Monday, March 29, 2010 Who do you want to win Dancing with the Stars? ;)

Well, considering I don't watch DwtS even with one of my favorite figure skaters on there and don't vote, I guess you could say I don't care. But if Evan wins I will be happy ha ha!

Ask me anything

Hmm. Which one, which one.

Seems to be the debate of the day for my brain. Between work, and then a ton of retail therapy (all of which was something that I needed not wanted... well, okay, I WANTED these things, too, but they weren't just on a whim decisions) it was debating which to do/get/etc.

Now I'm online researching travel bags/backpacks/cases for my camera, and lenses. Yup. Gotta get this squared away while I can. They are important decisions. I really need a new lens or two, and I need a better way to transport my stuff on airplanes, road trips, hiking, etc.

So that's what I'm doing at 8:40pm. Not going to get anything for a couple of months yet, but gotta start budgetting and saving now! I want to get a sports lens and a portrait lens. I'm thinking a canon 100-400mm and then for portraits I'm still debating. If/when I do another skating event I'll still have the lens I use now as I can only shoot up to 200mm lenses when I'm attending (though maybe if I get my sports lens I can talk someone into getting me a press pass and shoot it officially. That'd be cool.)

I'm not drinking enough water these days, getting back into bad soda habits. Gotta change that, I can definitely feel the effects my legs are always cramped.

Random musings tonight, that's for sure. I didn't get anything done today that needed to be done, but I went shopping and some planning, so the night was not a total loss. Now, it's off to bed... off to bed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mmm. Blue.

Not that anyone reads this anywhere but facebook as I have it imported into that application, but I changed my layout again to just a simple blue theme. I love the color blue. It's crisp, it's refreshing, and it can bring a wave (pun intended) of emotions and thoughts. I think it's quite possibly the most artisitcally expressive color.

How's that for an introspective moment?

Not much is going on in my life, the mushing and figure skating seasons are pretty much over with the big competitions coming to an end this month. And, let's face it, it's spring, winter sports wind down just due to the fact that their sports arenas melt away! Honestly I'm more sad to see the mushing season come to a close more so than the figure skating one. This happens to me every olympic year. I guess the emotion runs too high or something.

And I don't get why I'm so upset about the sled dog races coming to an end. Now it's the summer months to look forward to with sled dog puppies! and SUN! and WARMTH!

yeah, okay, I'm actually ready for summer with a great passion. I want warmer weather and sun and an Alaskan's version of a tan!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

History in the making.

Yes, Lance Mackey winning four Iditarods in a row is amazing and ground breaking and blah blah blah.

But can I just say what's even greater? It looks like this will be the first Iditarod in memory where there have been no deaths on the trail! While a lot of sled dog "saviors" can't WAIT to read about the first death so they can begin their plight to "save the sled dog" (why is it only THEY get excited about something like that, it's almost as if they want it - wait, they DO!). Forgetting them, though, that means the trail was awesome and the mushers involved knew what they were doing. Looks like some of the steeper restrictions worked in everyone's favor.

Take that PETA/Friends of Animals/Save The Sled Dogs - you can't do your 'death dance.'

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lance Mackey is Iditarod Champion... again.

Same song, different verse. Mackey was untouchable as he rode into Nome at 3:58pm today. It's a huge accomplishments on many levels. Four wins is huge enough, four in a row is unheard of...

Of course, until today, that is.

Lance almost beat Martin Buser's fastest time record. Wow. And, what's better for the sport and for Mackey - he did it without the drugs. Maybe now he'll realize he doesn't need the stuff in order to function. Then again, I doubt he needs the excuse as is.

Mackey states he's in it, for sure, next year. After that who knows. Anyone want to bet we'll be seeing much of the same reporting when it comes to Team Mackey come this time next year?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lance to enter the 4 time champion ranks.

Barring a leap off of some random cliff before hitting Nome, it's pretty much a done deal: Lance Mackey Iditarod 38's Champion. He will be the first to win four consecutive titles, and joins the likes of Jeff King, Martin Buser, Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley and Rick Swenson (the only one with five). Jeff's last stretch strategy, once again, has thwarted all efforts to overtake his team. It's almost anticlimactic when you think about it. This whole race was a who's who of champions and going to be champs and one by one those teams faltered, all the while Lance was steadily running in the mix.

If he keeps the pace he's running now I expect him into Nome tomorrow between 2:30 and 3:30. Iditarod veteran Perry Solmonson predicted this afternoon that Lance should be in by 3pm. While chatting with Perry we both see it as possible that Lance could tie, or BEAT Martin Buser's record winning time. This year's race has been fast, the trail was great for fast moving teams, and we're seeing them all benefit from it!

