Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fun in Anchorage

Aliy and Allen went to a pre Iditarod event last night hosted by ExxonMobil at the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Anchorage. The "one week out" party was a Salute to the Volunteers Veterinarians of the Iditarod. Jeff Schultz showed many amazing photographs of the Mushers, Dogs and Veterinarians along the trail.

The party was a fun, relaxing event - considering the week to come. Allen and Aliy were able to catch up with DeeDee and Mike Jonrowe, Dallas Seavey and Martin Buser, as well as many friends and supporters of the "Last Great Race".

The evening was perfect until Martin and Aliy got in a bar brawl over a dog sled.

In the end, the two mushers resolved to settle the argument next week... on the Iditarod!

ID: Iditarod Week - Anchorage Timetable

Iditarod is a week away and we can't wait!

Between now and Wednesday Aliy and Allen will be stretching out their teams for the final times (and narrowing down their team selections) and packing sleds and personal gear for Anchorage and Nome.

Wednesday Aliy, Allen and Moira fly down to Anchorage and meet Aliy's parents at the airport from Florida, then they all attend a dinner with SP Kennel's biggest sponsor: Matson (formerly Horizon Lines). Aliy and Allen will present some videos and stories from the trail to share with the team who has been with them since 2006.

Thursday we start the day with breakfast with our long time dog food sponsor Eagle Pack and their representatives; then both our mushers are tied up most of the day with musher meetings and lunch with their Idita-riders. At the same time the dogs, along with Chris and Mark, come down the Parks Highway to Anchorage; as does the rest of the human team.

Thursday evening is the Start Banquet and Bib Draw at 6pm in the Dena’ina Centre. There, we will learn when our teams leave the start line.

We will take a few dogs and people on a visit to the offices of Matson on Friday morning, then go to another sponsor event in the afternoon. During the evening Aliy and Allen will get a chance to have some quiet, family time before they head off into the wilderness.

Saturday morning is fun! The Ceremonial Start through the streets of Anchorage kicks off at 10am and that is always enjoyable! It's great to see thousands of people out and about cheering the teams on.

Saturday evening Aliy and Allen will pack their sleds for the final time and ensure everything is ship-shape ready for their adventure.

On Sunday the teams are off! We all make the trek north to Willow to farewell our precious 32 canines and two humans until we see them again in Nome. The rest of us then make our way further north back to the kennel.

If you are in Anchorage for any of the festivities do make yourself known and come visit with us. Remember we will be staying at the Extended Stay Anchorage - Downtown and will make our timetable of feeding and walking the dogs available to guests so you can come and say hello.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

White Mountains Video

Prior to the Yukon Quest, Aliy and Chris went up to the White Mountains and took a bunch of dogs for a run. Aliy took her video camera to show you around!

Friday, February 26, 2016

ID: Supplies Sent Ahead

While Allen was on his final leg of the Yukon Quest, Aliy was at home turning in the Iditarod Drop Bags for both teams.

We had mostly completed the bags prior to the Quest but we needed to bring home the dog jackets, fleece blankets and gloves etc from the first half of the Quest to send ahead for the Iditarod.

Once again, it took a small village to complete these bags and we sincerely thank everyone that helped us!

Our special thanks to the Earle Family: Brian, Tami, Madi and Mykena for the use of their trailer and man/woman power to load, unload and stack the bags in Fairbanks. Thanks team, we really appreciate your help!!

These bags went by road down to Anchorage then will get flown into the Iditarod checkpoints by the 'Iditarod Airforce' where they will be waiting for our mushers as they move through the trail.

Thanks Team!

Mykena and Madi stack the pallets

Tami wraps the pallet

This year food drops were partly subsidised by the Iditarod and we pay for the rest. We are required to ship out 1,100 pounds (50 pounds of dog food and supplies to every checkpoint) then we send out as much extra as we need out in bags weighing up to 50 pounds. This year we shipped 1,771 pounds for Aliy and 1,692 pounds for Allen, including supplies sent to Nome that mostly went in Aliy's name.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

ID: Vet Checks, Blood Draw and ECGs

Monday was a busy day for all the potential Iditarod dogs at SP Kennel!

