Friday, December 8, 2017

Mushing News Weekly Round Up (Dec 8)

With the advent of social media, it's a whole lot easier for fans to immerse themselves into the mushing world. It's also easy to miss a lot of the interesting and newsworthy stuff as it seems to become overloaded in the weeks leading up to race season. Training reports begin as the leaves fall from the trees, and then almost over night the snow hits the rosters are finalized and we're in the middle of race season.

So a new feature here on Reitter's Block starting this week is a sort of weekly round up of news, and interesting stories from the mushing community. These will be selection that caught my eye, and in no way everything that happened within the week.

In response to the Iditarod Trail Committee's announcement on December 1 about their plan to come up with a standard of "Dog Care" for kennels to be eligible to compete, Iditarod Veteran Wade Marrs took to his website to share his thoughts. While, overall, Wade is supportive of the idea - he wanted to voice some concerns he had. It is equally a response to another kennel that has created a lot of drama since October when they decided to try and promote themselves as the kennel/people all mushers wish they could be like.

SP Kennel (Home of Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore) shared an adorable update on their trio of pups. It's not really news worthy, but it's adorable, and there's video. What more does a mushing fan need than a puppy cam?!

Monday brought the amusing with the report that Jeff King was auctioned off during the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction, and brought in a whopping $4,600! King is thought to be the first Iditarod Champion (and certainly IS the only 4-time Champion) auctioned off at the event. Known as one of the larger than life mushers, it should come as no surprise that Jeff was up for something like this. But it was still amusing to read. Much better than the articles showing the mushing community up in arms.

And, just today, Monica Zappa took to Facebook to announce that the 2018 Iditarod will be her last "for a while" as she needs to go off on new adventures. Iditarod will be far less colorful without her neon colors out on the trail. So when you see her run down the trail this March, cheer extra hard for her!

Speaking of Facebook - my favorites on the social media round up:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Hopefully that little earworm is making its happy little home in your head right now. It's been stuck in mine for months. Why? Because I made the decision early this year that I would attend the 2018 US Figure Skating National Championships hosted this year in San Jose, CA.

I know, you're confused. For over five years, this blog has been mainly mushing/Iditarod news and Alaska photography. I've not given up on my second favorite sport, I just haven't followed as I used to (thanks to NBC having the two worst commentators EVER on the mics these days). Niche sports are hard to follow, and others follow skating better, so I focus on mushing.

But! Instead of sitting on my butt all weekend refreshing the GPS tracker for the first race of the season in January, I'll be sitting in an arena hanging out with friends and cheering on the skaters trying to make Team USA. I haven't been to a championship (or any skating event) in ten years! I haven't seen some of my friends in ten years. I cannot WAIT for this trip!

While I'll really only be there for the senior skating events (the championship begins in December, but I just couldn't swing that), I'll be gone from January 1-13 (of course if I'm in California I've gotta visit Disney, too!). I'm working on itineraries and everything. I'm so out of the loop as to what these competitions are like. Waiting for the practice schedule to come out. Have we always had to wait this late for info?! Ugh!

But so far, here's what I have.

January 1, 2018
Drive up to Anchorage @ 8:00am

January 2, 2018
Fly out @ 6:45am
Land in Seattle @ 11:21am (10:21am AKST)
Leave Seattle @ 1:00pm (Noon AKST)
Land in San Jose @ 3:14pm (2:14pm AKST)

*Possibly attending the Junior Ladies Free Skate @ 7:15pm (6:15pm AKST)

January 3, 2018
Junior Men Free Skate @ 10:15am (9:15am AKST)
Senior Ladies Short Probram @ 6:00pm (5:00pm AKST)

January 4, 2018
Junior Free Dance @ 10:00am (9:00am AKST)
Senior Pairs Short Program @ 12:50pm (11:50am AKST)
Senior Men Short Program @ 5:30pm (4:30pm AKST)

January 5, 2018
Senior Ice Dance Short Dance @ 1:10pm (12:10pm AKST)
Senior Ladies Free Skate @ 3:45pm (2:45pm AKST)

January 6, 2018
Senior Pairs Free Skate @ 11:45am (10:45am AKST)
Senior Mens Free Skate @ 3:45pm (2:45pm AKST)

January 7, 2018
Senior Ice Dance Free Dance @ 12:30pm (11:30am AKST)
Fly out @ 7:07pm (6:06pm AKST)

My hotel is supposed to have wifi, so maybe I'll check in... but we all know I most likely won't blog much - so follow me on twitter for anything I might say about the competition (if you're so inclined).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Iditarod Roster Set for 2018

The sun shines on the Iditarod Finish Line, March 2017.
With the deadline to enter ending today, the Iditarod roster is officially set. There could still be a few names added so long as their applications are postmarked prior to the deadline - or special circumstances where veteran mushers can sign up past the deadline as what happened in 2017. As it stands, 69 teams will run the trail to Nome in March with four past champions in the mix. Five previous champions signed up originally, but four-time champion Dallas Seavey announced in October he would not run in the 2018 Iditarod. Seavey's father, three-time and reigning Iditarod Champion, Mitch Seavey still plans to run this coming March. Four-time Champions Martin Buser and Jeff King, and 2011 Iditarod Champion John Baker also plan to run.

Sixteen rookies are set to run the 46th running of the Last Great Race, leaving a large list of 53 veterans. Familiar names and fan favorites dot the list including late entries of Hugh Neff, and previously retired-from-Iditarod Kelly Maixner. Wade Marrs, who took a commanding lead for much of last year's Iditarod, is once again looking to set the pace. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer are looking to be that first woman champion in over 2 decades to win, as DeeDee Jonrowe looks to make 2018 her Swan Song.

Other happy returns on the list include fan favorite Rob Cooke, Seward musher Travis Beals, and Army Veteran Steve Watkins. Watkins last run to Nome was in 2014, and he then went on to attempt to climb Mt Everest only to be caught in the major Earthquake while at basecamp! Apparently when not planning to run the Iditarod this year, he's been running for US Congress! It takes all kinds to create this one of a kind monster of a race.

