Wednesday, January 29, 2020

2020 Willow 300 Race Preview

One of the newer races in Alaska, the Willow 300 came about as a way to give mushers another option to Qualify for the Iditarod after so many races were being called off due to poor weather conditions or cancelled entirely for lack of participation. Started in 2017, the Willow 300 quickly became one of the most popular races by rookies and veterans alike.

The Willow 300 has some unique qualities to their race, there is no Bib Draw - the order of registration & payment determines the bib number of each team. The Willow 300 is one of two Iditarod Qualifiers in Alaska to start with a Mass Start where all teams leave the starting line at the same time - no need to do math for time differentials. For teams not confident in a mass start, they have the option of waiting until the chaos clears and they will take off shortly afterward. There is no real advantage or disadvantage doing the start either way - it's all a matter of preference.

37 teams are set to leave Willow Lake at 10am on Thursday. For some of the big name teams this is another way to evaluate their A-listers to see who will make the final cut for Iditarod, others will use this as a training run for the more inexperienced pups. There are quite a few familiar faces in this weekend's line up, fan favorites, and a healthy list of names working to finish qualifying for the thousand mile races. So who are some of our front runners? Let's break it down.

Jeff Deeter - The frontman for Black Spruce Kennel wasn't originally signed up for the race, and his wife KattiJo was... however after watching their team run in the Copper Basin Jeff decided he wanted a crack at running the dogs before he takes them down the Iditarod Trail. Jeff is one of the young guys that was really made waves in the last few years in the sport, and could prove to be one of the top teams in this year's Willow 300.

Lance Mackey - Lance may have won the Red Lantern at this year's Kusko 300, but don't expect that to be the plan in Willow. While Lance may choose to take it easy again in this run, it's also foolish to count him out. It will be fun to see the four-time Quest and Iditarod champion in the mix.

Linwood Fiedler - With the roster that we have, I expect Fielder to have a solid run. Fielder is a consistent top 30 Iditarod finisher, with more top twenties than thirties.

Nic Petit - Not having the inside scoop on Petit's plan for the Kusko meant I guessed he'd be a front runner when that clearly was not his plan. This time, though, the team and musher have had sufficient rest and recoop before this race and I expect Nic to take command early and hold onto it.

Ramey Smyth - The Smyth teams are fast, strong, capable, and know how to win mid-distance races. Expect Ramey to stay with the leader and push strong at the end. Don't be surprised if he pulls off a win.

Cim Smyth - A late entry to the race, Cim Smyth is not expected to be late to the finish. Like Ramey, he knows how to get his team to kick it into high gear in the final push. Smyth is a multiple time champion in the difficult Tustumena 200. Look for him to have a strong race in Willow.

Kristy & Anna Berington - They are really coming together as a kennel with strong results last season. It's unsure what their plan is for the Willow 300, so they're my wildcard for this race. Most of the time the two race together, so that can sometimes hold them back from taking the top placements, but in a race like this I expect them to do very well.

Karin Hendrickson - Another wildcard. I expect her to be in the mix.

How to Watch

Unlike the other races that have established media sources and big sponsorships that garner attention from outside media, the Willow 300 runs mainly by its volunteer staff to keep fans updated. Here are the links you need to know to be able to follow the race.

Official Website
Unlike the other races, the Willow 300 just has a web page as part of the Willow Dog Musher Association's website. It holds links to the official rules, the tracker map, the forms and applications for mushers, and ways to sponsor the race (including purchasing a mile of the trail for $30.)

GPS Tracker
While they may not be "sophisticated" to have their own website and a lot of cool features, this race does have the beloved GPS Trackers by Trackleaders. Click here to see the GPS Tracker map.

Social Media
For the Willow 300, Social Media is the race's life blood. They post mainly to their Facebook Page, but are also active on their Twitter account at race time. They also share a few photos and posts on their Instagram Page.

You'll also want to follow Kale Casey Live on Facebook because he will have a live feed of the Mass Start at 10am (AKST) on Willow Lake. Sled Dog News also plans to go live for parts of the race, so make sure to follow both.

The race kicks off at 10am on Willow Lake, Teams will start showing up about two hours before that. Who are you cheering for? Comment below with your thoughts!

**Edited to correct information on the mass start - the Kobuk 440 also starts with a Mass Start - and to add Cim Smyth to the list.**

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2020 Yukon Quest Musher Roster

 As with the last few races featured on this blog, I've decided to once again go down the musher list and link to their websites and social media so fans can be better acquainted with the teams. Because the Bib Draw isn't until later in the week, but Fantasy Mushing opened yesterday for the Quest, I'll go with the roster list and will update with bib numbers this weekend.

As always, if you catch a broken link or mistake let me know in the comments. What other features would you like to see on this blog? Give me a shout in the comments below!