Congratulations, Lance. It's a huge accomplishment.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is this 2009? 2008? 2007?

It's Mackey and King one and two... this is starting to get pretty predictable. King is an hour behind Mackey running out of Shaktoolik. You would think that King would remember how he lost the race the last three years. Running behind Mackey is not going to win you the championship here, buddy!

According to the GPS tracker, King is running 6 miles behind Mackey at this point, and his team is also running slower - how is that possible? King's team is always faster. Oh well, if Mackey wins his fourth and King once again comes in second at least we'll have a legendary rivalry in this decade.

Seavey's seem to be losing a little bit of steam. Mitch is now sixth after running steadily in 4th up to now, and Dallas is in 14th and I don't see them moving too much further up (but hey if I'm wrong I will gladly eat my words). Still they've raced extremely well again this year (Dallas was absolutely fantastic getting first to Cripple), but it's a little diappointing when they're the ones I consistantly cheer for. Seeing Gebhardt as far down as he is, is also disappointing. Come on Peninsula Mushers! lol

Can't believe the race will be over by midweek for the front runners. It's exciting - if they keep up the speeds and times that they are, they could possibly rival or beat Martin Buser's record time - but depressing. All this build up and they're just zooming through this year.

Top Ten reach Unalakleet

First four are out. Do I even need to give you their names at this point?

Looks like it's a strong group of teams this year all vying for that first position. I don't want to say it's once again a Mackey King love fest, because Hans Gatt and Hugh Neff are definitely making it difficult for the two champions to run away with the game again. Seavey and Baker are also still in the mix, though they may be stuck duking it out for fifth at this point.

This race is going to be another nail biter (I would love to see King and Mackey take a run for a win like Lance's dad and Rick Swenson did twenty some odd years ago.) and what a way for Jeff to retire from the Iditarod (though I'm still in denial that he won't be in the mix next year. How can he just give this up?).

Unlucky thirteen is the number of teams scratched with Judy Currier joining the unlucky ranks. She injured her back earlier in the race, and by Galena the pain was just too much. Speedy recovery, Judy! May you come back next year stronger than ever!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Warren Palfrey scrathes.

And then there were twelve. Palfrey is the latest to scratch on the Iditarod trail. It's yet another team that has ended its quest because the "dogs were no longer able to continue to be competitive."

What does that mean? It's not like they were up there with the leaders anyway. So what does it mean to be competitive? Was it the musher who was discouraged because, once again, he paid a boatload of money to run this 10 day race and he wasn't getting anywhere in the standings? Seems a little silly and very anti-mushing.

So is it because teh dogs didn't want to pull/run anymore or because they're ill? In that case he should be commended. At least he didn't go the Ramy Brooks route and try to beat running into the dogs.

Still, it just seems odd - the reasons being given for the scrathes this year.

There are bets beginning on when DeeDee will be forced to scratch, she's still got a third leg to go and she's down to eight dogs. What gives?

Reddington is the 11th musher to scratch.

News just broke that Ryan Reddington scratched this afternoon citing concerns for his dogs - they reportedly were not feeling well. This brings the number of teams to not finish this year's race to 11.

The leap frogging has been going on all day for the top mushers as well as the middle of the pack. It's still anyone's game, though Mackey is making it clear it's his to lose at this point. He is fiercely determine to get four in a row, a feat not accomplished by any musher. It will also solidify that he needs no drugs to enhance his performance (nevermind that's not what the ITC says the drug testing was about).

Continuing to follow the GPS tracker and waiting for official reports to come out via it's gonna be a long night, I can tell ya that much!

Mackey takes the lead.

Around lunchtime today, Mackey made his move. Up to this point it was anyone but Mackey leading the pack, concerning some that he may not make it to the finishline in first this year. Mackey's strategy was definitely kept hidden until he made his move just a little over an hour ago.

King led the way into Kaltag where he still sits, while Mackey came up behind and blew through the checkpoint. Both men have taken their manditory 8 hours on the Yukon, so the next time they must stop will be towards the end when they stop for 8 in White Mountain before continuing on to Safety and Nome for a victory.

It's definitely becoming a story of Deja Vu. What will we do without Jeff to challenge Mackey next year?

Neff and Seavey are still sitting in 3rd and 4th respectively. Seavey's team is slowing down a bit compared to the other teams, but it could be the veteran musher's strategy to slow them down and let them haul out a little bit later on in teh trail. Who knows. Seems the only mushers the media focusses on these days is Mackey and King.

