Saturday, January 31, 2015

Verizon Meet and Greet

The Verizon meet and greet was a great success with many people coming in to store to check out what Verizon has to offer here in Alaska and also meet with Aliy, Allen, Beemer and Viper!

There were some great prizes given away including a Go-Pro, a summer SP Kennel tour and some Yukon Quest finish banquet tickets!

Verizon had also produced a huge banner for everyone to write their best wishes to the teams.

Did you come along to say 'Hi'? Let us know in the comments below.

Viper and Beemer take a break from their media duties; Aliy and Allen with Viper and Beemer

Allen is interviewed by Tim Palmer from KIAK FM who will be giving on-air updates during the Quest; Jared from the Verizon store signing the "Good Luck" banner

An Anchorage store visit is scheduled for February 28th from 12-3pm.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Verizon Meet and Greet This Saturday

We're excited that Verizon has joined the SP Kennel team!

Will you be in the Fairbanks area on Saturday? If so, drop into the Verizon store on 427 Merhar Avenue between 12noon and 2pm to meet Aliy and Allen.

We'll have Beemer and Viper in store so come along and meet them as well. You might win some cool prizes and you can guarantee it will be lots of fun - see you there!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cold Snap!

This last week has seen an interesting weather combination in Two Rivers.

On Friday we got about 11 inches of fresh snow which was very exciting. It turns out it was fairly localised because as Aliy and Spencer were in the White Mountains they hardly had any but the kennel received a fair dumping! We're happy with some fresh snow on the trails and it always freshens up the yard with new white coat.

The recent snow on an unused dog house; the temperature in the "heat of the day" today

Then, the bottom dropped out of the thermometer and we've had temperatures of 40-50 below for the last few days!

That means: dogs in the dog barn! Even with husky coats, straw beds and big, warm meals the dogs use up a lot of energy keeping warm at this temperature.

Our dog barn can house up to 36 dogs and they have private, roomy, indoor, straw filled areas to sleep in. They can push through a swing door and they have an outside pen where they can do their "business" and stretch their legs.

Some of the dogs are sharing the pens (as they are big enough to house two dogs): Outlaw and Lester's bromance is blossoming. They live next to each other in the yard and play often so it is very sweet to see them curl up together in the dog barn; co-existing peacefully. Mac and Sissy are sharing also - they live next door to each other in the yard. They shared the "Safety experience" side-by-side during the Iditarod last year so they have developed a happy bond. Queen Quito of Two Rivers, on the other hand, has her own pen!

We asked the dogs what they think of their indoor digs this morning…

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

YQ: Vet Checks

As Allen is a veteran racer in the Yukon Quest, he is able to have vet checks completed at the kennel with a Yukon Quest approved veterinarian. Dr Tamara Rose, who is also a kennel sponsor, came to the kennel on Tuesday evening to check out 17 possible Quest 1000 dogs.

The thorough vet check includes weight, temperature, heart and respiration rates as well as musculoskeletal checks, body condition (using the regular body condition scale your own vet uses) and oral, eye and ear checks etc. All 17 passed the check and are fit and healthy to be chosen for the team.

Thanks TRose!

Dr T Rose checks Chica while Olivia and Willie wait their turn. Felix is in the weigh pen.

The Quest 300 vet checks will be done on the Friday before the race in Whitehorse by the Quest vet team and other volunteer helpers.

Further information about vet checks can be found on the Yukon Quest website in the rules document.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spark Update

There's been a number of you asking after Spark - the only one of the yearling squad who hasn't got to race so far this season.

Spark is just fine!! Just before the first race he tripped and hurt his wrist a little so it was decided not to race him.

Up until that point, and now that he is recovered, he is one of the strongest in the yearling class.

Catch up with him in this quick video. Note: Chena and Violet had a LOT to say while Aliy was speaking so you may have some trouble hearing…

Spencer's team in this video was Spark and Chena in lead, Lydia and Champ in swing, Cayenne and Pepe, Coal and Daisy with Amber and Wedgy in wheel.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

YQ: Drop Bag Drop

Once we completed and tied up all the "drop bags" we took them all into Fairbanks where the hardworking Yukon Quest volunteers helped Spencer unload them, laid them out checkpoint by checkpoint then tied colour coded tags on them to help quickly identify them.

At the same time the team over in Whitehorse were doing exactly the same thing!

Loading; the Quest volunteers sort them into checkpoint piles

They then start the job of transporting the bags to each checkpoint. The logistics involved with this is huge, they must get the right bags to the right checkpoint ready for the mushers to arrive. With 26 mushers in the YQ1000 and 25 in the YQ300, each with anywhere from six bags (for the YQ300) to perhaps 45-50 you can do the math!

Thank you to all the volunteers in Fairbanks and Whitehorse! Thanks also to Tami, Mykena and Madison for helping tie and load them all at the kennel.

