Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pups First Run -- Part 2

Here's a Sunday treat for you...

Ride along with Mac on his first run as a sled dog!

That's him in wheel position… Where, I suspect, he has a fine future ahead of him!


(PS -- I don't know about you, but I think Chica and Cutter can be very proud of their "love pups"!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pups First Run -- Part 1

Many of you have asked about when young dogs start training. The short answer is that they don't really start running until they are yearlings, and then generally only on short runs from time to time in their yearling season. Occasionally a yearling will mature quickly and do a short- or mid-distance race, but they usually don't become racing sled dogs until they are at least two years old.

That doesn't mean, however, that you can't let pups have a grand adventure and enjoy the thrill of being sled dogs for a mile or so.

Bridgett is quite keen on "harness breaking" pups, so while she was here this week she set out to give the "Big Boys" -- Boris, Raffie and Mac -- their first experience as sled dogs.

As you will see -- and hear! -- In Part 1, "a good time was had by all!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

Congratulations Tony!

We've got double congratulations for Tony!

First, Tony is a newly sponsored dog! Our good friend Barbara Swenson recently wrote to us:
"I have Tony's Team Card from last year sitting on my desk, and it makes me smile every time I look at his picture and read his little bio.

"My company -- Clarion Suites Downtown Anchorage -- is proud to be a lead sponsor for SP Kennel as a whole, but I want to sponsor Tony on my own!"
Okay, Barbara, Tony is now your dog! He is everything his bio says he is and more. As a veteran of many years of racing -- including several Iditarod finishes -- Tony adds more than just power to the team. He is a great example for younger dogs who are learning the ropes, especially those dogs who -- like him -- are unheralded but all-important "team" dogs. We know you will have many exciting times ahead as you follow your dog throughout his racing career!

Our second congratulations go to Tony for being prominently featured in a major article in the current issue of Outside magazine.

You all know that Dr. Mike Davis has been conducting physiology research with the sled dogs of SP Kennel for a number of years, and now you can read all about it in print!

It is a long and very informative article that will tell you everything you might want to know about the extraordinary physiology of our canine athletes. The first paragraph gives you a pretty good idea of how much Tony is the star:
It's 6:15 A.M. as I approach the home of one of the world's greatest athletes. His name is Tony, and he lives in a tiny plywood shack about 30 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. By all rights, he should be exhausted. He got up at four and ran 22 miles in a mid-September, pre-dawn chill, and he wasn't running on nicely paved roads. He ran across fields and through muddy ruts on dirt trails while he and a few teammates tugged against harnesses attached to an ATV. By any measure, it was an absurdly tough workout, and it was even more remarkable because this was Tony's first hard run in months. So I'm amazed to see him standing outside his door, looking refreshed and eager.
You can link to the article by clicking on the cover photo above, or by clicking here.

Once… er… twice again, congratulations to Tony!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

White Mountains Sunset Run

We've mentioned many times that the lack of snow near the Kennel has forced the Teams to truck up to the White Mountains for training. While that's been a hassle for them, it's a boon for you because you get to see some really nice scenery!

In this video, Aliy narrates as her team mushes through a "burn" during sunset.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aliy Talks About... Temperatures

In this episode, Aliy talks about ambient temperature, the effects it has on the dogs, how they compensate and what it can mean in racing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Calling All Canines

You've probably noticed that I try to bring you something "a little different" on Sundays, and today's video certainly fits that description.

Clearly, most of the footage you've ever seen here of the dogs has been of them either running in harness, getting ready to run, frantically trying to be picked to go run or some other enthusiastically active behavior.

There is another side to daily life at the Kennel, however, and it is dramatically less energetic. The dogs do, after all, spend a fair amount of time resting and sleeping, eating, playing with their neighbors and hanging out at -- or most often on -- their houses.

As you might imagine, there are many, many dogs in a sled dog neighborhood, and pretty much any time of the day or night you can expect to hear dogs somewhere in the area. Sometimes, the dogs of SP Kennel can be seen listening to the chit-chat from their canine neighbors and spontaneously responding with a little "over the back fence gossip" of their own.

I recently found this little piece of video footage on Aliy's "pocket camera" and thought you might enjoy a glimpse of something "a little different" in the life of an SP Kennel dog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


From Aliy…

You've just seen the training and conditioning video, and I thought you might like to know a little about how we keep track of it all for our dogs throughout the season.

