Monday, January 16, 2017

Copper Basin 300 dominated by Girl Power!

Ryne Olson of Two Rivers, Alaska at the ReStart of Iditarod 44.
Olson is the first woman to win the Copper Basin 300 in 16 years.
The 2017 Copper Basin 300 has become known as one of the most difficult in race memory - and it hasn't officially ended yet, but a champion has been crowned. Ryne Olson of Two Rivers, Alaska, is the first woman champion in 16 years. Coming in second was Paige Drobny, another newer musher to the scene. Third place looks to be well known veteran of the trails Michelle Phillips. This is believed to be the first time women have taken the top three spots in a well-established mid-distance race (or any dog sled race).

Olson is somewhat of a newcomer to the scene, she's steadily built up her kennel after leaving SP Kennel - run by Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore - to pursue her goals to become a competitive musher. Not surprisingly, Ryne has taken what she learned from the current top rated female musher and gone the distance. While many believe Nicolas Petit to be the odds on favorite to win, the outcome was not meant to be. Snow storms blew in over the weekend, causing a soft trail which most believed caused the race to slow. Petit's early lead created issues for the team as they were constantly breaking trail, ultimately seeing the team scratch (end the race early). Another well seasoned veteran of mid and long distance racing, Sebastian Schnuelle also scratched today - citing the vehicle collision with his team last month as a big factor in the health and strength of his team. Schnuelle scratched from the CB 300 and has withdrawn from the Iditarod due to his concerns for his team.

The race is not finished, the tracker shows at least 20 teams still headed for the finish line. But for now the victory is seeing a resurgence of lady mushers taking control of one of the toughest races in the competitive season. With less than a month away from the Yukon Quest, and under two months for Iditarod, fans and commentators alike are talking of a girl power fueled championship. This hope may be a tad premature, but it's definitely an exciting conclusion to this year's Copper Basin, and makes things interesting going forward - not just for 2017, but for the years to come. Aliy Zirkle's got company.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Favorite Photos from past Tustumena 200 races

I've only gotten to shoot two T200s since 2012, not because I couldn't make it out there - but because weather caused the race to be cancelled the last three years. Not this year, though, the race is on! We're two weeks away from the Start and I am already planning to shoot both photo and video (hoping to do some live broadcast of the start and finish on my periscope account, so look for that). I'm hoping to take a half day off from work to catch the Vet Check on that Friday as well. Yup. 'Tis the season!

But I want to look back on the two races I was able to capture. Looking back was a nice stroll down memory lane (though the 2013 photos were lacking mainly due to my harddrive crashing before I could edit them all! boooo!). Here are some of my favorites:

One of DeeDee Jonrowe's dogs waits to get hooked up at the start of the 2012 race.

One of my favorite photos I've ever taken - Jeff King and his icy mustache before the race even began in 2012.

Cim Smyth coming in to win the 2012 race. He whistles to his dogs when they hit the home stretch
to let them know they're headed home. Told my dad that they pick up the pace when he does that.

Jeff King was fast on Cim's heels in 2012, but couldn't quite pull off the win, he pulled back as he came to us
and asked if Cim was still ahead of him. 

My friend Bob Parsons at the Vet Check in 2013. Big fan of mushers, and dogs. Gonna miss him this year.

The classic dog in a dog box photo.

Can't lie to me and tell me there isn't a special bond between mushers and their dogs.

In 2013 I was Team Seavey's "paid stalker" (thanks Conway for that title). Mitch won the T200 and then the Iditarod that year.

Mitch Seavey coming in to win the 2013 race. It was Superbowl Sunday and I hadn't been paying attention to the race. The T200 was going to be a "training run" for Team Seavey, he wasn't planning on racing to win. Then his team became the power house it was and he thought "what the heck, let's win this thing". I had to rush from my house to the finish line. My team was playing the big game. I was torn, but the Niners were sucking so I went. And I missed the second half of the game. What I do for these mushers and their dogs. Geez.

I just think this is a really good shot of Mitch.

Family picture at the finish of the T200 in 2013, Conway won the 100 and Mitch the 200. All in the family.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year In Pictures

2016 has been a rough year on all of us. I am not one of those millenials frozen with fear and sadness over the election (not happy about it, I didn't want either option, but I'm not losing my mind over it). I had a rough personal life this year, Gpa moving in with us and dealing with dementia, the loss of dear friend last January... and oy. Yeah. 2016 wasn't fun.

So I'm looking back at some of the photographic proof that it wasn't "all bad".