Not that I blame them, this rivalry ranks right up there with Butcher and Swenson or Swingley and Buser/King... maybe it even tops it.

Dog Drop

Last night while volunteering at the sales table I took a break and went out to see the dog drop area. This is my first time ever seeing the operation, and I apparently missed most of the action of the afternoon when they had about 60 dogs at one time waiting for pick ups. Several of the dogs were definitely wanting to be left alone, but most were incredibly energetic which makes you wonder why they were there in the first place.

One such dog (the one in the picture above) was one from Jeff King's team. Don't know his name but he was absolutely adorable. Totally into attention seeking. He was playful, upbeat, and having a heck of a time. I loved on him quite a bit before moving on and taking photos of other dogs, but he would have none of it. He kept mouthing me arm and when I finally walked away he played tug-o'-war with the back of my jacket! Loved my time with "greatness" (as I told the pup). How many people get to love on a Jeff King Iditarod dog?

I'm going to to into rant mode for a moment now. I've read a lot of stupid things on the internet about this race over the years. Lies about how dogs are destroyed/killed if they can't finish the race, dogs dying at the hands of volunteers, dogs being put down when they are too old to run anymore. It's simply not true. I'm sure someone somewhere is a cruel and heartless musher, but not those that run the Iditarod year in and year out, and it's certainly not the volunteers that hate these dogs. I would venture that it's "Friends of Sled Dogs" and "PETA" and the like that hate these awesome athletes. Why would you deny an animal what it was bred to do. These aren't pugs that are bred to be lap dogs, these aren't labradors that are bred for companionship and hunting, these are dogs that are bred to run as a team, to pull, to run.

The saddest looking dogs may in fact be the dogs in the dog lot that were left off of this year's Iditarod team. The dog drop dogs might be a little sad, or even feel they let their pack down, but there was also a sense of pride in most of them like they'd done their job and now it was time to rest. They are well cared for while they wait for their turn to be picked up and put on the dog truck. This isn't for show or for pulling the wool over someone's eyes. There were no 'spectators' where I was, there would be no reason to hide "evil" if we were all the cold and heartless volunteers that PETA, Friends of Animals, and Save the Sled Dogs would have you believe.

I've had the priviledge to work within the Seavey Kennel, and I've seen how those dogs are treated. They may not get to be couch potatos, but I can't see a single one of them wanting to be either. They're very well cared for, very well respected, very well loved. I've seen the mushers be devastated over the loss of a teammate, and I've seen them be overjoyed at what some would see as a minor triumph but to them it's a "king of the world" moment. It's the stupidity of these groups that hurts the sport with their hate and lies they send to sponsors and fans every year, those of us who have seen it first hand know the truth.

In race news, Dallas Seavey is back in teh top ten (in tenth) and really not a lot else has changed since yesterday. It's still King in first, Mackey second, Neff third and Mitch Seavey fourth. Hopefully we'll see some mushers pull out some tricks so that we can see some movement in the places!

10 teams have scratched, but really it's been a pretty positive race for all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

King first to the Yukon!

As expected, Jeff King was first into Ruby which means he's the one that gets the tasty prize of a nice hot meal provided by the Millennium Hotel's top chef! If being first along the way wasn't incentive enough, the food would be!

While Jeff is eating his 7 course gourmet meal, the rest of the mushers are also fine dining on the trail thanks to sponsors and family alike keeping them fat and happy with their meals tucked away and kept safe with vaccuum sealed baggies. Click here. All of the meals sound tasty... except Paul's Grape Jelly and Miracle Whip sandwich. YUCK!

The top teams are picking up speed as they head on up the trail. Will Baker and Dallas be able to keep up?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Can you say Deja Vu?

And the race begins! Jeff King is first out of Cripple, with Mackey right on his heels. Though, in years past it's been King chasing Mackey. Still, it's starting to feel like old times with King and Mackey leading the way to Nome racing nearly neck and neck. Hugh Neff and Mitch Seavey aren't too far behind, either.

Back in Cripple still waiting for their chance to continue: Dallas Seavey, John Baker and Martin Buser - don't count these guys out. They've got an obvious strategy for the second half to wait until Cripple to take a break. It will be interesting to see if it costs them later on in the week, but the teams - especially Seavey's and Baker's - look really strong. It shouldn't be too big a deal, these mushers know what they're doing. (I hope lol)

In other news - Karen Ramstead has reportedly scratched from the race in Nikolai stating "personal reasons."

