluffed for the human entourage, but the biscuits are readied for the dogs. The whole crew is welcome at Clarion!

Clarion Suites is Aliy's exclusive hotel sponsor and a huge supporter of the entire SP Kennel family. As dog lovers themselves, the folks at Clarion really know what it takes to make a team of huskies comfortable! The hotel flies a huge "Aliy" banner along "L" Street downtown. If anyone is still looking for a room during the iditarod weekend, Clarion Suites is offering an "Iditarod Special Rate". Call the front desk for more information (907)222-5005.



Clarion Suites is a Chenega Native Corporation owned property and one of the finest hotels in downtown Anchorage. Another fine hotel in the area (and owned by Chenega as well) is Quality Suites Convention Center. Quality Suites is Allen's exclusive hotel sponsor. The hotel flies a huge "Allen" banner along "C" Street downtown.

"Meet and Greet" Aliy and Allen on Friday evening!

Come to the Clarion Suites on Friday evening from 6-7 pm to meet Aliy and Allen and visit with the dogs!

They will talk about the up coming Iditarod, show you their sleds and some of their equipment and tell you how they use it on the trail. They might even share some of their strategies for the race.

There will be some (limited) merchandise available and you'll get the chance to meet the whole crew!

See you there!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Iditarod - ONE Week Out!

The biggest question these days is: "Are you ready?"

We should be. With Iditarod only one week out, there's really not much more to be done. Most of the race preparation has happened over the last few weeks, months and even years. Allen and Aliy turned in their Food Drops on February 11th. In total, Aliy sent 1,633 pounds and Allen sent 1,550 pounds of dog food, gear and personal items. These bags are labeled with a musher's name and a checkpoint name. The Iditarod Air Force as well as commercial airlines will haul all of these supplies out to the trail starting this week.




There are 19 checkpoints that are "resupply" points this year. It is at these checkpoints that the teams can pick up more dog food, fuel and straw bedding for the dogs. Some mushers might choose to stop and stay at all 19 checkpoints. Usually there is parking for the dog team, dog water available and perhaps even a warm spot for a musher to get some rest. But, not all mushers choose to stay in checkpoints. They are understandably very busy places with noise and commotion. Depending on a team's race strategy, they may "go through" a checkpoint and camp outside of the commotion. This requires planning however because the team will most likely still need to resupply.

The Iditarod Trail follows the "southern route" this year. The Iditarod race route leaves the starting line in Willow and heads west. The dog teams begin to travel away from South Central Alaska. River travel gives way to occasional hills and soon encounters the magnificent Alaska Range Mountains. The teams climb through the range and over a mountain pass as they continue north and west. They arrive at the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River drainage and follow the valley west. After passing through several villages, the trail heads north into the rolling hills. It turns west and follows the traditional route through the ghost town of Iditarod. The teams still head west until they reach the Yukon River and make a sharp turn upriver (or north.) They follow the mighty Yukon for nearly 200 hundred miles until the village of Kaltag. The teams get off the river and follow the ancient trade route and 90-mile portage trail over to the Bering Sea. After reaching the western coast, the trail once again turns north. It follows the coastline - occasionally travel on the frozen ocean - for the remaining 275 miles to the finish.

One week out... we better be ready!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Taco Gets a New Home!

Thanks for all your entries into the "Give Taco a Home" competition. The correct answers were 1) At the Eagle Summit road closure, near Mile 101 (when the handlers couldn't get to Circle on time); 2) Dawson City Dog Camp; 3) Fairbanks finish-line; 4) Braeburn 5) Two Rivers and 6) Circle City.

Congratulations to the prize winners... we will get your prizes in the post this week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pre-Iditarod Health Check Ups for the Teams

I have might taken for granted that everyone knows how extensive our pre Iditarod health check ups are for the dogs. But, after talking to a few folks, it seems that everyone DOESN'T know all of the health check "hoops" that we ask them to jump through (you'd think they were agility dogs!) So, here is an overview:

First of all, every dog is identified by microchip number. A microchip is inserted by syringe under the skin behind the ear (it is the size of a grain of rice). Each microchip has a unique identification number that can be read with a scanner to identify the dog. For Iditarod purposes, this unique number can track the dog's medical history, as well as race history. All race dogs are scanned at the start of the race, as well as the finish. This is a very secure way to make sure all dogs can be identified with their musher. (For example, the Iditarod knows that ChaCha first raced in 2004 with Randy Chappel, then raced every year with Allen or Aliy, retiring after the 2011 race.)

