Friday, January 31, 2014

Roster of 18 to run the Yukon Quest

The Yukon Quest, a thousand mile sled dog race that starts in Alaska and crosses into Canada, begins tomorrow morning at 11am. The roster includes 13 veterans and 5 rookies. Several of the veterans are known by even the most casual fans. Reigning champion Allen Moore is back to try to win another championship. Hugh Neff is back in the race, as well, with his laughing eyes team. Two time winner, John Schandelmeier is also back in the race trying for another title. John's taken a backseat - at least in the limelight - to his partner Zoya Denure who was considered an up and coming women's musher a few years ago. Denure is at home with their two daughters, so John is taking the helm for this race.

With the weather being unseasonably warm the last few weeks in Alaska, small changes have been made to this year's race. Instead of starting on the Chena River where they traditionally start, they will be running through the streets of Fairbanks before meeting up with the river later on down the trail. River conditions were cited as the reason behind the change.

The concern of trail conditions and heat will no doubt be the talk of early race discussion. Though most of South Central Alaska is mainly ice (if that) the Interior and Yukon areas have had a little better luck in keeping some snow on the trails. The weather forecast is also looking more favorably on the race as temperatures are dropping to closer to normal temperatures. But, it's anyone's guess how the race will play out weatherwise.

With the weather being so weird for this time of year, many of the races that one would use to gauge who the front runners are were cancelled. This leaves room for a lot of guess work and discussion as to who to choose for any sort of bets or predictions.

But here's my limited knowledge top three:

1. Allen Moore - not only is he the reigning champion, he and wife Aliy Zirkle have one of the best kennels in the 1000 mile race business right now. He won the Quest with his team, and she turned right around and came in second in the Iditarod (second time in as many years). This year Allen won the Copper Basin 300, which was one of two races that went on this season. It was a good bit of racing, and in the end he came out on top. No doubt his team will bring their A game once again.

2. Brent Sass - some may know him for his work on the first season of Ultimate Survival Alaska (it's a good show, by the way), but most who follow the sport know this up and comer is done waiting his turn. He's had top three finishes. I haven't paid much attention to his team this year so far, but something in my gut tells me he'll be one to watch for the Quest.

3. Hugh Neff - who doesn't love the Cat in the Hat? Neff breathes the Quest. He's won it before, and he's always in the mix. There's no indication that he can't win another one. It will come down to who wants it, not just musher - but team. No one seems more in tune with their dogs than Hugh.

Farewell January!

Kassy and Delaney treated me to birthday doughnuts before
we headed into the sanctuary to paint the walls.
Can it be the end of January already? Wasn't it just a week or so ago that we rang in the new year? It was a somewhat busy month. Between photos and helping with Church renovations I definitely was out of the house more than [my] normal.

The painting of the sanctuary was fast, took us 5 half days and it got done. It was thanks to a great group of people (I was terrified that it would just be Kassy and me). It's a lot less WHITE and has a little color and warmth in the walls now.

Our next project is to organize the church offices. We've already had a lot of fun with the shredder. And it's neat finding all of the old church photos and such. So much history. It will be interesting to put it all together.

My birthday was good. We celebrated a night early because it was MLK day and originally my mom's bff and her hubby were coming over. They couldn't make it, but we still had Kassy and Delaney over and we had prime rib and my favorite sides. And pumpkin pie for dessert. Delaney spent most of the evening in my room watching Disney Jr. but came out every now and again to entertain. She's a hoot.

On my actual birthday I was at the church painting, but Delaney made sure to sing me happy birthday and had me blow out my candles. It was low-key and that made it better than most. Oh, yeah, and they treated me to McDonald's for lunch. LOL

The rest of the month I've just been doing stuff online and photos. I'm hoping things pick up soon or I will be seriously job hunting. Don't really like that sound of it, but I have to do something to get the bank account back up to where I like it.

This is just a little random update into my life. Next comes dog mushing and Olympics posts I'm sure.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Are we sure it's still January?