We loaded up 44 dogs into two trucks and headed to town. First stop was to get blood drawn by the volunteer vet tech team for the Iditarod veterinarian team to run several tests to ascertain if the dogs are fit to race.

Lydia has blood drawn; Iron's heart rhythms are recorded

Next, each dog got an Electrocardiogram (ECG) that measures electrical function and heart rhythms and can alert the doctors to any anomalies that might rule the dog out of racing.

Allen gives Lydia some love as she's on the ECG table

Thanks to the Iditarod volunteer vet tech team of Charlotte Talbert, Samantha Freeborn and Tabitha Jones on the ECG, Sabrina Pennington and Kate Brumbaugh doing the blood draws and Harmony Frazier doing the essential computer data inputting ensuring the correct microchip number is recorded against the right dog. This is important as the microchips are scanned at the start line and all the way down the trail, and if it doesn't match with the recorded results the dog cannot run.

Next we loaded everyone back into the trucks and headed to T Rose Veterinarian Services for the thorough external vet check. Dr Rose checked weight, coat and skin; eyes, ears and nose. She checked everyones teeth and listened for the heart rate and respiration function. Next she checked range of motion on limbs and looked for any issues in "private areas". Not EVERYTHING was external, however, we did take temperatures...

Along with all that, we also declare the vaccination status for distemper, hepatitis, para-influenza, parvo, kennel cough, lepto and rabies. All dogs are also de-wormed prior to the race and drug tested during the race to ensure no banned performance enhancers or medications are used.

Thanks to Dr Tamara Rose; we appreciate your support for SP Kennel and the care and attention you pay our dogs.

T Rose checks out Willie's range of motion

All dogs that run the Iditarod have to pass every test and be declared fit to run. As for the musher... there is no medical involved but they are drug tested in the White Mountain checkpoint for banned substances. Also, rookie mushers must have qualified to run the race by being 'signed-off' by officials in a number of shorter qualifying races. This is to ensure the musher has the skills to take care of not only him or herself, but the 16 canine athletes in their charge.

EDIT: The blood draw and ECG is part of the entry fee and if we were to do the vet checks in Anchorage on one of the Iditarod organised 'vet check days' that would be covered also. Because we choose to have T Rose do our vet checks locally we pay for that ourselves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ID: Anchorage Hotel and Start Banquet

Just a reminder that during the Iditarod weekend in Anchorage the entire SP Kennel Crew of dogs and humans will be staying at the Extended Stay Anchorage - Downtown.

Come stay with us and you might get to meet the dogs and the crew! We will let you know the schedule for when we "drop the dogs" (actually: lift them down very carefully) from the truck during Friday, Saturday and Sunday for feeding and walking, so come and visit with us. We would love to see you!

Please email Linda Steiner at: for bookings, pricing and availability.

We will keep this button in the 'fan zone' (left hand side) of the blog that links you to more information and contact details.

We currently have a few surplus tickets for sale for the Start Banquet and Bib Draw on Thursday, March 3rd at 6pm in the Dena’ina Center. If you would like to attend the banquet and sit at an SP Kennel table please email Moira at Tickets are $82 and this will be on a first come, first served basis. Let me know how many tickets you need.

NOTE: There are no plans for a Meet-and-Greet with Aliy and Allen this year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

YQ: Black Team Journey (Video)

As the final act in this year's Yukon Quest I have put together a "journey" video for the Black team on this year's race.

Go make a cup of coffee (or tea), put your feet up and, hopefully, enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

YQ: Prizegiving and Finishers' Banquet

It was a full house in Whitehorse tonight as the Yukon Quest was celebrated through music, stories and fellowship.

A full house with Commando and Willie in the background

The Canadian Rangers lead all the mushers into the hall during the flag procession then we were all welcomed by Chief Doris Bill, Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Michele Telep, Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation, both speaking about how the Yukon Quest is important to their communities. After the national anthems of Canada and USA, representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the local Yukon MP and the Whitehorse Mayor also spoke about the Quest and it's impact on the Yukon.

