Monday, March 22, 2010

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Episodes In Order

Here is a list of "Aliy Cam" episodes "in order" along the trail:

      Ceremonial Start -- "Virtual IditaRider"
      Official Start Of Iditarod 2010
      Finger Lake Checkpoint
      The Happy River Steps
      Rainy Pass Checkpoint
      From Ophir To Cripple
      On The Trail Into Ruby
      On The Yukon -- Part 1
      On The Yukon -- Part 2
      On The Yukon -- Part 3
      On The Portage Trail
      Into Unalakleet
      On The Coast
      On The Frozen Ocean
      Nearing Nome
      The Finish In Nome

We also wanted to let you know that we appreciate your interest in a "long-form" version of the "Aliy Cam" series. We're taking a look at options and will let you know!
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Nearing Nome

One last "Aliy Cam" video to wrap-up our Iditarod 2010 coverage.



In the week ahead, we'll also be wrapping-up our 2009-2010 racing season here on the Dog Log. This will include the list of links some of you have requested of "Aliy Cam" videos in chronological order. So… Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" The Happy River Steps

Hang on!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Couch Dog Dimensionality

We've been rotating dogs on the couch all day. As you can see, Cha has clearly figured out how to orient her longest dimension with that of the couch. Petunia either hasn't quite figured it out or just doesn't care!



We're all still a bit "in recovery" but also on the mend. After another day or so, everyone -- human and canine -- with be jumping to go run again!

I'll be wrapping up our Iditarod 2010 coverage with two more "Aliy Cam" posts tomorrow... Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Rainy Pass Checkpoint

At first I was tempted to apologize for all the snow on the camera lens -- Aliy actually does apologize! -- but then I realized it gives you an even better sense of what the conditions were like. I also intended to use this episode of "Aliy Cam" simply to show you what it's like to "pull in to stay" at a checkpoint, as a contrast to the last video of "passing through" Finger Lake.

As I edited it, though, I realized this video is so much more. Previous episodes have shown you many facets of what it's like to be out on the Trail, but this one really shows you what it's like at the checkpoints. Well beyond the arriving, checking in and parking processes, it shows you how the dogs know exactly what's going on and get right into their "rest antics" of rolling in the snow and settling down. You also get to see how the volunteer race veterinarians are immediately on the scene, checking the "vet book" then getting right to their business of caring for the dogs.



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Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Finger Lake

For these next two "Aliy Cam" videos, we're going to take you back to the early days of the Iditarod and spotlight a couple of contrasts.

The first is the weather and trail conditions. You've already seen that the race started on a bright, clear, calm day, and ended with a few bitter cold, windy days. In between, there were a few days of very heavy snow and frequent "white out" conditions. Most of the trail that you've seen so far has also been pretty flat and open. You're about to see something very different on both counts.

Second, we want to show you the contrast between "passing through" a checkpoint and "pulling in to stay" at one. The former is exhibited in this "Aliy Cam" video of "passing through" Finger Lake. The latter will follow in the next video… Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Allen Moore's SP Kennel Black Team Finish

SP Kennel's Black Team at the Iditarod 2010 finish. Allen Moore and twelve fantastic dogs -- Butterscotch, Petunia, Teddy, Oddball, Beemer, Ranger, KitKat, Roy, L'il Debbie, Bonita, Viper & Rambler -- crossed under Nome's burled arch in 35th position after 10 days, 23 hours on the Trail. This was also Allen's fastest time in his four Iditarods!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Frozen Ocean

In this "Aliy Cam" episode, we pick up when the Red Team has left Shaktoolik and is crossing the frozen Norton Sound -- the "frozen ocean" -- en route to Koyuk. Aliy describes the trail, the ice conditions and what it's like to be "out there."

She also shares from her musher's perspective the same confusion we all experienced with the GPS of the route "going backwards" after the crossing. We knew where the checkpoints were, but not where the trail was. Aliy knew where the trail was, but not where the checkpoints were. I think you'll agree our circumstance was far less disturbing!

Iditarod 2010: Black Team In Nome!

Just a few minutes ago, Allen Moore and 12 fantastic dogs of SP Kennel's Black Team crossed under the burled arch in Nome. All of them -- canine and human -- are in great shape and already on their way back to our Nome HQ to be reunited with pack mates, family and friends.



I'll post a video just as soon as I can. Meanwhile, another episode of "Aliy Cam" is ready -- and almost four hours of uploading! -- and I'll post that for you right away... Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: Thursday Update

Allen's Black Team is approaching Safety, so they should be here in Nome in just a few hours! We are all getting ready to drive out to see them as they clear the hills and start down the shore, then they'll have one more small push to the finish line!

The internet is really slow and unstable here today, but I'll try to upload one more "Aliy Cam" episode while we wait!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Bosses At Rest

(Spoiler warning: If you want the story behind this photo, read below. If you just want to enjoy its pricelessness, don't!)