Our "DogStats" database is crucial. It is where we record all the mileage each dog runs on which days, at what speeds, in what terrain and any comments.  It also summarizes total miles, number of runs and average run length, both for each month and for the entire season.  It includes all of their training and racing.

Each dog is listed individually and treated individually.  We only group the dogs in "teams" just prior to a race.  Any dog can run with any other dogs during training on any given day.

As I look through the DogStats each day, I look at who needs to train that day and develop a plan for speed, duration and terrain.  The general goal for scheduling any dog's conditioning is that it will frequently have one day off between runs, sometimes no days off, and rarely two days off. The latter usually happening after a physically challenging run.  But, once again, I look at each of the dogs individually. If any dog has any kind of soreness, strain or injury, I will make specific adjustments to his or her schedule. Sometimes this is an extra day off, other times a shorter or easier run. In every case, we do what is best for the individual dog on every given day.

Beyond the actual numbers and charts -- which are very helpful for looking at the dogs from an overall perspective -- the DogStats provide me with an invaluable "visual" tool. I can scan the current month's sheet and immediately see which dogs have "blanks" for off days and "numbers" for run days. This really helps me put together the daily training teams and make sure I never accidentally overlook a dog. I can also see what kind of miles, speed and terrain the dogs have recently run, then make a plan that provides the best overall conditioning opportunity for the Team.

Even more, I can always look back and see where a dog may have had several "blanks" then read both my notes and comments to remind myself why that was. Thus, the DogStats are a daily, monthly, seasonal and historical tool and record. I can't show you the entire DogStats database -- or tell you everything it includes and what all it does to help us develop our dogs -- but I hope this has given you some idea of the "science" we do to supplement the "art" of what we do.

Aliy Talks About... Training And Conditioning

In this episode, Aliy talks about training and conditioning for the Iditarod Sled dogs of SP Kennel.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Aliy Talks About… Dog Booties

As promised, we've been keeping track of all the questions you have asked in the comments and via emails, compiling them into topics and making lists of "talking points" for Aliy.

As we gear up for Iditarod, we figured it's an especially good time to "get after" them, so we are firing up our "Aliy Talks About…" series. With Aliy's new onboard camera set-up, we're moving away from the audio-only format we used last season and going with full audio/video.

The advantages of this are that Aliy can record them while she is out on a sled (which is almost all the time) and not have to find extra time to record audio. Plus, you will get to see what's going on, or at least enjoy "background" video of dogs on the run. On the downside, there can be some background noise which makes Aliy's audio narration a little harder to hear. We hope you will find the pros and cons of this video format worthwhile.

Here is "Aliy Talks About… Dog Booties":

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Iditarod Drop Bags

We've kept the Dog Log focused on our Denali Doubles race for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean we haven't been doing plenty of other stuff. In fact, earlier this week we put the finishing touches on a huge part of our Iditarod preparation by sending our "Drop Bags" out to all the checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail.

For those of you who are new to the Dog Log this year, we did an in-depth, 6-part series on Iditarod Drop Bags last season and we strongly encourage you to watch the videos. They will tell you everything there is to know about what goes into the bags, the preparation process and what an immense undertaking it is. Those of you who saw the series last year might want to take a refresher viewing, if for no other reason than to "feel our pain!"

Here is the series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

This year, we're just going to show you an overview of the Drop Bag assembly process, plus a little more than we did last year about how they all get forwarded out onto the Trail. Just in case it isn't obvious, having the Drop Bags on their way is a huge relief!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DD: "Aliy Cam" -- Road Song

Road video by Aliy, road music by Hobo Jim… Perfect!

We think that's just about the perfect note to wrap up our coverage of the Denali Doubles, so starting tomorrow we're going to "get after" our pre-Iditarod coverage… Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DD: "Aliy Cam" -- Passing

It's a little overwhelming, sifting through 2.5+ hours of "Aliy Cam" footage, looking for clips, scenes and themes to share with you. One that stood right out, however, is passing on the race trail. It's also a good example of why we think the new camera and mount are so great: They let Aliy film "hand free" when she needs both hands to mush, and thus give you some real "insider" views you wouldn't otherwise get.