Here's a link to the Fairbanks Newsminer story about the Drop Bags.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

White Mountains Trip

Yesterday, Aliy and Spencer took most of the Quest/YQ300 potentials out to the White Mountains for a change of scene. Aliy took the Spot tracker with her and we thought you'd be interested in their route.

The tracker route is showing only their homeward journey; point #13 is from the trail head where they started, then count backwards to #1 and you will see the route they followed. They turned around at #1 and went back the way they came. (Tracks 19-25 show their journey home in the truck.)

The White Mountains Recreational Area is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and has one-million acres of land. It takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to drive to the trail head from the kennel. Aliy said their run was great! There was no one else about on that trail, and it was peaceful and beautiful. Everyone had a good run, up and down the hills and it was fantastic preparation for the upcoming Quest.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sissy Wins Fan Club Draw #9

Congratulations to Becky Pacas from California who has won this week's Fan Club Draw.

Becky is a fan of many of our dogs - on this occasion SISSY wins!

Sissy really came into her own during the 2014 Iditarod and was running next to Mac during the storm at Safety.

She is now a seasoned racer and expected run in the Yukon Quest or YQ300 and the Iditarod this year.

Becky wins a signed "Two Rivers" drop bag of Allen's along with a few other goodies.

Thanks to all our Dog Fan Club members! The next Dog Fan Club winner will be announced on February 6th and everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw to win. The prize will be Yukon Quest themed as we will all be in Whitehorse ready for the start of the race. Note: those of you who have already won but are fan club members of multiple dogs are still in the draw for the dogs you have not won with.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

YQ: Drop Bags

Apart from getting the dogs and humans in shape, one of the next most important tasks in preparation for any race is planning and packing the checkpoint drop bags. These are the bags that go ahead of the mushers to the checkpoints with all their resupply stocks.

Preparation can take days, even weeks, as hundreds of pounds of meat must be cut, kibble bagged, dog and human clothing and equipment packed, human food cooked... Planning for the bags hinges on the musher's race plan; plus contingency for Plan B, C and D. This is also on top of what the musher carries with them in the sled.

The dog equipment we pack includes booties, jackets, fleece blankets, spare harnesses and leggings etc. Their food includes team meal sized bags of Eagle Pack Kibble; and meat such as poultry skins, beef, salmon and other tasty goodies they will eat as snacks or will get added to their meals. Packs of vet supplies (wraps, Algyval, foot salve) are also packed ready if needed (the musher will usually carry this then use what is at the checkpoint to resupply if needed).

Meghan bags poultry skins; some of the equipment that goes into the bags

In terms of human food, Aliy and Allen pack freeze-dried meals, home-made oatmeal/banana bars, bacon (pounds and pounds of bacon!), nuts, protein snacks and other bits and pieces. Their equipment and clothing includes dry gloves and socks, and chemical foot and hand warmers; runner plastics for the sled and tools in case of equipment failure.

Each bag must be labelled and weighed - they must be under 40lb each - and an itemised list created.

Huge thanks to Mykena, Madison and Tami Earle for bagging literally hundreds of bags of Eagle Pack kibble ready to go out on both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod trails!

Today we are working on the Yukon Quest drop bags and then we need to start on the Iditarod bags as they are due while the team is on the Quest trail. It's certainly "all hands on deck" and thanks to everyone involved!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

CB300: Black and Red Team Journeys

Hope you enjoy these two videos following the Black and Red Teams through the Copper Basin 300.

Black Team

Red Team

Saturday, January 17, 2015

CB300: Red & Black Team Wrap-Up

Spencer tells us about his Red & Black team:

Lester - Not a super fast dog, but he’s a solid and efficient command leader with experience that made him a great “puppy team” leader. I knew that I could trust him to get the job done and I rarely took him out of lead. He’s self-contained, but very affectionate.

Viper - Another that spent much of the race in lead. His confidence in lead around other teams and obstacles in the trail was a great example for younger dogs and he did a great job of tolerating Commando. Older dogs have to show a lot of composure when they get stuck training the next generation. I think Viper actually enjoyed running with Commando.

Beemer - Anybody who knows Aliy Zirkle knows Beemer. He’s an honest, smart, sensitive dog who was another go-to leader and great example to run different yearlings with.

Commando - If it weren’t for the three above, I could easily say that Commando was the MVP on this team. Commando does everything that I ask him to and likes it. He’s the yearling that I am tightest with and he is always seeking to please me. I was so happy to have him on this race. He spent 300 miles in swing or in lead with Viper. Any time that I wanted to speed the team through some hills or perk them up on a boring stretch of trail, I put Commando up front. He is an enthusiastic, up-beat natural lead dog with an infectious attitude.

Torch - A yearling who had an exceptional attitude. He always wanted to go and even in the middle of the race was barking while charging up the hills and keeping everyone excited and in good spirits. He ate everything that I put in front of him, and was always the first to rise from the straw and show he’s readiness to hit the trail.