All the finishing mushers

We chose our table well as we were the first to be drawn to go to the buffet! Yum. During dinner we enjoyed a performance by the Air North Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Can-Can Dancers - including some moves from the Red Lantern winner Gaetan Pierrard.

Scott Chesney and his photography/videography team of Julien Schroder and Whitney McKaren put together an amazing montage of stills and videos from the race. We've all enjoyed their beautiful work during the race and the montage was really quite moving. Check it out on the "Quest Facebook page now.

Each musher came up to the stage to thank their dogs, handlers, families, sponsors and supporters. Most told stories about their time on the trail and referenced the "Quest Family"; something that brings mushers back year after year. After Hugh Neff's champion's speech we were all treated to a performance of the Wolf Dance from the Dakka Kwaan Dancers, a local first nation group, that was simply awesome.

The Flag Procession; Seal Fur mittens by MadMitters

Allen told the story of how he ended up in the water before Mile 101 checkpoint - he got his leg caught up in one of the lines on his sled and while trying to free it he and his sled flopped over into the water. He told the dogs "straight ahead" and they drug him through the water out the other side. Good dogs!

For coming in third place, Allen won a beautiful pair of seal skin mitts from "Matmitters" in Dawson City.

Congratulations to all the other prizewinners tonight - head over to the Yukon Quest Facebook page and website for more photos and further details.

YQ: Whitehorse Meet The Mushers

There was another tremendous turn-out in Whitehorse last evening as hundreds and hundreds of fans, supporters, sponsors and family queued to get signatures, selfies and handshakes with their favorite mushers.

It was the first time many of the mushers had seen each other so there was time for them to catch up with each other and share stories of the trail.

It was appropriate that the Verizon promotional signature cards that Allen was signing featured a picture of Scout, seems Scout was the MVD of this race!

It was a fun evening! Thanks to the sponsors: Inukshuk Dog Food.

Delicious celebration cakes

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mismo Wins YQ Fan Club Draw

Congratulations to Carol Olcott who has won this week's draw. Carol is a fan of MISMO.

Mismo has just found his stride. He is now an extremely confident and dedicated dog. He enjoys running in lead and his best partner lead dog is Waylon. Physically they are opposites but mentally the pair up quite well. We are VERY excited to watch Mismo come into his own this season.

As we are still in Quest mode, Carol wins a 2016 Yukon Quest poster signed by both Aliy and Allen, some maple sweets from Whitehorse, along with some other kennel goodies.

Our next draw is next Friday, March 4th. If you haven't already won this season or if you are a new member your name will be in the next draw.

NOTE: you can win more than once if you are a fan of more than one dog!

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

YQ: Black Team Wrap-Up

I am very happy with the overall performance of the team this year. Being a younger team I knew they might have a little bit of difficulty at the end of the race because it was new to so many of them. It was a little difficult, but they did very, very well. They are only going to get better and third place is great!

Scout is the only dog that has run all six of my Yukon Quests with me. He is the MVD of this year’s Quest because whenever I needed him he was always there. I could always put him in lead if I needed to and he always had plenty of energy and took charge.

Willie has also been on a number of my Quests and he’s also a proven veteran that never have any problems with. Sometimes you don’t even know he's on the team because hes just always pulling and always there. He ran with Dutch the entire race, showing him the ropes.

Scout and Willie

Scruggs is another veteran that he helped me win the Quest two years ago and he definitely has not forgotten the trail here. You could tell he was perking up more and more the further we went; he knew where the truck was! He was a steady boy the whole time.

Waylon is our 'hairless dog' and this year it was in his benefit to have no hair with the 30+ degree temperatures. Very rarely do we not have to put a coat on him and this year was the exception. Maybe that’s why he did as well as he did.

Scruggs and Waylon

Schmoe-dawg probably more than most dogs, he was always the tightest on the line. He knew his place in the team and he performed well. Always up the hills and when you get ready to leave from a rest stop he is the most vocal. He gets the rest of the team inspired to do better – he's the cheerleader of the team.