Being that all of our dogs are reliably identifiable (to everyone, not just us), they then must pass individual Iditarod Veterinary Pre-Race Exams. Our personal Vet, Dr T Rose, came out to Two Rivers on Tuesday and examined all the dogs per Iditarod standards. Her exams were thorough. They included simple measures such as: weight and temperature. (We keep a monthly log book of dogs' weights, so we can compare through out the season.) One of the more important tests in the exam is a cardiac auscultation. With a stethoscope she can detect the heart's:
1) rate and rhythm, 2) value functioning (e.g. stenosis, regurgitation/insufficiency), and 3) anatomical defects.


Quito gets the once over by T-Rose while Rambler and Scout wait their turn

Also with a stethoscope she listened to their respiration and overall health of their lungs. The final part of the exam has to do with total body condition and musculo-skeletal issues. For this she uses a simple "sight exam". By watching a dog's gait she can tell if someone is uncomfortable or even in pain. We have the dogs romping around in the garage, so she can get quite a view.

Yesterday the dogs took the next step toward medical approval to race in the Iditarod. All race dogs must have a Complete Blood Count as well as an ECG print out (Electrocardiogram.) These two tests require a clinic set up and knowledgeable specialists to administer the tests. The volunteer Iditarod crew this year were FABULOUS. We brought all of the dogs into Animal House Vet Clinic in Fairbanks where they were escorted inside a room designated for their testing. (Their was a bit of canine chaos and barking periodically in the background from the boarding kennel and doggie day care that shares this facility.)

First, two vials of blood were taken from each individual (Right: Ranger with two of the volunteers). These samples are, of course, identified by the dog's Microchip number and are set to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska for analysis. We will get the results in four days as will the head Iditarod Veterinarian, Dr. Stu Nelson. Dr. Nelson phones all mushers to talk about any irregularities or questions he might have about the dogs' blood work. If necessary, he can advise mushers to re test a dog or he has the authority to decline a dog from the competition.

Second, is the ECG or Electrocardiogram. The dogs must lay on a table and relax. They are hooked up to electrodes and a computer which monitors their heart. It will document the result with an 8-second print out. These print outs are looked over by a cardiac specialist as well as Dr. Nelson. Once, again, if necessary, the doctors can advise mushers to re test or decline a dog from the competition.


L-R: The ECG Machine; Chemo getting his ECG

All of this is absolutely necessary to try and keep our dogs healthy and safe. None of these tests are "looking for illegal substances". The drug testing protocol for Iditarod dogs has a completely different protocol. We will do a website post explaining the canine drug testing later on during our Iditarod coverage.

See Rambler, I.V., Clyde and Felix getting checked over by the fabulous volunteers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Howler is Out Now!

Click on the image (left) to view the latest SP Kennel Howler.

This edition features the story about Allen and the Black Team's victorious Yukon Quest, tells of the Red and R&B teams in the Yukon Quest 300 and gives you some details about the upcoming Iditarod!

We also have the spotlight on our Yukon Quest Golden Harness Winner Quito!

Enjoy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Taco the Toy Yukon Quest Dog Needs a Home!

For those of you that remember "Taco" (the stuffed toy husky) from the Yukon Quest here is your chance to take him home! We have photographic evidence of him visiting most of the checkpoints along the way but there are a few pics in which his location is a little harder to identify! If you can tell us the name of his location in these six photos your name will go in the draw to win him plus a copy of the 2013 YQ Race Annual signed by both Allen and Aliy. The second and third place getters also receive a signed Race Annual.

You can either email your answers to spkdoglog@gmail.com or private message us on Facebook BEFORE midnight (AST) Thursday, 21st February and we'll draw the lucky winners! Good luck.


1) We had some trouble here 2) Taco caught up with some rest here 3) This was pretty exciting!


4) Yum, cinnamon buns 5) The National Guard helped out here 6) Some mushers slept on this fire truck

PS Taco came from a large, healthy litter so watch out for his siblings as the season goes on!

The Yukon Quest Journey

I hope you enjoy this!


Music: Stanhope by Scotty MacLeod

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Yukon Quest Banquet and Prize Giving

Last night the Yukon Quest community in Fairbanks came together to celebrate the 30th running of the "the race that all long distance mushers and fans must experience."

Allen received a new award from the Selkirk First Nation to recognise his hard work and endurance for his first place arrival in their community of Pelly Crossing. He was presented a wonderful pair of beaver fur gloves (right) made by a local aboriginal artist. Thank you to the Selkirk First Nation - they are beautiful and a very special memento of his race and especially Pelly Crossing.

