Friday, March 16, 2007

Allen Arrives in Nome

“Coming to you live from beautiful, downtown Nome, Alaska on Friday, March 16, here is the 2007 Iditarod Wrap Up show.”

Allen Moore, number 71, arrived in Nome at 11:45am, almost exactly 25 hours after Aliy arrived. He passed through Safety at 9:11am, just 12 minutes behind Rick Casillo. Aliy, Bridgett, Allen’s mom
Donnie and the crew went out to the road crossing to cheer Allen on, and by that time, Allen was about a minute behind Rick. As we were standing on Front Street, we didn’t know who was in the lead. When the musher popped up on the street from the pack ice, we saw someone with ski pole in hand, kicking and poling. We knew then that Allen had passed Rick and we erupted in the shoot. Allen had passed him about 50 feet from the ramp onto the street. He had Imac and Doña in lead. He also had Girlfriend, Mouse, Blossom, Heidi, Rose, Snickers, Petunia, Reeses and Betty in harness. He dropped Hera in White Mountain with a shoulder injury.

After settling the dogs in, we headed off for lunch and laughs. He said he still didn’t know what was coming at him when he was hallucinating. He just said they were coming from every direction. When he told everyone the story of catching the sled seat on the tree, it sounded even worst! I am sure that when he wakes up from his nap, he won’t even be able to move. That is how Aliy was yesterday.

Aliy got lots of sleep since she got in. She is now up working with the dogs. Her hands are still swollen twice their normal size and her hip is very tender and blue. She doesn’t even remember doing that. Waking up this morning, she came out of the room asking if it were morning or night. I think she thought that she missed Allen coming in.

So how did everything go this year. Aliy started the race with what she thought of as the best team she had ever brought to Iditarod. Unfortunately, her team was plagued with injuries. I am so proud of her for not following the trend. Instead, she made it all the way to Nome. Her knowledge, love and ability to care for her dogs allowed her to fight through and finish her journey to Nome. I am so proud of her and her dogs.

Allen’s team did so much better than we expected. He made it all the way to Kaltag with 15 dogs! Of the 11 he finished with, he had rookies on the team. What an education for the dogs as well as for Allen. He ran an excellent race.

This year’s Iditarod is over for us. With positives and negatives, this race was difficult. It lacked snow and was bitterly cold. The wind was a constant challenge. But I am so proud of both of them. Aliy dealt with what was handed to her with style and grace and Allen just forged on, bringing along the future of the kennel. I hope you have enjoyed following this race with me. I will try to get some pictures up as I get them.Thank you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Aliy Arrives in Nome!

Aliy is in Nome! She arrived at 10:57am with 7 dogs in harness. She finished with ChaCha and Oddball in lead. Manny was in single swing, then Pingo and Bullet, and Teddy and Tony in wheel. She had to drop Heeler when she went through Safety.

Oddball had never run lead in his life before this race and has now run close to 200 miles up front. I asked Aliy before she fell asleep whether it was a one time thing, being short on dogs. She said that he looked like his dad AJ up there. That is quite a complement. She also said she didn’t know if he would have the concentration to be able to lead once he was off the race. However , she could never put AJ up in lead until he had already run about 1000 training miles. Maybe a new star was born.

Oddball wasn’t the only neophyte leader in the team. Tony, Oddball’s brother, also lead the team down the coast. Tough situations make for interesting choices.

Allen is on his way to White Mountain. He should be there by about 8pm tonight. We are expecting to see him in Nome about the same time Aliy arrived today, around noon. He was telling us yesterday that he was having some pretty interesting hallucinations over the last few days. We are wishing him some entertaining ones on his final trek.

I am sure we will hear many more stories over the next couple of days from both Aliy and Allen. I will pass some along. We are off to feed the dogs and get them settled in their new little dog yard. Keep checking to Blog for pictures. I’ll get them up as soon as I get some in.