Yukon Quest 2020 - 1,000mi Race Roster

Rob Cooke - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Brent Sass - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Richie Beattie - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Dave Dalton - Website / Facebook
Torsten Kohnert - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Cody Strathe - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Ryne Olson - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Denis Tremblay - Facebook
Michelle Phillips - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Olivia Webster - Facebook*
Nora Själin - Website / Facebook / Instagram***
Jason Campeau - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Pat Noddin - Website / Facebook / Twitter**
Chase Tingle - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Allen Moore - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

*Olivia Webster is Olivia Shank-Neff, but her passport has her as Webster which is why she is registered as such on the Quest's roster.
**Pat Noddin will be running a team for Atka Kennel. As such his links reflect that team's media.
***Nora Själin will be running a team from Tom-From Johnson's kennel so her links, except for facebook, are reflecting of that.

Yukon Quest 300mi Race

Nathaniel Hamlyn - Website / FacebookInstagram
Vickie Justice - Facebook / Instagram
Dave Turner - Facebook
Misha Wiljes - Website / Facebook
Lauro Eklund - Website / FacebookInstagram
Jennifer LaBar - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Karolyn Bristol - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram*
Chad Stoddard - Facebook / Facebook**
Benjamin Good - Facebook / Instagram
Joe Taylor - Facebook
Cody Waterbury - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram***
Ryan Freedman - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Leigh Strehlow Pagel - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Luther Buhr - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Claudia Wickert - Facebook
Sean Underwood - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram***
Jeremy Traska - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Deke Naaktgeboren - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Tabitha Hughes - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Madeline Rubida - Website / Facebook / Instagram
Jacob Witkop - Facebook 

*Karolyn is running a team from Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore's SPKennel.
**Chad is running a team from Lance Mackey's Comeback Kennel.
***Cody & Sean are running teams from Jeff King's Husky Homestead.

Strikeouts are last minute withdrawals.

Monday, January 27, 2020

2020 Yukon Quest Preview

Is it really that time already? The first of two major thousand mile sled dog races in North America begins later this week, with fifteen teams signed up and prepared to race. Equally as exciting is the super competitive field of twenty-one teams prepared to run the mid-distance Yukon Quest 300. The Quest is a unique race in that it starts in one country and finishes in another. The start and finish rotate back and forth between Fairbanks, Alaska (USA) and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (Canada). 2020's start will take place on February 1 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Quest boasts being the most difficult thousand mile race, and they have a lot of evidence to back it up. Known for its tough terrain, horrible weather, and frigid temps - the Quest tests even the toughest of teams. While Iditarod seems to encourage "bucket list" entries, the Quest favors the more hardcore (though many hardcore mushers have yet to enter, what are they waiting for). Both races offer fans a lot of emotion, excitement, and energy. Mushing is blessed to have two fantastic races in North America.

Due to a few last minute withdrawls in the thousand mile race - due mainly to rookies being unable to qualify prior to the start - the roster is one of the smaller ones the race has seen in recent years. Many familiar faces are back, some well-loved favorites, and three rookies. This should be a very competitive year for the race with past champions Brent Sass and Allen Moore the odds on favorites to go one and two again. There are several teams looking to move up in this smaller field like Torsten Kohnert, Dave Dalton, Jason Campeau, Ryne Olson, Michelle Phillips, etc. And, of course, the rookies are planning to finish; Swede Nora Sjalin is running a team of dogs for Tom-Frode Johanson (who is running his rookie Iditarod with the same team in March), Canadian Pat Noddin who is running a team from Atka Kennel (Quest Veteran Jason Campeau's puppy team), and Alaskan Olivia Webster whose Grandfather is one of the founders of the Quest (husband is Quest Champion Hugh Neff).

So what about those teams hoping to come top ten? Just about all of the veteran teams have a very good chance to break top ten (I mean, there's only 12 veterans in the field so... good odds.) But who has a chance to crack top five or even win the whole thing? Let's take a look at some of the field.

Allen Moore - The three-time Yukon Quest Champion is back again with SPKennel's "Red Team", the A-list team of dogs that Aliy Zirkle will run competitively in the Iditarod in March. Allen and Aliy share a kennel of star athletes. Allen writes in his Quest bio that the majority of his dogs will be four-years-old or older. They are experienced. Last year his team came third, do not expect a much lower placement and don't be shocked if they are first into Whitehorse.

Brent Sass - The two-time and reigning Yukon Quest Champion took a short break from competitive racing a few years back to refocus and remind himself why he runs dogs. Sass came back to the sport and shocked even himself when he came first in a very cold and difficult race. The boost of confidence that a win like that brings makes Sass one of the top favorites to take the 2020 Championship.

Cody Strathe - Expect Strathe to jump up in the standings this year. His bio suggests he's running many of the same young dogs he ran last year, and with the smaller field, Strathe should climb placements. He's bringing along star lead dog Turkey who lead Paige Drobny's team to a seventh place finish in the 2019 Iditarod.

Jason Campeau - You may recognize Campeau's name from the drama on the Quest a couple years ago when he ended up with a double concussion and had to be medevacced off the trail. Campeau has a solid dog team, and is showing that he can be competitive... when he isn't injured. Expect Jason to be safe, but to push for a top five finish (at least).

Michelle Phillips - Not to jinx anything, but this could be a year we see a woman take the title, and it's likely it'd be Michelle Phillips is the one to do it. Only one woman has ever won the Quest (that'd be Aliy Zirkle in 2000), but Phillips has been consistently in the top ten when she's run the thousand mile race and has been one of the dominate forces of the 300. The dogs of Tagish Lake Kennel are the real deal and Michelle could take them all the way.