While things looked a little bleak a month and a half ago, it seems a lot of frustration and anger has died down and most mushers who were backing Dallas are now content to run the race. Dallas Seavey, on the other hand, was true to his word that he would not run the race, and has instead opted to run a prestigious race in Finnmark. The race takes place the same week as the Iditarod, and other well known Alaskan mushers have participated in the past. Lance Mackey ran it a year ago and reportedly did well, and Hugh Neff has also visited the race in the past.

Also remaining off the roster is Paul Gebhardt. Gebhardt announced last month that he would not be racing this season as he is currently battling cancer. Gebhardt once again took to social media this morning to report that due to his ability to not have to take a week off in between cancer treatments, the dates have been moved up for when he will head down to Seattle for his stem cell transplant. Paul and his daughter will be in Seattle for a month after his treatment to be sure everything takes and that he is safer from infection and illness. They will essentially be in quarantine for 6 weeks. Paul will travel, now, at the end of December. The GoFundMe page is still up and accepting donations, it sits roughly around 50% of their overall goal.

Also on the Iditarod Trail Committee's plate, are plans to revamp the dog care requirements for mushers and their kennels. The Anchorage Daily News reported tonight that come 2019 there will be a "Best Dog Care" rule. The ITC says this is not a response to any accusation or misconduct, that it's been in the works for a long time and they are finally ready to move forward with implementation. This will most likely affect the newer kennels more than well established and successful kennels. This should come as no surprise as to be successful in this sport, dogs must come first at all times, not just when the cameras are on.

Who are you most excited to see on this year's roster? Tell me in the comments below!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dallas Seavey to race in Finnmark

I'm at work and can't do a big blog post, so, for now, I'll just let this facebook post do the talking.

What do you think of this latest announcement? Let me know if the comments below!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No Iditarod for Cindy Abbott this year

Cindy Abbott took to her social media platforms yesterday to announce that she was not signing up for Iditarod 46. Siting personal and health reasons, Abbott assured her fans that she was taking care of herself.

Abbott is a red lantern Iditarod finisher, as well as a spokesperson and hero for many fighting incurable, little-talked about diseases. Cindy was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis in August of 2007, instead of curling up in a ball in a corner, she set about taking life by the horns. She has successfully climbed Mount Everest, and then fixed her sites on the Iditarod. It took her 3 rookie tries to complete the race in 2015 (one year she scratched after breaking her pelvis and several other bones and not realizing it!) where she won her first of two red lanterns. The Red Lantern is awarded to the final team to cross the finish line.

After retiring from her job last year, Cindy and her husband moved to Alaska with the intent on her running the 2018 Iditarod and other future races. Cindy cites in her post that her husband was supportive of her plan to run this year, and the decision to not run was solely hers. Abbott runs dogs from Iditarod Veteran - and current MatSu Burrough Mayor - Vern Halter's Kennel. She will continue to train the team, but a little less intensely, building them for 2019.

Abbott stated in her post that she intends to run the 2019 Iditarod, where she will be 60 years old.

You can purchase Cindy's book Reaching Beyond The Clouds: From Undiagnosed To Climbing Mt. Everest on

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Signed up to Volunteer

My grandparents began volunteering for the Iditarod in the early years of the race. I don't know the exact year. My grandmother started the obsession. She worked at the McGrath checkpoint a year or two before they decided to help take care of the Anchorage trail. That was back when the "Ceremonial Start" also meant something to the actual race. They would time the run to Eagle River. It was before Anchorage was so grown up that they were still somewhat safe to do so.

Our family has volunteered at the "Tudor Crossing" of the trail for more years than I've been alive (32). "Back then" there wasn't a footbridge for the teams to use to cross the busy street. My grandparents and their merry band of volunteers had to stop traffic, they had to move snow onto the street just to shovel it back off so that the cars could pass after the teams passed by. Our team now has it so much easier now than back in the "good ol' days".

Tudor Crossing is now "University Lake and Tudor Center". The teams run along a lake that is an off leash dog park before going through a tunnel (so as  not to have to cross a side street) and then up and over a foot bridge as the busy traffic of Tudor goes by seemingly unaware of what's taking place above and around them.

As a very young child I must have been a part of the action, but I honestly do not remember. We moved to the Kenai Peninsula when I was almost 6 years old, so a lot of the "early day memories" I might have had are far gone in the recesses of my brain. We rarely went up for the Iditarod after that - it was always during important dates for school or dad's work. I didn't even know that my grandparents had a history with the race! It wasn't a topic of conversation that I paid attention to. I knew my grandparents knew several of the mushers, and had met my heros (Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher) but that was the extent of my knowledge.

I do remember a year when I got to go to the ReStart when it was still in Wasilla. It was terrifyingly crowded and I remember not enjoying it as I couldn't (or wouldn't) push through the crowd to see the action. I just remember being scared that I would get lost. I remember thinking this was a huge deal, but that I didn't see myself doing this again. I was 9 or 10 at the time (so 1994 or 95).

Then when I moved to Anchorage to attend college I managed to land a short term (read one weekend) internship with a photographer who was helping with the Iditarod. No, it wasn't Jeff Schultz (I wish!), but it was another photographer they'd tapped to take pictures for the Iditariders (fans who bid to ride in a particular musher's sled during the 11 mile Ceremonial Start). He wanted me to take photos halfway down the trail at - you guessed it - Tudor Crossing. I mentioned it to my grandfather and he showed me how and where would be the best place to set up.

That was 2005. I was only used that one year as a photographer, so I joined Grandpa's crew of trail guards the following year. I had a blast! I was hooked. In 2007 after Iditarod was over I was so hooked that I ended up applying to work for Ididaride. That's when the pride and obsession really grew. The more I learned about the behind the scenes stuff, the more I wanted to be a part of it.

After my grandmother's stroke in December of 2009, my grandfather was unsure and really unwilling to plan for another Iditarod. He took it seriously, and he was just too busy focused on her (as he should have been). I didn't want to see our family tradition die there, and my grandmother certainly didn't want to see that happen either. She LOVED Iditarod. So since she was on the road to recovery, I set about getting in touch with the coordinator of the Ceremonial Start Trail Guards asking if it would be alright if I was the "go between" for he and my grandfather with the understanding that in another year I would be fully ready to be "in charge" of our crew.

Since Iditarod 2010 I have been the "crew leader". That's 7 years, going to be 8 next March.