I've picked out two clips of each kind of pass: Being passed from behind, passing a team going in the opposite direction and passing a team ahead. I've also selected clips that show what it looks like when it works well, and when it doesn't work quite so well.

One of our goals for the DD was to really put the new camera rig to the test in preparation for Aliy's filming on Iditarod. See if this doesn't get you a little excited for what that will be like!

Monday, February 15, 2010

DD: "Bridgett Cam"

Bridgett shot some great video out on the DD trail for you. Sadly, because she was using Aliy's "old" camera, much of the audio "on the run" has so much wind noise that it's unusable. I've spent most of the day trying new software to fix it -- which is why this has taken so long! -- but no luck. Despite the bad audio, I've included running clips at the beginning and end because the images are so compelling. In between, Bridgett gives you an excellent report of arriving at the Malcaren checkpoint at night and getting ready to leave the next morning. Thanks Bridgett!

Tomorrow I will sort through Aliy's 2+ hours of video using her "new" camera and bring you what looks to be some fantastic new views of what it's like to be out on the race trail!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DD: Paxson Checkpoint -- Part 5

Part 5 -- the finale of this series -- picks up after Allen and Bridgett have had about 30 minutes to eat and "rest" before returning to the dogs to do the departure process: Feed, bootie, etc.

During this time, the SP Kennel Red Team arrived in Paxson to begin its checkpoint routine. It was pretty dark by then, but I'm able -- with some pretty heavy video adjustment -- to bring you a few scenes of the Teams waving to each other as they pass at the checkpoint, the Black Team lining up and "waiting" to leave, as well as their start back down the trail.

The next time we see them they are in a sprint race to the finish line!

That just about does it for my coverage of the Denali Doubles Race, and for my energy for the day. Tomorrow I will start editing and posting video that Aliy and Bridgett shot out on the trail with their teams… Stay tuned!

DD: Paxson Checkpoint -- Part 4

Although we've shown you most parts of the "checkpoint process" in a number of previous videos here on the Dog Log, perhaps this in-depth series all from one place and at one time is giving you a better idea of it. At least, you can probably get a better sense of why we say that checkpoint "rests" are for dogs, not mushers. The dogs may be sleeping on their comfy straw after a nice hot meal, but the mushers still have lots to do.

One part of the process that I don't think we've ever shown you before is changing a sled's plastic runners. This is an important part of racing because -- believe it or not -- a lot of friction can be generated where the sled runners ride on the snow. Friction is drag, and drag is bad for speed. So, the plastic runners need to be changed when they get scraped or scratched, which is often.

In Part 4, I started to narrate as Bridgett was changing the sled plastics, but stopped when she and her father had a nice little "Daddy/Daughter moment." Bridgett goes on to do her typically great "on camera" description.

With two mushers working, the checkpoint process has taken only about half the time it normally would, so they have a little time left to head into the lodge for something to eat and a few minutes of rest. Often, though, just about the time a musher has finished the checkpoint "arrival" process, it's time to start it all over again in reverse order for the "departure" process. Like we say, "A musher's work is never done!"

DD: Paxson Checkpoint -- Part 3

In Part 3, the checkpoint process continues. The dogs have had their booties removed, eaten their snacks and are laying down on their straw beds. Now… "It's time to feed the dogs!"

While he's running the soup kitchen, Allen shares some insights about his strategy and how his race is going so far. For those of you who are Happy fans, you have a very special treat in store!

So much of this single, long clip is good that I decided not to chop it up with any editing. I hope you will enjoy the uninterrupted pace and flow of events. I have, however, adjusted the exposure, contrast and saturation to partially compensate for the low light levels.

DD: Paxson Checkpoint -- Part 2

In Part 2 we pick up after the Black Team has arrived in Paxson and is "parking." We then have an especially nice sequence of the "settling" in process -- straw, booties off, snacks -- with some very sweet dog cameos!

DD: Paxson Checkpoint -- Part 1

During the Denali Doubles race, we were able to bring you chronological -- if not quite contemporaneous -- coverage of the SP Kennel Teams' drive and arrive, starts, arrival in Paxson and finishes. Those were pretty much the "highlights" that we could cover and we're glad you enjoyed them.