"Leaders" set to take 24 hour rest while others head up the trail.

Dallas, John and Martin will all have to wait and watch as some of the other top teams run out ahead of them tonight in Cripple. It's all about strategy at this point, there're obvious reasons why the leaders chose Cripple for their layover destination. Of course, they're not sharing that strategy with the rest of us.

While they are resting, Mackey, King, Seavey, and Schnuelle came pounding up the trail. All are in Cripple taking a breather before pushing on to Ruby. Last night's leaders will have to wait until Friday around 1:30am before continuing on. With King's impressive speeds, Dallas will be lucky if he stays 7 hours behind the 4 time champion. But Dallas has the drive and the energy to keep up, so long as the dogs hold out.

In other trail news, a seventh musher has scratched - bib #2, Linwood Fiedler, scratched in McGrath the official reason given by the press release was "best interest of the dogs". He had 11 dogs still racing when he scratched.

Speaking of dogs, if you see a dog named "Whitey" running by himself somewhere near McGrath, contact Justin Savidis who is hanging out in McGrath on his 24 hours hoping Whitey will return. If the dog is not found soon the team will have to withdrawl/be disqualified.

Some decent articles from those professional reporters (even if they don't do basic fact checking.)

Young Seavey has drive -
Cripple has a long history of taking the steam out of teams! -
Pack of icons bears down on leaders -

Dallas Seavey First In Cripple

After the confusion of last night, we still have no communication as to what was wrong with the GPS reporting - if there was any. is reporting that Baker and Seavey are out of Cripple and that they just breezed through, which is in start contrast to what's current standings are reporting. It can be assumed the leaders at the moment are taking their 24

Dallas Seavey was first into Cripple this morning with John Baker just 11 minutes behind. In third place, somewhat of a happy surprise, is Martin Buser.

King, Seavey, Neff, Schnuelle and Haltman are all out of Takotna after taking their 24 hour manditory layover. Wonder what Mitch thinks of his kid taking the lead at this point.

It's gonna be another great race day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where on the Iditarod Trail is John Baker?

Leave it to the GPS system that gives online viewers a 'live look' at the positions of the mushers on the trail. Of course, Jeff King's has been on the fritz since day one, where it won't update for hours on end... and now, it seems, John Baker is ahead of the half way point check point of Cripple - yet the Iditarod has no record of him making it into the checkpoint.

For that matter Dallas Seavey - about an hour behind Baker - is also apparently MIA after it was reported that he was expected sometime around 8:30. The Iditarod does not have any update to suggest either team has made it in.

John Baker blew through Takotna and Ophir setting his eye on being the first into Cripple. Now it appears he's missed that mark and is headed up the trail. Is he truly lost? According to his facebook fan page, the GPS is not set properly for Cripple and that is the explanation one has for why it's not reporting correct data. But is that the only reason we have for why it shows him being where he is?

In 2004, Mitch Seavey followed the wrong set of trail markers for a good 15 to 20 minutes before he realized he was on teh wrong trail - it was a mistake that could have cost him the Iditarod title. Thankfully he was able to correct the mistake before another team took advantage of the situation.

Is this another case of a musher being misinformed? Is it the GPS? No doubt this will be a hot topic as the night/morning goes on.

Just where is John Baker?

Let the 24 hour rests begin!

We're hitting the part of the race where mushers must start taking their manditory 24 hour rests. It doesn't feel like it's time yet for them to be hitting Takotna and Ophir, but apparently the mushers disagree with that idea.

Jeff King was awarded with Penair's "Spirit of Alaska" award last night after he ran into McGrath - though he didn't stay much longer than the presentation before heading onto Takotna where it's reported that he will take his 24 hour layover.

Hans Gatt and Cim Smyth blew through Takotna during the night and are sitting in Ophir. Both are down to 14 dogs, while King is still holding on to 16. This is around the time that mushers drop dogs maybe not due to illness or injury but simply because they don't need that much dog power. Many of the teams are running at 14 dogs. Click here to read's article on Gatt's run into the Ophir checkpoint.

Seems John Baker doesn't want to take advantage of all the hospitality Takotna has to offer, either, though he did stay for almost six hours (no doubt eating their wonderful pie offerings) he's on the trail headed up to Ophir. John's team is looking REALLY strong this year. Here's hoping he can finally make that win happen.

Dallas Seavey is somewhere between McGrath and Takotna running in 25th place according to the musher standings on - the GPS tracker page won't come up for me this morning, drat!