Chena - Right there with Torch most of the race. The two of them learned quickly the routine of running, eating, sleeping. Chena is a slightly picky eater, and was burning calories faster than she was taking them in, which made her tire a few miles before her teammates. She hitched a ride in the sled with me for the last 20 miles. I figured this would happen at some point along the race, but wanted to see how far I could get her. She did a phenomenal job. I particularly enjoy her personality - calm, confident, sassy little girl. Chena and Torch were always the ones who got the team howling before we hit the trail.

Puppet - I really enjoyed having her with us. She is a no-nonsense, honest dog who does her thing and doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand.. er.. paw.. whatever. She isn’t a super hard-driving dog on the flats, but when we came to any kind of hill, Puppet did her darnedest to haul the sled up by herself.

Tinder - It seems to me that he always works too hard. Early on in the race, I remember thinking.. Man, if he doesn’t chill out, he’ll never make the whole way. Then by the middle of the race, …Man, how is he still charging like that? Finally by the end, he started to get tired. About the last 30 miles or so, I was telling him what a good dog he was and making sure he and the team knew how happy I was with what they’d done. He needed a little help at the end, but that was a great learning experience for him - a taste of how to throttle back and just travel when you are genuinely tired. Lessons like that are exactly why you put young dogs in races. Get as many to the finish line as possible and have a positive experience. Tinder got it.

Nomex (right) - This guy is like the punk little brother that I never had. He’s always in a peeing contest with someone (sometimes me), and won’t turn the other cheek if someone shoots him a look. By the same token, he desperately wants my approval and to show what he can do. As a sled dog, this makes him extremely drivable. He worked through some mental stuff early on and came through to finish strong. He was one of the dogs who really held the team together at the end. I was very impressed with his performance - he’s got a bright future.

Driver (right) - This guy is a lumbering, lovable goof. He didn’t sleep the first night because he was so interesting in what was going on in the checkpoint. Which meant that he hit the straw as soon as I put it out on our next camp. He’s slightly slower because he doesn’t lope. But if you’re traveling at a comfortable speed for him, he’s a very hard-working dog. You can specifically feel him pulling on the towline. Another dog who held it together at the end. Also, he eats like a maniac.

Violet - Did an awesome job all the way to Sourdough. There was some rough, uneven trail going into that checkpoint and when we got there, she was a bit sore. I wrapped her wrist and massaged her shoulder as soon as we stopped to camp, then walked her around after her rest to see if I thought she should go on. The next checkpoint at Mendeltna Lodge wasn’t for another 85 miles and I knew that I’d be carrying her at some point if I kept her in the team. She’d had a great performance to that point, so I figured it was best to drop her and not risk anything.

Sandy - She’s what some mushers call an “invisible dog”. That is, a dog who puts their head down, keeps their line tight and generally, does everything right. She’s a Biscuit pup which I’ve come to realize, means among other things, that she has a GREAT appetite. Another solid dog who very much helped get us to the finish line.

One of the best parts of this race was getting to know the dogs. When they realize that you’re not running back to the truck or the kennel, they come to depend on you, just as you do them. You all fall into a rhythm as a team. That’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of and really, the essence of dog mushing. I had the pleasure of seeing them begin to realize their potential and they gained confidence from getting to know me all the better.

This was a total success and I’m excited to who takes it to the next level this season.

Thanks to the handler team of Mark and Joanna, supported by Ray and Moira.

Bonus CB300 Dog Fan Club Draw

To celebrate the Black Team's fantastic win in the Copper Basin 300 we did a bonus draw for all the Fan Club members that are fans each individual Black Team member. Congratulations to Teresa Clark from California who is a fan of Schmoe!

Teresa wins a Copper Basin 300 poster signed by Aliy and Allen along with a few other goodies.

Thanks to all our Dog Fan Club members! The next Dog Fan Club winner will be announced on January 23th and everyone who hasn't already won and all new members will be in the draw to win.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Honor

On Wednesday evening, Aliy learned she was one of four recipients for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame’s Directors’ Awards.

Aliy was awarded the Trajan Langdon Award for Leadership, Sportsmanship and Inspiration.

This award is for a person or group of people who have demonstrated leadership, integrity and sportsmanship during the past year in such a way as to positively influence and inspire others to be better sportsmen or sportswomen.

The citation reads: Nobody has made second-place look so good. Known for her trademark smile, this 45-year-old Iditarod musher is as gracious as she is good. She puts her dogs first, always praises the competition and never makes excuses. Zirkle showed tremendous character when she finished the 1,100-mile race in second for the third consecutive year. And she did it with a smile. After being caught in the eye of a brutal storm, Zirkle nearly chased down eventual winner Dallas Seavey, losing by a mere 2½ minutes in one of the most dramatic finishes in the race’s 40-year history.