Mac also, to my surprise, was a huge cheerleader numerous times. When we would get close to a checkpoint I would think someone is hurting him as he was screaming and yelling and excited to be there. He performed well in the heat surprisingly and I could tell how hot it was by how hard we was running. Seems like big dogs, like big people, don’t do as well when it is hot. He perservered and was definitely running well all the way to the finish line.

Schmoe and Mac

Mismo was in lead probably 75% of the race. You can tell Quito is his mother; he runs like her but is about twice as big! I had him in lead for a reason, because he was always tight and pulling. We expect really good things out of him over the next few years. Hopefully he will be as good as his mother.

Izzy is a very strong dog, she had been injured a little earlier this year and I was kinda worried for her, however after a few hundred miles I didn’t have to worry. Her line was as tight as she could be and I put her in lead for the last 50 miles of the race because she was one of the tightest, if not THE tightest of the whole team. She, like her brother Mismo, was taking after their mother Quito a lot at the end of the race. She could definitely be a command leader in the future.

Mismo and Izzy

Clyde has run six 1000 miles races and as a four year old what can you say about that? He has run more races than any younger dog that we've ever had, such is his talent. This is mainly because of his eating habits. He always eats as much as you give him so always has more energy than most. If we could have 14 or 16 dogs that eat like him we'd have a lot more energy at the end of the race. It is always a positive and it's great to see a dog eating and drinking well in the middle of the race - he’s that dog.

Felix is always faster than most dogs, he lopes most of the time and he can give you a lot of speed, which he did. He ate well in the first part of the race but coming into Dawson he got a bug and started having diarrhea and his energy level went down. After 36 horus of medicine and care, his appetite never came back so we decided not to continue with him.

Clyde and Felix

Chipper has a good name! She is named after a chipper in golf but is also very chipper in her attitue. She's a pint sized little dog that has a huge heart and it doesn't seem like heat nor distance bother her. She's very agile and she also could be a great command leader, like her mother, in the future. She was no trouble and did well.

Kodiak like Mismo was in lead 75% of the time. So you have to have a little perseverance to be in lead that much, which he had. The only time he got a little 'squirly' with me was when I put Izzy up there and girls make him crazy! He just wanted to lay his head on her shoulder and didn't pull tight so I had to take him out of lead. He’s a good leader and could become a great leader in the future.

Chipper and Kodiak

Kodiak's brother, Dutch, is another younger dog that hasn’t had that much experience until now. I was very pleased to see how hard he worked and didn’t mess around. Dutch was always tight and is another good dog for the future. He will do nothing but get better and he was good this year!

Commando was my youngest dog. He ran 1000 mile race when he was a yearling and now he was on the 'A' team for the first time because he was healthier than most other dogs prior to the race. I was a little worried at first because of his age, and he did go through a lot of mind-over-matter issues earlier in the race only to thrive by the end. He could definitely be a superstar for the futre. To be two years old having finished two 1000 mile races, going into a third is pretty impressive.

Dutch and Commando

When you finish with 13 healthy dogs you have to be happy, which we are! Every kennel goes through a rebuilding year or two and this year is ours. When you lose your LeBron James the team is not going to be quite the same but we are working on it!! For a rebuilding year we couldn’t ask for much more.

All photos by Barbara Swenson

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

48 Hours Post Finish and WOW! by Aliy


That’s right. WOW. (All capitals letters that time.)

Mark and Bridgett brought the Yukon Quest dogs home to SP Kennel yesterday evening. It was a delight to see them. They snuggled into cozy straw beds in the dog barn. Each stall opens with a doggie door so they can do their business when ever they desire. They have eaten and rested, been massaged and petted. We have whispered congratulatory “ohhhs” and “ahhhss” in their ears and rubbed their butts.

Then today, we harnessed them up and hooked up the team. Time to go on a slow 2 mile stretch out run -- less than 48 hours from crossing the finish line. And WOW. I mean WOW!