Aliy texted me a little while ago: "I'm awake... Wanna chat?" So, I went to Bridgett's place and sat down with "the Boss" to talk about dropped dogs. After only a minute or two, it became clear to me that I was alone in our conversation.

At that moment, Bridgett came in from feeding the dogs -- again! -- and had Cha with her. For no reason other than my own pleasure, I picked Cha up and held her in my lap... All the while reassuring her that it was okay to be a "pet dog" for a few minutes.

Not very much to my surprise, Cha sighed heavily a couple of times and settled right in. I couldn't stay there because I had to get back to work, so I picked Cha up and put her on the couch with "Boss Aliy."

Apparently, Cha has very quickly adapted to the idea of being a "pet dog" for a while.

I still don't have the whole story to share with you about dropped dogs, but they really are fine... One in particular, if you know what I mean!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Coast

In our last episode of "Aliy Cam" -- before the start/finish diversion -- Aliy and the dogs were on their way into Unalakleet after pushing through a ground blizzard.

In this episode, we join the Team leaving Unalakleet in another ground blizzard, working its way down the frozen river to the coast. The sun sets over the ocean, then we transition to sunrise after leaving Shaktoolik and heading toward the frozen Norton Sound.

Iditarod 2010: Dog Update

Thanks to all of you who have inquired about dropped dogs... We know you love and care about them as much as we do.

The bottom line is that they all seem to be fine. Most of them are already here in Nome with us, including ChaCha, Chica, Homebrew, etc... I'm waiting for Aliy to wake up to get the stories, but wanted to at least let you know that none of them appear to have any real problems.

A number of you have asked about their "recovery time"... I won't say they'll be raring to go tomorrow, but you would be astonished at how perky they'll be -- and making a fuss to go run -- within another day or two at the most! Truly amazing athletes!

I'll try to go through your questions in the comments, and post more "Aliy Cam" videos tonight... Right now I have to go hug some dogs!

Iditarod 2010: "Please Do Not Disturb!"


Dingle, a truly fantastic young dog who finished in lead for the Red Team -- practically in single-lead if you consider that Rosie was next to him! Does it get any cuter than that?

Iditarod 2010: Black Team Update

Just because we've been focused on the Red Team's finish this morning doesn't mean we aren't keeping track of the Black Team!

Allen and 12 dogs checked into Elim at 10:30 this morning, so we're betting they're close to wrapping up a nice rest before heading out through Golovin to White Mountain. They will have a mandatory 8-hour rest there, so they should be in pretty good shape for the final push into Nome sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Bridgett has been talking about driving a snow machine out to meet him in White Mountain, so we may have a first-hand report in store for you. Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Nome Finish

While Aliy and the dogs are sleeping, I thought I'd share their Iditarod finish in Nome from their point of view. I think you will find this video very moving, and even a little amusing with Rosie wanting to stop for pats from all the spectators.



When Aliy wakes up, I'll try to get an update on the dogs, etc… Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Survived!

I am delighted -- and quite impressed, actually -- to report that the "Aliy Cam" survived the Iditarod!

As you know, a crash early in the race wiped out the camera's mount, but the camera itself never quit. In fact, it worked very well throughout, even when Aliy was sure it couldn't possibly still be working at all! Not only is Aliy's commitment to bringing you "on the trail" video pretty incredible -- especially after having to hand-hold all the filming! -- but I think you'll agree the quality of her footage and narration put her well into the catagory of amazing!

I now have several hours of "Aliy Cam" video that I will edit into episodes in the coming days. Although each segment tells a great piece of the story, I think that taken all together they will provide an astonishing Iditarod experience... Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: Aliy Zirkle's SP Kennel Red Team Finish

SP Kennel's Red Team have just finished Iditarod 2010. Aliy Zirkle and eight fantastic dogs -- Dingle, Rose, Bullet, Skittles, Tony, Nutmeg, Biscuit & Tatfish -- crossed under Nome's famous burled Arch in 16th position after only 9 days, 18 hours. This was Aliy's fastest time ever in her ten consecutive Iditarod finishes!



Everyone on the Team -- canine and human -- has had a big hot meal and is tucked in for a good sleep. We'll follow up with them all very soon… Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Official Start

The first chip from Aliy's camera did arrive back in Two Rivers the morning after I left, but Kaz just brought it with her to Nome so I've at least got it now. A quick scan was all it took to see that you've got some incredible footage coming your way, including an astonishing ride down the Happy River Steps!

Right now, though, as we prepare for Aliy's arrival in Nome this morning, I thought it might be fun to post a flashback to ten days ago when she made her "Official Start" of Iditarod 2010. This video picks up as her team approaches the starting line then gives you a pretty good selection of footage over the first few miles. I think you will be amazed at the speed and power of her 16 dog team from this onboard view!