Aliy said she is honored and humbled to receive the award and very grateful to the Hall of Fame for recognising her and her team in such a way.

Here is a link to the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer story.

Verizon Wireless - New Lead Sponsor

Verizon Wireless has come to Alaska!

And we are pleased to announce that they have become a new "Lead" sponsor for SP Kennel!

That's right - SP Kennel, Aliy and Allen are now partnering with Verizon in Alaska. Verizon was recently launched in the last Frontier and now provides 4G LTE coverage to Fairbanks, Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, Ketchikan, Juneau, Copper River Valley, and much of Prince William Sound.
During Phase 2, Verizon is looking to expand into other areas of the state.

Aliy and Allen met with the Verizon team at SP Kennel in late December. Kennel visitors were: Chris Fitzgerald, District Manager of Verizon Alaska, Demian Voiles, Vice President of Verizon Alaska,‏ Ciji Clark, Business-to-Business Outreach for Verizon Alaska; Charles Fedullo, Director of Public Relations for Northwest Strategies and Amanda Combs, Northwest Strategies Account Supervisor.
(ABOVE RIGHT: Allen takes Chris for a sled ride with Quito and Junior in lead.)

Chris Fitzgerald and Demian Voiles sporting their 'Red Team' beanies with Aliy and Allen at the Kennel.

The following week Aliy and Allen met the entire Alaska Verizon Sales Team at their brand new store in Takatnu Commons in Anchorage. That was fabulous since the two teams will now be partnering for the rest of the season. As well, both mushers got some much needed and ~ up to date ~ education in communication technology from the very knowledgeable staff. Since both Aliy and Allen will be receiving brand new Smartphones (with super protective cases) this was very necessary. NOTE: Allen has promised not to drop his Smartphone in the Chena River (yes… that's a whole different story.)

Aliy and Allen will be at In-Store Events in the Fairbanks Verizon store on January 31st from 12-2pm and at the Anchorage store on February 28th from 12-3, so if you are in the area on those dates make sure you call in!

We are so excited that Verizon is now part of our SP Kennel team. (Right: Aliy signs the sponsorship contract while Skunk looks over her shoulder.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CB300: Red Team Wrap-Up

Aliy gave me a dog-by-dog wrap up of her Red Team. She was understandably delighted with her team's performance in finishing 6th.

The Red Team in Meiers Lake checkpoint

Waylon was Aliy's steadiest dog from start to finish. He had a good attitude the whole time and enjoyed himself. He seemed to be highly entertained with having Junior up there with him. He has no trepidation, no fear and since the 2014 Iditarod he knows he can do ANYTHING now! Amazing, considering he's a scrawny, 40lb hairless husky with antenna ears and huge smile.

Scruggs is slightly slower than Waylon but he was irreplaceable. He is smart, tough and dedicated.

Scruggs' sister Boondocks is a little firecracker! She was a little bit tired at Mendenltna and Aliy did a precautionary wrap wrist which helped her because after the two hour rest she was ready to go!

Chemo - Aliy could tell was hot-to-trot the entire race. He was her speed going up hills; he gets excited and was loping where the trail allowed. He came through in the end and wanted to be in lead for the final push.

Brothers Clyde and Outlaw (left) are ying and yang. They both bark going up hills and Outlaw barks when he wants to go.

Outlaw is definitely the less experienced of the two but received some great learning on this race.

Clyde is the more senior, he as two more 1000 mile races under his harness. They were her strength and power and are a really nice pair.

Father and son - Biscuit and Pepe ran in wheel for the whole race.

Biscuit is one of the toughest dogs Aliy has ever know in in her life. He doesn't know "easy". At 9 years old beat out his 3 year old son in performance. When you say "go" he will go - no questions. Aliy said she could say thousands of words about him.

Pepe tried his hardest and Aliy is very happy with him. He pulled a little too hard at the beginning but Pepe has never seen "hard" so he got a good education! He got to run with a rock star next to him and it was good for Pepe. He gets so excited a checkpoints, doesn't rest quite as well as he should but that will come with time. He was the wild card in the team but Aliy was pleased she took him with her.

Mac got stronger and stronger as the race went on. She put him into swing at Mendeltna and as soon as they hit the trail she was super happy with that decision. He knows what is expected and he always delivers. He was in no way tired and pulled the whole time. Mac is always a bit of a challenge to have on the team as he is so physically different to the rest. He needs two or three dishes of food rather than one and requires different care and attention but he sure is worth it!

Mismo (right) did great, no question. Aliy conservatively left him in Sourdough as there were a few moments when he was running where he was little off. He never didn't pull and had a great attitude but really wants him fit for the Quest and ID so made the conservative decision.

Junior and Dutch - Aliy was super excited to have them on her team, this was their first mid-distance race.

Dutch was another conservative drop in Meiers Lake as she wants him to be available for Quest and/or Iditarod.