Now we have the opportunity to go back and bring you more "in depth" coverage. This will consist of my own coverage, plus on-board camera videos from Aliy on the Red Team and Bridgett on the Black Team.

The only checkpoint that I could get to was Paxson, and I got some really good footage that I am editing into a little mini-series. Part 1 is a survey of the checkpoint before the Teams arrived, with some real "insider" views and information.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

DD: Red Team Finish Video

DD: Acceleration, Deceleration

In addition to accelerating my race plan in order to stay ahead of the Black Team's finish, I have made a further acceleration this evening: I abandoned my plan to stay down in Cantwell until tomorrow and drove back to my home HQ here in Two Rivers.

The reason, simply, is that although I was able to get enough internet in Cantwell to make a couple of posts during the race, the facilities were inconvenient and unreliable enough that I feared not being able to sufficiently follow-up with postings from there tomorrow. Not getting back here until tomorrow night would mean further delay for both you and me, and I've got so much media downloaded that I really need/want to "get after it!"

So, after filming the Red Team's finish, packing up the trucks and going out for a sit-down dinner together, I loaded four dogs -- Bullet, JJ, Kipper and Roy for no reason other than pure convenience -- into the crates in the back of my truck and took off.

The dogs are now in their houses at the Kennel, Stella is back here sleeping on "her" bed and I'm feeling serious deceleration. I think I've got just enough energy left to post a quick video about the Red Team's finish, then I'll hit the rack and start catching up tomorrow.

If you're still up, give me a few minutes to post the video!

Denali Double Dinner

The teams are having dinner, the orders sounded like an army was eating. Some good hot food ought to just about do them in!

DD: Red Team Finish

The Red Team has crossed the line in fine form. According to the checker, "11th, I think." More soon.

DD: Black Team Photo Finish!

As best I can make out the story... When it became clear to Allen and Bridgett that they weren't going to be able to catch the team ahead of them, they "throttled back" a bit to take it easy on the dogs and bring them to the finish without undue strain in the relative heat of the day. All of a sudden, Bridgett looked back and screamed, "Dad! There's a team behind us!" What ensued was far from a leisurely finish!... Take a look:

Bridgett also told me that their race went perfectly, "We ran right on our race plan, and didn't have any problems along the way. The dogs were fantastic and we're proud to bring all 20 safely into the finish. We just got out raced!" By any account, the Black Team ran an outstanding race and provided us with a real thriller at the finish. Congratulations to Allen, Bridgett and all the dogs!

According to the race stats, the Red Team left Alpine at 9:30 so they should arrive sometime around 4pm. I'll head back over there and wait to cover their finish!

DD: Black Team Fourth By A Nose!

We heard the hollering from over the hilltop, then saw two huge dog team sprinting down to the finish line. Beaten by less than the length of the team, Allen and Bridgett have finished fourth. Details and video soon!

DD: Early Saturday Morning

Good morning! My eyes are barely open and I'm only having my first coffee... So, I repeat my prior caveat: "If I'm reading this leader board correctly..."

The SP Kennel Black Team was third out of Alpine Creek, only 16 minutes behind the leader. They have more dogs and just came off more rest. Plus -- I hope my math is right on this -- they were faster than the leaders over the last leg of the race.

Forgetting the numbers for a moment, here's what I'm picturing:

Allen Moore and Bridgett Watkins -- two of the most competitive humans on earth -- have just watched two teams leave only minutes ahead of them. They are on the trail now and can probably see the leaders' lights not far away. They are poling and kicking non-stop.

Twenty SP Kennel dogs -- all fantastic athletes and competitors -- know they are running to the finish line and back to the trucks. From the two fresh front-end dogs -- veterans ChaCha and Teddy (who have just come off more than 24 hours of rest) -- back to the wheelies -- Biscuit and Tatfish (who don't have an "off" switch) -- they are all "gettin' after it!"

Plus, they've got Happy!

I don't need the math to know what's going on, do you?

I do need to hit the road... Stay tuned!

DD: Black Team First Out Of Maclaren

As you can see, the Black Team was the first to leave Maclaren:

You can also see that they now have 18 dogs again, with Ranger and Olivia back in the line. With 14 hours of accumulated rest, they "owe" only two more which they will do in Alpine. There they will add ChaCha and Teddy to the team and race for the finish line. I still don't feel like I have a good enough grasp on the numbers to make a full analysis, but you have to know this looks really, really good.