I will film Aliy's finish this morning and post it as soon as possible. If by chance she is filming as she comes down Front Street to the finish line, I will certainly share that as well! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" Into Unalakleet

One last video for you from this camera chip of Aliy and the Team running into Unalakleet. The first part is shot about 30 miles out and Aliy shares her views of the beautiful scenery and the different kinds of trail markers along the way. The last part picks up after the Team has slogged through a ground blizzard. Aliy recounts her efforts on behalf of the dogs, swapping race time for their safety.

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Portage Trail

In what I think you will agree is another astonishing "Aliy Cam" video, the Team is crossing the Portage Trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet. It is absolutely frigid -- about minus-40 degrees! -- and despite her concern whether the camera is working, Aliy gives us a nice scenic tour, punctuated by a moment of semi-panic as the team crosses some "overflow."


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Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Yukon -- Part 3

Trying to give you some sense of how long the Team's run down the Yukon river was, I thought it might help to post one more video from it.

It is sunset again, and Aliy's Red Team is cruising along. She provides her usual excellent narration of the scene, the terrain and what's going on with the dogs, then prefaces their arrival in Kaltag and subsequent runs to the coast.

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Yukon -- Part 2

As we continue down the Yukon, Aliy and the dogs have mushed through the night, chewing up the miles on what must seem like as an endless highway.

This video begins with sunrise and the boost of energy that it always brings after a long, cold, dark night. As the monotonous day of river running continues, almost anything "unusual" is a welcomed diversion, and something "really unusual" gives everyone on the team -- human and canine -- a treat!

Iditarod 2010: Tuesday Morning

Aliy and the Red Team have just passed through Golovin on their way to White Mountain. Bridgett and I have spent a lot of time analyzing the GPS data and speculating about Aliy's run/rest schedule over the past 24 hours. We have no "real" info, of course, but it looks like she has broken up the distances between checkpoints into shorter runs with camping rests in between. She has probably done this to "adjust the trail" to suit her dogs as they approach the finish.

Meanwhile, Allen and the Black Team are in Shaktoolik, taking a rest before crossing the Norton Sound. All we can tell from the GPS and leader board is that they have been moving well and are still very much on their original race plan. He and his mostly-young dogs are doing a super job and we look forward to hearing all the stories of their experiences!

While we await the arrival of our fantastic SP Kennel teams, I'll put together some more of Aliy's great footage from the trail and post it as fast as the internet here will let me... Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Yukon -- Part 1

We pick up the action after the Team has rested in Ruby. They are heading down the mighty Yukon River, into the sunset, and obviously quite happy about it. Just before darkness fully sets in, they encounter a hazard which creates some apprehension in the movement of the dogs and in the voice of the musher.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Trail Into Ruby

Even more than our "usual" videos, this one is a real "story within a story." It starts with the exhaustion -- almost delirium -- in Aliy's voice as she narrates the Team's approach to Ruby. The story builds to a thrilling -- almost frightening! -- climax as the team "turns into town" then resolves with a successful arrival. I may be exaggerating a bit, but if I am I doubt you'll think I'm doing it by very much.

One thing to keep in mind as you view this and future "Aliy Cam" videos: A tree wiped out the camera's sled mount, so Aliy has to shoot everything "hand held" from here on. When you've finished watching this video, you'll have even more appreciation -- perhaps even awe -- for Aliy's one-handed mushing skills!


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Iditarod 2010: Video Viewing Tips

You may not know that YouTube does a "progressive" streaming of video. This means that as soon as I've uploaded a video, it is available in a "lo-res" version. After a few minutes, YouTube re-renders it in a higher quality version that is a lot closer to what I've uploaded.

Also, "Aliy Cam" videos are all "wide-screen" which makes them "smaller" in the limited width of the Dog Log's format. If you click to view them on YouTube directly, you will see a significantly larger format AND have the option to view it in what they call "480p" which is as good as you're going to get.

So… I'm not suggesting -- or deluding myself! -- that you "wait" to view these videos, but you might want to return to them after a while and watch the better/bigger versions… Okay?

Iditarod 2010: "Aliy Cam" On The Trail From Ophir To Cripple

As you know, my "plan" to receive the first chip from Aliy's camera while I was in Fairbanks went the way of most plans around here. It may either still be "in the mail" or already waiting for me when I get back. Oh well...

The good news is that Bridgett brought the second camera chip back from her visit with Aliy in Unalakleet. Although this means you will have to deal with seeing the footage out of overall sequence, I'm pretty sure you'd prefer to see it as soon as possible than wait until I can put it all in order!