Junior (left with Waylon) was a power house until she got tired and Aliy felt there was no sense in making her more tired by continuing on with the race. Both Junior and Dutch were not completely knowledgeable going into the race about how to sleep in checkpoints but they learned! By Sourdough they had down!

Aliy enjoys running the Copper Basin and finds it interesting how the route changes every year. It can be mentally challenging to add on extra trail when you know the bulk of route so well but that's what makes it exciting. The Copper Basin put on a good show and lots of mushers will be happy with the organisation, the trail and the weather!! It is an honest, challenging 300 mile race!

Thanks to the committee and volunteers for staging such a fine race and to the handler team of Ray, Moira, Mark, Joanna with support from Bridgett, Scotty, Mike and Elena! You guys rock!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CB300: Black Team Wrap-Up

As you can imagine, Allen is super happy with his team and their performance. I asked him to give his thoughts about each of his team mates.

Chica was the strongest dog in the team, she was Allen's MVP! He thought about putting her in lead many times but wanted to keep Kodiak there to give him an opportunity. She pulled hard from start to finish and she always takes her rest seriously. Anyone watching would think she doesn't want to go as she stays curled up resting until Allen calls "Ready?" then she leaps up and gets down to business. After Kodiak started to tire Chica took her position and brought the team home.

Chica and Quito curl up together at Meiers Lake checkpoint

Quito was the rockstar she has always has been. She was still loping at the end, especially once Chica was up there with her. They work so well together and even as the oldest dogs in the team at eight years old they shone! He said he knew going into the race that they weren't as fast as the young ones coming up but they are tough, knowledgeable and know how to win. That turned out to be hugely important in the last leg.

Scout was in lead until Sourdough. He's a great leader; he charged out from the start and was in lead for half the race. He started to get a sore wrist coming into Mendeltna and after some rest it started to swell so Scout got to do the final leg in the truck with us.

Kodiak (right) could be our new Quito and that is really saying something! He's just two years old and he was in lead, driving, for 270 miles until he got a little tired - which you would expect for a two year old. This was his first mid-distance race so he exceeded expectations and is going to be a rock star!

Izzy already is a rock star! She is fast, steady and you can tell she has really matured into an adult dog this year. She will be on the main team for a long time to come, all going according to plan.

Olivia is one of our best dogs and coming into Meiers Lake Allen knew there was something going on but could find nothing specific. He had vet check her out and they found a slightly sore wrist that he wrapped at the checkpoint (sometimes a precautionary wrap for a few hours can ease the soreness). Unfortunately soon after leaving Meiers Lake she stepped awkwardly and hurt her triceps so Allen carried her in the sled to avoid seriously injuring her. There are still a couple more important races this season that she needs to be fit for!

Schmoe-dog was one Allen's two cheerleading dogs. He's a veteran racer and is steady and strong. When they were going up the steepest hills he was barking his head off and getting all the other dogs excited. He was definitely an asset to the team.

Scooter ran next to Schmoe the whole time and was the other cheerleader. They feed off each others' excitement. If Allen stopped the team for even just 10 seconds to adjust something, she was 'going ape' to get going again. It was hard to control her in checkpoints because she always wanted to go - you can't beat enthusiasm!

Willie was very much a part of why the team had speed. He is always there, always steady and always willing to go. He's been on the main team for quite a few years. He has a good attitude, eats well and is happy ALL THE TIME.

Nelson is a young and upcoming and he has done no significant races before this one. He learned a LOT and was contributed a lot to the team until last checkpoint. We think he has a touch of ADD and it always shows, until the last 60 miles when he was overtaken by inexperience. This experience will put him in contention for the main team from now on.

As an aside, Allen gets a kick out of running Willie and Nelson together - "Come on Willie Nelson!"

Felix is his father's son! Biscuit has been on the main team forever but is now 9 years old so time to pass the baton. Allen even called him Biscuit numerous times because he looks, acts and runs just like him. Biscuit has been our best team dog throughout his 9 years and his son is following in his footsteps.

Sissy ran in wheel for the whole race. After finishing the tough Iditarod with Aliy last year you could tell it had benefitted her a lot in terms of hardiness and experience. She never got tired and was always loping. She was another reason for the team's speed.

Allen was asked prior to the race about the current snow conditions and he said that both he and Aliy are so skewed now due to 2014 Iditarod so "if there's white on the ground, we're good to go". There were parts of the trail that were groomed like a sprint trail then there was some as a mogully as a olympic downhill mogul course. There were short sections of sugary snow, such as leaving Meiers lake going up off the river, making it a slog but in the Copper Basin you expect wilderness trails so none of the trails were surprising. Jamey Kemp, the trail boss, and his team did a great job once again.

Allen wants to thank his super handler team of Ray and Moira backed up by Mark, Bridgett, Scotty and Joanna. As Eric Lutz, the Race Manager, said in his wrap up speech - it's not just the team with the best musher and dogs but a good team of handlers can make or break the race!

