Monday, February 29, 2016

Snow from Fairbanks will be in Anchorage on Wednesday

Dallas Seavey's lead dogs at the Ceremonial
Start of Iditarod 43 in Anchorage, Alaska.
In an unexpected twist, Fairbanks is shipping 300+ cubic yards of snow via the Alaska Railroad for the Start of Iditarod 44. This is a first for the race. It's nothing new for them to truck snow in for the race - that has happened every year that the start has been run from Downtown Anchorage. Snow plows take the snow off the roads for drivers and most snow gets taken to "snow dumps" until the first weekend in March when it is collected and then brought to the streets that the teams run on.

But this year with the lack of snow - and the last two weeks seeing season high temperatures - there are no snow dumps to pull from. Fans have been wondering all week how the Iditarod was going to pull off the Ceremonial Start - now we know. In true Alaskan fashion snow is coming via the railway. Still, even with the Wednesday night delivery, changes are likely going to be made to the usually 11 mile Ceremonial Start. No plans have trickled down to volunteers as of yet (as you can imagine I'm very nervous they won't be able to make it out to our section) but 11 miles is a lot of trail to put in. They could do it, but with temps staying well above freezing, it may not keep.

We should know, I would think, by Thursday evening if they plan to shorten the start (though I'm hoping for sooner). If it just stays long enough to be slush for the restart all the way through the city I would think they could keep the full 11 miles. But that is A LOT of snow and A LOT of hauling and A LOT of EXTRA man hours. It may not be easily done, if at all. Time will tell.

Think cold, guys. We need an out of no where cold snap to hit ASAP. Like yesterday.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

40 degree weather for the start of Iditarod 44

Lead dogs run through a massive puddle
during Iditarod 43 in Anchorage.
This is more of a whine for me than anything newsworthy. As you well know, we are a week away from Iditarod 44. One Week (less than, actually as the whole show should be over by 230pm AKST) before the kick off to Alaska's largest sporting even of the year. One week for Mother Nature to get her act together.

South Central Alaska has been hammered with warm winds that brought temps into the 40s this past week. Weather forecasts for the coming week aren't much better. I ran around town doing my errands wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Typically we're still bundled in winter gear until at least the last part of March (some two to three weeks AFTER Iditarod has finished). There's really no snow on the ground, and what might look like snow is actually very slick ice that can kill a tailbone.

So where does that leave the Iditarod? Thankfully - while trails aren't ideal, they're still manageable up near Willow. The Jr. Iditarod is running this weekend and so far things have gone well. The real concern is the Anchorage Ceremonial Start. Last weekend the snow came down and put in a nice little white covering of everything. But, Chinook winds came right behind them and the slush is now ice along the trails. The Fur Rondy Sprint Races were drastically changed (shortened), and what little snow to be had was trucked in to cover the 5 mile trail.

FIVE MILES. The Ceremonial Start is ELEVEN MILES through Anchorage. I honestly cannot tell you what mile we are on the trail (it's past 5 miles), but we're the University Lake/Tudor Centre section. Photos sent to me today by one of my awesome team members show dirt beside the trail - and ICE on the trail. Last year we had slush and that giant puddle we named the Iditaplunge.

Weather predictions have Anchorage at 42 and sunny next Saturday. Willow, Alaska - where the restart takes place, will be 39 and sunny. Anchorage starts in the morning, but runs through the heat of the day. Willow starts at the heat of the day into the cooling off. It's still going to be warm for the dogs, so mushers will be doing all they can to keep the dogs from overheating.

I have no doubt the Ceremonial Start will take place. It just won't look like what we know it should look like. I'll be there anyway. I'll have photos up most likely the Tuesday afterward. Be sure to follow me on twitter, and I am now also on periscope!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Iditarod 44: My Top 10

We are at 11 days until the Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 44 kicks off in Anchorage, Alaska. Of course, looking out the window of South Central Alaska would suggest we're well past Iditarod time - what with the lack of snow and the rain... but it's still THAT time of year. The time where I try to guess the top teams in Iditarod with lack of races, training on snow, and well... just lack of participation by some of the top names in the sport. 

 But, I have to keep with tradition, and I didn't do TOO terribly last year. So here are my top 10 in ALPHABETICAL order. Yes, I'm trying to seem organized this year. We'll see how long that lasts.