I am so happy she is here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Awaiting Aliy in Nome

It is 11:15pm Wednesday, March 14, 2007 and Aliy will be leaving White Mountain in exactly 1 hour. It will take her between 9 and 12 hours to make her way through Safety to Nome. Bridgett and Scotty, Allen’s daughter and son-in-law, have set up a dog yard at their house here. We will bring the dogs down to the Iditarod dog yard to be checked out by the vets before bringing them to their temporary home. Bridgett and I headed out on a snow machine to put signs out to welcome Aliy and Allen to their final goal.

Here waiting for them are Mickey and Doug (Aliy’s parents), Donnie (Allen’s Mom), Bridgett and Scotty and Ray and I. It will be wonderful to get them here. I’ll let you know when Aliy arrives.

Aliy In White Mountain

Aliy is into White Mountain. The Iditarod Website has Aliy into White Mountain as of 1615. She has a mandatory 8 hour rest there and can leave at quarter after midnight. Hopefully we will see her around 10am. YEAH!!!!!!!

Sled Design – Materials

I left Two Rivers several days ago to fly to Nome and then on to Unalakleet. I was away from both computer access to this site and sleds to examine because I spent a couple days in Nome waiting for the right time to head to Unk. Thus, no reports then. While in Unk I helped by raking up straw after teams had left and parking teams when they arrived. There were a number of volunteers at the Unk checkpoint and arrivals were spaced out. As a result I spent most of my time watching and waiting for arrivals.

I was traveling very light and did not have a digital camera with me. A number of mushers sent their second sleds ahead to Unk to have for the run along the coast to Nome. There were few new or unique ideas evident in these sleds. The designs were generally traditional although several had a driver’s seat. Quite a few wooden sleds were there.

Using wood for stanchions and handle bars may not necessarily be old fashioned. White ash provides good strength with light weight and some degree of flexibility. One must be careful about how the wooden parts are connected or their strength can be severely reduced. Solid wood runners make no sense for racing. Wooden runners have to be thick to have enough strength and are then too heavy and too rigid.

Most newer sled design use aircraft aluminum for the stanchions and handlebars. Fiberglass is used to a much lesser extent. Over the last few years, sleds have changed to incorporate a seat. Most driver’s seats employ one of these two materials, wood or aluminum. Often, old runners are cut up and used in some sleds, presumably to get the benefits of aluminum at low cost. Too much weight. Too hard to blend into a smooth design.

Ramey Smith’s sled at Unalakleet was a small traditional wooden speedster, almost a sprint sled. He had taped used plastics over the new runner plastics for protection in shipment. All he had to do was cut the electricians tape to remove the protective runners and he was ready to go. Most other mushers had to change plastics if they wanted fresh ones for the run to Shaktoolik.

Martin Buser’s sled (I don’t know if it was his starting or second sled) has an interesting driver’s seat. Martin took a plastic dog crate and modified it. He cut the top of the crate in half side-to-side. The half with the door was attached as usual. The other half was turned upside down and backwards. This created a seat that could also carry a dog.

Most of the sleds with driver’s seats that I saw in Unk were not unique. They were permanently attached to the runners. Some had “sled bags” to hold items under and behind the driver. Some had a rectangular cooler fit on top of a table supported by legs to the runners. The top of the cooler became the seat. Aliy was carrying her seat in her sled bag. Having only eight dogs left she planned on doing quite a bit of running and pushing up the hills ahead and wanted it safely out of the way.


Aliy and Allen on the Trail

How is Aliy doing? She seems to be doing well. So far, she is sticking religiously to her 6 hour run/rest plan and it is working. She is making her way steadily down the coast. She arrived in Elim at 5:28am. If she rests her 6 hours before heading out to White Mountain, she should arrive there at 7 to 8pm tonight. She is required to stay there for 8 hours, meaning she should leave around 3 to 4am. If the dogs are in good enough condition to run the whole way into Nome, I expect she will be in around noon Thursday. If she stops in route, we will see her later in the afternoon. I am sure she is ready to get here.

