Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Larry Daugherty to run Iditarod 46

Larry Daugherty at the ReStart in 2016, his rookie year.
Many fans noticed earlier this week that there was a very late addition to the roster of Iditarod teams, Iditarod veteran Larry Daugherty's name appeared and had people questioning. Yesterday the doctor turned sometimes musher took to social media to confirm that yes he was running. This morning he shared how it all came to be on his facebook page:
While I am obviously thrilled to be in the race and very grateful for the opportunity, my heart was and is broken for Jason whose team I am running and who did all of the training and preparation to get this incredible team of dogs to the starting line! I've quickly learned that Jason is the most organized musher I have seen and stepping in for him has been so seamless because he just has absolutely everything completely planned out, tidy and in order.

I am incredibly appreciative of the trust he has bestowed in me and I hope to make Atka nation proud.

I'm already very attached to these dogs. For those who have not been following Jason already, soon I will introduce you to Ambler,Mullet, Tytte,Roros, Fido,Aphrodite, Redman,Cash, Kodiak,Copenhagen, Stach,Wally, Canuck, Pecan, Jet and Tank. This is a phenomenal team, very disciplined, full of power and ability. It's humbling to be the guy they are pulling.


When I first dreamed of the Iditarod, it was the southern route that enchanted me the most. It is the only route I have not done, and I'm so incredibly excited to see that portion of Alaska by dog team.

Thanks to all for the support. Prayers for Jason for a speedy recovery.

Until Saturday, mush on!
Most remember Daugherty as one of the two teams out of the Seavey kennel a few years that took an extended detour. Both Larry and fellow musher Patrick Beall became known as "The Lost Boys". Both completed the race that year, it just took a little longer. This will be Larry's first trip on the Southern Route of the trail, which was last run in 2013. If weather holds the next couple of years will see the Southern Route run to make up for the years missed. Many villages used as checkpoints on the race need the race as it brings in income to the area. Many have faced severe hardships in the last 5 years due to the lack of visitors in the odd years.

Jason Campeau was set to run the Iditarod, but after a severe head injury during the Yukon Quest (that could have been fatal if not for the awesome response by strangers and race officials), Campeau was unable to run Iditarod this year. The Canadian musher ran the race in 2015 and in 2016, having a bit of a backwards race last year that saw him drop significantly in the standings. It was believed at the time of his injury, Jason was running in 5th or 6th position (unofficially).

Campeau's team was trained to run a competitive race - far more so than Daugherty's previous teams - so it will be interesting to see if Larry can make it into Nome as the "most improved musher", should that be one of the goals the two men have mapped out for this team.

Campeau's social media statement on his team, and who will run in his place.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Iditarod 46: My Top 10

I had so many goals for this season in making sure my blog kept going and had great insights into what we were seeing in the sport - I got massively sidetracked with vacation, work, and the Olympics. Oooo shiny! is my theme so far for this year it seems.

That being said, it IS time for me to make horrible guesses as to who has the best chance to be named champion of the 46th running of the race. I feel like the race should be two weeks out, not less than a week (Thursday is the Musher's banquet). So, this is what it is. I think I did fairly well... 8 of my picks made the top 10 and the who who didn't came in 11th and 12th. Go me! I expect I won't have quite the same success this year, but I'm hopeful that my picks are fairly accurate.

My list is once again alphabetical by first name as I don't want to try and talk percentages in who's most likely to take first.

Aaron Burmeister - Aaron last raced three years ago in 2015. Since then he's been key in some of the rule changes we've seen handed down by the ITC Board. I'll try to stay neutral about all of that, but Burmeister's team has seen action while he's been "retired". Aaron's team has been run in the Iditarod by his brother Noah (is my understanding, comment below if I am wrong). Aaron came in third in his last Iditarod race, and I don't expect him to be too far off the pack this time around either. It will be interesting to see just how he stacks up with this year's roster.

Aliy Zirkle - Her husband Allen Moore just won the Yukon Quest with essentially the team she will take to Nome. This is how they've done things for a while. He runs the A team in the Quest, Aliy runs it in the Iditarod. Zirkle typically runs the YQ300 with the B team that Moore then takes on Iditarod. Zirkle did not run the shorter Quest this year as she was unable to plan a race that would be fast enough for her to then head for Dawson to meet up with Allen and the Red Team. I've said it the last few times, but really, the weak link on this team seems to be Aliy. I hate saying that, but sometimes she gets too in her head and she plays it safe at just the wrong time. I do feel, though, that if the Red team is that much faster than the Black team that she may have a freight train heading to Nome.

Jeff King - The four-time Iditarod Champion is still looking for number five. He's come close in the last decade or so, but after his brief retirement he hasn't been able to make it happen. He's come close, but teams are starting to pass him. Is it age? Well, Mitch Seavey's proven old dogs can still win this thing. Is it strategy? It could be, what won races even 10 years ago doesn't work these days it seems. King was out of the top ten last year, but just barely (he came in eleventh). Whatever placement he gets, however, we're sure to have an entertaining time watching him run his team. I'm not so secretly hoping he can tie Swenson's record.