Aliy Zirkle - She had a dip in the standings last year, but I don't expect her to have the same issue this year. Allen Moore came in third with their main team of dogs in the Yukon Quest, and this strategy has worked well for them these last few years with Aliy narrowly losing the top prize in Iditarod (each time to a Seavey, keep in mind). Aliy is a savvy dog driver who is anxious to snag the win, but also knows how to get the most of her dogs. The real "weak link" in my mind is her own limitations. Her dogs feed off her "energy", and by the time Aliy gets tired, they seem to. She was tired early in the race last year it seemed. I don't expect that problem this year.


Brent Sass - He was on the fast track to a possible first place finish in last year's race, but a lapse in judgement or attention cost him. Brent was using a type of iPod that was not allowed by Iditarod (but is by Yukon Quest). Not thinking that things would be different, Brent did not pay close enough attention to the list of accepted equipment. He was disqualified. It was heart breaking, but Brent took it like a champ. He came in second in this year's Yukon Quest, and it's been a difficult season what with his home and kennel threatened by wild fire last summer, and the sudden loss of Kennel Superstar Basin at the beginning of the race season. Don't count Sass out. He's becoming a force on the trail.

Dallas Seavey - Is, once again, the reigning champion. This year he came up with a summer training treadmill that's run out of a large freezer. Keeps the dogs cool even at the height of summer temperatures. It's an interesting study, and could revolutionize how sled dogs are trained - IF it works. It's a big experiment. No one seems to know dogs and their limits like a Seavey, but how they deliver on the Iditarod this season remains to be seen. Of all the former champions in this year's race, Dallas is the most interesting with his latest innovations in dog training. It's like the 80s and early 90s all over again.

Hugh Neff - He just won his second Yukon Quest, and it was a long time coming. Hugh is known for his upbeat personality, and the Cat in the Hat... well... hat coming down the trail. He's fun loving, and sees the races more as just an adventure that may or may not end in a win. He doesn't do as well with the Iditarod as he does with the Quest, and he's been very opinionated as to which organization is better (that'd be The Quest), but he's on the upswing after his well run race. You'd be hard pressed not to put him on your list, but I'd consider him a dark horse. He could take his first title, or he could implode. But either way it'll be a heck of a ride.

Jeff King - He's a four time champion still looking to be the first to tie Rick Swenson's record five wins. Jeff took a brief hiatus from mushing to travel and do other things, and then came back to the sport. He's had a rough come back - teams stalling, big storm that led to another stall out when he was *this close* to his 5th win. All of which hasn't seemed to rattle the veteran musher. Once deemed the "winningest musher" (though I think that may have been self-awarded), Jeff is now one of the old dogs trying to keep up with the new tricks. But he's still more than capable of taking the top prize. It all depends on the dogs.


Jessie Royer - Jessie had the best run of her career last season when she came in the top 5. She's steadily climbed the ranks, and is poised to take it all. It's exciting to see two top teams being led by women. We haven't really had that in decades, and it only helps promote the sport. Where else can Women kick butt on a level playing field? No handicaps, no segregation of sexes. Nope. It's all about who the best dog driver is - and Jessie is proving herself to be one of the best of the field.


Joar Leifseth Ulsom - He came on the scene three years ago with a bang, placing 7th his rookie year. The next year he was top 5. He slid to 6th last year, but Joar has proven he's capable of consistently placing in the top 10 (well, he's never placed OUT of it). I don't know what his secret is, but it would seem insane to count the man out. It will be interesting to see how he places in his fourth run on the Iditarod.

Mitch Seavey - Another consistent top 10 finisher and 2 time Champion, Mitch Seavey should easily keep his record this year. While training conditions in and around his home have not been ideal (I live in the area, too, it's sucked), he has put many hours in on other trails. Again, Seavey teams are some of the best trained - and their mushers understand their behavior. A Seavey has won the last four Iditarods (Dallas 3, Mitch 1). I don't expect Mitch to win this year, I won't say that he can't - because I firmly believe he can - but sometimes his strategy gets in the way of gut instinct. Or so it seems. Hopefully none of Team Seavey reads my blog these days. Ha!


Pete Kaiser - Pete is a successful West Coast Alaska team, he's won the Kusko the last two years, and while he isn't always in the top 10 that doesn't mean he can't be. He is a solid dog driver, and as long as his team can handle the warmer temps at the beginning of the race, he should find himself in the top 10 or close to it. He's a very outside chance to win it, but this is Iditarod where ANYTHING can happen.