I talked to Allen yesterday. His two year olds are getting a bit tired, but he is so proud of them. He called from Unalakleet. His run to the Coast was beautiful and thankfully, uneventful. He arrived into Shaktoolik at 4:26am this morning with his 12 dogs. We believe he will arrive in Nome early Friday morning.

Mushers Arriving in Nome, Change of Guard

Yesterday went by with a flash. I made it to Nome. My flight into Nome was filled with friends and family of all the mushers, kind of like a reunion. Lance Mackey’s brother, sister, mother and nephew were there. Ray Reddington’s, Jessie Royer’s, Hugh Neff’s, Zack Steer’s and so many other mushers’ families were on there as well.

So what is happening? Lance Mackey arrived in Nome in at 8:08pm to become the new Iditarod champion. What an amazing story! He is the first person to ever win the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest in the same year, and he did it wearing the same number his father and his brother won the race in and with the same number of dogs as they had.

I have seen the Champion come across the finish line 6 out of the last seven years. I have never seen someone as exuberant and just so happy to have won. It was a real changing of the guard. The rest of the top three are Paul Gebhardt in second and Zack Steer passed Buser on the stretch to Nome to come in third. A lot of people didn’t even know Zack’s name before this race.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Tactic Change for Aliy

Okay, things are changing out on the trail for Aliy. She had to drop another dog in Kaltag. She dropped Butterscotch for a triceps injury. So far, only Skittles has been dropped for something other than that. The rough trail has caught up with her and all plans have changed.

Aliy is no longer racing. She only has 8 dogs and her entire goal now is to get to Nome. She is going to be switching over to a 6 hour run, 6 hour rest schedule until she makes White Mountain and then she will see from there. She is seriously worried about several dogs still in the team and has to go into conservative mode. By the time I talked to her in Kaltag, she had accepted that fact and was doing okay. So much is now going to depend on her staying positive for the dogs and just making her way down the coast. She should be in Unalakleet and on the coast by 5pm this afternoon.

I expect she will be running up every hill and be kicking and poling the entire way to Nome. She said that when she isn’t poling, she can walk faster than the team is going at this point. The last time this happened to her team, she lost 25 pounds by the time she made it to Nome.

The dogs, other than the triceps, are doing very well out there. They all have good weight on them. (I got Pepper back last night. I can’t believe how big she is! It’s great.) They are just going very slow. Aliy can’t push them without an injury coming up and forcing her to drop another dog. She is not the type of musher or person who will push her team to the breaking point. She has always been very good at knowing the line and NOT crossing it. This is not how we imagined this year’s race going, but she is playing the hand she has been dealt.

Our father Doug has flown out to Unalakleet this morning to meet her and try to give some moral support. Hopefully we will here from him this evening.

Allen on the other hand is still cruising along with 15 dogs. He may very well start catching up with Aliy on the trail if she holds to that 6 hour schedule. The computer has him in Eagle Island, but we know he probably left at 5 or 6 this morning. It seems to be a black hole for communications out there.

We are trying to keep good thought going out to Aliy, and Allen, on the trail. Hope you’ll join us.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Life in Two Rivers

Doug and I have been manning SP Kennel in Two Rivers AK, about 25 miles east of Fairbanks, for the past week. We are tasked with caring for the non racing dogs: 15 young adults, 16 puppies and 4 retired. We make sure they are fed, cleaned and loved a bit each day. Doug left yesterday for Nome, and several checkpoints on the Bering Sea, so the job is mine for a few days.

It is now 10 AM Sunday morning. The sky is overcast, the winds are calm, a light snow is falling and the thermometer reads -17 degrees F. That temp is not a surprise for you Alaskans reading this, but for our friends and neighbors in Florida, it is unimaginable. Since our bodies are not acclimated to Alaska winter, we dress in 4 to 5 layers and liberally use chemical hand/foot warmers when working outdoors. My cold tolerance is very limited

The dogs, on the other hand, are bred to thrive at these temps. They snuggle up in their straw lined boxes at night. During the day they play with each other, chase ravens, nap and eat ravenously. I am quite sure they miss their regular runs with Aliy and Allen.