Thanks also to all the Copper Basic board and all the volunteers that worked tirelessly to put on an excellent race. There was over 100 people involved, giving up their own time to help. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CB300: Red and Black Team Update

When Mark said goodbye to the Spencer and team in Mendeltna he said that Spencer was wired and the team looked great. They were well rested and raring to get back on the trail.

We eagerly watched the tracker throughout the morning, each time altering our finish time estimation earlier and earlier. It was so exciting to see them loping down the finish chute.

(Above) The team comes down the finish chute with the Alaska Range behind; (Below) Spencer checks in while Chena gives her critique on her team mates

You'll see in the pic he was carrying Chena but it is nothing to be concerned about, she was a little tired and as they were going at such a pace on that last leg he popped her in the sled and she watched proceedings from there.

As a matter of course, the veterinarians always thoroughly check out a dog that comes in that way and they were happy she was well.

The vets are also always eyeballing and physically checking out dogs as they come into each checkpoint so you know they are on hand should there be any issues.

We gave the team a kibble and meaty water mix at the finish line (except Spencer, he didn't fancy that) and congratulated each one. As I bent over to give Nomex a kiss he licked me on the nose and gave me a look to say "did you see what I just did?". Commando started barking, telling everyone he is the bomb! Torch and Tinder decided they wanted their food off the ground rather than out of the dish as it tastes so much better that way. Chena wolfed down some moose snacks. Driver was still alert and eager for a hug whereas Sandy is the "no drama queen" and just took it all in her stride. Remember she is a Copper Basin veteran, having finished the race last year with Meghan. Lester, Beemer and Viper are as they always are: calm and satisfied at a job well done. Puppet seemed to enjoy being around the youngsters.

They're all having a sleep now while we sort out the bags and bags of "stuff". Of course everything that was brought down in the drop bags has to go back (except for the food consumed), but when it came down it was very nicely packed. When a team leaves its parking spot at a checkpoint, the handler crew rakes up the straw and throws all the gear back in the truck, but we don't have time to nicely pack it all back up so consequently everything is everywhere. We are going to sort that out now. Booties here, clothing there, dog jackets somewhere else...

The banquet and prize giving is later this evening back at Mendeltna then we hit the trail for home.

There is still a lot of reporting to come. I will have wrap-ups from each team as well as all the video to edit so keep watching for the next week or two as I get that up.

CB300: Red and Black Team Finish

We are so incredibly proud of Spencer, Viper, Lester, Commando, Beemer, Chena, Torch, Tinder, Puppet, Driver, Nomex, Sandy and Violet. They crossed the finish line in 34th position at 12.35 this afternoon.

When I asked Spencer what dog he wanted his finish photo to be with he chose Commando. Commando the yearling rockstar was in lead for various sections of the trail!

Will write a more detailed report later.

Monday, January 12, 2015

CB300: Finish Line Update

Woohoo! Wow, that was an exciting finish huh?

There's been some radio silence from us for a while as we tended to dogs and mushers but everyone from the Black Team and Red Team is now tucked up in bed with satisfied bellies, relieved muscles and plenty of time to rest.

I'll try to catch you up with what happened since the Red and Black teams arrived in Mendenltna.

Black Team - Allen was 8th into the checkpoint and was manoeuvred into a great parking spot near the exit trail by Bridgett and Ray. Once a musher is inside a checkpoint the handlers can help park the team, taking the leaders etc and helping get to their parking spots safely.

His final rest was two hours and it was meticulously planned and brilliantly executed. The checkpoint chores still need to get done (de-bootying, feeding, snacking, re-bootying, packing sled etc etc) but with a lot less time. He did even managed to enjoy the Mendeltna Creek Lodge hospitality and get a small sleep in that time. By small I mean SMALL - a few minutes but it is sleep non-the-less.

As you now know he left Scout with us here as he had a bit of a sore wrist but he is looking good now after a precautionary wrap and some massage. He will still get rest and recuperation once back at the kennel.

Allen is know for travelling light and on the final run of a race he will hurl out all surpurflous gear from his sled. The mandatory items still obviously are there which provide contingencies in case of the need to stop for a while. The other critical things included plenty of water and light calorific snacks for himself as he knew he would be working hard behind the sled - ski-poling for much of the way. He always carries food/snacks for the dogs and spare equipment in case of breakage or emergency but not much of anything else. He has enough in there to "Macguyver" most situations but not too much to weigh the team down.

The final run was a slog, with any one of the four front runners in contention. It really was not over till it was over as you saw by Ray Reddington Jnr arriving just a few minutes after Allen, Ryne Olsen from Ryno Kennel in Two Rivers, not too far behind and Nic Petit on her tail.

A quick note here about Ryne - we are all so incredibly happy for and proud of her. She and her youngsters did a phenomenal job in her rookie Copper Basin race! If you take a look at her website you will notice some familiarly in the breeding of a lot of her kennel.