Robert Sorlie - Typically I choose one that just doesn't seem to make sense even in my mind. It's SO HARD with so many good teams to choose the top 10 and not leave a few out. However, for some reason I just have to have Robert on this year's list. I don't know if it's gut instinct, or just the fact that he's a two time Iditarod Champion and I have faith he can crack the top 10 again. I don't know. All I know is for some reason I want him in my top 10. Maybe it's so I will remember to get a photo of his face this year and not just his dogs. Maybe it's because my gut knows something my brain doesn't.

A few honorable mentions:

Travis Beals - Travis is a young musher who is determined to climb the ranks and hit the mark. He's strong willed out on the trail, and is smart, too. He trains out of Seward, so he had to travel quite a bit to find good snow and trail for the team this winter. I'd look for him to continue to improve in his rankings. He could crack the top 10 this year, I mean, he was just 1 place shy of doing so last year.

Martin Buser - He's normally in my top 10, but honestly I'm not sure he can keep up with the teams of today like he was able to in decades past. However, I would be remiss to leave him off the list as he will be running what is likely an incredibly emotional race. Buser has been in Seattle for the past month being ever vigilant at his son Nikolai's bedside. Nikolai was in a car accident that very nearly cost him his life. He's going to have a long recovery, though prognosis seems to be very good by all reports. Martin felt he had improved enough, and was out of the woods, so he flew back home today. Rohn Buser has withdrawn from the race to go down and help his mother and brother. 

DeeDee Jonrowe - Another fan favorite who's had a difficult year is DeeDee. She lost EVERYTHING but her dogs and one building in the Willow forest fire this summer. Her mother passed away from her battle with cancer. She's had a pretty traumatic 12 months (less than 12 really), and is still finding her bearings. To add to the stress, due to the recent oil production issues (no thanks to government but that's a rant for a different day) her main sponsor Shell pulled out of Alaska... and pulled their sponsorship of her racing team. Still, she's determined to run the Iditarod and make it to Nome. She's always been a determined woman, so I have no doubt she'll make it. Just probably not top 10 (but what a story if she does!).

So tell me what you think - who would be in your top 10? Give me your list in the comments below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter as we get ready for the 44th Iditarod!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

In honor of Alaska Bob (Bob Parsons)

Friends (fans) of Alaska Bob - on Saturday March 5 a few of us are going to wear Overalls/Bibs to the Ceremonial Start...

Posted by Toni Reitter on Saturday, February 20, 2016

Is the Iron Dog important for Iditarod fans?

With the ceremonial start of Iditarod just two weeks away, fans are anxiously counting down days grasping at any news on their favorite teams they can.The Iron Dog is a race run partially on the Iditarod trail system on snow machines (though the race uses the term that Canada and the rest of the US use: snow mobile). They kicked off their ceremonial "parade" through Anchorage this afternoon. Like the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the Iron Dog likes to put on a show for the fans and onlookers. The irony is - the Iditarod was created, in part, to protect the sled dog from extinction due in part to the invention of the snow-machine.

So why is this race important for the Iditarod fans? Well, it is an interesting race going from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks, over some of the most interesting terrain. And, the drivers are pretty exciting. But what really stands out is this is our only look of the trail conditions before the Iditarod begins. The last couple of years we've seen the Iron Dog drive on dirt and skim over water (with one sinking near Nome!). While they don't travel the entirely same trail as the dog teams will in two weeks (we don't see them go through the Happy River Steps) we at least get the general idea.

So enjoy watching the race updates, and lets hope the trail is a good one for both races!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Iditarod will stick with Tradition

After another winter gone MIA in South Central Alaska, many fans worried that the restart for Iditarod would once again happen in Fairbanks. While the Fairbanks restart and race was considered successful - many traditionalist fans were excited with the outcome of yesterday's vote. With just three weeks until the Ceremonial Start, the concern now turns to how to get snow into Anchorage for the festivities of Fur Rondy and Iditarod.

Reports from Willow have trails looking and feeling good. My big wonder is what the "Happy River Steps" and Burn looks like. Reports earlier this season said the area looked better than it had in the previous two winters, however that's not really saying much. We won't get a good idea of what the Trail looks like until the Iron Dog goes through - that race begins in Big Lake on the 20th.

The Reitter Trail Guard team will be out at Tudor Centre again this year. Very excited to see everyone and cheer on the teams. I'm predicting more slush like last year. I just hope we don't wake up to rain again. That was NOT a fun way to start the Idita-weekend.