Tomorrow, Monday, I expect the dropped dogs from Aliy’s and Allen’s teams to arrive here at SP Kennel. Kaz has been receiving dropped dogs from the Iditarod vets and caring for them in Anchorage. Tomorrow morning she will drive them north 175 miles from Anchorage: Ray will drive south 175 miles from Fairbanks. When they meet on the Parks Highway, somewhere near Cantwell, Ray will take the dogs and head back north again. The dogs should be in their own beds by evening.

Doug had the additional duty of repairing some older sleds in preparation for the annual SP Kennel Adventure Tour to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). My additional duty is to answer piles of fan mail from school children all over the US.

So that is a view of SP Kennel Base in Two Rivers AK. We are in constant contact with SP Kennel Anchorage (Kaz) and SP Kennel Nome (Bridget and Scotty). Our thoughts are always with the 2 SP Kennel teams on the Iditarod Trail.

Kennel Mom

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Allen in Shaguluk

The stories from Allen’s race are increasing by the day. I talked to him today once he reached Shaguluk. He was tired and hungry but in good spirits. As is his custom, he was more worried about Aliy and how she was doing than about himself.

He said his dogs are looking great! He doesn’t expect any of them to need to be dropped before he leaves for Anvik and Grayling. He says that he is still running Girlfriend and Anvik quite a bit up in lead, but all the dogs are doing very well.

He had a bit of an incident going into Shaguluk. As we have heard, the trail was very barren there, with lots of tundra and stumps sticking up. Only a few miles out of the check point, a stump caught his sled seat. The sled came to an abrupt halt. Allen flipped over the handle bars and landed with Blossom and Hera in wheel. He couldn’t believe he didn’t hurt himself, but he said he is going to be very sore when he gets to Nome.

Aliy left Grayling after 7+ hours to make her way to Eagle Island. She did drop another dog, Sparky – with, of course, a triceps injury. She is down to 9 dogs but a strong 9. Hopefully she can go through a couple of checkpoints now without having to drop a dog.

Aliy in Grayling

Talked to Aliy in Grayling. She has had too drop too many dogs in the last day for her liking. She is down to 10 now. She joked about if she dropped a dog at each checkpoint, there are too many checkpoints. She is still very positive, but she is unhappy that so many talented, great dogs have been injured on this race.

Aliy says being on the Yukon is great. The winds are blowing up to 60mph but there is snow on the trail. A huge improvement. If you haven't seen to picture of Jeff King going into Iditarod yet, you have to check it out.
Most of the dogs coming back now have injured triceps. It is not something one sees a lot when running on snow. The barren trail has been taking its toll.

They still have Allen in Iditarod as of the last update. He has to be gone for hours by now, but there is little communication to that remote checkpoint. He is still listed as having 15 dogs.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Sled Design – Breakage

While working on one of Aliy’s toboggans yesterday for a trip to the North Slope, the one she used to win the Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race, I started thinking about the number of broken sleds in this year’s Iditarod. Broken sleds are nothing new. Trees frequently jump into the way of an oncoming sled. A few years back Jack Berry’s sled was stomped by a moose in the Yukon Quest. My guess is that more of the sled breakage this year is caused by the hard, uneven trail conditions than unintended encounters with trees or large animals.

The type of sled failure most common with these trail conditions starts as a stress fracture in a runner near a weight supporting stanchion. Once weakened the runner literally snaps off. All sleds have a point on their runners where the weight of the sled and its load applies a torque to the runners in one direction and the weight of the driver applies a torque in the opposite direction. Sleds with rear driver’s seats add more torque in the direction applied by the driver. Heavier loads and heavier drivers both apply more torque. Similar break patterns occur with sleds that have older type driver’s seats. These are bicycle seats on a post that pivot just above the point where the handle bars attach to the runners. The driver’s weight is partially supported by a backwards pull on the handle bars. This pull creates a large amount of torque where the handle bars attach to the runner.