There should have been sled dog events happening in the state of Alaska this weekend. There should have been a more wintery feel to the Peninsula WINTER games this weekend. There should, at the very least, be pristine white snow lining the roads, ditches, and mountains of South Central Alaska.

But none of that happened. Are we sure it's January?

Now, before I hear the "global warming" mantra, let's remember that while it's not a regular occurance Chinook winds and warm weather do happen. With the Lower 48 seeing record low temperatures, it's actually understandable that we're in the mid to upper 40s every day (and night) in Alaska. Yes, the Globe is Warm. No, there's really no need to panic.

There is a need to worry, however. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race, set to start on March 1, could see a drastic change in trail. The only other time this happened was in 2003 when the Anchorage and Willow trails were non existent due to lack of snow. If the start moves further North it will most likely happen from Fairbanks. They've run it from there before (again, 2003). It gives a new audience for the start, but it shortens the race. But, it works in a pinch.

That is, if there's snow and trail to be had come March in the Interior of Alaska.

The Tustumena 200 made the announcement Monday that there would be no race this year. The race was set to go on February 2, but with the warm weather trail reports were dismal. Ice and flooding caused the directors to call off the race. This was to be the 40th running of the T200, and it boasted an impressive roster for both the 200 and 100 mile races. The purse was at an all time high. This was going to be the best race yet.

And, now, like most of Alaska's winter, it's washed away.

Things could turn around. There's a lot of "winter months" left on the calendar for the season. While the rest of the USA "freezes", we're contemplating breaking out our tanks and shorts. It's amusing, and sad, all at the same time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why Ashley Wagner deserves her spot on the US Olympic Team

Ashley Wagner placed 4th at the US National Championships
this weekend in Boston. (Reuters photo.) 
US figure skating fans found themselves in one of two camps Sunday when the USFSA announced the ladies team for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games set to take place next month in Sochi, Russia. Two time and defending National Champion Ashley Wagner was the topic on everyone's lips. Wagner, having placed fourth in Saturday's ladies finals, was named to the team over third place (and former National Champion) Mirai Nagasu.

Fans, skaters, and sports analysts have all chimed in with how they feel about the decision announced Sunday on who would represent the USA in the games. Former top ranked US skaters and coaches have battled it out with fans and others of the "in crowd" on social media for the better part of Sunday - overshadowing the Men's long program event - many voicing their concern for Mirai's feelings while negating Wagner's.

Four years ago Mirai Nagasu made the Olympic team, narrowly beating Ashley Wagner for the second of two spots. Wagner was devastated to miss out on the Vancouver games and spent the last four years working consistently to better her skating and position on the world stage. That work seemed to be paying off with the two wins at Nationals coupled by her improved International standing. It was Wagner along with teammate Gracie Gold (who won the Championship on Saturday) who regained the three spots leading up to the Sochi Games.

Meanwhile, Mirai saw waning success after a 4th place at the Vancouver Olympics. Mirai's last try at the World Championships was in 2010 and saw her land in 7th place. She's struggled with a very up and down career since then, managing 3rd in 2011 and 7th in both 2012 and 2013 at the US nationals. She managed a couple of medals in the last four years in the Grand Prix series - in events where most of the top world contenders were not present and she was favored to take the title.

Mirai has seen her own sent of controversy when her former coach, the legendary Frank Carroll called her out for her [lack of] work ethic. Nagasu is an expert twitter-er, and would call out fans who even suggested criticism of her programs or skating. After coach hopping, Mirai spent the current season without a coach all the way to Nationals.

Part of Nagasu's problems with her skating is her lack of ability to rotate fully in her jumps, which in turn forces judges to downgrade them to easier levels and fewer points.

The USFSA traditionally goes with the skaters who land on the podium at nationals when choosing their Olympic and World team, but the rules clearly state that US Nationals is not the only determining factor for the team. This is the reason Ashley was chosen over Mirai.

From late 2011 till now Ashley Wagner has been the frontrunner of American Ladies skating. She won her national titles in 2012 and 2013 - though some would argue she was gifted in 2013, medaled on the Grand Prix Series as well as the Final, and in 2012 she was 4th at Worlds. Nationals was the time she truly faltered. While it is true that she does not seem capable of winning the Olympics, she has - so far - shown to be the only USA lady even close to medaling at all in Sochi. She sees the bigger picture of team play, and that, too, went in her favor.