Buser's team seems to be lagging back in 28th place, there's still a slim chance he can make up the time, but at this point I think we're just going to see a top 10 finish from him once again. At least teh dogs are having fun, and that's really all that matters (especially to Martin).

I have another stint at the Iditarod HQ tonight so this will probably be teh only update I can squeeze in. Keep watch at, and

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pat Moon is 5th musher to scratch.

After this afternoon's mini rant about the confusion of reports on the trail, it was confirmed that four mushers had scratched. reported the four mushers were out of the race as of about 3 in the afternoon.

Tonight's scratch is heartbreaking as Pat Moon's story is one of true inspiration. Moon is currently battling cancer and is taking a break from treatment in order to run the Iditarod. He was not in it to win it, but just to have the experience. Pat Moon is currently at Providence Medical Center here in Anchorage, follow the story here as the story develops.

Jeff King is letting his presense be known as he is currently leading the pack heading to McGrath leaving out of Nikolai in the first place position this afternoon. Schnuelle, Baker, and Mitch Seavey (who have been consistently in the top five the last 48 hours). Debates can be had about how long they all can keep their dogs up front, but it seems to be working so far. Lance Mackey is also in the hunt, though farther back, he seems to be waiting out the ride so far. Buser, Dallas Seavey, and Jonrowe are also back out on the trail headed up to McGrath. You can read about today's leap frogging and trail reports in this article from the ADN.

DeeDee has the running tally of most dogs dropped to this point, which is interesting so early on in the race, but chances are this is her plan. However she's at a low number so soon - at this time she's running with 11 dogs. There are no reports as to the reasoning, so one can assume this is part of her strategy and not due to injuries or illness.

Some mushers are having helpers keep us up to date on their races on their websites:
Martin Buser
Team Seavey
Jeff King
DeeDee Jonrowe

It's too exciting not to follow!

As many as five reported as scratched.

Confusion has begun for spectators relying on the internet and other news sources as reports begin to swirl about a number of teams scratching today.'s message boards are a buzz with the idea that so far there has been no one to scratch, but on facebook mushing groups this morning it was reported that Kirk Baunum of California had withdrawn, Anchorage Daily News reported three different mushers as scratched, and it's rumored elsewhere that another unnamed musher has also scratched from the race.

This is the first year in recent memory where so much confusion and miscommunication in regards to teams scratching. For fans stuck in their cubicles or homes living vicariously through the Iditarod Insider and other sources, one would hope to be getting the very best coverage. Can't blame it all on financial downfall, so what gives?

At this time it looks like Karin Hendrickson, Michael Suprenant, Zoya DeNure, and Kirk Barnaum have all reportedly scratched.

Weir withdraws from Figure Skating World Championships

US figure skater Johnny Weir announced today that he would not be attending the World Figure Skating Championships later this month. Weir finished sixth in Vancouver during the Winter Olympic Games. Since then Weir, like teammate and Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek, has made the rounds in Hollywood enjoying the stardom that comes to many Olympians returning home from the Games.

Weir stated that he will be training through Worlds and hopes to work out the kinks in his wrong technique so that he may become a top contender and continue to win medals for the US next season. How one is going to do that while attending all of the fun hollywood parties, one can only wonder. However, after two Olympic Games and multiple national and world championships Weir deserves a little time off. Though, he seems to take quite a bit of time off to play around in the glitz and glam every season.

The announcement is good news for fans of other skaters, with Lysacek pulling out of Worlds to take full advantage of his new found fame by joining the cast of Dancing with the Stars, as it stands the unofficial World Team for the Men's event will be Reigning US Champion Jeremey Abbott, Ryan Bradley (fourth at the last US Nationals), and Adam Rippon (said to be the US' next big star). So far the USFSA has only confirmed Rippon's addition to the team.

Gotta wonder if we'll see three spots on the world team slip through our fingers when the men take the ice in Torino.

Photo (c) Getty Images c/o

Top Mushers in the Burn

It seems most of the top names have gotten out ahead of the massive storm that hit south central last night and are now in the burn. Reports are that the Burn is almost without snow, which means it will most likely be slow going - though there are some meteorologists predict that it could have gotten upwards of two inches of snow dusted on it last night. Still, most of the teams are keeping a steady pace of 8mph.

Both Seaveys are in the burn (Dallas is apparently resting at the moment according to teh GPS tracker), as are Gebhardt, Schnuelle, King, Mackey, Steer, and about 13 others.

We're moving right along in the race!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Poll!