I can tell you that the Black Team has executed it's race plan perfectly, with one minor -- and happy -- exception: They are well ahead on their anticipated run times. That means they are likely to finish quite a bit before the time I've based my travel plan on, and that means I have to leave Fairbanks even earlier to drive to Cantwell if I'm going to get there ahead of them.

I need to get a few hours of sleep, so "Good night!"

DD: Black Team's Arrival In Paxson

It looks like I've got some pretty good footage from the Paxson checkpoint to share with you as I catch-up / follow-up over the next few days. Plus, it looks like you've got a TON of really great stuff that Aliy and Bridgett shot out on the trail to look forward to.

Meanwhile, here is a highlight video of the Black Team's arrival in Paxson:

DD: Leader Board

I've just glanced at the new leader board and like what I see. I have NOT examined it closely enough -- or done all of the math -- to give you a qualified evaluation. That said, if I'm tallying the in/out/rest times correctly, the Black Team is looking very good... Especially with "fresh" dogs waiting to be picked up along the way.

As they were getting ready to leave Paxson, Allen told me that his biggest concern was maintaining speed back to MacLaren. If I'm reading the board right, it looks like they were right up there with the fastest teams. I'd like to say more about that, but I'm too tired to calculate the hours/minutes right now.

Anyway, it all looks good and very, very exciting!

DD: Late Night Update

It's a little after midnight and I have made it back to my Fairbanks HQ after a long drive from Paxson, including a side-trip out to the Kennel. Let me explain...

Aliy decided to drop two dogs in Paxson: Spicy because of a sore foot, and Minnie because, as Aliy put it, "I saw the same thing that Bridgett saw with Minnie in the CB300. She's just running funny." So, nothing serious for either dog, but enough to drop them. In talking with Aliy, the options were to either have the dogs ride around to Cantwell and wait in boxes or have me take them back to their homes at the Kennel. You know which we chose.

Unfortunately for you, that side-trip used up some of my already limited time to post updates tonight, but we know that you are "dog first" and understand.

I do want you to have something to go with your morning coffee, though, so I'm going to skim through my video and put a post together tonight. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 12, 2010

DD: Teams Cross Paths At Paxson

The Red Team arrived in Paxson, just in time to wave as the Black Team was heading out! The mushers waved, that is. The dogs looked at each other and cocked their heads as if to say, "Wazzup with that?"

The Black Team departed with all 16 dogs. In MacLaren, they will pick up Ranger and Olivia. Between his barking and her crazy enthusiasm, they ought to put a good jolt of energy into the team. Then at the Alpine checkpoint, ChaCha and Teddy will rejoin the team. After their long rest, you can bet ChaCha will be a hard-driving leader and Teddy will eagerly do her job in swing. It's really exciting to think about, and a really interesting new dimension of this race!

The Red Team dogs have now eaten and are resting comfortably on their straw. Aliy and T.Rose have just come inside for something to eat as well. I think I'll join them, then hit the road back to Fairbanks. Aliy has also brought in some great onboard video from the trail, and I look forward to doing something with it. The internet here is too funky to even try uploading video, so we'll all just have to be patient!

DD: Black Team Paxson Update

Okay!... As you know from my last iPhone post, the Black Team arrived here in Paxson at 3:47. While Bridgett strawed, unbootied and snacked the dogs, Allen made a hot meal for them. After only 45 minutes, the entire checkpoint process was complete -- very efficient with two mushers -- and the dogs were down for a rest. The mushers then took 15 minutes to eat the food you saw in the photo.

They are now stretched out and resting on the floor... for a whole 20 minutes! After that, they will be up and out to do the "leaving process" -- booties, snacks, etc. Their planned two hour "rest" will then be complete and they will hit the trail back to MacLaren.

So far, everything is going according to their race plan. I repeat, they have NO "dropped" dogs. Their plan was always to "leave" two in Alpine and two more in MacLaren. These dogs will add fresh power for the return legs, and should provide a real "enthusiasm" boost to their team mates.

I know that's good news for all of you, and I have some more: I've just downloaded a ton of fantastic video from the camera Bridgett has been using on the trail. I regret that the internet here isn't good enough to upload any of it -- I don't think I'd have time even if it was -- but you have some really great stuff to look forward to.