Friday, December 2, 2016

Iditarod Roster Set: 5 returning champions among 77 teams

A team dog runs down the chute at the
Start of Iditarod 44. Willow, AK.
Dec 1 marked the deadline for teams to enter the 45th Iditarod race, and 77 mushers answered that call. 5 former champions are in the mix: 4-time champion Martin Buser, 4-time champion Jeff King, 4-time and current champion Dallas Seavey, 2-time champion Mitch Seavey, and 2011's champion John Baker are all going after another win. There are 8 countries represented, most mushers hail from the US (the majority of them represent Alaska); Norway, Sweden, France, Canada, England, Hungary, and the Czech Republic all have teams in the mix. 19 mushers are rookies, making 58 mushers veterans of the 1,000 mile race.

A glance at the list spots many familiar names/faces on the list with names like Zirkle, Sass, Redington, Gebhardt, Jonrowe, among others - but it's interesting to note just how many names are off the list. Four time Iditarod Champion and cancer survivor Lance Mackey signed up back in June, but made the announcement in September that he was unable to run as planned. Cim Smyth also signed up only to later withdraw. Rohn Buser decided not to run this year, and the Busers seem to be downsizing their operation. There's a change of the guard looming, it seems, and this is likely going to be an exciting race for a lot of the newer front runners.

With the change of two rules this year for the race, new strategies may emerge that could bring the change quicker than expected. Iditarod rules now state that mushers can bring cell phones/two way communication out onto the trail. They are to be used to report an emergency only (the thought is if something like last year's attacks happen, the musher can call for help). Some mushers have spoken out against the rule change, worried that some teams will misuse the allowance. The board, however, feels the good outweighs the bad.

The other rule change came with as much if not more outcry - that of the rule that no dogs may be carried in a sled trailer. In the last few years since Jeff King first brought one to the race, mushers have built trailers to pull behind their sled to carry equipment and rest dogs on long runs. Mushers like Dallas Seavey seemed to have perfected the strategy to their advantage, keeping their dogs fresh and ready to run making longer rests in the checkpoint easier to bounce back on. Officials give the reason for the change as dog safety, but those that feel the rule directly affects them don't buy the explanation. Strategies will need to change for March, but don't expect that it will change the standings too much. The trailers are only one small element to a successful race.

There has been SOME good news as of late, however! The last few weeks have brought colder temperatures to South Central Alaska, and with those temps snow! Training is underway all over the state with many teams taking to social media to share photos of a winter sight that was once common place. Sure, there's still a long way to go before trails are ready for races, but should the weather continue to cooperate it looks like for the first time in a long while, the race season will be a full one.

92 days until Iditarod runs through Anchorage - who are you cheering for?

Edited: A late entry bumped the roster list to 77. Mail must've been slow. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disneyland Photos: Frozen the Musical

I have to admit, I reluctantly went into the Frozen Musical with my parents on our last day at Disney. I was (and still am) upset that Aladdin was closed to move in the new obsession. Yes, Frozen was an AMAZING film, and the songs are not just annoyingly catchy - they're well written and sung. But I have been Frozen-fatigued for over two years now. They are overrunning the parks. Too much of a good thing and all that.

But, I did want to give this show a chance - even if walking into the theater I was wishing we'd get the improv magic of the Genie. I wanted to see the "new technology" in action and so I went in. I was plesantly surprised for the most part. While I still prefer the Aladdin show, the cast of Frozen is equally talented. The technology is impressive (though I disagree that "every seat is a good one" as most of the technology works best when you're sitting in the center),

Below are some of the bajillion photos I took of the show. This is probably the only time I'll watch the show unless the people I'm traveling with want to see it. It's not one that I'd go to multiple showings of in the same visit (like I did with Aladdin multiple times).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Beware the Sled Dog Film "Documentary"

Musher Patrick Beall with his team at the Start of Iditarod 2016
Willow, AK  March 6, 2016
It's come to the attention of the mushing world that a self proclaimed "expose" of the "horrors of dog mushing" documentary is getting set to debut. They've been making waves for the last 24 hours. Naturally Iditarod and mushers alike have come out against it, but the sad fact of the matter is with the Country of Canada BACKING THIS FILM. It is not going away.

However, they seem to have misjudged how the mushing community would respond. I'm not sure if they thought they'd stay silent, or if they would come out looking like the blood thirsty monsters that the "documentation" (I hate using that term when referring to these people) no doubt believes they would be. Nope, instead they are calmly and intelligently refuting the accusations being levied at them.

For me this is not a shock. I've known quite a few mushers for years now - from all levels of the sport. Most are the salt of the earth kind of people who would do anything for their dogs (and DO). I could probably film them all and turn it negatively if I was such a person, but unlike Fern Levitt (the "documentation") I don't see the need to be a fiction writer.