The solution that frequently comes to mind is to make the runners stronger in these areas of high stress. The thought is that this would make the runners less likely to break. Actually, stronger (and thus stiffer) runners make the problem worse. The better simple solution is to design the stanchion attachment so that the stress it transmits is spread over more of the runner’s length. Allen had broken the runners on his Prairie Built sled a year ago. The company sent him two new runners and a long piece of plastic for each. This plastic was to be inserted into the runner under the stanchion attachment. The plastic insert would spread the stress over a longer part of the runner. This fix has worked fine, but it does create “hard spots” in the runners that may some day exhibit the same problem.

The best solution is to make the runners more flexible and at the same time build them to spread the stress of the stanchions over a broader area. A more flexible runner would not only reduce runner breakage, it would also reduce the shock loads and vibrations that are transmitted to both the dog team and the driver. These shock loads and vibrations are a major cause of injury and fatigue to the team and the driver.


Thursday, March 8, 2007

In an Out of the 24 Manditories

Allen arrived at Takotna at 2:34am. He had an excellent run from Nikolai. Really must have felt great after all the craziness that has happened to him.

He got there before Aliy left at 4:52am. Talking to Allen, he says that Aliy’s team looked great leaving the check point. The dogs had been battling a bit of diarrhea but Aliy thought it was under control. She dropped Kingston due to a shoulder injury. He is just a big boy and she just couldn’t afford to carry him.

Her run to Ophir was averaging 10.18mph so the dogs must have been feeling pretty good! She stayed in Ophir long enough to pick up supplies for the long run to Iditarod. I think she will stop and rest on the way. Reports from the trail say that about 9 hours out of Iditarod the trail gets bad again. There is little to no snow over the tundra.

Allen’s team is looking great. He is very happy about the way they are looking and behaving. He doesn’t feel like he has a dog that will need to be dropped in Takotna. They are all eating well and sleeping. He will feed them ever 6 hours or so and try to get some sleep himself over the next few hours.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Aliy from her 24 in Takotna

I just spoke to Aliy. She had gotten a couple hours of sleep, gone back out to feed the dogs a second meal and then got herself some food. She says it’s beautiful there. The dogs are lying out in the sun, relaxing. She is working on putting the team back together.

Due to the rough trails, there are a lot of small injuries, some wrists and some shoulders. In her words, the trail has been like being on one of our North Slope trips instead of a race. That benefits her though because she and the dogs have all been on trails like that.

She wants to give the dogs as much rest and food as she can in this 24 hour period. A few have some stress diarrhea which she should be able to get taken care of before she leaves. She is working with sore dogs, massaging them and wrapping them with doggie Ben Gay.

She hopes to leave Takotna with all her dogs. We’ll see what she does.

Allen in Nikolai

Allen gave me a call from Nikolai about an hour after he arrived. He has had a very interesting race so far!! When we lost him in of Rain Pass, Allen was dealing with one crazy situation after another. First, the race officials wouldn’t allow him to leave the check point when he at 4am. He was putting booties on dogs when they came up and told him the wind was blowing 80 mph on the way to Rohn and that no mushers should leave the check point. Finally at 8am, once it was light, he started on his way down the trail.

Leaving the checkpoint, he has to crest a summit. Cindy Gallea was in front of him. She couldn’t get her dogs over and they got all tangled up. Allen stopped to help her. They ended up tying their sleds together to get them moving. After many stops to untangle dogs, they made it to the Steps before separating.

After getting through all this, Allen was on a patch of frozen overflow. He was out in front of the team, leading them across. He got them all lines out and walked back to the sled. The second he hopped on the sled, 13 of his 15 dogs took off down the trail with out him, the last two dogs and the sled. Blossom, in heat and a bit crazy, had chewed the line in front of her and Hera. Allen had passed a snow machine (mobile) camp a few miles back so he started walking back to them and woke them up. He put Blossom and Hera in the sled and attached it to the snow machine. They took off after the team and found them a couple miles down the trail, in a tangle. All the dogs were fine.

I think Allen was very happy to get to Rohn!