In this first video "live" from the Iditarod Trail, Aliy is between Ophir and Cripple:

Iditarod 2010: Greetings From Nome

I've been out for a brief foray/recon here in Nome and wanted to share a few sights with you. First, of course, the famous burled arch has been erected and awaits the mushers:



Next, a sign of free enterprise in this amazing little city:



Last, but certainly not least, my favorite sign in front of the Nome Department of Redundancy Department:



If the internet holds together up here, I might have a real treat for you later this afternoon!... Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: Monday Morning Recap

I'm still a little groggy, but I'll try to give you a decent recap...

First, there are some really great shots of Aliy over on ADN.com including this one of the Red Team approaching Unalakleet:



When Bridgett saw her in Unk, Aliy and the dogs looked strong and focused. They are all eating and resting well, when they get the chance. Aliy told Bridgett that a couple of the younger dogs were showing small signs of mental fatigue, "They've given me a few looks like 'Does this ever end?' So, I'm keeping my strategy very flexible and basing it on how the team looks from checkpoint to checkpoint."

Aliy was upbeat leaving Unk. The dogs got right up when she asked them to and she was headed toward her favorite part of the Iditarod Trail, very happy to be doing it at sunset when it would be especially nice. Aliy is now out of Shaktoolik and on her way across the frozen sound to Koyuk.

She dropped a fifth (unknown) dog in Shak who will either be flown back to Anchorage or on up here to Nome, depending on which way a plane with available space is going. Please note that none of the dogs I talked about here in Nome are dropped dogs from Iditarod. They are all "spares" brought up from the Kennel for the Natural Extremes mushing trips over the next month.

Meanwhile, Allen's Black Team is cruising, out of Kaltag and on their way to Unk. Bridgett had hoped to see him there, but she has had to leave and will miss him. Don't be surprised if he stops along the way to rest. It's a long run and there are some nice cabins and camping spots along the way.

That's all I've got for now… I'm going to have some coffee and see if it does any good… Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Late Sunday Night

Stormy, JJ and I made it to Nome! We had to go by way of Anchorage and Kotzebue, of course, but we made it. The dogs are now out back of Bridgett's house, catching up with Hank, Lester, Kipper and Scout who came up with her on previous trips. Tig, Girlfriend and Rembo are all here as well, so it's quite a dog reunion!

I've got just enough energy left to copy/past an email I got from Bridgett in Unk after her visit with Aliy, along with a few photos that she and Scotty somehow got the internet there to send. I've read and posted your comments, thanks for all the links. I'll try to catch up tomorrow morning.

Now, Bridgett's message:

Pics at Unk: Cha, Bullet, Tony and Rose resting behind straw. Wind was fierce!!!!! Next Meg and Dingle. Aliy booting before she left. Last my favorite.... TRULY dogs first! She skipped her own rest at Ruby and used the time to sew her own extra socks to make leggings to keep ice balls off the dogs underside of their wrists! The ice acculates, freezes to hair, and then pulls hair off leaving an exposed "chicken leg" area. This has been a universal problem for all mushers due to the weather this year. She improvised and made it work. Great idea from Dan Kaduce now being used by lots of mushers!




Iditarod 2010: Email From Bridgett In Unalakleet

Hey! Still in Unk!... Not much to say yet...

It's a beautiful clear sunny day, temp -30 with a light wind.  We went out to see Lance come in last night.  He looked strong and so did his dogs.  Jeff and Hugh are determined, so time will tell.  We (Scotty and I) are super excited to see Aliy here sooooooon!  We are staying the night again here in Unk so we can see her in and out.  We will be back in Nome tomorrow by noon.  All the mushers thus far look happy and healthy.  We might get even get to see dad come in!  There is a great coffee shop and the hospitality has been amazing while we have been here.  Sure wish you were all with us!

Iditarod 2010: Sunday Morning Update

I'm sorry to report that I have nothing to report...

Aliy is cruising her way toward Unalakleet where Bridgett is waiting for her. Allen is on the Yukon approaching Nulato. So, everything looks good and the race is really starting to get exciting!

I am headed to the airport for my flights to Nome, so I will be off-line for the rest of the day. I hope to get something to report when I get there... Hopefully an update from Bridgett in UNK!

You may recall that Aliy has her "new" video camera out on the Trail. Our "plan" to send footage back to me here in Fairbanks has not worked out. Aliy did say she sent a chip, but it did not catch up to me here. It will probably be sitting in the Post Office tomorrow!

Our "back up plan" is for Bridgett to grab whatever Aliy has in UNK and bring it to me in Nome. So, I'm still hopeful that we will be able to share something with you before the race is over. We will certainly post tons of it after the race to help with what I think one of you called "Iditawithdrawal."

Go Teams!... Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Saturday Night

Well... We still don't have any "news"... But here's what I "see"...

Aliy made her run down the Yukon today with stops in Galena and Nulato, then blew through Kaltag with all 12 of her dogs. That tells me she is happy with her run and is pushing on toward the coast at Unalakleet. I can't say -- because I just don't know -- what her strategy is, but it looks to me like she's "making a move."