The crowd heard some great stories about the trail, including one from Allen about when he was a couple of hours into the last leg from Two Rivers to Fairbanks - he'd been ski-poling hard and the dogs loping along nicely when he looked behind him and saw what looked like a headlight. Allen said it scared him that Hugh was catching him so he ski-poled harder and encouraged the dogs more! An hour or so later he looked behind him again and the light was still there until it dawned on him that what he was seeing was the reflector tape of the trail markers. That might explain why his run from Two Rivers to Fairbanks was so fast!

Other mushers said some super things about Allen and the SP Kennel family and expressed how much they believed Allen really deserved this win. Congratulations to all the other mushers and prizewinners: Normand Casavant for the Veterinarian's Choice, Brent Sass for Sportsmanship, Scott Smith as Rookie of the Year, Darrin Lee for the Spirit of the North award, Hugh Neff for the Dawson City award and Dyan Bergen for the Red Lantern. It was a great night and thanks must go out to the Yukon Quest Board, staff, vets, volunteers and fans for making it such a great race!


Allen receives the Yukon Quest Champion trophy

Hear some snippets from Allen's speech:



The crowd at the YQ Finish Banquet

Click here for a great article about the banquet and Golden Harness award from Jeff Richardson at the Newsminer

Golden Harness For The Golden Girl

On Saturday night in Fairbanks Quito received the Yukon Quest Golden Harness award. The award is "presented in honor of the loyalty, endurance and perseverance of the Champion Lead Dog throughout the race" and that is surely the case with Quito!

Aliy and Allen both spoke about Quito. Aliy started off saying "Quito is truly a rock star". "She’s six years old, she’s done three Yukon Quests and four Iditarods, and she probably has a lot more in her." She explained that "Quito is non-stop and she's kind of a dog that doesn't do it for you, she does it for herself and that's probably what makes her more special than anyone else."

Allen also told the crowd about her two litters and that we'll get a whole lot more dogs just like her that never want to quit! "Because there's no quit in Quito!" Woohoo!




Because of the excitement of the evening Quito was a bit reluctant to eat the raw steak especially prepared for her by the Carlson Centre head chef so we brought a doggy-bag home and she will get to enjoy it in the peace and quiet of the yard later today.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Iditarod: Live Video Chat With Aliy Zirkle!

Meet The Mushers: Fairbanks

Friday night in Fairbanks was the Yukon Quest Meet the Mushers event. Hundreds of people turned out to congratulate the finishers and get prized signatures and photos.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Allen's Talks About His Champion Team

I sat down with Allen and asked him about his team of Yukon Quest Champions!

Firstly he said he was really proud of his team and how they responded to all the challenges in the race. Some have been there before, many times, others haven't had as much experience and he said they all performed really well.

Quito (left) really is the "Golden Girl". She lead the team straight up Eagle Summit without missing a beat. She'll be the Golden Harness winner at the Yukon Quest prize-giving - an honor that is richly deserved as she has been such a strong leader for a couple of seasons now. She lead the team when it really mattered and showed she is the kennel's MVD. Who can forget her loping over the finish line in Fairbanks looking like she'd just been for 10 miles, not 1000 miles!

Olivia is another "Golden Girl"; she's a good steady leader that takes commands well and will go through any situation when asked! That's why Allen will normally have her in lead at the end of the race or during any difficut situation.

Scruggs is a good steady leader, but not a loping leader. In the last three years he has been as steady as any dog in the kennel and is a very important member of the team; always.

Scout is a great leader also; he was up there with Quito over Eagle Summit. He has a lot of drive in him and focus which is important over 1000 miles.

Beemer is kind of a moody dog but he's not flamboyant and sometimes, Allen said, he can forget he's there! He's always steady and that's what you need for a race like this.

Chica is a quietly understated dog and was an essential part of the winning team. She was lunging at the harness to leave checkpoints and steady and strong. She is one of three "Spanish" dogs in this team (along with Quito and Nacho), all of them are awesome!

Allen was extremely disappointed to leave Scooter in Dawson. She is such a good cheerleader for the team and had performed strongly in the first half of the race. Scooter is still a young dog at three years and could potentially be another Quito in terms of "super-stardom". She eats very well, she's a FAST dog and she lopes a lot which sometimes can cause injuries - which it did this year. If we can keep her injury free she will be as dominant a team dog as Quito is a lead dog.