I know, some might find this shocking after all that's happened in the last month and a half. However, I feel very strongly about my family's tradition of being a part of The Last Great Race. I can disagree with how things are managed. I can demand certain things change. We all can. I see nothing wrong with having a disagreement with things. But the ITC is not the Iditarod (yeah, that quote was stolen from Dallas Seavey). The Iditarod is so much more than political back biting and butt protection. Iditarod is Alaska. Iditarod is dogs. Iditarod is Man and Animal coming together to do the "impossible". And I continue to want to be a part of that.

All organizations can improve. I work for a Non-Profit, and we're constantly scrutinizing what we do and how we can do it better. If you don't do that, you risk screwing up and not being able to recover. You risk losing the trust of your supporter and donors.

I don't want to see the Iditarod become the next fatality of a ridiculous campaign by the liars and hypocrites of PeTA and other "Animal Rights" groups. I will continue to support the race, while calling for transparency of ALL. Not just this latest issue.

So I will see you all at the Tudor Crossing as I have for over a decade now. It's still the most wonderful time of the year. The Race Season begins in just over a month. We've got a lot to celebrate and talk about!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My experience with Team Seavey

2007 Wildride, retired Iditarod Champions Angus and Zebra
pull Alaskan Malamute rescue Buddy out of the Arena.
Guys, I'm having a hard time remaining silent. For over a month I've watched a friend and former employer go through some pretty crappy things, and for the most part he's handled it with far more grace and dignity than I ever could. But, in the last couple of weeks, a couple of blowhards looking for - I guess - a little more limelight decided to jump on the hate train and come out with some pretty ugly allegations of their own. I won't link to their writings, because I feel that any more hits to their site is exactly what they want... and she who must not be named demanded over two years ago that I not use her name on my blog. So I won't. But if you're reading this blog post, my guess is you know who and what I'm talking about.

I met Dallas Seavey in the spring of 2007. He was starting a new attraction in Downtown Anchorage and was hiring folks to work in his gift shop. I ended up landing a "bigger" role than "just" gift shop girl. I ran the soundboard for his outdoor arena where he and his [then] fiance and a few other mushers showcased the power of the sled dog. I worked for them for four summers straight. It was probably the most fun I have EVER had with a job - and that's including my being a professional photographer. I'm not exaggerating for anyone. You can pretty much ask anyone who knows me - I talk about Wildride, still, after 10 years. I LOVED that job. I LOVED being around dogs and puppies all day. I LOVE the people I got to work with.

After I moved back to the Kenai in 2011, I figured I was done working for the team in any sort of capacity. I didn't even make it up to see the show in its final year, I was so busy trying to make ends meet. It was a very lonely time. I missed being part in some way of a sled dog team. How weird is that? I was never a dog handler. I still can't tell you the more intimate details of training, feeding, etc. But I loved being a part of the bigger picture. It wasn't long, though, before Team Seavey came calling again.

I worked for Mitch Seavey for another three years. Again, not in any dog handling position, but the daily office work that comes with running a touring business as well as social media for an active racing kennel. Again, I had a blast and learned so much and I'll always be grateful. But this was where I became increasingly aware of the ugliness of mushing. Don't think this is going to be a blog post supporting the allegations being lobbied at both Dallas and Mitch, far from it. I'm talking the ugly, untrue, and disgusting thing said by the likes of PeTA and other "Animal Rights" organizations against the Iditarod and the sport itself. One group used to have a "head hunter" list of mushers who needed to be "dealt with". Their photos from the Iditarod Website were placed on wanted posters. It was crazy. But the real kicker was when "fellow mushers" (term used loosely) decided to go after the team that was on top.

My first encounter with Mitch was my first week of work with Dallas back in 2007. That was the year that the Ramy Brooks "incident" happened during Iditarod. The decision had just come down from the Iditarod that Brooks would be banned from the race for 2 years, and following that would have a 3 year probation. As a fan of the sport, I felt the sentence was too light (still do), and for some reason when I met Mitch it was a burning question in my head that I had to ask. What did he think? I woke the bear with that question. Mitch has a way with words. Many find him standoffish with not a lot to say, but I think he just likes to choose his words carefully. One of the many things I admire about Mitch is how he presents himself, and how he speaks. I could listen to him talk shop for hours (which I've been chastised by his wife at different functions where the last thing she wants to hear is more dog talk).

Mitch let it be known than hitting/spanking/beating a dog was the most asinine way to try to get a dog to run. Key word is "try". You cannot beat a dog to run. That was a point he stated repeatedly in his - what felt like eternal - rant. Nothing good comes from losing your temper and taking it out on your team. The dogs' first instinct is to curl up and protect itself by shutting down and hoping it stops. They do  not understand what they are doing "wrong". Sled dogs are out there to have fun. Period. If it isn't fun, they stop. It is a delicate balance of how much you can push and for how long before they pull a Forrest Gump, stop, turn around and say, "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now" in the middle of no where. It's a mantra that Mitch has held on to I'm sure his entire racing career.

It's why his kids and fans sometimes get frustrated with him because he typically plays it a little "too safe" and holds his dogs back and makes the push too late. You don't want the race to ever become a chore for the dogs. When it does, it's not pretty. Most mushers eventually take it in stride and hang their head low knowing they - not the dogs - did something wrong. They forgot for a second about the dogs need to have fun, and they focused on the placement. Or they were just having so much fun themselves going at a nice clip that they didn't see the subtle warning signs.

Please note: this is what I took away from Mitch's statements over the years, I in no way speak for him.

You can see how my first year working for Dallas & Mitch shaped my outlook on the sport. The Seaveys have been a part of the Iditarod since the beginning. Since before the beginning. Dan Seavey (possibly one of the greatest human beings to ever breathe air) was one of the friends helping Joe Redington get his crazy idea of a race started. He's raced it. He's defended it. He's watched a son and a grandson both win it. Iditarod's a big deal in their family. Their involvement is due to Dan following a childhood dream to Alaska and staying here to see it through.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hit and Run collision injures dog from Wade Marrs' kennel

Wade Marrs reported today that
one of his dogs was injured during
last night's training run.
"Last night around 8pm, we received the nightmare phone call…" Wade Marrs' post on facebook today begins. Only, this isn't a classic Peanuts comic strip where Snoopy is sitting on his dog house typing "it was a dark and stormy night." No, this is every musher and every dog lover's nightmare. On a training run around 8pm last night, Andrew Nolan - an Iditarod Rookie next year who is running dogs from Wade's kennel - called to report that the team had been hit by a car. The car's driver, reportedly, sped off after tagging the team's lead dogs. 