All of his dogs are looking great. He is doing well and sounds very positive and upbeat, even with everything that has happened. He thinks he will spend about 8 hours in Nikolai before heading off to McGrath.

Aliy in Takotna and Allen Found!

Aliy is at Takotna for her 24 hour. I talked to her briefly this morning once she arrived. She sounded very up beat. She had a good run to McGrath. She thinks it was one of the fastest times she has ever had. From what I could tell, the trail was much better and she finally could enjoy herself a bit. I will be talking to her again in a little so I will do more of an update later on her.

Allen is on his way to Nikolai. I expect he will get there sometime in the next hour or so. Yesterday, I got very frustrated with the information coming out of Rainy Pass. They had Allen still there hours after he should have been gone. Finally, I went over to the Race Headquarters to find out what I could. Although the Iditarod people couldn’t help, I spoke to a vet that had just come from Rainy. She said that there was near white out conditions leaving Rainy and that many mushers were waiting it out. So I figured that Allen may really still be in Rainy Pass.

Since I was already down near the dropped dog area, I decided to go look and see if Venus, Aliy’s second drop dog, was in yet. She wasn’t, but this handsome face looked up at me and started wagging his tail and jumping. Peterbuilt, one of the two year olds running with Allen, was there. Since I didn’t even know he had dropped a dog, this told me two things. Allen had definitely left Rainy Pass and of course, he only had 15 dogs with him.

So, they never actually had Allen out of Rainy Pass, but they finally did sign him into Rohn. I don’t know how long it took him or if he took the same wrong turn Aliy did. Hopefully he will call from Nikolai when he gets there.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sled Design – The Rules

There are few limitations on the designs of the sleds for the Iditarod. Rule 15 of the Iditarod addresses sleds as follows. “Sled: A musher has a choice of sled subject to the requirement that some type of sled or toboggan be drawn. The sled or toboggan must be capable of hauling any fatigued or injured dogs under cover plus equipment and food. Braking devices must be constructed to fit between the runners and not to extend beyond the tails of the runners…. Sleds or mushers may not be assisted with sails or wheels.”

A “sled”, as referred to by this rule, has a platform that carries the load that is supported above the runners by stanchions or posts. Only the bottoms of the runners are normally in contact with the snow. With a “toboggan” the platform is mounted directly on top of the runners. The toboggan’s platform frequently does come in contact with the snow. Toboggans are better in deep, soft snow. They are capable of carrying more weight. Their runners are used basically for directional control. “Sleds” are preferred for packed or firm surfaces.

Iditarod trails are often groomed or hard packed so few toboggans are used in it today. The distances between checkpoints are short enough that the sleds need not be heavily loaded. Neither of these conditions is true for races such as the Yukon Quest where one tends to see more toboggans.

Sled design has evolved slowly. They have become lighter and use more modern materials. Thus, sleds have become faster and easier to turn. The compromise is that they break much easier. This is addressed in Rule 15 which limits a racer to using three sleds or less. Racers frequently send second or third sleds to checkpoints along the trail before the race starts.

Recent changes in sled design have been a bit more radical. The most visible is a built-in driver’s seat at the rear of the sled. Fold up bicycle seats had been the norm. Many people have created their own versions of rear driver’s seats. Most of these designs only recognize one of the three possible benefits of such a design: the driver’s comfort.

The three benefits of having a driver’s seat are: an improvement in the balance of the sled, a reduction in wind resistance and finally a way for the driver to take the weight off his or her feet. Many of these seat designs add too much weight to the sled and misbalance it and thus slow it down. They frequently place severe stresses on the sled.

Allen and Aliy have driver’s seats that can carry a filled cooler. They are adjustable to two heights to deal with the wind. They can be removed so that the sled is more manageable in difficult terrain.

Trial and error has been the historical way of improving sled design. We should see more improvements on the driver’s seat in future races.


