Friday, February 24, 2017

Keep up with the Last Great Race

With the world's technology ever improving, there are more ways than ever to follow along with Alaska's greatest race. I've listed my favorite sources below, but you can also follow the race with ME! Not just here on the blog, but from time to time I will be broadcasting LIVE on periscope.

You can also chat along with me and other Iditarod enthusiasts on twitter, just follow the hashtags: #Iditarod and #Iditachat (just be aware there are trolls on the tags)! Follow me at @tonichelleak to keep up with all of the latest race updates. You can tweet me questions and I can answer them on twitter and depending on the topic it may prompt a blog post or who knows I may even use it on periscope! 
But, you don't want to just get MY take on the race, that would be crazy. So how should you follow Iditarod 45? - this is a no brainer. If you aren't an Iditarod Insider, I highly recommend it. (No, I don't get a commission on sales.) The GPS and videos give great insight into how the race is going. This is where all official releases are posted, as well as blogs by several experts, the teacher on the trail, and ITC leadership.

Facebook - There are several folks on facebook worth following during the race, most of them are mushers themselves, or are family members of the musher(s) on the trail. Normally I'd say follow Danny Seavey and you're good but he's not going to be available this season. So here's a few alternatives this go around.
  • Jake Berkowitz - He was a top ten finisher before he started a family and decided to get out of running dogs. Now he watches via the internet. He will be writing for the Alaska Dispatch but I believe is also planning on posting thoughts on Facebook. 
  • Dallas Seavey - This is Dallas's racing team page. It's run by his wife Jen. Jen is an Iditarod finisher, now she's super mom who manages her home, family, and the team. She manages to blog at least twice a day during the height of the race. She gives insight not just to Dallas' race, but to the rest of the field. While biased for Dallas, there's still some very fair reporting of what is going on done by Jen's blogging.
  • Sebastian Schnuelle - though I believe most of his posts will be done on the Iditarod website, he posts more photos to facebook when he has a strong enough internet connection. I'm not sure if he'll be out on the trail this year, though. But Danny Seavey said to follow him so I'm going to assume that Seb is doing what he's done the last few years and chasing the teams on his iron dog.
Twitter - Like Facebook, there are a few folks on Twitter you NEED to follow. (Aside from me and my friends, we're pretty amazing, but for news...)
  • KNOM - Nome media, their social media definitely keeps up with the race, and they seem to know what they're talking about. Makes for a good source of info.
  • ADNIditarod - The Iditarod specific social media for the Alaska Dispatch. Another fantastic source. 
  • Kyle Hopkins - he works for KTUU, but he worked for a long time for the Anchorage Daily News (now the Alaska Dispatch). He has covered the Iditarod for years.
  • Alex Stein - He directed a documentary on the Iditarod a few years back. He's one half of dog works radio podcasts about the Iditarod. 
  • Fairbanks News-Miner - They also post a lot of Iditarod stuff, especially when the race starts out of Fairbanks.

Alaska Dispatch - The official website of Alaska's largest newspaper. They have an Iditarod specific section (which is what I linked). 

KTVA - the official news channel of the Iditarod. (Personally I am not impressed with their coverage or their news casters having very little understanding of the sport/race. The only reason they're the official channel is they are owned by GCI which is a major sponsor of the race.)

KTUU - The best local news station in Alaska, IMO. The sports crew GET the Iditarod, love it, and it shows. I prefer KTUU, but they don't have access to the start, restart and finish.

Dog Works Radio - Robert and Alex have an Iditarod specific podcast during the race. They discuss it in depth. If you aren't into reading - this is one way to keep up with the race.

Or just follow along on my twitter and blog. Twitter I share from all of these people/sites throughout the day. And when I have a chance to blog, I do. 

We're a week a way, guys ONE WEEK! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Iditarod 45: My Top Ten

It's that time again, time for me to pretend I know what I'm talking about and choose the top 10 teams that I think have a shot of winning. I'm going to try and keep it alphabetical again. These choices are strictly my own, I had no outside influence or help. I rarely choose the correct top ten, but have come pretty close.