Make sure to come to the main part of my blog and vote for who you believe will win Iditarod 38! If you don't find your musher choose other and then comment below with your pick!

Highlights from the Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 38

The ITC could not have ordered a more perfect day. It was overcast, but not too warm or cold, and the few snow flurries that happened throughout the day just made it feel more "Iditarod".

Dan Seavey was the first of familiar faces to come down the trail. He drove a traditional looking freight sled while his dogs wore dog coats with the Iditarod name on them. Conway Seavey - Mitch's youngest - rode the second sled (brake sled).

Being a trail coordinator was fun and challenging. A lot of people couldn't make it after signing up (though only four informed me ahead of time) so we were a little taxxed on manpower - next year I am going to do a whole lot of recruiting and we'll just wean the list down with whomever does not show up (without prior heads up).

I want to give a thanks and shout outs to:

Jeff Reitter
Alan Reitter
Sue Reitter
Duane Reitter
Ed Mallott
Tom Frolich
Gary Caddell
Lori Cochran
Charmaine Ramos
Judy Imperiale
Danielle [sorry I forgot your last name! ack!]

All were vital to the success of the Tudor Crossing event, and I'm sure your contributions were appreciated by all involved!

The hay bales that seem to be a thorn in the side of certain others in our group (and the trail committee) went off without a hitch, and the area where they were placed was great fun. Jeff, Alan (my dad), and Duane (my brother) all helped in that section and, while there were some spectacular crashes, there was no problem and no injuries (mushers have scratched due to problems on the ceremonial start). My parents and brother were 'rookies' to the modern trail guarding duties and had a blast. I think we have some new diehards now!

All of the teams look great, and I love the ceremonial start for the celebration atmosphere. Jeff King riding the front of his sleds on skis using a rudder to steer his sled while the Make-A-Wish rider sat safely and warmly under a black bear rug of a blanket. DeeDee Jonrowe and her fullout pink team. Booties were flying, hot dogs were sizzling... fantastic, wonderful day.

Wonderful even when Dallas Seavey's team went running at me while I took photos, and then as he laughed (oh the joys of knowing a mischevious musher) he knocked over a hay bale (no doubt he wasn't paying attention to where his sled was going, but he still claimed to have done it on purpose). That's what the ceremonial start is about, having fun - and, apparently, having 16 dogs try to dog pile in your lap (I got out of the way in time).

All in all it was one to go down in the books as one of the best of all time.

Can't wait to see how the race turns out!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great Time

Photos and 'review' to come later, but tonight I leave you with a shot of Dan & Conway Seavey - and team! I feel very fortunate to know the Seavey family.

Visit Team Seavey's website by clicking here, and make sure to cheer on both Mitch and Dallas during Race 38!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Musher's Banquet Tomorrow Night

And the countdown in hours begins. The musher's banquet is the kick off to teh kickoff. Mushers and their families mingle with race fans as they celebrate teh start of another year's race. It also hosts the drawing of the bib numbers determining where a musher will start in the line up. It's a night of celebration, it's low key but exciting none the less.

This year I have the honor of working the sales table at the banquet. Having never attended one before (tickets are rather inexpensive, but parking downtown is a huge pain). I have to admit I'm pretty excited. It'll be the "who's who" of mushcing as all the mushers must be presant that night to draw their number - this also ensures that those that pruchase ticketers rub elbows with "their musher."

In honor of this great tradition - and because I will not have time to blog tomorrow - tonight's blog will spotlight the mushers who are the ones to watch over the next two weeks.

Let's start off with the team favored, by most, to win: Lance Mackey. Mackey is riding high (on most days literally) off of his three consecutive wins. He is part of mushing royalty - his father, Dick Mackey, won the Iditarod in 1979 by a dog's nose, and Mackey's brother Rick is also Iditarod champion. If Lance wins this year he will be the first musher to win four in a row. Lance thrives under the attention he's garnered over the last few years, so winning his fourth is something he wants badly. But, Lance's sason has been pretty rocky. Last summer the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) announced that they would be enforcing the drug policy on mushers this year. Mackey has been very outspoken - he claims it's because people can't stand him winning all the time - stating that everyone in the state does it (for the record this life time Alaskan has never even entertained the idea of smoking pot, but, whatever, Lance). Lance is a cancer survivor who has a medicinal marajuana license - making it legal for him to use for medical purposes - and the ITC has stated it will not count against him. Mackey has stated he plans to race without his stash. We'll see.