Meanwhile, here is a still photo to give you a sense of it:

At this moment, we think the Red Team will arrive either just before or just after the Black Team leaves. I will spend time with them, then drive back to Fairbanks. You now know that the Teams have completed their 8-hour mandatory rests, so I won't have that time in my favor. Plus, after 2 hours of rest here, the Black Team will only rest 4.5 hours total on the return. In other words, by the time I leave here after visiting with the Red Team, I will have to really hustle to stay ahead of the Black Team.

Hang on and stay tuned!

DD: Black Team In Paxson

The Black Team arrived in Paxson at 3:47 with 16 dogs in team. There are NO dropped dogs. Two were "left" in Alpine and two more in MacLaren... All according to plan for fresh dogs on return. Dogs are fed and resting, mushers now in same process. Stay tuned!

DD: Friday Morning

If you've looked at the race updates, you "know" everything that I do at the moment.

I can only add that it looks like both Teams are well ahead of their "race plans." I must add, however, that since we've never raced this course before we could only make estimates for our run times. That said, it certainly looks like both teams are very competitive.

What I do know is that I'm on my way to Paxson and will do my best to sort it out once I get there... Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DD: Thursday Wrap-Up

What a day it's been: Drive and arrive, pre-race, starts, sleds... and good internet!... "Perfect!"

Frankly, I'm now totally out of "stuff" to post!

I'm sure some of you eagle-eyed fans noticed the new camera mounted on Aliy's sled. It looked to me like she was filming at the start! Bridgett also has a camera, and I'm hopeful that when I see them in Paxson tomorrow they will have filmed some great footage for me to share with you.

Meanwhile, the race web page says updates will be posted on Jeff King's Blog. So, maybe you can give that a try.

As for me, I'm going to drive back to Fairbanks, clean up my Mac's desktop and get some sleep!

Stay tuned!

DD: Sled Configurations

Most of the teams showed up to race with some kind of variation on the "drag sled" using a traditional "drag line." You can see why Aliy's dad said the line is a trip hazard!

A few teams are using these "Dual Position" or "Tandem" (or whatever they're called) sleds. I've most often seen them used by a single musher who wants to have the option of riding in the middle seat or "pumping/poling" in the back. Obviously, two people can use it instead.

As with the SP Kennel "star trek truss" innovation, a few teams brought their own new designs. Here's one that I would call a "hard mount with flex."

Here's a sled with three runners on the bottom.

"Why?" you ask?... Well, because it's a double wide!

That about covers the sled configurations for the race. I'm not going to try to explain pros and cons because it would all be speculation at this time. Maybe after the race we can get some reports from the mushers about how their sleds worked out for them!

DD: Start Video

Here it is! Only 2 hours from being live! Enjoy!

DD: Willie Rendering Video

Willie is working on your start video right now! He's a hard worker
sitting on a table in a bar. Stay tuned!

DD: Start Update

Both SP Kennel Teams had clean, on-time starts of the Denali Doubles. The sun had set, it was rapidly getting colder and the wind was really picking up. Not that the dogs cared! With so many dogs per team, the scene was a riot!

A bit of an ominous sign at the starting line... Dogs can go where vehicles don't dare to tread!

Allen has a quick look back as he and Bridgett start down the trail.

The internet is good enough here in Cantwell that I'm going to make the first adjustment to my race plan. I think I have pretty good video of the starts, so I will process it and post it from here. I'll do it as fast as I can... Maybe an hour? Stay tuned!

DD: One Hour Countdown

It's 4 pm, the sun is setting, it's getting cold and a wind is
building. I was talking with Jeff King who looked around then said,
"We should have set the start time now." Dogs are still in the trucks,
mushers are laying out gear. Stay tuned!

DD: Starting Area

Few sled innovations, mostly drag lines. Much good will and friendly
banter among mushers.

DD: Drive And Arrive

So far it's been "Perfect!" An easy drive, a beautiful day AND good internet! Here's a video to bring you totally up to the minute...

Now I'm headed to the starting area to take photos of sleds, film the starts, etc. If my luck holds, you may not have a 4-8 hour delay after all!