Meanwhile, Allen's Black Team is in Galena, making good time down the Yukon. This is the first time many of his 12 dogs have ever experienced anything like the seemingly endless trek down the river, and we can hope that his veterans -- Teddy, Petunia and Oddball -- are "schooling" the youngsters on how to "get after it"

It's obviously become an exciting race, with changes in the running order all through the top of the leader board. The "second third" of the race is coming to a close and we should really start to see who's got "the right stuff" as the teams pass through Unalakleet. I just got a text from Bridgett that she is there, waiting on the teams to arrive, so we can hope for an update sometime tomorrow morning.

I will be leaving the Kennel at about noon tomorrow to catch my flights to Nome. If all goes well, I will be able to post some kind of "news" before I go, then a follow-up when I get there late tomorrow night. It's "that time" in the Iditarod when all we can do is watch, wait, cheer and hope! Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: Saturday Morning

Sorry... No "inside" information to give you this morning...

Aliy is on the Yukon, approaching Nulato. Her times/speeds looked pretty good overnight.

Allen arrived in Ruby early this morning and will probably do his 8-hour mandatory rest there.

This is the part of the Iditarod where we have to just wait and hope for crumbs of info whenever we can get them...

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Allen Tells His Tale

Thanks to Steve V for the link to this video:

Iditarod 2010: Photos on ADN.com

Thanks to ADN.com for some really great Iditarod photo coverage including this one of Allen:

Iditarod 2010: Update From Aliy In Ruby

Bridgett just called and relayed the following from her phone call with Aliy in Ruby:

Dogs -- Nacho was dropped in Ophir. Quito and Spot were dropped in Cripple. All were due to "triceps" which is shorthand in the mushing world for "sore front legs." Considering how hard the trail has been, this is entirely "expectable" and the dogs can be very proud of how well then have done.

One current "standout" is Bullet, who Aliy has been using in lead to "pull through" checkpoints when dogs typically want to take a break. You know how we feel about Bullet the wonder dog, and this is an example of how she will do absolutely anything Aliy asks of her… Including run past what must look like very comfy piles of straw in checkpoints!

Cha is still "the boss" out there and looking great. Her co-leader Bullet is a "specialist" who helps her out from time to time. All of the other dogs are in good shape, eating and sleeping well as they should and must. It was Aliy's goal to have "double digit dogs" heading out of Ruby, so the team is in good shape according to plan.

Trail -- We know that the trail has been very hard and Aliy confirmed that it has been one of the hardest she's ever encountered. In the "good and bad" category, the temperatures have plummeted to as low as -50 degrees. That's "bad" because it makes camping out more difficult and uncomfortable. That's "good" because it is what our dogs (and mushers) are used to, and probably better acclimated to than many others.

The Teams are well equipped with jackets and blankets for the dogs. You can be sure that Aliy is passing out plenty of those snacks we cut up and sent out on the Trail, especially all those turkey skins the dogs love so much when it is cold. Aliy has plenty of great gear and added the "comfort" of her "bag dog" Homebrew in her sleeping bag last night.

Human -- Aliy is in great shape, eating and sleeping well whenever she has the chance. She has enjoyed being in the area of her old stomping grounds and is very happy to be heading down the Yukon. She is also looking forward to heading to the coast, one of her favorite runs anywhere in Alaska. According to Bridgett, Aliy is as focused, upbeat and positive as she has ever been.

Strategy -- Here's what I can tell you: The run down the Yukon is long, flat and boring, much like driving on an interstate highway. It also comes at a time when the dogs' initial energy has been used up. Now we will get to see the benefits of training, condition -- and above all -- the heart and soul of the dogs. To deal with this, different teams employ very different strategies, including fewer longer/slower runs or more shorter/faster runs.

These strategies will remain in place not only down the Yukon to Kaltag, but across to the coast in Unalakleet. For those of you who are watching the GPS and leader board, good luck trying to figure it out!

Iditarod 2010: Team Photos

The density of text on this page now offends my sense of aesthetic design, so I'm posting a couple of photos to add some color. Plus, of course, it's about time I gave you some "team photos"!

The human team with Allen and Aliy:

(Left to right: Dave, Leslie, Ray, Kaz, Bridgett and Doug)

Part of the dog team with their "game faces" on:

(Brothers Ranger and Beemer in front with Olivia and KitKat behind)

Iditarod 2010: Allen Interviews On KNOM

Here are a couple of fantastic interviews with Allen in Takotna from KNOM's coverage of the race.

Again, I've embedded them here for your convenience, but I strongly encourage you to (click here) and check out all their coverage. KNOM's Laureli brings you news from the mushers themselves, and it doesn't get any better than that!