Puppet surprised Allen. He has always rated her as a really good sled dog and she and he have a strong bond but in this race she really came into her own, she ran better than she ever had and was the hardest pulling dog up hills as Allen has ever seen. She can be skittish and a bit temperamental (you can't raise your voice with her), as long as you stay happy she will give you her all.

I.V. didn't make it all the way this time. She is inexperienced at 1000 mile races and the lessons she learned will be really valuable for her very bright future. She definitely could be the future Quito: she is a talented leader, she's fast and she's an eater. In fact, she's a copy of Quito in her early years. She has an exciting future!

Biscuit is a star always! No one is as steady as Biscuit, nor has as much energy - after nine miles or 900 miles. When you say "are you ready?" he is jumping in the harness no matter what. He is one you can put into lead in challenging conditions and you know he will go, whatever is in front of him.

Tatfish is always fun to have around. He works so hard and provides such entertainment along the trail that Allen was sad to leave him behind in Pelly Crossing. He's Biscuit's brother and what you say about Biscuit you have to say about Tatfish. They have been steady for years now and have won many races for us. When you say "Are you ready?" they are going to go - always. Storms, water... it doesn't matter.

This is the first race Allen has raced Waylon (right), he was surprised with his stamina. Waylon is a small dog with short hair so he needed extra attention to be kept warm in cooler conditions but that attention was repaid when he finished strongly after 1000 miles. He is a cheerleader; when you get ready to go he is cheering the team on, barking and lunging. Everyone loves cheerleaders!

Willie is an outstanding team dog although he can lead the team if asked. This is the first long-distance race Allen has run Willie and he was "super great!"

Nacho another Spanish superstar! He has endless energy and is such a good natured fella, he is great to have on any team.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Video of The Champs Crossing The Line

Here's another great video of the team coming into Fairbanks on Monday morning.



This is by Jaime Schwartzwald, Sports Director at KXD News 13. For those of you in Fairbanks, watch for an interview with Allen on Channel 13 sometime later this week.

The Champs Stretch Out

Two days after winning the Yukon Quest, Allen and the team, and a few 300 milers, went for an easy five mile run around the local trails. This gave the dogs a chance to stretch out after taking a couple of days off.

It's important to keep the dogs moving, even just a little bit, until they are ready to step it up again for that next big race that's coming soon...



The two teams in these pics are: with Allen - Quito, Ranger, Scruggs, Scout, Chica, Nacho, Tatfish and Biscuit and with Moira - Beemer, Honda, Puppet, Olivia, Boris and Willie. I.V. and Scooter went on a ten mile run with Meghan later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

YQ: Fairbanks News Miner Video

Excellent coverage of the finish and a nice interview with Allen!

The Black Team Cross the Line - Video

We are so incredibly proud of the team. Take a look at them crossing the line looking AWESOME!



More to come later. We are going to get everyone back to the kennel and get some rest. Thanks for coming on this ride with us - we appreciate your support!

SP Kennel Black Team Wins Yukon Quest!

Just received these photos from Aliy at the finish line... Congratulations to Allen and all the fantastic dogs of the SP Kennel Black Team!



Black Team Nearing the Finish Line

We are heading out to Fairbanks now to await the finish at the line. VERY little sleep was had at SP Kennel so thanks for staying up with us.

We will see them in and I will post as soon as I am anywhere near an internet connection.

GO TEAM!!!!!!!!!

Next Stop: Fairbanks

The Black Team left the Two Rivers checkpoint right on time at 10.31pm.

The eight hour layover was used to good effect with both musher and team getting good rest, good food and psyching up for the final push to the finish line. The exit wasn't pretty; there were a great deal of people lining the trail making it a bit confusing for Quito and Olivia to lead out but with Allen taking the lead they were soon on their way. At this stage it doesn't have to be pretty - just effective! These dogs know this trail well as Allen has run from this checkpoint to the finish line a few times this season.

You will notice he put neck-lines on a few of the dogs, this will be simply to keep them focussed on the task at hand.

I'm not sure if the video conveys the tension in the air; it really was palpable and continued through while Hugh Neff left 16 minutes later.

So, who's sleeping tonight?


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Rivers Checkpoint in Pictures


Allen beds the team down for the eight hour layover


L-R Allen gives Chica a kibble snack then heads towards to food tent for four helpings!


L-R The media want to talk to Allen and so do his supporters!

Black Team First Into Two Rivers

At 2.31pm Allen and the Black team raced into the Two Rivers checkpoint in first position. Here they have a mandatory eight hour layover for the dogs and mushers to rest up before the final push into Fairbanks.