Thankfully, Nolan and most of the team were unhurt, but lead dog Sockeye wasn't so lucky. Marrs reports the dog has a serious break in her leg which will require expensive surgery. "Xrays determined an oblique displaced fracture, which is good news because it’s a great candidate for successful surgical repair with a plate and pin... It will put her out for the rest of the season, but pending a successful healing she will return to run next year."

This is an increasingly common danger of training teams. With population growth, teams are forced more and more to encounter busy roadways. Last year, Quest Champion and Iditarod Veteran Sebastian Schnuelle's team was hit crossing at a designated sled dog crossing. Two five-year-old dogs were killed, others injured, and Schnuelle's return to the Iditarod ended as he did not have enough conditioned dogs to race. Three years ago, Karin Hendrickson and her team were hit when a car slid off of the Parks Highway and landed on her team. Hendrickson's back was broken, and some of her team were injured, but no loss of life happened though seemingly by miracle. Hendrickson could not run the Iditarod that year, but had a friend and fellow musher Bryan Bears run her team for her (he would end up scratching during the race). 

In both cases, the drivers stayed at the scene, and were understandably shaken and remorseful. Last night's accident, however, appears to be a hit-and-run. Nolan reported to Wade Marrs that the car kept going after hitting the lead dogs. The dogs were illuminated by the lights from the atv, which Nolan reportedly flashed multiple times to warn the driver of the dogs in the road. There is no excuse to EVER leave the scene of ANY accident, especially when a life is involved (2-legged or 4-legged).

Stump Jumpin' Kennel - Wade Marrs' Kennel Name - has set up several ways to help with surgical expenses for lead dog Sockeye.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dates & Links to major Alaskan Races

I've had this info on the blog for a while on the sidebar, but figured it wouldn't be bad to have a post that folks can link to if they desired.

If I've missed one please let me know. Tolovana and Gin-Gin (which I wouldn't link Gin-Gin after its directors pulled the crap they have anyway) are not running this year, but I believe I have all other major races. Even though Willow 300 is not considered an official qualifier for Iditarod or Quest, they are in the process of becoming one so for now it's on the list.

Knik 200
January 6, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Copper Basin 300
January 13, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Kuskokwim 300
January 19, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Northern Lights 300
January 26, 2018
Website / Facebook

Tustumena 200
January 27, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Willow 300
February 1, 2018

Yukon Quest
February 3, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Yukon 300
February 3, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Iditarod 46
March 3, 2018
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Kobuk 440
April 12, 2018
Website / Facebook

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Jen Seavey Statement/Update

I'm at work, so I cannot blog my thoughts at the moment, but I wanted to share this here, now, while it's still "hot".

I have known the Seavey family for over ten years. I know them to be honest, dedicated, caring people - all of them. I know I can sometimes say some things tongue in cheek about Dallas, but that's just because I had some of the best times working for him and for Jen, and that grew into a friendship. That they're having to defend themselves from PETA and other ridiculous "animal rights" groups (read homegrown terrorists) but now from wild and unfounded accusations by two humans I barely feel should be classified as people... it just makes me want to scream. They don't deserve this.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How it all started

So the other day I came across a ten-year-old tape in my closet, put it in the player and it turns out it was a copy of the very first show we did at the Wildride Sled Dog Show back in May of 2007. I was brand new to Team Seavey, I'd worked maybe a couple of weeks at that point. I'd never been *this close* to an Iditarod champion before (Mitch Seavey still scares me... and he's not really a scary guy lol). A lot of memories (mostly good) were brought up watching this very raw/unrefined version of what would become one of the top tourist attractions in Anchorage, Alaska. Dallas and the rest of the team worked tirelessly to make the show great. We recorded every show and Dallas would study it for hours trying to decide what needed work, what just flat didn't work, and what needed fixing ASAP.

I learned a lot,  not just about mushing, but about work and pride and yeah... I gush. But if you wonder why I stand with Dallas, why I'm a fan, and why I call foul when certain other mushers who shall remain nameless only because their name does not deserve to be mentioned pull crap... this is why.

I put the video on my youtube channel. I didn't ask permission, but I assume since the show is no more, and that this is a 10+ year old video, that I am not breaking any secret rule. You don't see me in the video (I don't think) but any time you hear music, that's me playing DJ... I ran sound for 4 summers, and I loved it.

Small roster so far for the Tustumena 200

Lance Mackey attended the
Iditarod BBQ in June 2016.
Ten names are on the list after the Tustumena 200 opened registration on Friday. Most names are unfamiliar, but 2017's second place team of Nicolas Petit and third place team of Dave Turner will be back, and four-time Iditarod Champion Lance Mackey looks to return to the T200. Mackey withdrew from the 2017 Iditarod due to health and family concerns, and has no plans to run the Iditarod this year.

Lance posted on facebook earlier this year that his kennel was downsizing - partially due to family needs, but also because he could not find reliable handlers - but was not leaving the sport. Throughout the summer Mackey raced cars, which has becoming his #1 passion of late, and shared glimpses into his home life (Mackey became a father to son Atigun in 2016) via social media.

Lance Mackey has run the Tustumena 200 multiple times, but has only taken the title once - in 2008. Mackey started his kennel on the Kenai Peninsula before moving further north and creating the Comeback Kennel (after battling and beating cancer). It's been nearly a decade since Mackey has raced on the Peninsula behind a dog sled.

Nicolas Petit barely lost to 2017's champion Cim Smyth, and no doubt has his sights set on taking the title this season. The bib numbers were drawn Saturday for those that registered Friday, and Petit will be first out of the chute. In a 200 miler, this can be an advantage (unlike the Quest and Iditarod where you don't want to be first but you also do not want to be last either). Petit will no doubt come out will all guns blasting.