DD: Pre-Race In Cantwell

Howdy! There's enough internet here in Cantwell for a photo update:

Big Red on the road from Faribanks to Cantwell. A beautiful day, no winds, almost too warm (about zero)...

Arrival in Cantwell, time to unload the dogs so they can stretch, etc.

Debbie howled at nearby teams, for Betsy it was a yawner.

Your SP Kennel Teams at the mushers' meeting to get their briefing...

Aliy draws her starting number...

Good news!... Two teams with early starts!

The dogs are now back out of the trucks, having a big hot meal. We will all head to the starting area within the hour to have plenty of time to bootie, harness, hook-up... You know the routine!

Teams Arrive In Cantwell

Easy drive. Beautiful day. Sunny obviously, maybe a little to warm.
Not much snow, but we're here and 40 dogs are ready to go. Stay tuned!

Denali Doubles Race Plans

As you read on the Team rosters in a previous post, the Black Team has a very aggressive race plan and is running to win. One look at the talent on the team and you know they've got a great race ahead of them!

The Red Team certainly isn't short on talent and should also do very, very well. Aliy has made it clear, though, that this race is a developmental one for her team. She intends to adjust her race plan along the way, to suit her younger dogs so that they can gain the maximum race experience going into Iditarod.

For all the familiar reasons, that's all I can tell you about the Teams' race plans right now.

A number of you have asked what my "race plan" is, and I'm happy to share it with you since I can pretty much guarantee I won't have any competitors. As you will read, I'm probably the only guy crazy enough to even give it a go!

As you can see on this map, it may only be 130 miles by dog sled from Cantwell to Paxson, but it's over 330 miles by truck going through Fairbanks:

With that in mind, here is my plan:

Phase One -- I will drive with the teams early this (Thursday) morning from the Kennel -- near Fairbanks -- to Cantwell where we must arrive by noon. I will cover the pre-race activities, then try to find internet service and post a brief update. I will then cover the starts at about 5pm and again, if possible, try to post another quick update.

Phase Two -- I will leave Cantwell at about 6pm and drive 4 hours to Fairbanks. I will work through the night to process the media from the day and upload as much as I can before leaving Fairbanks at 9am.

Phase Three -- Friday morning I will drive 5 hours to Paxson and be there in time for the teams to arrive at the checkpoint. While in Paxson, I will download trail video from the Teams' onboard cameras and shoot additional media. I will spend as much time as I can with the teams and should have enough internet to at least post some photo updates. Videos will probably have to wait.

Phase Four -- I will leave Paxson at about 10pm and drive 5 hours to Fairbanks. I will again work through what is left of the night to process and post as much as I can before leaving Fairbanks again at 9am.

Phase Five -- Saturday morning I will drive 4 hours to Cantwell to be there in time for the Teams' arrivals. I will finish my coverage and upload/post whatever I can Saturday night.

Once the race is over, we will all have to stay in Cantwell until Sunday afternoon for the post-race meeting. While there I will try to find enough internet to catch up a bit, but some of it may have to wait until the first of next week. Then, of course, we will also shoot and post follow-ups with the mushers.

So, if everything goes according to plan -- stop laughing, I can hear you! -- you should get some reasonably timely updates along the way, some videos on about a 4-8 hour delay, and all the rest… well… at some point.

Like I said, I don't think I'll have much competition on my race! Who else is crazy enough to even try this?

Happy Is Double Happy!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

I know some of you already noticed this -- and I thank you for your very nice comments -- but I'm so happy right now that I want to make sure everybody knows why!

Did you see who is on Boss Allen's Black Team? Yip, that's me!

I'm really, really happy about this… I'm double happy! I ran my very first race on Boss Allen's Iditarod Team last year and we went all the way to Nome! I ran my second race on Boss Aliy's Copper Basin 300 team and we went all the way around in a circle! (I still don't quite understand what that was all about!) Now Boss Allen has me running my third race for him again. Does that make me happy, or what?!? I can't wait to find out if we'll be going someplace this time!

You know, I really like racing. We get to go to new places and see lots of new stuff. Plus, there's something different about how we do it. The bosses and all my pack mates get so serious. Some of them get really nervous, but you know me! It just makes me happy! One of my favorite things is that I never know where my friend Macgellan is going to show up. I keep looking for him and when I see him I try to do a little Happy Dance while I'm running (even though the bosses don't really like it when I do) and I bark, "Look at me! Look at me!"