All fourteen of the 2016 Yukon Quest 3rd place team members are awesome. (Although... I haven’t actually seen Allen yet, I hear he, the 15th member, is doing well.)

See for yourselves…

I am amazed that these 14 dogs just ran 1,000 incredibly competitive miles and are now back at home -- healthy and happy -- and ready to run. That's right… 14 dogs. Felix has recovered from his gastrointestinal issues.

Crossing the finish line with 13 dogs is huge. As I look back through the Yukon Quest data I find no team in the past 5 years to have finished with more than 12 dogs. (The YQ website didn't have any data for last year. Although I know Brent finished with 12 dogs I don't remember if anyone finished with more than that. Let me know if I missed someone.)

It is, of course, a testament to Allen, his skill as a dog musher and a racer and the fact that he cares. He puts booties on dogs when they need booties, he medicates dogs if they need medication, he rubs down muscles and wraps wrists and blankets dogs and puts on wind breakers and feeds them snacks on a schedule and urges the team. Many of you may be saying… "Well, of course he does these things." But, no, you are wrong. These are not givens and to take magnificent care of 14 dogs for the first 500 miles and then 13 dogs the next 500 miles is a BIG DEAL. A really big deal. And I saw it first hand while watching this dog team today trot down the trail in Two Rivers while over 40% of the Yukon Quest teams haven't even finished yet. Am I proud?! Why yes. Shouldn't I be?

The public and the media doesn't get much drama, stories, poetry or tears from Allen. What they get is the 'real deal'. That's Allen. You can bet that he is trying run the best Yukon Quest possible and I can guarantee you that he is always trying to win. He did his absolute best this year. Hugh Neff has a truly amazing dog team and Brent Sass is incredibly dedicated to his Yukon Quest dream. Placing third behind these two teams is excellent.

This is the first year that Allen has raced in the Yukon Quest and I have not greeted his team at the finish line. I, like many of you, sat at home and chewed on my finger nails and pressed refresh every few seconds.

I was at the starting line, then I saw his team on the trail camped before Two Rivers Checkpoint and again camped at Mile 101 as I was racing the YQ300. I then went to Dawson for the 36 hour lay over. I said my 'Good Byes' to the Black Team as they left Dawson to climb King Solomon's Dome and I left to go conquer our Iditarod Food Drops.

As you can imagine, SP Kennel is a whirlwind of activity right now. So, this year I choose to leave the Yukon Quest handling duties to professional handlers and head home. Trust me, I am a very poor handler. Ask anyone. Ask everyone. I pance, get cranky and pop more Prilosec than is reasonable even for a Wall Street stock executive. There is really no need for me to be standing at the final 3 checkpoints, eye balling everything and anything that Hugh, Brent and Allen do. I am truly no benefit in that situation because a 'calming influence'… I am not. I LOVE being there (although my belly doesn't) but such was not the case this year.

I "watched" the finish like many of you. Three of us sat around the kitchen table watching the tracker at SP Kennel (Wes & Wendy couldn't make it over in time because they wouldn't leave their tracker unattended for the 5 minutes to get here!)

When the Black Team crossed the finish line we did a celebratory "Hip Woo". We had cupcakes (those of you who know me, know that I don't eat sugar… but I had a cupcake.) I had a beer (those of you who know me, know that I don't drink during the mushing season… but I had a beer.) I know… now you are all worried that perhaps I SHOULD have just stayed in Canada. Well… don't worry because: I'm headed back. That's right.

There are many festivities in Whitehorse this week surrounding the Yukon Quest and, plain and simple, I want to be part of it. It is time to celebrate the awesome 3rd place finish of our dog team. So, put all the other stuff aside… get off the phone, unplug the computer, enough sponsor obligations, sled rebuilding, Anchorage commitments, Iditarod planning… I'll have no more of that. Time to go celebrate with Allen!

YQ: Road Trip

Yesterday, Bridgett and Mark drove with precious cargo back to Fairbanks. They stopped a couple times along the way to let everyone out to pee and they had a lunch break near Beaver Creek.