Talked to Aliy in Nikoli

I talked to Aliy at 2:15pm. She is in Nikoli resting the dogs. She sounds good, but a bit worried about her dogs. The trail has been “the worst she has ever seen.” The lack of snow is leaving rocks stumps and trees exposed. The dogs are sore. The trails are so hard and fast.

The wind was gusting near 60 mph between Rainy and Rohn. Markers were knocked down. Several mushers including Aliy got lost when the Iditarod trail took a hard turn. Most of the markers were down and the other trail was better used and also marked. Aliy thinks it was the Iron Dog Snow Machine Race’s trail. She went out 45 minutes before thinking something was just wrong. She turned around saying she would go back until she found a marker or a dog team. She did find a marker that looked just like the Iditarod ones and was about to turn back around when Zack Steer came up on her. Together they found the correct trail. When you look at the times, the mushers who made it to Rohn in 4 hours didn’t get lost and those who made it in 5:30 or more got lost. To make things worse, the temperatures were hovering around -40 degrees out there.

The second dog Aliy dropped was her star Venus. She hurt herself on the rough burn area. Hopefully she can get the team into the 24 hour rest without losing any more dogs. They will be able to rest and recoup.

Still no reports on Allen. I am going to head over to Race Headquarters and see what I can find out.

Aliy in Nikoli

So much has happened in the last day. Aliy is now in Nikoli. She ran straight in from Rainy Pass. She has dropped two dogs. She dropped Skittles in Rainy Pass. She got to Anchorage last night at about 7pm. She hurt her right front triceps. She is doing very well now. It doesn’t even look like it hurts her. She is out enjoying the sun here in Anchorage.

Aliy also dropped a dog in Rohn. I don’t have any information about that dog yet. Normally, dogs dropped there go to McGrath before they head in to Anchorage. Maybe later today I will find out who it is.

“Dropped” dogs are dogs that the musher decides should no longer be in the team. They could be hurt, sick or just too tired to continue. The vets at each check point takes care of the dogs until they can be flown back to Anchorage where the mushers’ handlers pick them up. Once a dog is “dropped”, the musher is short that dog. For example, Aliy now has 14 dogs in her team. She can not add any others.

Aliy has been running at the top of the pack. Her last two runs have been a bit slower than the fastest times, but she is holding her own. Before she left she commented on how she thought that our dogs tend to do better on tougher trails rather than faster trails. So far it seems like this trail has a little of both.

Reports from the Burn before Nikoli were that it had very little snow and was close to -40 degrees. Good thing it’s been so cold in Fairbanks for the last few weeks. Apparently, Lance Mackey arrived with only one runner attached to his sled, so the trail was definitely rough!

There has been no news out of Rainy Pass for MANY HOURS. They still have Allen in Rainy Pass when we know he probably left early this morning. There have been no updates from there.

The section of the trail near Rainy Pass has claimed two veteran top ten mushers and another top musher. Both Doug Swingley and DeeDee Jonrowe had sled crashes that resulted in dislocated and broken bones. They both scratched in Rainy Pass. Jacques Philip, a well known stage stop musher, also scratched in Rainy Pass. Eight mushers have withdrawn from the race at this point.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Team

All right. I have to calm down enough to write this. As I am putting this up, Aliy is running in 3rd out of Rainy Pass. She still has all 16 dogs. Yeah.

Okay, down to work. Aliy’s team is Hoss, Heeler, Venus, ChaCha, Butterscotch, Oddball, Skittles, Manny, Kingston, Hawke, Tony, Teddy, Pingo, Bullet, Pepper and Sparky.

Allen’s team has Girlfriend, Doña, Blossom, Heidi, Reeses, KitKat, Snickers, Rolo, Petunia, Peterbuilt, nutMeg, Rose, Hera, Imac, Mouse and Betty. He is currently still at Finger Lake.

I am heading down to the Race Headquarters to see what info I can find out.

Allen's Daughter Bridget

Initial Observations on Sled Design

Having been peripherally involved with the sport of dog sled racing for a number of years due to Aliy’s participation, and having a technical leaning, I have found the design and evolution of racing dog sleds very interesting.

