Monday, October 30, 2017

Tustumena 200 registration to begin Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

No boycott for most Iditarod teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need answers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

ITC seems unconcerned with who drugged Seavey's dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mushers show support for one of their own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

I Support Dallas Seavey

'Nuf said.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Dementia Night

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