Interestingly not on the list is Mitch Seavey. Seavey won the race in 2013 and had high praise for the race. In 2017 he came in fourth after having issues with his team out on the trail (someone *might* have forgotten the first rule of mushing: don't let go). The Tustumena 200 is a good training run for the top teams because of its hilly trail (it runs through the Caribou Hills). There's still a lot of time (and a lot of room on the roster) to sign up, so we may see Mitch Seavey on there soon.

Also off of the roster, but a little less surprising, is Paul Gebhardt. Rumors swirled early this fall when Gebhardt began selling and leasing out his kennel to other mushers - some of them top name mushers. Many believed he was retiring/getting out of mushing, but all of that talk was quashed with Gebhardt's announcement this week that he is battling cancer. His daughter started a gofundme page to help offset costs as Paul and his daughter will travel to Seattle for a stem cell bone marrow transplant in late February. Gebhardt has multiple myeloma, but is reportedly responding incredibly well to treatment. Paul is a fan favorite, and a familiar face on the T200, and will be missed, but it won't be surprising if he doesn't show up to show his fellow mushers support in January.

While the T200's roster is a tad anemic, the Tustumena 100 is already half full with five names on the roster. It could be that with the lackluster start of the Alaskan winter on the peninsula (they finally saw snow stick today) that mushers are waiting to see if there is any real chance of a race before planning to travel to the Kenai. Time will tell.

Who do you still hope to see on the roster? Who are you excited to see already listed? Comment below and let me know!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Tustumena 200 registration to begin Friday

Nicolas Petit's team placed second at
the 2017 Tustumena 200. January 29, 2017
After an exciting and fast paced finish this past January, the Tustumena 200 is looking ahead to what is hopefully another star studded event full of excitement. One of the last races to open registration, the race will begin taking musher applications on Friday. The T200 will be held the last weekend in January 2018 barring any unforeseen circumstances like bad weather. The 2014, 2015, and 2016 races were all cancelled due to lack of snow and unfrozen rivers making trails impassable.

While "only" a 200 mile race, the Tustumena 200 is known as one of the hardest mid-distance races in Alaska. Run mostly in the caribou hills, mushers often mention how thankful they are that it's only 200 miles. Top teams often sign up for the race to get in some mountain trail training in before the Yukon Quest and Iditarod races. Others are less experienced, but are working on qualifying for the 1,000 mile races.

Most mid-distance races cap their roster at 40 teams, and the T200 follows that guideline. Wait-lists can be long, however one of the advantages of holding registration so late is teams who couldn't get into other races - like the Northern Lights 300 which takes place the same weekend - are more likely to sign up. The T200 is also the only major race run on the Kenai Peninsula, and so a lot of the "Peninsula Mushers" plan on running on their "home turf" each year. Teams like Osmar, Zappa, and Seavey are almost always on the roster.

Returning this year is the shorter Tustumena 100 which traditionally starts before the 200 mile race and finishes the same day, in 2018 it will start after the T200. Teams run to Freddie's Roadhouse and back, with a mandatory layover in the one check point on the race. In more recent runnings, the roster has been light, and last year they did not run the shorter race. Bringing it back this year seems to be a trial run to see if it's worth the planning and preparation. The roster will be capped at 10 names. Junior mushers will be allowed to run at the request of the musher and approval by the board.

A glance at the incomplete list of the Northern Lights 300 does not show any top names in the sport as participating - however the list is unofficial and does not appear on the race's website. We'll know more about participation in the Tusumena 100 and 200 on Friday. Registration fills up within hours.

Registration opens at 8:00am AKST Friday, November 4, 2017. The race begins Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 11:00am AKST in Kasilof, Alaska.

Who do you hope to see on the race's roster? Tell me in the comments below!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

No boycott for most Iditarod teams

Speculation and accusations continue to be lobbied about this weekend by fans and mushers alike over the news of Dallas Seavey's 2017 Iditarod team testing positive for the race banned drug Tramadol. While the majority of people seem to continue to side with the musher, others have taken to use this moment to beat him down. Seavey, for better or worse, is currently in China attending a previously scheduled event. While he's "half way around the world" the battle has raged on.

However, with the drama going into week 3 (if we could the week where Dallas was simply known as Musher X in the story), the media has begun to find other things to focus on. Fans are a little less angry. And the mushers... the mushers...

Well, most of the mushers are not following Dallas's plea for a boycott of the last great race.

This should come as no real surprise. The Iditarod is the top echelon of the sport these mushers throw a lot of money into training. There's no US National Mushing fund teams can get a little help from. They rely on sponsorship from individuals and businesses. Most big sponsors want to see results to make the investment look worthwhile. Top name means the brand is scene more, and is associated with excellence. It's why Dallas Seavey and J.J. Keller are such a good partnership, one that sees Dallas giving motivational speeches nationwide every year. Mitch Seavey has Young Living. Jeff King was the Cabela's musher until Animal Rights activists managed to ruin a good thing there (ironic considering). Red Paw, Eagle, Dr. Tim'ss and other high performance dog foods also have mushers they support. These sponsors want results. You don't get results if you don't run.

It's also "helpful" that the deadline to withdraw from the race and get a full refund passed before the positive drug test came to light. The petition written and signed by many of the Iditarod Finishers Club requested not only that the ITC release the name of the musher whose team tested positive, but also that the refund deadline be postponed until November. We know the ITC gave in to the first request, but have seemingly ignored all other requests by the mushers. We have no more transparency since Monday's release of the musher's name, and the mushers are out $4,000 if they withdraw.

Aside from Dallas Seavey, only two other mushers have withdrawn since the announcement - both citing the ITC's handling of the "doping scandal" as reason behind their pulling out. Laura Neese was first, and while she did not come out in full support of Dallas, she did cite concerns about the ITC's leadership. Jason Mackey announced Thursday that he, too, was dropping out of the race due to being "sick of the politics". Mackey is also charged with third-degree theft after he allegedly took four dog crates that belonged to another musher when he was in Nome, and he never returned them. After allegedly ducking phone calls for months, musher Al Eischens said he had "no choice" but to file a police report. A hearing is set for the first part of November.