Aliy Zirkle - She's been knocking at the door for the last few years, and we won't count last year against her. Aliy went through an ordeal that no one should have to go through, and if you aren't cheering for her this year I don't know what your problem is. Aliy's running her kennel's A team once again, and they just came in third on the Yukon Quest (driven by her husband Allen Moore). Zirkle's team looks strong, but she will once again be the weaker link of the team. One has to wonder about her mental toughness returning to the race that nearly cost her everything last year. Perhaps the reroute will be a blessing in disguise for the SPKennel leader.

Dallas Seavey - He broke Rick Swenson's record of being the youngest musher to win the Iditarod. He holds the record for fastest finish. If Dallas wins this year he TIES both Lance Mackey's 4 consecutive wins, AND Rick Swenson's five wins. However, Swenson hit that record in the early 90s, and there have been four 4-time champions since then that can't seem to break that fifth win. Dallas has youth and health on his side, and many armchair mushers pretty much have him winning without even starting the race. I'd actually be very surprised to see him win this year. There's something about that fifth win that is just so illusive. However, if anyone was to crack it, it'd be Dallas. He doesn't seem to believe in pressure.

Jeff King - Speaking of four timers trying to crack into that fifth win... King last won in 2006, but it wasn't from lack of trying. Jeff has come close many times to winning his fifth title. Had it not been for a freak windstorm that blew his team off course and became so violent King had to flag down help so that he could get his team to the safety of the checkpoint of Safety, he'd have won his fifth title in 2014 (Dallas won that one). King was poised to take control of the race last year before his team was viciously attacked by a drunk on a snowmachine. Jeff continued and finished the race, but momentum was lost and a win was out of reach (he did manage to stay in the top 10, however). Hopefully he can tear himself away from posting about how much he can't stand Trump to have another great run on Iditarod.

Jessie Royer - If Royer's not in your top ten, then you haven't been paying attention. The Montana-ite is eating up a lot of trail and gaining on the top contenders consistently year after year. Don't let the hiccup of 15th place last year fool you; Jessie is going to be in the mix. The last time the teams ran this trail (just two years ago) she came in 4th. She had some of the strongest, fastest runs in the Yukon Quest (though she was not the top woman finisher). She's learned tricks from a 4-time Iditarod Champion. Should she pull off a win, it'd be an upset, but she'd also become the first non-Alaskan woman to win. She's got the goods, she could pull it off.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom - Someone tell this dude that life is not a photoshoot! Doesn't matter what angle or who's shooting, chances are you get a nearly GQ photo of this guy on the back of his sled. But he's not just some wannabe pretty boy, he's got the goods. He has quickly made himself known on the Alaska mushing scene. He's serious about his dogs, and he seems to have it all together. His team looked strong in the races he's run this season, and he's consistently improving his standings. He was 6th last year, I expect he'll make a run to get a higher placement this year.

Mitch Seavey - "Da Man" Seavey. His motto is "just mush". When talking with Mitch all you'll ever get is "I'm just going to mush my dogs and see where we end up." That's like hearing a figure skater say "I'm just want to skate my best." It's a PR phrase. It's quoteable. And should the chips fall and you aren't first, well, at least you don't have to eat your words. That being said - do not let him fool you. Mitch is every bit as competitive as his son. He doesn't sit back and "let" anyone beat him. He does run his dogs to the best of THEIR ability, but they only get to the level they are because he is competitive in training and dog care. He's come in second to Dallas twice. He's won this thing twice. 2015 he was on a trail he was unfamiliar with. He knows it now. I don't expect him to not make that push to the front at the right time.

Nicolas Petit - Nicolas has run an aggressive race season this year. He's been aggressive in his race strategy. He nearly won the Tustumena 200, and had control of the Copper River Basin for most of the race before his dogs just had enough of breaking trail. I don't expect him to treat the Iditarod any differently. The question will be, will he push too fast and too hard too soon. He's done that in the past where his race looks very good only to have his team slow far too soon. Teams catch up and pass him. Nicolas seems to genuinely cares for his team, however, so they have yet to truly quit on him. They trust him. He trusts them. If they can make it come together, he can give those multi-champions a run for their money.

Pete Kaiser - He's a three time Kusko Champion. He's got a solid list of race stats. His team does better with wind and cold than those who have been in the warmer temps of South Central. Fans have been waiting to see Pete take a run at the championship for a while now. He has the goods to do it, he just has to make that magic happen. The Kusko is a tough race, Iditarod's just longer.