Allen switched Kodiak and Chica at the end to give the team a little more drive - Chica was on top form and really showed Allen she is a main leader also! She did miss out on her "Champion Leaders" photo at the end simply because Kodiak had done such a great job for 250-odd miles and Quito was the mainstay of the last two legs. She may have been a little miffed about missing her photo op, we'll do something extra special for her tomorrow!

Red Team - When Aliy arrived into the Mendeltna checkpoint she had Scruggs and Chemo in lead. She said "They kicked butt!" She left Junior with us at Mendentna simply because she was tired. She had worked so very hard and done a phenomenal job for 250 miles, it was time to let her take it easy in the truck on the way back to Glenallen.

Aliy is also super efficient at her checkpoint routine and managed to get inside the Lodge for a bit, chowing down a vegetable and beef stew, drying her gear in front of the open fire and settling into a comfy chair for a 10 minute sleep. She readied her sled and herself for the race with Ben Harper - they had exactly the same exit time but he was parked in a different area so she managed to get to the exit trail just in front. He came home in front of her in the end but it was exciting for us to watch that competition also. Waylon and Chemo led the team into the chute - little Lionheart Waylon and his antenna ears!

Aliy said to me at the finish "You know who's a real rockstar? Biscuit. Nine year old Biscuit. What a dog!"

The dogs on both teams got snacks and a water/kibble meal at the finish line then we quickly got them into the truck so they could start the serious business of resting. Their big, main meal came later in the afternoon.

The CB300 start/finish arch; Mark secures the sleds on top of the truck

The finish line is staged at the All Paths Church in Glenallen and they put on great food and hydration/caffenation for mushers, handlers and visitors - chillis, soups, home baking and the best brownie EVER! Thanks to the team there, it really is nice to be able to come in, have a bite to eat and sit around somewhere warm and chat to everyone for a while. Aliy chose Scurggs for her leader photo, he'd done an outstanding job the whole race!

Red and Black Team - After the finish Mark hopped back into the truck to head back to Mendentna to greet Spencer and the R&Bs. He'd left Violet with Mark and Joanna in Sourdough as she had a sore shoulder but the remaining 11 dogs all looked great.

His run to Mendeltna was punctuated with another camp where we would have made them cozy beds and a warm meal and enjoyed a scenic rest. This run was too long for the yearlings to do in one go and the camp was all part of the plan. At the time of writing I haven't caught up with Mark on how things are going there, which is a good sign as if there were any concerns he would have let us know. Sounds like Spencer is having a blast, which in turn makes for a positive experience for the dogs. They are all having a grand adventure!

We are so excited to see them tomorrow, we expect them perhaps late morning, depending on how much rest Spencer feels they need in Mendeltna.

One thing I meant to tell you about the Sourdough Checkpoint: it's kind of an "old school" checkpoint - meaning, as there is no cell coverage or wifi capability the officials and handlers had to just simply wait for mushers like in the pre-tracker days: making estimates of run times, knowing who left before and after then at the last checkpoint and then trying to identify teams as they came down the in-trail by parka colour, sled bag colour or lead dogs. Some are easy to sort out, Aliy's red and black parka with big ruff are very distinctive! Of course as people arrived from Meiers lake they could update us all on what the tracker said the last time they saw it so we had a vague idea of what was happening. I guess we are just spoilt with the technology available today and thanks to all the sponsors who made it possible for the race to have them.

CB300: Super Sixth!

The SP Kennel Red Team of Aliy Zirkle, super sixth in the 2015 CB300!... Good dawgs!

Aliy with lead dog Scruggs

CB300: Winners!

The SP Kennel Black Team of Allen Moore has won the 2015 CB300!... Good dawgs!

Allen with leaders Quito and Kodiak

CB300: Heading Down The Highway To The Finish

With just 17 miles to go, Allen has a 3 mile lead over Ray Redington with Ryne Olson only a mile behind him. Allen has just turned south down the highway, so you can be sure the dogs know they are heading to the finish line. Hot meals, soft beds and lots of pats await them. This is a very close finish... Go SPK!

CB300: Waiting...

Just received these photos from Moira. Like all of us, the handler crew is waiting...

What's different, of course, is that they're waiting at the finish line!... Go dogs, go!

CB300: Dropped Dog Update

Allen left Mendeltna with 10 dogs, Aliy with 9. I just received a text from Moira with this info:
"Rock star scout has a sore shoulder and as the run home will be fast Allen decided to let him sit out the rest of the race. Aliy's little superstar Junior just got tired. To keep the race a positive experience for her, she will ride with us. Spencer dropped violet who also has a bit of a sore shoulder and because the run to Mendeltna is long she will see her team mates at the finish line."
Overall, the dogs have fared extremely well in difficult snow conditions. As much as the mushers want every dog to stay on the team, it is even more important -- as always -- to avoid serious injury or bad experiences. There's still an amazing amount of power in a 9-10 dog team!