Challenging Lance the past few years is four time Iditarod champion Jeff King. King is said to be the winningest musher in the sport. He's been part of several great rivalries from Susan Butcher to Martin Buser and, now, Lance Mackey. Jeff is a charismatic and innovative musher, much of the equipment (like the 'old man's sled') we see the mushers use out on the trail he has had a hand in improving. King's antics on the trail are also well documented by many reporters, and has helped give him an endearing quality that have race fans cheering him on year after year. Jeff King is well respected and liked by the mushing community and fans alike. He's a stark contrast to Mackey - while both seem to be showmen, Jeff has a sense of humility that Mackey lacks. Jeff gave $50,000 to the ITC with their dwindling funds and has been a champion for the race on and off the trail. King stated early this week that Iditarod 38 may very well be his last, he's sold many of his top dogs and is running a younger more inexperienced team. IF this is his final run down the trail his presence will be truly missed.

Another four time champion in the mix is Swiss born Martin Buser. Buser holds the record finishing time (just under nine days) and would probablybe the musher most likely to win the Mr. Congeniality competition. Buser's reputation is widely known - his dog care is second to none, he's been 'critisized' (for lack of a better word) in teh past for 'babying' his dogs - for Martin the placement is not half as important as the level of fun the dogs are running at. There is, quite possibly, no one else that embodies the Alaskan Dream like Buser. Marting moved from his native Switzerland to run dogs in Alaska in the late 70's. Though he lived in the state for many years before winning his first Iditarod championship in 1992, Buser was (and is) considered the first international musher to win (though three time champion Robert Sorlie actually flies over from Norway to compete.) and was not looked at as "one of us" until teh year his home in Big Lake, Alaska was threatend by forest fires. Fire personel in the area were evacuating everyone from the area, but Buser refused to leave without his dogs - all of them. so, without the help of those evacuating the humans, Buser set out to rescue the entire dog lot. All but two dogs survived (two got loose and ran into the woods and were never returned) and Martin Buser became Alaska's own.

Completing the club of repeat champions entered in race 38 is Rick Swenson. If there's anyone who does not fit the modern stereotype of mushers, it's Swenson. Rick seems more apt to be a linebacker or a blobsledder than a musher, but he's done fairly well. In 1979 he was the second place musher in a photo finish - losing by less than one second to Dick Mackey. Rick is also teh only musher to win five Iditarods. His knowledge of the trail is extensive, and this man from Kotzebue knows how to survive the toughest of conditions. Swenson is best known for his rivalry with the great Susan Butcher, in the 80s it was all about their head to head battles out on the trail. He hasn't quite dominated the sport recently, but he just might have another one left in him.

2004 Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey gave a recent interview stating while he wasn't planning to race into his 80s (he's not close to that anyway) he does plan on winning this year - but what musher doesn't? Mitch is another musher in the Iditarod royalty. His father, Dan Seavey, ran in the first Iditarod coming third, Mitch is the 2004 champion and all of his age elligible sons (and a daughter in law) have run. In 2008, Mitch won the largest purse ever for a sled dog race when he won the All-Alaska Sweepstakes. While most mushers seem to just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Mitch has his strategy down to a science. It's almost mathmatical the way that he works. If everything works out to the schedule he plans to run there'll be no stopping him. His dogs are ready, as is he, if he wins it will be a great upset, and one that will have folks talking. It's about time he wins again, right?

Speaking of Seavey's, Mitch's third son Dallas is hitting the trail once again. Dallas came in sixth last year after a near flawless run. It was the highest placement for the musher yet, and he is well on his way to his goal of becoming the youngest Iditarod champion. Dallas is already the youngest musher to finish the race, he was just 18 years old - he turned 18 the day before the race, meaning he pretty much owns the title of youngest finisher for the rest of time. Dallas's momentum after the Iditarod was stopped abruptly this summer with the loss of his prized lead dog Fridge. Dallas worked hard with the young dog, especially after Fridge washed out of Mitch's team (Fridge and Mitch's personality's didn't click). When not training Fridge co-starred in Dallas's Wildride Sled Dog Rodeo in Anchorage, Alaska showing tourists and Alaskans alike the intricasy of training a lead dog. Even with the horrible setback of losing a close friend on the trail, Dallas is hard working and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him just as high or higher in the standings this time around.

Sentimental favorite DeeDee Jonrowe has never won the Iditarod though she's been in it as long as most of the old dogs. She's a cancer survivor and was looked at as the next woman in line to win the thing. So far she hasn't come through on the championship, but she's come darn close. DeeDee is still considered to be a champion among women, and has been the inspiration for many young girls looking to get into the sport. She loves her dogs, and she loves to run, and she's passionate about the race. She proudly wears pink in honor of breast cancer awareness and is one of those you feel compelled to cheer for. Will she be in contention for the championship? Anything is possible.