Then on Sunday we'll be in Willow to see the race begin "for real". Not volunteering - hoping I can somehow get a handler badge to be able to get into the musher area, if not I'll still hang out around the area. We're taking the Viking so we'll be able to get the spot I want when the teams come down the chute. Should be good times.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What? You DON'T have Bald Eagles in your backyard?

New roadkill so you know what that means. I actually got some decent shots of this guy in flight. Too bad the lighting was yucky and the background means the wings blend into the photo.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Oh, she replied...

I promised to update if I got a response from the musher who was supposed to remain nameless. Mind you, I do not blog to get into a war of words with people - the only reason I'm "not letting go" is because of the hurtful and unnecessary comments Ms Denure made about someone who passed away during a long and hard fought battle with cancer. I don't freaking care that he was a jerk in her eyes, you just don't do that on another person's post honoring their friend knowing full well his friends and FAMILY would be able to read it.

So this is HOPEFULLY the last time I post about this, but, well... I'm not holding my breath that this is the end of it.

As for this only being a three person battle against her - she knows darn well there's more than three of us that have these feelings. Heidi is just the most vocal of the mushers - but I can tell you that I have listened to MANY mushers of all ranks say exactly what they think about her.

Secondly, I am not targeting anyone. I am not the one who decided to be ugly about Bob's passing.

Thirdly, and probably way more importantly - the idea that she doesn't go around talking poorly about others is laughable. She went after Jeff King last year, she's gone after others as recently as just a few months ago to the tune of trying to get their sponsors to pull their support! And SHE wants to continue to play the victim? No. Again - I have gotten contacted by SO MANY who are DONE with her actions since my blog post. It's been eye opening - and it's the reason why I will continue to speak up when I feel it is warranted.

Oh... and one more thing: Who the heck is BRIAN?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Zoya Denure: Keepin' It Classy

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about losing my friend, Bob Parsons. As the mushing community and fandom found out about his passing a lot of tribute posts went up. Bob was well loved, and the proof is in all of the tributes and posts and comments. HUNDREDS of people chimed in about the loss. Mushers, too, took the news hard and posted their gratitude for his love of the sport and his photography.

And then Zoya decided she needed to put her two cents in and play the victim. Because, we know EVERYthing is ALWAYS about her.

You may recall a few posts of mine from last year where I called her out for scratching - news flash, I'm not the only one who observed the obvious. Bob called her out around the time of "her husband's" (did he write it?) article saying those that scratch from the big races lack the heart and drive to be truly great mushers (he was basically hating on Jeff King). To put it mildly, Zoya does not take criticism (much less fact) well. She and Bob were anything but friends (when he started out actually supporting her). Whatever. I'm not friends with everyone in the sport either. Everyone has their favorites.

But she sank to an all time low last night with her comment. Look, we're all supposed to be adults. We know how to react to someone's passing. He's not Hitler or Bin Laden - he was someone's husband, friend, mentor. He was a good guy that you didn't get along with. Pull up your big girl panties and get over it. Suck it up, princess. That you attack a dead man is just a reflection on how ugly and pathetic you truly are.

Zoya messaged me a few days ago saying I was NOT ALLOWED to talk about her on my blog. I was going to "play nice" and not say anything about her (I mean it gets tedious reporting yet another scratch anyway). But after last night? Nope. She doesn't deserve ANY respect (not that I had much to give her anyway).

I think Heidi Sutter said it best last night. So I will just leave it here:
"The world lost an incredible man Friday. I lost a dear friend whom I consider family, as he was part of my family in many aspects. Alaska Bob was one of the biggest hearted men I have had the pleasure to call friend. He loved the Kid like she was his own. He was always there with a funny message, a quick smile and a long lasting bear hug just at the right times. Bob was a HUGE supporter of mushing and of many, many mushers. He was a GINORMOUS supporter of KMA Kennel.
Someone who considers themselves a role model in mushing, and an ambassador to the sport has finally showed their true colors as many of us are mourning the loss of this amazing human.

Zoya, you are indeed a despicable human who has sunk to the lowest of lows. Now that AB is on the other side, you best be watching your back, cuz honey, Karma is going to eat you up. I just hope that we are all there to see it all go down. You reap what you sow.

Namaste, bitch."
 Bob is no doubt getting a kick at seeing us all react to it. People are seeing her as he's seen her for years.
Will keep you posted if she decides to try to justify this new level of stupidity.