First, Allen talks about his Iditarod so far, and a about SP Kennel:


Here is Allen's story about "wrangling" the loose team:


This is really great stuff and we hope they will bring us more from our SP Kennel mushers! Thank you KNOM!

Iditarod 2010: Friday Morning

Good morning!

I don't "know" anything more than you do from watching the GPS and leader board. What it looks like to me is that Aliy left Takotna after her "24" and blew through Ophir, stopping only 7 minutes to drop an (unknown) dog. Then, it looks like she "camped" on the trail -- something we've explained she like to do -- and blew through Cripple, stopping only long enough to drop two (unknown) dogs and get supplies out of her drop bags. She probably rested on the trail again, and now the GPS shows her on the move with only 10 miles to go until she reaches Ruby.

For those of you who are trying to "figure it all out" on your own, I suggest you watch three things at the same time: the leader board, the GPS and the trail map. This last pice of the puzzle -- the map -- will help you see that, for example, the run from Takotna to Ophir is too short to warrant a rest in Ophir, and then it's too far to run straight through to Cripple. Camping on the trail before Cripple makes the run into Cripple too short for a rest, but again way too long to run straight through to Ruby. This is why she probably camped on the trail to Ruby, and will have a good run there before stopping at that checkpoint.

In other words, the dogs have been trained and conditioned for certain run/rest lengths. These do not coincide very well with the placement of checkpoints on the remote sections of the Trail, so Aliy has to "camp out" -- i.e. make her own "mini-checkpoints" -- along the way. Just because she is stopped on the trail does not mean she has a problem. Okay?

Frankly, the leader board is -- in my opinion -- the least useful data source. It's sort of an "arbitrary" snapshot that does a poor job of accounting for run/rest status, and it is delayed in updating which adds to the confusion. In the case of Allen and the Black Team, for example, the leader board shows him only out of Takotna and not yet into Ophir. The GPS has him already into Cripple. To me, that simply means the leader board is out of date... by quite a bit.

Bottom line: Aliy is solidly and consistently in "the front group" and running very well. Allen is at the "halfway mark" and moving well. I don't see anything that worries me. Enjoy the "drama" but don't take any one piece of data to seriously... Capice?

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Thursday Recap

After loading up and leaving Anchorage early this morning, I drove to the home of Ken and Amy Wheaton -- who pick up our dropped dogs whenever they are flown back to Anchorage -- in Wasilla, and got a couple of dog crates out of "Big Red" which is parked in their driveway. From there I drove to the home of Margie Bauman -- who very kindly allows our dropped dogs to stay at her kennel until they can be retrieved -- in Knik, where I picked up Olivia and Snickers. As you can see, there is even more to "Iditarod logistics" than we've already told you about!

It was 11 o'clock by the time that mission was complete, and the three of us headed north. The drive wasn't too bad until we approached Cantwell and encountered a ground blizzard -- white-out conditions with really high winds -- that lasted for almost 100 miles. After that it was smooth sailing all the way to the Kennel where Olivia and Snickers are now happily home and telling all their pack mates about their Iditarod adventures.

It was actually a good day for me to be off-line, because we have no new information from the Trail. Aliy left Takotna on time after her "24" and has already cleared Cripple. She is clearly moving well, despite dropping a second (unknown) dog in Ophir. Allen also left Takotna in good order with his 13 dogs and is well on his way to Cripple. We do not expect to hear from them until tomorrow at the earliest, so we will all have to be patient!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Wednesday Night Wrap-Up

Both SP Kennel Teams are in Takotna, taking their mandatory 24-hour rests. According to the GPS, the teams are parked only a few yards from each other, so perhaps the dogs are swapping stories of the Trail.

Bridgett received a call this afternoon from Aliy and relayed the following to me:

Aliy is in really good shape, as focused and positive as she has ever been. The dogs are in good shape too, with just a few minor "dings" from running across the rough trail. Aliy is giving them lots of rub downs and thinks this 24-hour rest will be good for all of them.

Standouts on her team include Biscuit and Tatfish who are, according to Aliy, "just insane!" Eating everything in sight, jumping up from every rest and ready to roll. She also repeated that ChaCha is still totally on her game, still barking and definitely "the boss." One more superstar is Nutmeg who is "the best she's ever been." So, it all sounds good for the Red Team!

Allen had just arrived when Aliy called, so all she could report about the Black Team was that Spicy and Moonpie were the other two dogs dropped after Olivia. We don't have any information about why, but it's a good bet the rough trail was to blame for typical "front end" soreness.

Since Aliy's Red Team arrived in Takotna at about 2am this morning, they will leave shortly after 2am. Allen's Black Team arrived a little before 2pm this afternoon, so they will leave about the same time tomorrow.

I will be on the road early in the morning and off-line all day as I gather up as many dropped dogs as I can and drive back up to Fairbanks. I'll hope to receive some intel along the way and try to post an update tomorrow night.