Jessie Royer - My girl Royer. What can I say? She came fifth last year, a year that saw a lot of women shaking up the racing scene. She's had a fairly good season again this year, and I don't expect that she plans to sit back and relax this year. Jessie's steadily gotten better, and she's a true veteran of this trail. I believe that Jessie should be the top ranked lady musher coming into the race. Yes, I said it. As I said last year: 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 - I know, I fan girl over his face every year, but seriously. I feel like he is constantly posing when he's on those runners! All jokes aside, Joar is not a joke. He was fourth last year. Fourth. It was a fast race from Fairbanks to Nome in 2017. Joar came in to a roaring crowd in Nome (I missed it, how I don't know, but I did...I blame exhaustion). Joar is one of those "silent teams". He's got the goods, but very rarely does he really make the conversation by the folks "in the know". It's probably how he likes it, he can just sneak in. Maybe he'll sneak in first to Nome?

Mitch Seavey - The THREE-time and defending champion shows no signs of slowing down. Mitch won last year's race in record time with a team he says he could not slow down. They flew into Nome wowing everyone with their endurance and strength. Mitch had never seemed happier with a team, and I hear many of his team from last year were in the running to make this year's team. Seavey spent most of his time further north of his stomping grounds training, and he skipped the Tustumena 200 this year opting to keep with his training schedule. I never count Mitch out, but without Dallas Seavey in the race to compete against during training and the race, it will be interesting to see Mitch's style and strategy. Can this be a year for Mitch to hit a fourth win? I'm hoping if Jeff can't take it that Mitch can.

Nicolas Petit - The only races this guy hasn't won this season are the ones he didn't enter. Petit is hungry. He came in a controversial third place in last year's race (minutes behind Dallas Seavey who accidentally left his vet book at a previous checkpoint, but Nic brought it to the finish and allowed Dallas to stay in the race). I do not expect for Petit to accept anything but first, this could mean that he makes some risky decisions (risky race wise, not life threatening). I expect him to push his team hard, they've trained and raced that way for several years now. Petit will rise or he will fall hard. There doesn't seem to be an in between.

Pete Kaiser - Pete just won yet another Kusko 300. They had some issues with trail this year with warmer temps keeping a lot of the race from the river. From the sound of things, the race on the coast for Iditarod will be very similar. Kaiser is a solid team, and last year came 9th. He's always in the conversation, as he should be. He knows what it takes to win, he just has to put his team in a position to make a move.

Travis Beals - I have been sitting here for a few hours trying to decide if Travis should be on this list or if I should go with a Redington. I'm still not sure I chose correctly, but Travis does seem to have a strong team this year. Beals had to take some time off from Iditarod after he was banned from the race for domestic violence "issues" that he had to work through. Beals followed court orders, and jumped through all of the hoops, which satisfied the race officials to allow him to participate in this year's race. Travis comes from solid family tradition in mushing and turned heads early on his career (hence his kennel's name "Turning Heads"). Travis did not take time off from training dogs while satisfying court requirements, and I expect him to have a good showing in this year's race.

Wade Marrs - He set the pace last year and man, he almost had it. It was exciting to watch Wade race against the Seavey's with their own game! He's no doubt learned a lot from that and I expect him to not make the same "mistakes" twice. He's also had a really nice racing and training season, and seems very confident. Where he might have had some distraction was having to be the face and spokesperson for the Iditarod Finisher's Club in regards to the Doping ruling on Dallas Seavey and what all that drama entailed. In a week he'll be able to let go of distraction and just mush. He'll be pushing.

Honorable Mentions:

Gonna go with Ray Redington Jr on this one, he placed very well last year (in the top ten) and has been very hot on the racing circuit this season. I'll also give Ramey Smyth another chance, he should always be in the conversation. He was in my top 10 last season and came in 12th. Not bad.

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!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Gay Men in US Figure Skating

I get that the US Media is trying to be "progressive" by being so positive and obsessed with Adam Rippon being the "first openly gay US athlete" at the Olympics, but they're acting like this also somehow makes what he's doing on the ice that much more impressive. However, there have been many incredible men in figure skating history who were gay who had AMAZING Olympic Moments. Adam is not doing anything *new* other than coming out BEFORE his career is over. He's doing what he feels he needs to do, and more power to him, but I feel it ignores some of the other fantastic athletes in this sport, and it's overshadowing other amazing athletes at these games (Mirai Nagasu, anyone?)

This is not a knock on Adam - he had an amazing skate last night (judging issues aside). I just can't help but go to youtube and watch some of the ones that came before Adam. They in many ways paved the way. Point being: without the ones that came before, Adam most likely could not have broken down that final barrier. I don't think we'd be seeing him stick his tongue out suggestively at the judges in an Olympic season without the likes of Boitano, Galindo (who did not make it to the Olympics, but certainly deserves credit), Goebel, Savoie, and of course Weir.