He came in with Scout and Quito in the lead and nine happy, wagging tails behind them. Hugh Neff followed them in 16 minutes later.


Mile 101: Video Update

After leaving Central, Allen and the team climbed Eagle Summit, the biggest of the climbs on the Alaska side at 3,685 feet. Mile 101 checkpoint came soon after that. They arrived at 8.10am and left just nine minutes later looking "sassy"; so much so that Meghan had to stand on the brake while Allen got himself a snack - we were excited to see that at any time, let alone after 964 miles!

Central Checkpoint: Video Update

The Black team arrived into Central at 11.24pm where everyone had a quick rest before setting off just a few minutes behind Hugh Neff at 3.40am. Whilst in the checkpoint Allen enjoyed a HUGE steak for dinner and got a comfy rest in the mushers sleeping quarters. There was some serious strategic thinking going on so I'm not sure how much actual sleep he got!

You can't see much in this video but take a listen to Allen revving up the team - the dog he and Meghan are particularly talking about is Puppet! She was squealing to go which is quite unlike her, she is loving it!




Circle City: Video Update

Hi folks, transmission has resumed! The handler crew have been in remote interior Alaska and internet connectivity has been sparse but I've stopped in at home in Two Rivers before we head to the final checkpoint to greet Allen and the Black team.

We made it over the mountain pass to Circle City in time to catch up with Allen over a big cooked breakfast, see the dogs wolf down their meal and then see them leave. You will see clearly in this video that he removed the back end of the sled to reduce weight for the run home. Because the distances between checkpoints for the rest of the race are smaller than the earlier runs he didn't have to carry so much food and equipment and he had planned his drop bags in Circle, Central, Mile 101 and Two Rivers accordingly.

See Quito and Olivia leading the team out of Circle City.



And here is why we were late...

Allen and Black Team through Mile 101 Checkpoint

Meghan and the SP Kennel Crew report that Allen came into Mile 101 with a "sassy" dog team. Quito and Scout were in lead, Puppet was still barking to go, Chica was lunging in her harness and Waylon screamed for everyone.

Allen grabbed water for himself and a few munchies then grabbed enough dog food for the next leg to Two Rivers Checkpoint. There was very little conversation as Allen was focused on his task and plan to run to Two Rivers.

We will be expecting the Black Team at the Two Rivers Checkpoint late this afternoon or evening.

Stay tuned...

Aliy Cam YQ2013

During the YQ300, Aliy took a little time out to record a particularly gorgeous part of the trail to share with you. This is a couple of hours outside Braeburn.

Central Checkpoint

The Black Team arrived in Central at 23.24 Saturday night. They rested in straw beds and ate kibble and snacks. Allen was able to talk to the SP Kennel Handling crew and even get some shut eye before departing again at 3.40 early Sunday morning. Hugh left only a few minutes before our team.

Quito and Olivia were in lead and Puppet was actually barking to go! Allen is calm, cool and collected about the fore coming climb over Eagle Summit. He has dismantled his tail dragger portion of his sled and thus reduced weight in order to make the steep climb easier.

According to the crew in Central, there is very little wind and cool (slightly below zero) temperatures when the team departed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Leaving Circle City

The Black Team is out of Circle City - they left at 1.27pm with all 11 dogs. They left with Olivia and Quito in lead, Scruggs and Scout in swing followed by Beemer and Nacho, Chica, Puppet and Willie and Biscuit and Waylon in wheel. They trotted happily out of the checkpoint and disappeared down the trail ready for their run through to Central Checkpoint.


Allen readies the team

The handler crew arrived in Circle City in time to see Allen wake up from his nap so we were able to catch up with him and see him and the team out safely. He is looking great and the team ate and slept really well. He is pleased with how the team looks for this stage of the race.

Right: Allen booties Nacho

Allen Arrives in Circle Checkpoint

At 8:00 AM the Black Team came off of the Yukon River and parked in the Circle Checkpoint. The SP Handler Crew is not there yet. Local Fairbanks dog musher and Yukon Quest veteran, Mike Ellis, was there to greet Allen and parked the team for him. Thanks Mike!

Hugh Neff came in to Circle only three minutes behind Allen.

Handler Crew heads North

Bob, Meghan and Moira headed towards the Circle Checkpoint at 4:45 AM this morning. Road conditions are unknown, so they are prepared to wait in the truck until Alaska D.O.T. opens the road over Eagle Summit.