If you're watching the tracker, you are no doubt experiencing the usual "extra-drama" of signals not being updated on a timely basis. Why is it always at the end of a race that the trackers seem to make us especially crazy!

CB300: Mendeltna Run Time Update

It's been a very close race all along, and it got even closer overnight!

"Quick Nic" Petit was fastest overnight, cutting into Allen's lead by almost 30 minutes. Speedy Ryne Olson was within a couple minutes of Allen's pace, keeping her solidly in the hunt. Ray Redington also had a swift run and Aliy remains within an hour of the lead, along with Ben Harper tied for fifth. Wow, what a race!

Allen has just left Mendeltna for the run to the finish line, and others will be leaving shortly. Now is when you can finally watch the tracker to see who is really in the lead. It's going to be an exciting finish!

CB300: Meiers to Sourdough

We’ve seen both teams out of Sourdough checkpoint on their way to Mendeltna checkpoint.

First things first: Drop Dog Update – Olivia and Mismo are with us in the truck. Both dogs have the same issue as Dutch: tight triceps, and Allen and Aliy were so disappointed to lose them from their teams. I asked one of the vet team if there might be a reason for the same issue in all three and he suggested that the particular snow conditions can make some sections a little slippy and Dutchman, Big O and Mis might have simply made a miss-step which has caused some tightness in their triceps.

I’m sure we’ve all done exactly that – stepped weirdly and tweaked a muscle. Dropping them at first detection avoids a more serious injury and treatment is maybe some anti-inflammatories for a few days, with lots of rest and Algyval massage. Allen actually carried Olivia in the basket for much of his run from Sourdough as he noticed she was a out-of-sorts very early. Keeping that in mind, his run time was really good with the extra 45 pounds in the sled and one fewer dog!

Olivia and Mismo join Dutch in the dog truck for the rest of the race

A quick word here about the vet team – they are always so very generous with, not only volunteering their time to the race, but their advice and caring. You can tell the mushers really respect their opinions and they are only too happy to help us handlers with advice about the ongoing care of our dropped dogs. Thanks to the team of Nina (Head Vet), Al, Hector and Liz supported by Stephanie, Donna and Karleen. Thanks so much! We appreciate you!

Black Team – Allen and the team pulled in with Scooter and Schmoe even MORE enthusiastic, if you can believe that! The two of them are so great to have on any team as they really gee up the others. Scout and Kodiak led the team in looking frosted and happy. Once again, Allen was pretty self sufficient at the checkpoint, eating his freeze dried meal and sleeping next to Felix and Sissy in his sleeping bag and bivvy sack.

They shot out of the checkpoint after five hours of rest looking refreshed. This next run is a long one and Allen has switched the configuration of the team somewhat to mix it up a bit. He’s brought in the big gun: Quito will lead with Kodiak. He decided to keep Kodiak in front while he was still enthusiastic but could switch him with Chica if need-be. Swing is hard-charging Nelson and Chica then Izzy and Scout, Schmoe and Scooter, Willie will run on his own then Felix and Sandy sill in wheel.

L-R: Allen sleeps with his team in Sourdough, The Red Team at rest

Red Team – Aliy and team arrived also looking a little frosted. She was pleased with her run and happy with how her team looks nearly two-thirds-ish of the way through the race. Aliy spent her rest stop with her dogs, snuggling with Mac and Outlaw. We said goodbye to them at 8.08pm, also after five hours rest. Junior and Waylon are doing the business in front so will stay there for this leg to Mendeltna. The rest of her line up now is Scruggs and Boonie in swing, Clyde and Chemo, Mac and Outlaw with Pepe and Biscuit bringing up the rear. You will have noticed that the two teams are currently running the same schedule.

The trail from Sourdough to Mendeltna checkpoint revisits the familiar Golkana River then the trail crosses over a lake system including Fish Lake for around 21 miles before skirting around Middle Lake, onto Crosswind then Lake Louise. Last year the checkpoint was at the Lake Louise Lodge but this year they bypass this lodge and continue on for another (roughly) 20-25 miles. The trail report on Friday evening warned there may be some open water early on so the mushers will be on the lookout for that.

The race schedules for the Black and Red teams are now very noticeably different to Spencers R&B team as Ray and I haven’t seen him since he pulled into Meiers Lake around noon. He’s currently on the trail to Sourdough still with 12 dogs after resting them around seven hours. We briefly caught up with Joanna and Mark at Sourdough and they reported Spencer was in great spirits when he left Meiers Lake and was looking forward to the run to Sourdough. The dogs rested well and ate like alligators. We’re all so excited for this team!

Mendeltna Lodge at midnight

Ray and I have just arrived at the beautiful and welcoming Mendeltna Lodge, while Mark and Joanna will sit in Sourdough waiting for Spencer and the R&Bs.