Other mushers to note that could pull out a spoiler are mushers like Zack Steer (who is being sponsored by the US Census Bureau), John Baker, Paul Gebhardt, and Sebastian Schnuelle. All I can say is it's going to be a GREAT RACE. stay tuned.

Photography by Antonia Reitter

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Favorite Sled Dog Books

So I got an email from some random person asking if there were any good Iditarod books out there. The short answer is - yes there are - though most seem to be more sled dogs in general written by Iditarod super stars. However, reading a few is a fantastic way of getting into the spirit of the race.

Danger the Dog Yard Cat, written by 1985 Iditarod Champion Libby Riddles is a fun children's book about Riddles' cat. The story is a fictional look at Riddles' win on the Iditarod. Obviously the first woman to win the race did not have a tabby cat for a lead dog, but it's cute none the less. Growing up this was my favorite children's book (along with Thunderfeet, about Prehistoric Alaska), not only because of the storyline or the fact that my favorite musher of all time wrote it, but because it came with a wonderful audio cassette with a soundtrack written by Hobo Jim, the story - of course - was read by (who eles) "Danger" himself. It's a great first look into a musher's dog lot, and if you ever doubted that sled dogs were well loved by their caretakers, this book proves that wrong. Libby shows great love in her tribute to her four legged friends - feline and canine.

Author Gary Paulson might be most famous for his tween books like The Hatchet (still one of my favorite adventure novels for any age), but to Alaskans he's the Iditarod author. Winterdance is his semi autobiography and a humorous look at how Paulson trained for his first Iditarod. He gives an "outsiders" perspective on this very Alaskan race and does so with gusto. If you're looking for a clean, family friendly novel - this is not it. There is quite a bit of language - musher's rarely censor themselves - and he leaves no stone unturned. While most of the book is about the magic of the race, Paulson also delves into the brutality of it all from the dangers on the trail to the one unethical musher he comes across in the race. The book, like the race, is joyous and exhausting and not for the faint of heart. I read Winterdance at least once a year (always before the start of the race) to get into that Iditarod mood/mindset.

If novels aren't your thing, and picture books are more your speed then Dogs of the Iditarod will do it for you. The book is by the official Iditarod photographer, Jeff Schultz, and brings the faces of the real athletes of the Iditarod to light. Puppies and adult dogs are the stars of this book and the photos warm your heart (as well as captivate your imagination). Jeff Shultz is one of my favorite photojournalistic styled photographers and I envy him for his position with the Iditarod as the official photographer - that being said I don't think I could handle the extreme weather and temps he faces to get those amazing shots. He's one in a million, that guy, and the Iditarod (and fans) are lucky to have him following the race every step of the way.

Ever wonder what it is that makes a man (or woman for that matter) get the crazy notion that running dogs, and entering the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, is a good idea? Jeff King's Cool Hands Warm Hearts explains it all in the classic Jeff King style. It's humorous but full of heart - much in the same way as Winterdance is, but with one major difference: winterdance is written by an author first, musher second... Cool Hands is written by a champion musher. period. Jeff King is beloved by just about all in Alaska (except maybe fish and game, but that's another story for another day) and you'll know why as you read this book. It's a quick read that I am - so far - truly enjoying. I've not yet finished, but already it's among my favorite athlete autobiographies and definitely worth the add to any book collection.

On a side topic, working at the Iditarod Sales Table at the Millenium Hotel (Iditarod Headquarters this time of year) has brought to light that many don't know what Mitch Seavey's new book, Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way, is about. Many believed it would be an autobiography and have expressed disappointment that it was more technical than anything else - I blame the publisher for this as they don't really warn you with the description they provide on the jacket (or back of the book). This book is part of a series (hence the volume one portion of the title) that Mitch is working on to educate newer mushers as they begin their journey into sled dogs. I've not read the book yet (it's on my to get and to do lists) but knowing the bit I do about Mitch it's no surprising when people tell me that it's dry. Well, yeah, that's kinda who he is. He's not flashy like Lance Mackey, or overly charismatic like Jeff (or even Dallas Seavey), he's just a matter of fact kind of guy. Not that he's got no sense of humor, but with this book he's not about entertaining - but informing. Look for his autobiography towards the end of the book series. Now THAT's the one I'm waiting for.