More mushers have come out in support of both Dallas AND the ITC - saying now was the time to unify, not divide. This is most likely not what Dallas had in mind when he spoke out against the ITC and their recent decisions. Top names like Aliy Zirkle and Wade Marrs both said that they believed that Dallas was smarter and had more integrity than to knowingly use a banned substance - especially when he knew a drug test would happen at the finish. However, neither one feels the ITC maliciously went after Dallas and that they planned on running Iditarod. Other mushers have spoken in favor of Dallas, but have not spoken one way or the other on the Iditarod, but are still listed on the Iditarod roster.

Only one musher has said their decision is still up in the air - unsurprisingly that musher is Mitch Seavey. While some have shared surprise that Mitch didn't just pull immediately, it'd be remiss to point out that Mitch is deeply connected to the Iditarod in ways his son can't be. Mitch watched his father and the other Iditarod Trail Blazers come together with Joe Redington to get the race off the ground. Can't help but think the loyalty to the race (not the ITC, as Dallas pointed out the ITC is not the Iditarod) weighs heavy on his mind as does his loyalty to his kid.

Dallas' brother Danny made the point in an interview with fellow musher and journalist Blair Braverman that it wouldn't matter if the top 10 mushers all pulled out, and the ITC board were all fired, there would still be an Iditarod. The race is bigger than a few top names. Volunteers and fans and mushers are here to stay.

Also staying put are all of the Iditarod's sponsors. For once, scandal isn't scaring anyone away - for now. Though some have told the media that they are "monitoring the situation" for now, all of their money is staying put. This is good news for the race in general. The Iditarod recently lost a major sponsor in Wells Fargo due to Animal Rights Extremists pressured the bank into stopping sponsorship. Sound familiar? Kinda hard not to think they had a hand in the latest bout of negativity within the race.

There are still questions that the ITC needs to address. Full transparency in sports - especially when it's the health and safety of the sports athletes - is of great importance. The ITC is hoping the attention will die down, but my personal hope is that the mushers continue to push for answers. Not just Dallas shouting with righteous indignation over how they handled this, but the other mushers who deserve to know just what happened. Dogs were drugged, the ITC has no proof their musher did it - are they still investigating? It might make everyone breathe a little easier if they actually seemed to want to find out how the drug got in the dogs system. Right now with their inaction to investigate, it just seems that they still believe Dallas Seavey to be to blame, even when they say they don't believe it to be the case.

We need answers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

ITC seems unconcerned with who drugged Seavey's dogs

I was forwarded a Facebook message the Iditarod social media representative sent a concerned fan in regards to how the Dallas Seavey case has been handled. That they responded at all is in itself shocking, but that they were willing to admit that they could find not proof of any wrong doing is what most are focusing on.

Screencap of the message sent to a race fan today about Dallas Seavey's
Doping allegations. October 25, 2017
If they could find no proof of Dallas Seavey being the one to administer the drug to his dogs, then that raises a concerning question: "just who did?" This is the issue that Seavey brought up Monday night as news broke that he was Musher X, and again in the many interviews he gave yesterday trying to pressure the Iditarod Trail Committee into releasing their findings. Seavey reiterated how he and others were concerned of the lack of security in the checkpoints when drop bags are delivered, as well as the apparent lack of security in the Nome Dog Lot.

If Dallas is not guilty, then that leads to only 3 main options: 1. another musher/musher's people tampered with Seavey's team/food, 2. An Animal Rights activist group is to blame or 3. It was an honest mistake by a vet/handler/volunteer. All three are plausible, but we will never be sure unless the guilty party breaks their silence. If Dallas Seavey is telling the truth, and he nor his team gave his dogs the drug, then why isn't the ITC concerned? Why are they not investigating this fully? Why not release what they found? Why not release how they came to the conclusion that there's no proof Dallas did it?

If the Board came to the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing by Dallas, and that they believe he did not administer the drug to his dogs, then WHY have they not even ENTERTAINED the idea of sabotage? If they have no proof of wrong doing why sit on the findings so long? Why not produce the evidence that they have? Where are the test results.

If what Dallas Seavey said about his communication with the ITC, race marshal, and lead Iditarod veterinarian is true, then the drug was administered in Nome. If administered then, then it was after his team was done racing. If he was done racing when the drug was administered then there is no broken rule. The drug, Tramadol, is only banned during the race, it is a legal prescription drug to have for either pain relief for humans or dogs. It is fairly easy to get as anyone can get it with a script from a doctor or vet. If there is no broken rule, the doping allegations are a moot point. If it's a moot point the ONLY concern the ITC should focus on is - if there is no proof that DALLAS or his TEAM fed the dogs the drug then someone else DID. There needed to be a thorough investigation, and by all accounts there wasn't. There were a few phone calls back and forth, with no doubt Dallas going from "how" to "who" and asking for answers.

Instead of answers, Dallas purports that he was thrown under the bus. And judging by how ridiculous this PR nightmare for the Iditarod has become, one is apt to believe him. That the ITC is now more concerned about how the longer this discussion goes the more likely the Iditarod will lose sponsorship money than they are that someone's dogs were drugged without their knowledge is concerning. The ITC seems to be way out in left field, in one sentence they say they believe Dallas, in another they all but call him out as a liar. Which is it?

Stan Hooley went to KTVA for a nearly 40 minute interview where through his double talk said he wants to listen to the concerns of mushers and that they should never have felt they couldn't speak their mind about the race. All actions by the ITC before now would contradict that, as many mushers have said as much in at least the last 2 years since the gag rule came into effect. Hooley wants to see Dallas run this year's Iditarod, Seavey says that won't happen and wants other mushers to follow him out of the race until the ITC sees new leadership. That is unlikely to happen as many teams would be out a great deal of entry fee money as the deadline to withdraw with full refund happened before news of the positive drug test broke. This is yet another slight mushers feel from the ITC.

Hooley said he hoped this would die down and go away, and it very well could with Seavey stuck forever with the questions, but this is Dallas Seavey. He doesn't just lay down and die. This will not just go away.