Yes, it is sad that Mirai has been left off. If we want to judge just by international experience and results she should be on and US Silver Medalist Polina Edmunds should be the one off the team. That teams have traditionally been who makes the top of the podium is not and should not be the reason why Ashley should be left from the team. Why should any team shoot itself in the foot by leaving one of their more consistent skaters at home because of an off night?

Mirai has done herself no favors be alienating the powers that be in the past. Ashley does not "toe the party line" but she has demonstrated that she is serious and willing to work for her goals. She has great packaging, and an even better support team. Mirai has... Mirai. No coach, because she either fires them or they fire her. The most controversy Ashley can come up with is her stance on Russia's Anti-Gay Laws. Not something that will come in play on the ice.

It could very well be that Gracie Gold continues the upswing and becomes the American Media Darling by being the highest ranked US lady at the Olympics. Polina could also deliver. There's not a lot of evidence to suggest they will, but there's more evidence against Mirai than there is against any of the three on the ladies team. Ashley Wagner may not have earned it "that night" but she's earned it "overall".

All she has to do now is shake it off and forge ahead. She's done that before, and her body of work suggests she'll do it again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Disneyland in 250 Days

Dealing with a countdown to DisneyLAND can be so frustrating. There isn't as much planning to do for a SoCal adventure compared to when one goes to Disney World. Reservations for hotel have been made, we're staying at the Peacock Suites (you may recognize that hotel as the one I've stayed at when going to DLR with Haille Rae and family) and I wanted to make sure that we could get one of the two bedroom suites. If there's one thing that bugs me about Peacock is the round about way they do their responses to any emails you might send them asking for information. They are partnered with Shell Vacations and so their emails all go to an office elsewhere. So they give very generic answers, or tell you to call the hotel directly. One of the reasons I email questions is so I don't have to call.

But it's a minor complaint, and I'm very excited to be staying there again.

Now it's just a wait to book the rest. Airfare this spring. Special meal reservations to be booked in June or July (along with the photopass+). Not a lot of planning involved. We'll have 5 days in Disneyland, 1 at the beach and hollywood, 1 for universal studios, and 1 for the San Diego Zoo.

So until then I just gotta keep myself busy. Which shouldn't be a problem with the Olympics in something like three weeks? and then the Iditarod in March.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year, New Outlook

Well, so much for blogging in 2013. If you followed me on facebook you know it was, overall, a horrible year. I can definitely say that depression followed me around and I know I not only annoyed people but pushed them away. I may have had time to post (a lot) on facebook, but I had no desire to blog about anything.

Disney World with Mom and Dad was a blast - though October was horribly humid. I've decided I'm sticking to November as my favorite time to go. The crowds were awful as well. But we made do and mom and dad are still talking about all the fun they had. I could blog about it all... but I think this blog just needs to start over. In the coming days I hope to get motivated to get to changing a few things.

Really the year was rather lackluster - though there were some highlights. Meeting friends and reuniting with old ones. However it seems that it was more bad than good when talking about highs and lows. I pray that 2014 will be better.

Which leads to the New Outlook. I want to get off my duff and really buckle down and make life goals and decisions and work towards them instead of being so ambivalent about the whole thing. We'll see how that goes.

For January I want to downsize some of the things I really don't ever use (VHS tapes are the first thing to go, followed by books that I no longer read/need to hold onto). I'm going to do month by month. It makes it a better goal making thing for me.

These are not resolutions, btw. I don't believe in doing those.

Also on the Horizon is the Dorktwins 30th birthday trip to Disneyland! Erin's husband is coming along and I invited my friend from Buffalo, Aimee to come as she has the same bdate as Erin. It's going to be a blast and I'm already doing more planning on it than I really need to so soon. But I can't help myself.

This is the last year of my 20s (turning 29 this month!), I want to enter my 30s on a positive note!