Both the sled that Aliy will start on in Iditarod 35, 2007, and the second sled that she has had sent down the trail were made by Armstrong. Alan’s starting sled and his second sled were made by Prairie Built. Perhaps not all of us understand exactly what that means. In fact, many people wouldn’t have a clue as to what those two descriptions mean, much less the individual characteristics of each and the reasons for the differences in design. Hopefully a short discussion of this subject might give us a little better understanding of this subject, and the complexities and compromises that must be made in the design, construction and use of a racing dog sled.

A good start in discussing sled design is to identify the functions that it should perform. These include the following.

• Carrying items for dog care: food, medicine, equipment, dogs, etc.
• Carrying tired or injured dogs.
• Providing a platform for the driver to direct the team.
• Carrying items for the driver’s care and safety: food, medicine, clothing, equipment, etc.
• Carrying mandatory race items.
• Providing a platform for the driver to assist team.

There are a number of other things to consider in sled design in addition to its desired functions. We want the sled to be able to carry its load for a long period, over rough terrain and in inhospitable weather conditions. A sled’s design should minimize the potential for injury to the dogs pulling it. The same is true for the person driving it. The sled should have good directional stability but should also be easily turned. All of this should be done with a minimum of adverse affect on the dogs’ speed or the amount of effort that they must expend.

Originally sleds were large, wooden and heavy. They were sometimes equipped with Gee-poles because they were difficult to turn. If they carried a driver, he or she sat on top of the cargo. Sled design has slowly evolved over the years. Sleds are now much lighter and carry the driver. However, due to the market size, little effort has been made to “engineer” a top performing dog sled. We will discuss some specific areas of sled design in future messages.


Friday, March 2, 2007

Anchorage & The Banquet

The Iditarod starting banquet is a huge production, with thousands in attendance. At last night’s event, Susan Butcher’s huge accomplishments were honored. Major race sponsors (e.g. Wells Fargo Bank , Alaska Airlines, Anchorage Dodge Chrysler, GCI Telecommunications) took the opportunity to showcase their businesses. The Iditarod leadership introduced the organizers. Thousands of volunteers, from around the world, greeted each other and the racers. And, almost as an aside, each musher, 82 in all, thanked his / her supporters and chose a starting number. This event started at 5:30 pm and ended about 4 ½ hours later. The entire SP Kennel contingent was in attendance, except one! At our table were Aliy, Allen, Kaz, Ray, Mick, Doug, Toebe & Bob McDonald, Jeanne Reilly, Roger Wasson, Julie Verette and her son Mike. Poor Bridget was sitting in a plane on the tarmac in Nome and didn’t arrive in Anchorage until 2 am.

At about 8 pm, each musher was introduced in the order in which he/she registered for the Iditarod. Theoretically, if a musher signs up in June, that musher can choose a lower number and better starting position. Aliy was the 20th musher to register. She was called to the stage about 8:30 pm, thanked her family and supporters and chose #16. This is her lowest Iditarod start position.

Allen, on the other hand, registered in December for the Iditarod. He was the 79th musher out of 82 to choose his start position. He only had 4 numbers to choose from. Allen was called to the stage at about 9:50 pm, said “howdy” to the crowd and chose #71. Ten minutes later, we all filed out, tired, but one step closer to the race start.

Check the Iditarod at or the Anchorage Daily News at for the list of mushers and their starting positions.

P.S. The temperatures in Anchorage are much cooler than they have been for the last 2 Iditarod starts. Daytime readings have been 10º to 15º and nights around -5º. Wind gusts were clocked at 35 – 45 mph yesterday. The temperatures should remain in this range for Saturday’s start. Winds should decrease to 10 – 15 mph on Saturday.

Down in Anchorage

The dogs arrived in Anchorage Thursday night from Fairbanks. They were happy to escape the steady 40 below nights, even if it is a bit windier here. They all look great. Aliy and Allen have them out at the track for a short stretch out as I write this. We are all looking forward to the start tomorrow and looking even more forward to getting them out on the trail on Sunday.