Depending on both Yukon Quest trail and Alaska road conditions, it is unknown who will get to Circle Checkpoint first! Dog team or Handler Crew. It is almost comical to add more anxiety to an already stressful situation.

But, all humor aside, Allen and the Black Team are moving nicely down the Yukon River with temperatures below zero and the small village of Circle City as their next destination.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Black Team into Slaven's Cabin

Allen and team have pulled into Slaven's Cabin and it looks like he could be resting there. Next stop will be Circle City.

A slight hitch is that the Steese Highway to the Circle and Central Checkpoints is closed at Eagle Summit due to blowing snow and difficult driving conditions. This means that, depending on how long they rest, there is a possibility the handler crew will not make it in time to greet him in Circle.

We will head up to the gates early in the morning and wait for the road to be cleared - this won't upset plans too much and it is stressing us out far more that it will him!

We are waiting and watching travel conditions and will update you asap. Now we have two websites to hit "refresh" on!

YQ300 Aliy's Post-Race Thoughts

If there is one soundbite from Aliy about the YQ300 it is that she "had fun and enjoyed the close competition" with Michelle Phillips. They both know each other well and have a lot of respect for each other. Of course, second place is not ideal and eight seconds is difficult to swallow but Aliy was very philosophical about it and immensely proud of her team. "They did a great job and this sets the kennel up really well for the Iditarod".

Viper and Rambler led the team for the final loop to Stepping Stone and back, she said they did fantastic! Aliy made particular mention of Rambler; he lead the entire race with confidence and reliability. He showed his toughness last year at the Iditarod and again here. Rambler is a dog that Aliy can count on 110%.

Viper (right) was slated to start the race in lead, but upon leaving the starting chute Rambler was so excited he barked and nipped at Viper (brothers!), so she moved Boondocks to Viper's place. (Rambler wouldn't dare pick on her - no one would!) So, Viper ran one spot behind the leaders until 4 hours from the finish line. At that point, he was cocky and happy to be up in front and Rambler wanted to share the heavy responsibility. Viper was the reason the race was so close. Aliy asked the team to pass Michelle's 3 miles from the finish line and Viper did it. Rambler on the other hand, liked running directly behind Michelle - as she had petted his head several times during the race. That's how CLOSE the teams were!

Dingle worked hard, as always. He is vastly experienced and takes everything in his stride and is a good foil to have around anyone less experienced as he can help them "chill out" if a new situation for them arises.

Boondocks is always awesome! Once again she was a little spitfire on the trail and is Little Miss Sassy Pants. She works so hard and has such a huge work output for such a little dog. Originally, she was upset at not making the 1,000 mile Black Team, but she was critical on the Red Team.

Chemo added another 300 mile race to his resume. He came into the season as an inexperienced youngster but is now race toughened and impressive. He ran in swing the entire race and was a key team member when it came to increasing their speed.

Ranger barked and barked, and barked and barked. What else do you need to say about Ranger? He was absolutely tuckered in the end - actually 3 miles from the end. Aliy head on passed Crispin Stuter, who was standing by his dog team, Ranger must have gotten flustered with the dogs facing in different direction and sat down. It was obvious that he had give his all and needed a ride to the finish line. Aliy loaded him and the team carried him to the finish. That extra 50 pounds did make it challenging to catch back up to Michelle.

Mac (MacDaddy) was AWESOME! Aliy was excited to have him make the team and her confidence in him was vindicated. He was strong, steady and showed her what he is really made of. Coming into this race he wasn't that experienced but he can come out it firmly in the frame for an Iditarod team.

Boris ran 177 miles. He'll recover quickly from his soreness and continue to impress. It was important to Aliy for him to get some tough race miles under his belt so he can grow in confidence. The warm weather was a detriment to this big furry fellah.

Moxie (right) was steady team player for 235 miles. Aliy decided, just minutes before leaving, to drop him in Pelly for the last leg of the race. She knew she needed everyone to be 100% for the sprint home and she wasn't sure about Moxie. He was unshaken by the drop from the team and happily walked over to the dog truck with Meghan and lifted his leg on the rear tire.

Tug is an unsung hero, she is always right there working hard and repaying the confidence Aliy has in her. She is not flashy or sassy but always delivers and this race was no exception. She is truly a good dog!

Fang is another steady, strong and understated sled dog. Aliy rates him highly and was really happy with how he performed. He is headed to Iditarod with confidence!

Bonita high-stepped her way for the entire 300 miles. She loves to run and as she ran in wheel position for the entire race Aliy could witness her enjoyment close-up. A fun loving dog with an attitude to match.