I'm not going to list all of them, and since the media is focused on him being the first US man, I'll just share a few of my favorite Olympic moments by known (out) gay men because I think they need a shout out.

Probably most notable is our 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano. If you grew up with skating in the 90's you know who Brian is. Brian only came out in 2014, but I'm fairly certain most fans "knew". It just wasn't something we cared about. As Brian said in a recent interview it is a part of who he is, but it's only a part. He's also a figure skater, chef, etc. The incredibly private Boitano just did not feel the need to share it with the world - until the Olympics were in Russia and President Obama asked him to be a part of the delegation from the US. Brian Boitano's 1988 Olympic Winning Long Program is one of the most iconic programs in modern figure skating. Everything from the music and choreography, to the costume and the permed mullet thing he had going on. It's one of the first images I have whenever Boitano is mentioned.

Boitano would also represent the USA in 1994 and was the only gay skater in US Men's skating on any Olympic team in the 90s.

Team USA's made up for it lately though. In 2002, Timothy Goebel (who would not come out until he announced his engagement just a few years ago), was our "quad king" going into the Salt Lake City games. Like Boitano, Timothy kept his life very private, but unlike Boitano was considered one of the heartthrobs of the Winter Olympics that year (I admit to crushing hard for Timmy!). Goebel would win a bronze medal in those games, and continued through 2006 before retiring and heading full time into university (he majored in mathmatics, what a nerd).

Oh the frosted tip look most guys my age had when we were high school age. What were they thinking. And those curls! Again - leading the way for Adam Rippon who when he was around the same age embraced his crazy curly mop hair (until coach Nikolai Morosov made him use a hair straightener, so much irony there... look at the puns!).

2006 saw Johnny Weir and Matt Savoie represent the rainbow at the Olympics (though "closeted"). The two could not have been more different in style and personality. Savoie was seemingly shy, quiet, and smooth... Johnny Weir was... well.. chances are you know who Johnny Weir has always been. Savoie was robbed by the judges thanks to skaters exploiting loopholes in the [at the time] new judging system. Add to the fact that he was the third ranked US skater and wasn't really known for his consistency and the judges just didn't hold him in the same caliber, but he was and is well loved by fans world-wide. I definitely miss his skating.

I was fortunate enough to see him skate his programs and make the team at the US Nationals in 2006. The night of the exhibition after it was all over we must have been getting ready to head for the airport at the same time because we found ourselves at the hotel baggage hold together. I congratulated him on making the team, he seemed surprised I recognized him, but thanked me. Such a great skater.

Johnny had a rough season going into the Olympics, and then had a rough Olympics. Even though his LP wasn't his best showing, I chose it over The Swan because I couldn't stand the Swan, but Otonal is really the only program of his that I like. So you get it instead of anything better because I can.

Johnny would make the team again in 2010, though he was pretty much on his way out in most fans' minds by then. His main rival for over 4 years had been Evan Lysacek and while Johnny was struggling, Evan was becoming a World Champion and eventual Olympic Champion. Johnny was on the verge of being eclipsed by skaters like teammate Jeremy Abbott (who recently came out as well). Still, he put up a good showing, but it was clear that International Judges were done with his perceived attitude. He went on to commentate the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games when NBC decided he was a better choice than Scott Hamilton.

Johnny got in trouble with animal rights groups leading up to the 2010 games because he dared to wear fur on his costumes. He gave in to pressure and removed the fur before the competition.

A little less controversial, his fellow teammate Jeremy Abbott also skated in Vancouver and did fairly well for himself, though it was the Evan and Plushenko show, Jeremy set himself up to be the leading man for the next Olympic Cycle with his showings in Canada.

Not many options for Olympic footage of Jeremy, probably due to how NBC plays ball, but his short was pretty decent, so we'll go with it.

2014 would see Jeremy lead the US Team, and he didn't have the BEST of times but they weren't really the worst either, and he did manage to help get the team the bronze medal in the first ever team event.

Jeremy was one of two skaters that made the US team that year. The other, Jason Brown, has not come out and confirmed his sexuality one way or the other. Many have speculated, but out of respect for his choice I won't count him among the number that I think he belongs to.

So that brings us to the present. Adam is the first one to actually come out (several years) before competing in the Olympics. Without the US Men that came before him (and this is only those who were in the Olympics in the last 30 years in Men's skating. There are men who skated Ice Dance and Pairs that were not listed...) Adam might not have been able to come out now and be his "true self". That's not to say that the other men were not true to themselves. None of them ever said that they weren't gay, they just never entertained the question. They all had their own styles, some more "flamboyant" than others. That's what's always been so great about this sport. Sure, the judges can favor one style over the other, but at the end of the day - the skater who does their job and pushes the sport wins.

And because I can and I feel that it would be wrong NOT to include him... Here's Rudy Galindo's magical Free Skate in 1996 when he won his US Title.