Ramey Smyth - He's back! After playing Mr. Mom while his wife could run the race, this year Smyth is once again driving the family team to Nome. The Smyth teams are known for their speed, especially in the last leg of the race. In 2012 when Ramey came in third he came out of no where to get there. I was working for the Seavey's then and the family was on their way to Nome when he made his move. I get a call from Dallas' family to ask how the GPS was looking and I said Ramey'd made a move and was gaining. Dead silence on the other end of the line. That's how dangerous a Smyth is to your race. Smyth's brother Cim just won the Tustumena 200 last month doing the same thing. Waiting for that opportune moment. You can't not have a Smyth on your list. They're just too dangerous to forget.

Wade Marrs - Who doesn't love Wade? I mean really! He's another younger musher who has consistently improved over his career. Some "experts" have said this is his year to make a move. Some have even said he's the only one with a real chance to out Dallas, Dallas. I don't know about all that, but he is doing a bang up job of getting attention with his team and driving ability. He's one of my dark horses as I'm just not convinced it's his time just yet, but anything is possible. Anything, especially when one considers the Fairbanks trail is a more equal playing field as no one really has the advantage of having run it over and over and over again learning every bump and turn.

Honorable Mentions:

I nearly put Noah Burmeister on my list, and honestly he probably should be on my top 10. He's another one of those mushers who just knows how to kick it into gear, plus he's got a great family history in this race.

Scott Smith is another musher that's on the rise. He's gained ground in the last couple of years. He cracked the top 10 last year. It will be interesting to see how he does this year. He's another one to watch. It's exciting to see names I don't automatically recognize come to the forefront. Makes me feel like this race is alive and well. Which seeing as how it's the 45th run of the race, that's a good feeling.

Hopefully I get to see all of these faces and more while I'm in Nome!

Which mushers do YOU have in YOUR top 10? Who are you cheering for? Agree/Disagree with my picks? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and check back as I continue to blog about the 45th running of the Last Great Race!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Snowy finish of the Tustumena 200

A snow storm blew in as the leaders headed out of the Hills and towards the finish line. By the time Cim Smyth pulled in to win, the snow was coming down hard - and got even heavier by the time Nicolas Petit came in a few minutes later. Crazy stuff, made for some great photos, though!

More under the cut!

What a T200 Checkpoint looks like

Okay, I might as well just post the rest of the photos while I'm on my blog, right? These are just highlights. I took far more photos than I want to post here (because I just don't want to bog down the bandwidth). You can view all of them (and then some) on my galleries page ( click here ).

Freddie's Roadhouse is located in the heart of the Caribou Hills (outside of Ninilchik, Alaska). The hills are where the snowmachine (snowmobile for you outsiders) enthusiasts congregate all winter long. The Roadhouse feeds and houses many of these folks. It's central in the trail systems. This includes the mushing trails, and so it's the first and last checkpoint during the race. Good food, warm hospitality, just a great place to meet up and watch the dogs come in.

Mt Redoubt was huge and very visible from Freddies.

Iliamna was also very visible.

More under the cut!

More T200 photos

I apologize to the few readers of this blog who thought I'd have more content by this point in the year. I thought I would, too. I just can't seem to have enough brain power left after an 8 hour work day to sit down and focus on writing blog posts. SO much has happened in different races across the state, and I had all of these plans to at least comment with my own view of happenings. It just hasn't materialized. I was excited about the Quest and then I ended up sick, so I didn't blog (or do anything) last week.

To make up for it, I'm going to share a few more of my photos from the Tustumena 200 run back in January. I shared photos of the Vet Check last time, so this time let's go with the start of the race, shall we? I spent a lot of time photographing the dogs this time around. And, yes, there's once again a LOT of Seavey photos. I can't help myself.

More under the cut!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tustumena 200 photos

There are so many hours in a day, so the editing has been slow going, but here are a few from the Vet Check for the Tustumena 200 on Friday, January 27, 2017. More are coming... hopefully before Iditarod!

Some of Mitch Seavey's dogs waiting to be looked over by the veterinarians. 

More of Mitch Seavey's dogs.

Someone wasn't too keen on a cold stethoscope.

Cim Smyth's team.

Dave Turner's team.

Another dog from Mitch Seavey's team.

Cim Smyth's dog named Spruce.