And it shouldn't go away. Fans, mushers, media, everyone needs to pressure the ITC. First off to release the test results and other evidence ITC used to come to its conclusions. We need actual answers not speculation. Not vague statements. And secondly, since they say Dallas didn't give his dogs the drug, they need to start an investigation into who did. None of this "we're looking at new security measures", FIGURE OUT WHAT WENT WRONG, and make sure it never ever happens again. This time the dogs were drugged with something safe and in the right dose. Next time it could be a far worse result. It's time for the ITC to step up and protect the mushers and the dogs THAT is the true spirit of the race, not lining their pockets.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mushers show support for one of their own

By now you've read the news: Dallas Seavey's dogs tested positive for a banned substance. The revelation came after over a week of drama between the media, fans, mushers and the Iditarod Trail Committee. The Iditarod Finishers Club created a petition with many mushers, including Seavey's father Mitch, demanding the ITC come clean and name the musher. Many of those that signed are now coming out in support of the 4-time Iditarod Champion.

Once Dallas' name was released, speculation gave way to camps of fans deciding guilt or innocence with the majority siding with Dallas once his 18-minute video statement started circulating. Soon after, mushers chimed in with their thoughts on the matter. The vast majority were supportive of Dallas, saying that the Dallas Seavey they know and compete against know there was not logical reason for him to drug his dogs (especially with a sedative).

Last night three former Iditarod Champions spoke their support on facebook, plus more retired mushers as well as Dallas's current competition. By morning more followed suit with Aliy Zirkle sending an email statement to KTUU saying how she's raced Dallas for 10 years and knows that he did not drug his dogs. Jessie Royer also talked with KTUU saying very much the same thing.

One of the most telling showings of support is Lance Mackey's statement on his facebook page last night.

We all remember when Lance Mackey had his melt down a few Iditarods ago where he was asked who he hoped would win and he had some not so flattering things to say about the one musher he hoped WOULDN'T win (Dallas). Doesn't sound like much has changed, but if even Lance is smelling something rotten it's time to pay attention.

Jeff King also risked breaking the Iditarod's gag rule by speaking out in favor of the younger Seavey.

More statements of support are pouring out. This battle is far from over. Dallas has basically declared war on the current ITC calling for resignations for all members except the one voted in by the mushers themselves (ITC Board Rep, Wade Marrs). Dallas has also suggested mushers withdraw from the Iditarod until the ITC board changes. Until about a half hour ago, no one had joined him in boycotting, but Laura Neese - part of Nature's Kennel - has now followed suit, though not citing Dallas's call to action as the reason.

Iditarod's finally acknowledged Dallas' withdrawl from the race.

Buckle up, friends, it's about to get good.

Monday, October 23, 2017

I Support Dallas Seavey

'Nuf said.

I may blog later about this issue. I had a blog in the works when the news broke. Work and life got in the way of my weighing in with more than 140 characters on twitter about the drama of the last week in Iditarod. Yes, it's true, I am "biased" as I've been gungho Team Seavey (and a fan of Dallas') since 2007. However, in that decade I've trusted Dallas. I've respected Dallas (name calling and witty remarks aside). I consider he and his family friends. I do not trust people easily. I do not choose who I'm loyal to easily. I believe Dallas. I know he would never cheat - because he does not need to. I don't think his ego would even allow him to entertain the thought. This witch hunt is unwarranted and shame on the ITC for the way they've handled this.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Dementia Night

We all went to bed by 1030. Dad had fallen asleep in the chair and was "late" getting Gpa his meds, they are not time sensitive just one needs to be taken at bed time. It is supposed to help Gpa not have anxiety. Normally it works.
Fast forward to a little over half an hour ago and I was scared awake by my grandfather opening my bedroom door and flipping the lights on. This has never happened before. He has knocked on my door every time before entering until tonight. Unless I was so dead to the world I didn't hear it, but that is unlikely as Stitch would have been awake and barking. Needless to say when the light came on both Stitch and I jumped to the ceiling. Stitch immediately raced out of my room thinking it was time for food (so I know where i rank, thanks dog). As for me I am trying to wrap my brain about what is going on! I see gpa dressed but I am pretty sure he slept in what he wore yesterday... but he is in my room yelling something that makes no sense.
Finally he gets out "I don't know where I need to be next! I need to talk to somebody and go there!" I will be honest, I was scared. He was rambling like he did a year and a half ago when he got violent on us. Then he turns to my bookcase near my door and frowns and says "and some of these are mine." I assure him, "Nooo, I promise all of those books have always been mine." He then turns back to me and yelled "I just don't know what's going on!" (After thinking about it, there were a couple of cookbooks in the bookcase that I'd given Gma as gifts, but at midnight I'm not awake enough to realize things like that.)
That's what this all boils down to. His brain can no longer figure out what is a dream, what is imagination, and what is reality. For weeks now he has been upset with us over things we find out we did in a dream of his. Sometimes we can explain to him he was dreaming, but most times he just loses focus and forgets. In this moment at midnight, though, is not the time to suggest that.
"This was easier the first time when the officer told me where to go 90 years ago." At the time this statement threw me. 90 years ago Gpa was maybe 18 months old. I then thought maybe he meant when he went into the Navy. As i type this i think he may have meant the incident in May 2016 when the police were called and he was taken to the hospital where they were able to help him get on the right meds. These are all logical guesses while trying to understand a disease that is anything but logical.
I tell him that my dad should know where he needs to be and I send out a silent prayer that it doesn't set him off. He agrees to the idea (thank you, God) and says he is going to lay on the couch and wait. I quietly go down the stairs trying not to wake my parents in the same manner i was woken up, and I softly call out for dad. Mom of course hears me and has to nudge dad awake (the man will be able to sleep through North Korea nuking us). Dad goes upstairs to see if he can calm Gpa down.
I couldn't hear their full conversation, but Gpa was all over the map. At one point, mid-sentence he stopped and asked dad if the bear rug on the wall was his. Dad answered yes. "What about the horns?" "The moose antlers are from a moose I shot a long time ago, Dad." "Oh."
At one point (I didn't hear this, but dad shared with me later) he was on the subject of sexuality. There's something my dad wanted to talk about with his dad at 12:30 in the morning!
Dad was finally able to get Gpa back to bed, told him he would see him tomorrow after work. Dad and i chatted a minute and now I am back in my room typing. Gpa apparently went right to sleep, but he is restless. He is talking loudly. I am thankful I don't work on Fridays as I have a feeling this night is not over.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith is like a bluebird you see from afar...