One of the mushers supposedly featured in the "film" has spoken out via social media. Patrick Beall trains and runs out of Mitch Seavey's Kennel in Seward and Sterling, Alaska. Patrick was part of the Seavey puppy team in Iditarod 2016 and was told by the film makers that they wanted to follow a rookie in the race. They had to get permission from the ITC. From what I can tell they lied and provided false information on multiple levels. This is not surprising, we see this all the time with the Michael Moores of film making. But it's no less disgusting.

Here's what Patrick had to say this afternoon:

"I want to make a statement to the social media realm currently reacting to this anti sled dog propaganda. The film "Sled Dogs" will be coming out soon, attached below is the brutal trailer portraying the sport in an extremely negative light. If you don't read anything else, please know I was lied to and the intentions of the film completely misrepresented. I am a person that goes through life with complete trust in people and will never give into the prying urge of cynicism. Please feel free to share with whomever you see fit.
Last fall was one of the most exciting of my life. On top of having qualified for Iditarod the prior seasons and working so hard to get to the starting line. Things were just plain good. I was training an amazing group of two year olds at Mitch Seavey's kennel and had been a Seavey handler for a good spell by then. I was confident in my know-how and my drive to conquer the goal of reaching Nome. I remember it vividly, I received an email from Fern Levitt asking me if I would be interested in participating in a documentary. I, of course, thought this would be so cool and accepted. She explained she wanted to do a film on what it takes for a rookie to run The Last Great Race. Again, I was nothing but excited to share my love for the sport and the amazing dogs involved. We set up times for her and her crew to come join in the fall. They took me to dinner and were way cool people. The next day we filmed. I was four wheeler training at the time so they hooked up go pros and you name it. It seemed so neat that I was being granted this opportunity to share my life with others. After the first filming session was over they interviewed me and asked basic questions you would imagine any tourist asking. And naturally like I always do shared my passion with enthusiasm and pure love. They were ecstatic with their footage and before they left gave me hugs and told me how much love they see if have for the dogs. So it goes...
They came up for another training session. Same results. Same enthusiasm. Same praise for what it was I was doing and how well I cared for my wild pack of sled dogs. After this they interview me again. It seemed again like a normal interview explaining what it was I was doing and how my dogs were. So, they decided after the fact they wanted to follow me through the Iditarod. I said, something along the lines of "hell yeah!" Naturally they needed permission from Iditarod, which they received. Again, because they duped me and they were able to dupe ITC. As it may be...
They followed me during Iditarod. They were there at the ceremonial and re-start. Just as excited as I was. I saw a glimmer in their eyes of how intriguing and glorious the atmosphere at this event can be. They gave me high fives and like they always had during filming been so impressed with everything that was going on.
The film crew first met me in rainy pass. I was a little down because I had added a 50 mile run to my Iditarod by taking a wrong trail. However, the film guy and sound guy were trying to cheer me up. They seemed like friends I had known for ages. I truly enjoyed their company and good attitudes.
I saw them next in McGrath at my 24 hr layover. They were so impressed with the fact I was passing people and making up time despite my wrong turn. I remember them saying to me how amazed at my good attitude in times of adversity they were. They loved the fact I whistled to my dogs when I booted them. They were having so much fun doing what they love "filming" what I love, taking care of high end athlete sled dogs.
Again, I saw them in Galena. By now I was rolling, my dog team was doing the best they had been the whole race. I was in the zone of efficiency and had no other thoughts but "man I can't believe I'm doing The Iditarod Trail" and "man my dogs look amazing, im so unbelievably proud of these guys." In galena we pretty much slapped hands. Next, I was on my way to Nommmme!
I got to Nome in 11 days 23 hours. On the sea ice outside of the burled arch I had an overwhelming since of joy and love for everything. I cried. I cried like a mother and father would cry seeing their new infant for the first time. I had to get it out before getting to the finish line because hey I'm a tough guy 😎and I didn't want the camera to catch tears of joy on film....
What might have been the best day of my life, I came down front street, every dog pulling in harness. I could see the arch. I could see the cameras. I could see, My Mother. My mom was able to see me finish the race. I don't think she had missed one important day of my life. It was the most special day I can remember. She was balling tears of un seen emotion and love. I just hugged her. Man it was amazing. I then hugged my amazing lead dog Magnus and just lay there on the ground with him. I was so damn happy. All of this was of course filmed by this crew. Pure life in the moment joy. The kind that you can't stage, you can't fake, you can't ask even the best actor to accomplish. And guess what, they were there witnessing all of it. With their cameras and their false agenda. Behind their fake smiles and congratulations.
I later sat with them for a beer. They bought me several and just talked to me. With no cameras or sound equipment. They were amazed. They gave me so many compliments and I found them genuine. It's amazing to me it was all in vain. For some dumb film that misrepresents everything sled dogs stand for.
I can only say one thing... what they did is far worse than any claim they try to make in their "documentary". They took someone's genuine love for the world and his passion for something and turned it negative. For that, I feel sorry for them. I will not stoop to their level and fall prey to the inaccuracies. It is a shame we live in a world where you have to question everyone's intentions. But I will not allow them to steal my joy and love for this world and the sport of dog mushing.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have regarding the film. I will share with you everything I have learned and all the truths I know. I love you all."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Disneyland 2016 - Less than two months to go!