Go Teams!

Iditarod 2010: City Moose

You never know what you might see up here in Alaska, even downtown in the city of Anchorage. Repeat with me, "That's a big moose."

Iditarod 2010: Allen's Good Deed Of The Day

Here's an audio post from Bridgett describing a story she heard from Aliy about one of Allen's experiences on the trail. I'll compile my notes about other info Bridgett got from Aliy during her phone call from Takotna and post them soon. Meanwhile, here's a little glimpse of the kind of unusual things mushers can face -- and find themselves doing -- out on the Iditarod Trail:


If you are having trouble with the embedded mp3 player, you can click here to access the mp3 file directly and play it however your computer normally handles mp3 files.

Iditarod 2010: Aliy Interviewed In Nikolai

There's a great interview with Aliy in Nikolai on KNOM. For your convenience I've "embedded" it here, but I recommend you check out their coverage.

Iditarod 2010: Virtual IditaRider

I've got an hour and forty-five minutes of video from Aliy's on-board camera during the Ceremonial Start on Saturday. There's some good, interesting footage all throughout it, but it's way too long for this format. Plus, I don't imagine you want to sit through a "feature film" length movie!

So, I've cut it down to give you the last 30 seconds before her actual start and then the first four minutes of the run down 4th Avenue and around "the corner." I think you'll find it's enough to give you an "up close and personal" experience of what it's like to start the Iditarod, and to give you a good sense of the ceremonial run.


Note: If any of you seriously want to watch the whole video, let me know in the comments and I will try to render it out and stream it from somewhere on my server. I'll be happy to give it a try if you really want it, but please only ask if you are serious about it... Thanks!

Iditarod 2010: Wednesday Morning Update

Aliy's Red Team is in Takotna where they will almost certainly take their mandatory 24-hour rest. We hope to hear from her sometime during the day and I will relay any information I get.

Allen's Black Team is on the trail between McGrath and Takotna, so the teams will be there together again this year. Allen dropped another dog in Nikolai, but we have no word yet about who or why.

Keep in mind that the "standings" will be very confusing for a while as teams take their long mandatory rests. Some teams will seem to "surge ahead" while others will appear to be "stuck" in place. This will all sort out over the next day or so, then we'll have a better idea of what's what.

I'm going to spend one more day here in Anchorage, partly because the weather is still not very good for my drive north, but mostly because I'm hoping the rest of our dropped dogs will be flown back here today and I can gather them all up and return them to the Kennel with me. That's my "plan" at least! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Tuesday Night Wrap-Up

The Red Team is clearly on a roll. After a six hour rest in Nikolai, they made another great run to McGrath and continued on to Takotna. This is all exactly according to their race plan, and the Team remains in solid position.

The Black Team also appears to be on a tear, setting a blistering pace from Rainy Pass to Rohn, then continuing -- at least according to the GPS -- to and through Nikolai.

There seem to be some problems with a few of the GPS trackers, and some missing updates to the current standings. I don't have any additional "inside" information at this time, but we hope to hear something from the Teams in Takotna tomorrow.

So, let's hope things sort out a bit over night and follow along in the morning!

Iditarod 2010: Max's Midnight Mission

Earlier today, I promised to post a video from before the ceremonial start of something that you've probably never seen. This is it, but it needs just a little set-up.

My young friend Max -- my best friend's oldest son -- flew up from Atlanta and was a big help to the Team all last week. He was especially valuable to me -- and to you! -- by putting his camera skills to use. For example, the still photos we posted of both starts are his, along with many great candid shots like the one here that I would not otherwise have gotten while shooting video.

He also went on a "midnight mission" last Friday night, to get this footage of how Anchorage goes through a major transformation from bare city streets to the snow covered trail you saw on Saturday morning.

So, thanks to Max, here's a little "insider" view we hope you like:

Iditarod 2010: Tuesday News From The Trail!

I just got off the phone with Bridgett, following a phone call she got from Aliy in Nikolai. Keeping in mind that we're racing and I can't tell you anything about strategy -- or anything that implies strategy -- in this public forum, here's the news from the trail:

Overall -- It was "a long, crazy ride from Rainy Pass to Rohn." The Farewell Burn had no snow in places, lots of hillocks and at least one "trail groomer" snow machine left for dead, upside down by the side of the trail. Extremely high winds the rest of the way into Rohn. Aliy hadn't planned to stop long in Rohn, but the wind was so bad she decided to camp amid some trees so the dogs could have a break. These conditions continued the entire run from Rohn to Nikolai. It was so bad that for most of the way she could not see her lead dogs despite wearing goggles. She will stay in Nikolai "for a while" then head on to McGrath.