Had a visitor the other night in the backyard. A Juvenile Steller's Jay spent time in our trees during a very windy part of the day. Steller's Jays are my favorite type of bird that we have. Yes, they beat out even the incredible Bald Eagle. (One of the Steller's in our yard can make the same sound an Eagle makes, it's hilarious!) With the bird just sitting there it gave me enough time to run into the house and grab my camera and big lens. I kept creeping closer to him to get different angles and what not. It was super windy so a lot of them ended up with too much motion blur, but I got a few decent ones. Check them out (and don't forget to click the "read more" to see all of them!)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Changing of the Guard: Jonrowe says Iditarod 2018 to be her last

If you grew up watching the Iditarod like most children in Alaska did in the 80s and 90s you knew DeeDee's name. If you were female, in Alaska, and growing up in that era you definitely knew her name. DeeDee Jonrowe was one of the women who people wanted to see win. Who knew she'd win. In many ways, DeeDee was supposed to champion what Susan Butcher had made common place - a female Iditarod Champion. Jonrowe was the media darling after Butcher retired to start a family. Jonrowe was as tough as they came and yet fought to keep her "femininity". She wore make up, had "styled" hair, and of course let's not forget all that pink (which as a kid I forgave because she was a lady musher poised to make it to the top).

She was a dominant name in the 90s, coming in second to some pretty fantastic champions three times, and never seeing a finish out of the top ten in that decade - except for 1999 when she scratched due to dogs balking at the winds of the Yukon River. Jonrowe has also had a difficult career due to personal crisis multiple time. In 1996 she was in a car accident that took the life of her grandmother and hospitalized herself and her husband. Her mother Peggy famously battled cancer several times throughout the last 3 decades, before finally losing the battle in 2015 just weeks after DeeDee signed up for the 2016 race, and while wildfires destroyed the Jonrowe Kennel and home. The Jonrowes lost just about every material possesion along with most of the property's structures (all but one retired sled dog, and one cat, survived thanks to the quick action of Jonrowe and her friends). In 2002 DeeDee herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery to remove both breasts, and after completing her chemo in January she ran the 2003 Iditarod where she placed an incredible 18th place (this was the first time Iditarod would run from Fairbanks to Nome, and was difficult for all teams). Through it all DeeDee pushed through, overcame, and continued to land herself consistently in the top 20.

This morning, the Iditarod Legend (and she deservedly owns that title) took to Facebook to report that the 46th Iditarod will be her last. The last few years have been an extreme emotional roller coaster for Jonrowe, with a lot of emotional posts coming through on social media. She also had a more pessimistic view in many of her interviews as she ran each race. While retirement seemed inevitable, the announcement was still a surprise to many in the mushing fandom. DeeDee is a recognized figure throughout the world and her name is synonymous with Iditarod.

I personally cannot remember a time when DeeDee was not a competitor in the Iditarod. Her first race was 1980, five years before I was born. She has entered every year I've been alive. Next to Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher, DeeDee Jonrowe was the next big thing. The torch passed from her to the next generation of dominant lady mushers a few years ago when Aliy made a splash first in the Yukon Quest in 2000 and then later on in Iditarod. Aliy seemed poised to be the next female super star (and she is) but now Jessie Royer and Michelle Phillips are hot on her tail ready to surpass her. No woman has been a dominant figure as long as DeeDee Jonrowe. While she may never hold the title of Iditarod Champion, she's every bit as known, loved, and respected as those who do (and in some cases she's more so). Next March may be the last time DeeDee runs the Iditarod race as a musher, but she will forever be a part of the Last Great Race.

Thank you for teaching girls world wide, but especially in Alaska, DeeDee how to stay strong and battle through the darkness! May this coming training and racing season be the best one EVER.

Share your favorite DeeDee Jonrowe memory in the comments below.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Phone Scam Alert!

Last night (June 16, 2017) as we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and the caller asked to speak with Alan Reitter. My dad said that was him, and the man on the phone said that there was a warrant out on him because he failed to appear for jury duty. Dad is scheduled for Grand Jury duty in July, and he informed the man on the phone of such. The man continued to say that my dad had incorrect information, that he'd missed his court date, and that there was a warrant out for his arrest if he didn't show up at a location to sort this all out.

Mind you, this is well after hours for the court - and it's also not "illegal" to have missed jury duty. This man didn't care, he stated he was with the Alaska State Troopers and that if my father didn't drop everything and do as he said, they'd have to arrest him.

The caller's call dropped several times but he called dad right back. Each time the caller ID said "private caller". While my dad continued to get information from this guy about this supposed warrant I kept saying it was a scam, but no one believes me without me having someone else back me up (which is a rant for another day), so I texted my friend who is a prosecutor here in Kenai. He texted back SCAM!!!!! My dad informed the man on the phone that he was going to have to call the police and make sure this was legit as "an ADA just told me you're a scam." The man's call conveniently dropped again.

My dad reported it to the Kenai Police Dept. Soon after he was done with that long call the SCAMMER CALLED BACK. I'd had enough, and I answered the phone (dad was on another call with the Alaska Office for the FBI - who gave him the number to call the office in DC!). The scammer once again asked for my dad and I asked if this was the supposed officer from the Alaska State Troopers. He said yes and that he needed to talk to my dad. I informed him that we've already talked to the police and they said not to talk to him any more. He told me that WE CALLED THE WRONG DEPARTMENT and that we needed to talk to him only. I got REALLY pissy at this point and told him absolutely not that the KPD WAS EXACTLY WHO WE NEEDED TO CALL and to STOP CALLING OUR HOUSE. He said he was going to send troopers to our house and I hung up.

We had dinner, went to the movies, came home - he'd not called again and it's been over 12 hours and no trooper has showed up to arrest anybody.


The info the man used to Identify himself as "legit" were:
Name: "Lt. Steven Harris of the Alaska State Troopers"
Case Number: FTA 0079-81-10CV
Phone number: 907-290-3015 ext 3

Again, we've spoken with folks at the Kenai Police Dept AND the FBI and both say this is a definite scam and that it's been going around the Peninsula for a few weeks now. IF YOU GET THE CALL - CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT. They use it to get more statistics on who they are calling it may help them track down where they're getting info.

Feel free to share. You can contact me with more questions if need be.