Lunch break at Beaver Creek

Sights along the Alaska Highway

All the dogs are now in the dog barn at home and will get a couple days off. Aliy will then take them for a couple of short, slow stretch-out run to get them moving again to loosen up joints and muscles before starting to build their mileage back up ready for their next race.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

YQ: In Whitehorse This Week?

There are a number of different events on this week in Whitehorse so if you are here in town, drop by to one or two and maybe we'll see you there!

All week mushers will be crossing the finish line up at Takhiki Hot Springs (the finish line was moved on Monday evening due to the rapidly changing river conditions into town). The tracker has been updated to show the miles left to the new finish line so you can keep an eye on that to estimate arrival times.

Tuesday and Wednesday evenings is the World Premiere Screening of Red Letter Films' documentary series Mushers: Conquering the Yukon Quest. See the flyer and media release (below) for more details. Allen, Hugh, Brent and Matt will be there taking part in a Q&A following the screenings.

All through the week are various presentations and films at "QuestFest" at the Frank Slims Building in Shipyards Park (by the finish line). Friday evening is the "Meet the Mushers" evening at the Mount MacIntyre Recreation Centre starting at 6.30pm. Come along and get your Quest poster or T-shirt signed and get a picture with your favorite mushers!

Saturday night is the Finisher's Banquet at the Yukon Convention Centre. We'll hear from each finishing musher and we are bound to hear some great stories from the trail!

See you there!

Monday, February 15, 2016

YQ: Whitehorse Finish Line Report

Wow! Thirteen dogs to the finish line and they were yelling and howling in the finish chute.

It was so exciting to be in the chute waiting for the team. Every couple minutes we would check the tracker and it moved excruciatingly slowly! They were making great time along the trail, it just seemed to us to take ages before we caught sight of them.

We were speculating who Allen would have in lead, none of us guessed Izzy! Izzy and Scout proudly trotted up the chute with giant Mismo and tiny Chipper in swing, Kodiak and Waylon, Scruggs and Schmoe, Dutch and Willie, Big Mac then Clyde and Commando.

Handler crew ready and waiting in the finish chute

The dogs enjoyed their thawed salmon and beef snacks and we almost lost some fingers in that manoeuvre! We took booties off and got a chance to really love on them all for a few minutes as Allen was asked some questions by the media. He said how excited he is about next year's race because of the youngsters that finished today. He choked up a little bit while talking about Scout and how he's been with him on every Quest he's run. He's a good boy!

The vet team did a check on every dog before we left the chute, they have been very vigilant in their care for the canine athletes in this race.

There was a heap of people out cheering them on and Brent (right) and the W&F crew came down to see the team come in.

Check out the Newsminer story and pictures from today's finish line action.

Allen and Bridgett drove the team the short distance back to the truck, led by Mark, and we set to feeding them their three-kibble mix and the remainder of the meat snacks. Quite a crowd stood around watching and asking questions; it is so cool that so many people are becoming interested in the Quest!

At the same time we fed the 13, we dropped Felix out and gave him his dinner. Allen said "Felix, buddy, how've you been? It's nice to see you boy!"

We frantically texted Aliy during events and Allen called her as soon as we got back to the truck. She can't wait to see everyone again soon!

Bridgett then spent some time rubbing pink ointment into feet and algyval massaging joints then they were all ready to get into bed and sleep for a few hours until we get them out of the truck later tonight to relieve themselves and eat more meat.

After a long, hot shower and a good meal Allen is now relaxing and, my guess is that, any minute now will be asleep. We're all in the same hotel room so he warned us that he is still on 'checkpoint time' and will wake up every couple hours and even start ski-poling and running in his sleep. I guess that will go on for a few days yet!

Tomorrow Bridgett and Mark will drive the dogs home to the kennel where Aliy has set up the dog barn waiting for them. Allen has some media and other engagements during the week including the Meet the Mushers on Friday evening and Finishers Banquet on Saturday. I'll stay here with him. I'll will use some of the 'down time' this week to get Allen's dog-by-dog wrap-up of the race.