I hope you will look for me on the race, and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Denali Doubles Roster

Here they are!... Your SP Kennel "Denali Doubles" Teams!

You can click the image above to open the PDF file in your web browser, then read it online and/or print it for later reference!
Note: The PDF is a 3.3 MB file, so it may take a moment to load. Please be patient... It's worth the wait!
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Denali Doubles Double Sled

We know you have been looking forward to seeing the sled configuration we're going to use on the Denali Doubles race this week. Now that it is so close to race time, we're confident our competitors don't have time to abandon their designs and copy ours… So, here it is!

While Aliy's father, Doug Zirkle, was here last month around the time of the Copper Basin 300, he put his lifetime of engineering expertise to work in helping to design and fabricate the SP Kennel "Denali Doubles Double Sled." In this video, he gives you a full briefing about what, why and how. Plus, you'll get to see the sleds in action… for at least a few seconds as they zoom out of the dog yard on their very first test run! Hang on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meet "T.Rose"!

If you have checked out the Denali Doubles musher listing, you've seen that Allen's co-musher will be his daughter Bridgett. By now you are all familiar with BJ and know that she is not only a very competent and competitive musher, but she is also a complete nut case about the dogs! She and her father are an excellent team and we can look forward to a very exciting race from them.

You've also seen a new name listed as Aliy's co-musher, so we want to introduce you to Tamara Rose, or "T.Rose" as she is known by everyone around here.

T.Rose is a veterinarian who visited the Kennel when she first moved to Fairbanks a few years ago. She was not "into" mushing sled dogs at the time, but inquired about the realities of the sport and the lifestyle.

Aliy and Allen advised her that if she was serious, she should "go slow" and start by getting a few good dogs. As it turned out, SP Kennel had a very large litter of pups the next year -- too many to fit the needs of the Team -- and they offered to split the litter with her.

That was how T.Rose got her first four dogs, a few of the siblings of Biscuit, Spot and Tatfish that some of you have wondered about. Since then, she has acquired a few more SP Kennel dogs, including Reeses and Dill from the candy and spice litters. Along the way, of course, T.Rose has become good friends with Aliy, Allen and all the dogs!

T.Rose now has a small kennel of approximately 20 high quality dogs, and she began racing in earnest last year. She has raced the Yukon 300, the GinGin 200 and the Copper Basin 300. Although not yet competing to win, her team consistently finishes very strong.

This year, T.Rose will be a rookie musher in the Iditarod. Although she is a very competent musher, she is keenly aware that the Iditarod is an entirely different kind of event. When Aliy asked her to be co-musher for the Denali Doubles, she leapt at the opportunity and said, "I would love to do it because I would love to learn from you before I get out on the Iditarod trail!"

When asked about why she selected T.Rose to be her co-musher, Aliy replied, "T.Rose is an excellent musher and really great with the dogs. We are also good friends who have very compatible styles and personalities. She is very athletic, and it will be great to have our very own veterinarian on the team. Plus, of course, the fact that she only weighs about 100 pounds is a definite advantage!"

We hope you will join us in welcoming T.Rose to the SP Kennel Team!

Meet The Dogs: Quito

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Suite Deal For Iditarod Start In Anchorage

There's nothing in the world like the start of Iditarod. Imagine 1,000 dogs barking and howling their heads off to get going down the trail to Nome. It's truly amazing.

For those of you who plan to be in Anchorage for the Idtiarod start on March 6th, our hotel sponsors have a "suite deal" for you.

The SP Kennel Teams will be parked at the Clarion Suites Downtown, where you will be welcome to meet the dogs in person, give a hug or a special pat to your favorite canine athlete and meet our mushers, handlers and other humans.

There will be a "Meet & Greet" again this year, a time when Aliy and Allen talk about mushing and the Iditarod, display their sleds and gear, answer questions and sign autographs. This is always a very popular event, available only at Clarion Suites.

Plus, of course, you get a great room and a comfy bed!

To get this "suite deal" call 907-929-6461 or send an email and book your rooms at the SP Kennel Team rate of just $89 per night!

If you haven't planned to be in Anchorage for the Iditarod start, you really should. It's not too late… Get after it!