We have less than 2 months till we're in Disneyland, and you know what that means: ADVANCE DINING RESERVATIONS! Still working on making another reservation or two, but then it's just waiting until they release the park hours for our trip. Still wish they'd release them 60 days out. It'd make it all so much easier. But I'll just keep whining, haha.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Working on a #Youtube channel

Trying to do more with my youtube channel than the random family vids, dog vids, and if I practice enough I can do some better Iditarod videos. I'm also really enjoying periscope as of late, so I am thinking of doing some live vlogging come next March. We'll see. I'm not a fan of being in front of the camera, ya know?

You can find my channel by clicking here. Like, comment, and share PLEASE!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Chances for Past Iditarod Champions in 2017?

I was asked this question the other day on Facebook - what are the chances for each of the five past champions currently signed up for Iditarod 45. 4-time Champions Martin Buser, Jeff King, Lance Mackey, Dallas Seavey, and 2-time Champion Mitch Seavey all signed up on the first day. All have champion line kennels, experience, and teams... but what are the real odds any of them will come under the burled arch first in Nome? Here are a few of my thoughts.

Martin Buser - Iditarod 44 was not a good race for Buser. He spent most of the training season in Seattle while his son Nikolai recovered from his car wreck. When recovery looked to be going well, Martin made the decision to return and run the race. He made it clear he wasn't in competitive form and would not be making any crazy run for first. Top if off he ended up with pneumonia while running the race. Not a good way to go. This coming season Martin's already made comments suggesting he won't be running for lead this year either.

Talk at the BBQ suggested Martin is downsizing - son Rohn is not planning to run this year, and Martin has said he wants to enjoy other things. Cindy Abbott told BBQ attendees she'd gotten a few of Martin's dogs. Honestly, the only way Martin wins - if this is really his outlook for the future - is if a bunch of other teams fall into the Norton Sound and are swept away and he makes it across.

Lance Mackey - the 44th Iditarod did not go as planned for Mackey. While still better than his outing in 2015, he still had issues with his team being ill/not wanting to go. He backtracked to Ophir for longer rest. The heat and the fast pace were a little too much for his young team. However, the rest of 2016 has been very kind. Mackey is winning races on the race car circuit (yes, you read that right) and is the proud papa to a bouncing baby Boy! The 4 time champ seemed in great spirits at the BBQ last month, and is confident in his team. That doesn't mean he'll be coming in first. All mushers are confident their team is awesome. With Mackey's health (thought he looks great these days) always a question, and the fact that he's still in the rebuilding process, he most likely won't be first... but I've been wrong before.

Jeff King - Really, Jeff should've been closer to first this past Iditarod. Sadly, due to someone's poor choices (attempted murder, in my opinion) Jeff's race was done just as it was getting started. Jeff's been so close to winning his fifth title, when his team has given up on him. Freak storms, young dogs, snow machines. It will be interesting to see how King comes back this year. I'm expecting another top 5 finish for Mr. The King this year... and with the right set of circumstances, he could win.

Mitch Seavey - this year's runner up, Mitch Seavey was just hours behind his son Dallas under the burled arch. Mitch is a competitor, and has said he's felt the best he's ever felt. Mitch's team did far better than expected considering several of his key leaders were left at home due to late season injury (sore muscles, and a jammed toe). They pushed with Dallas all the way up the coast, but it was the hills at the end that did them (or him?) in. Barring another season with injuries plaguing the team, Mitch could very well make a third title his.... of course I'd argue that Jeff has about an equal chance of winning.

Dallas Seavey - Iditarod Insider has basically declared him King with their recap video of the 2016 race. That could mean nothing, but I have to wonder if it isn't going to jinx him. They did pretty much the same thing with Mackey after his fourth win, and now he's lucky if he makes top 20. Of course, other factors are at play - namely musher health, which Dallas is younger and in a lot of ways healthier. (Which makes Mackey's 4 wins that much more impressive.) Dallas is very goal driven and athletic, but the other mushers are catching on - especially the ones around his age. Dallas is the odds on favorite, but winning that fifth title has eluded all other 4-time champions (except Rick Swenson). It's going to be difficult - but then, so were the other 4 wins, right?