Dogs -- Aliy dropped Snickers in Rohn. He suddenly stopped pulling as they approached Rohn, so she checked him out and believes he has hurt a toe on the rough ground. He was okay to run with the team -- though not pulling -- so she had him in wheel where she could keep a close watch on him until dropping him in Rohn. All the other dogs are in good shape, though she is paying attention to the usual "wrists and shoulders" every chance she gets. Their feet are good and they are all eating well, including "picky" Nacho and Quito.

Leadership -- ChaCha is totally in her groove. Aliy said, "It's Cha's race to win or lose. I can hardly see her most of the time, so she is definitely 'the boss' out there for us." One story is that while crossing a glacier, Cha hesitated about which fork in the trail to take. Aliy gently stopped the team and went up to help figure it out. While doing so, another team came up from behind, took the "wrong" turn and ended up sliding all the way down the glacier to face climbing it all over again. Aliy and Cha looked at each other, looked at the other fork and agreed that was the way to go. Does anyone still wonder why we love and trust our dogs?

Aliy -- She's eating! That may not sound like a big deal to those of you who are new to our website, but it is. Aliy is eating well and resting well. She is, according to Bridgett, "totally focused on the race and really on her game." You can see a glimpse of this in a recent (click here) Iditarod video.

So, it sounds like it's a helluva race so far. Aliy is right where she wants to be in the "top group" and headed down the trail with an almost full team of great dogs… Stay tuned!

Iditarod 2010: Happy's Ceremonial Start

I've finally had a few minutes to check out the Iditarod discussion forums and saw some of the dialogue about "Happy The Sled Dog."

My apologies for leaving you all in such suspense for so long. There's a lot to Happy's story this year, and I will try to give you a full account soon. For now, let me just say that I was as surprised as you were that she ran the Ceremonial Start on the Red Team. Truth is, I actually didn't know she had run until after it happened and I saw her in the video!

Speaking of which... Many of you commented about trying to see her, and I want to try to help you out. So, I've taken a piece of the footage, slowed it down and zoomed in on Happy. I hope you will enjoy viewing her starting line antics in this more recognizable format. I think you will also see that she is favoring her left front leg, which explains pretty much everything.

Just for fun, I've replaced the now-garbled audio track with a little tune called "Look At All The Pretty Lights" by my friend Jeff Tolbert... It just seems fitting for our Happy girl!



Again, I will try to give you "the rest of the story" about Happy soon... Please bear with me, I'm doing the best I can!

Iditarod 2010: Tuesday Morning Update

Aliy is out of Rohn and on her way to Nikolai with 15 dogs of the Red Team. I do not know which dog she dropped in Rohn. According to a text message I just received from Bridgett, Aliy is ahead of her "race plan" and doing very well.

Allen's Black Team is also out of Rohn and -- again according to Bridgett -- is right on his plan. He has dropped two dogs, only one of which I know to be Olivia who has a sore shoulder.

I am still in Anchorage after a day/night of snow, and now plan to drive back to Fairbanks tomorrow. I will try to pick up Olivia -- plus any of the other dropped dogs who have made their way back here by tomorrow morning -- and drive them back to the Kennel with me.

Later today I plan to edit and post some video from before the start that I think you will find interesting. Almost certainly something you haven't seen before… Stay tuned!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Final Black Team Roster




Thus, the substitutions are as follows:

Oddball is in for Nacho who moved up to the Red Team. This is a pretty even trade of power/speed, and adds experience to the team. Honda is in for his sister Malibu whose early-season wrist issues flared up again last week. Honda is bigger and stronger than Malibu, but does not have her leadership potential.

Roy is in for Happy who showed signs of minor soreness at the end of the last long training run. Although Happy is a late-scratch due to the Kennel's "100% fit and healthy" requirement for running the Iditarod, our "Happy Girl" was allowed to join the Red Team for the short ceremonial start run. According to Aliy, "We can't let her run the Iditarod, but we wanted to at least let her run in front of all her fans in the ceremonial start!"

I'm sure many of you are as disappointed as I am that we won't see Happy in Nome again this year. Happy doesn't know unhappiness, of course, but I plan to pretend she does and keep her as my "pet dog" for a few days when I get back to the Kennel!

Iditarod 2010: Final Red Team Roster




Thus, the only change between this roster and the one shown in last week's Howler is the substitution of Nacho for JJ, a dog who is normally so totally steady and reliable that it was very surprising he showed signs of minor soreness in the last training run before leaving the Kennel. As always, it is part of SP Kennel's "Dog First" policy not to start any dog on the Iditarod who is not 100% fit and healthy.

Although not having JJ means that Aly is "down" one lead dog, she has plenty of leadership depth on the team. She chose to take Nacho because his size, strength and fast-trotting pace will be great assets to her team. Congratulations to Nacho for making the Red Team!

(Note: The Black Team's final roster changes are a bit more complicated, but I will sort them out and post it ASAP... Stay tuned!)