Ryne Olson - Ryno Kennel's Ryne Olson is another lady musher who could push it all the way. She's only be in the top 10 once for the thousand mile race, but don't count her out. This could be a top 10 or top 5 finish for her this year.

Torsten Kohnert - Another consistently top ten team, Kohnert could prove to be a spoiler in this year's race. It's a good bet that he'll be in the top ten, and who knows he could make top five. He has a strong team and trains for the Quest all year.

Fifteen rookies are running the Yukon Quest 300 this year out of a field of 21 teams. Many are using this as a qualifying race for future Quest and Iditarod runs. With so many rookies, its hard to guess just what will happen in this year's 300, but we have a handful of teams to watch that I want to highlight.

Benjamin Good - A former 300 champion, Ben could probably take this race again this year. It's difficult to know what to expect with the field that they have this year, but it's always a good idea to count on someone who's been first across the finish line before.

Chad Stoddard - Stoddard is a rookie, so don't expect anything one way or the other, however he ran a great race on the Copper Basin 300 this year in the brutal cold. Chad runs dogs out of Lance Mackey's kennel, so his team is a proven dog team and he's grown up in racing with this current crop of canines. Do not be surprised to see him stay mid to upper part of the pack.

Dave Turner - The sprint turned distance musher is the 2019 Tustumena 200 champion, and came in a very respectable 8th place in a very competitive field. It would not be surprising to see Turner compete for a top ten placement in his first YQ300.

Madeline Rubida - She was fourth last year, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her place at least that high again this year. Rubida runs dogs out of Tagish Lake Kennel (Michelle Phillips). Both Michelle and Madeline scratched in this year's Copper Basin 300, not because they couldn't run it, but that the CB300 was not the end goal and in those crazy temps they wanted to keep the dogs happy and healthy. The Quest was the goal.

Nathaniel Hamlyn - Another veteran who has been close to the top, should be able to do so again. There's nothing showing why he wouldn't be as high if not higher than his last YQ300.

How to Watch

Unlike the other thousand mile race in Alaska, the Quest is accessible to all without subscription fees. Most of the media focuses on the thousand mile race, but there will still be updates following the 300. Below are links to the best places to follow the race online.

Official Website
All official releases/statements, in and out times, etc. will be posted on the official site. This is your race central when you can't get to a physical race central. There's a lot of great information on past races, on the mushers, etc. If you haven't already, give it a look see and make sure to bookmark it.

GPS Tracker
Unlike the Quest's "older sister", the tracker is not behind an iron curtain that you must pay to enter. It won't be live until closer to the start - once bibs are given, etc - but you can bookmark the link now so that you can pull it up on race day. Click here to see the GPS Tracker map.

Radio Broadcast
KUAC FM will have updates throughout the day during race week. They are one of three radio stations that are offiical stations of the Quest. Based in Fairbanks, they will cover the race from start to finish with musher interviews and stories from the trail. Their website provides a live stream. This SHOULD be where you can catch the live radio broadcast of the start.

KCBF Radio (ESPN Radio Fairbanks) will also have updates on the race. Their website also has a live stream. They have not published their race broadcast schedule.

For a radio broadcast of the Finish in Whitehorse, you need to look no further than CKRW - The Rush. You can listen live on their website.

Social Media
The Quest is active on both Facebook and Twitter, with very quick response time on the latter. Race updates and photo drops will happen throughout the days of the race. Any breaking news or press releases will be announced on both platforms. More photo updates will show up on Instagram, and they also have Flickr. The start and finish are normally shown by Facebook LIVE on their facebook page. The official hashtags for the races are #YQ2020 for the thousand mile race and #YQ300 for the 300mile race.

News Publications
The race has two official news partners. In Fairbanks we have the Faibanks Daily News-Miner, which shares a lot of terrific race coverage. They have recently gone to a subscription based service, so it is unknown how much will be available to the average follower.

In Whitehorse they have The Whitehorse Star, another fantastic resource. They do not seem to have a requirement for subscriptions, so it may be the better bet for fans to get printed media on the race.

Not an official partner, but another good source for coverage is the Anchorage Daily News. They are also subscription based and only allow a certain number of free reads before you get locked out... and they follow Iditarod more heavily. So, well, decide accordingly what you want to read where.

KUAC has a TV station and will be broadcasting updates (or so their website says. They are not linked as a television partner with the race, however.

CBC North is the TV Station of the Yukon (Canada) and will have coverage. Look for updates throughout the race.

In Fairbanks, KTVF Channel 11 is your go to TV Station for all things Yukon Quest.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, January 29
6:30pm Meet the Mushers (Alaska) @ LaQuinta Inn and Suites

Thursday, January 30
5pm Bib Draw and Banquet @ The Westmark Hotel

Friday, February 14
7pm Meet the Mushers (Yukon) @ Mt. McIntyre

Saturday, February 15
5pm Finishers and Award Banquet @ The Yukon Convention Centre

Did I miss anything? What are some of the things you're looking forward to with these races? Who are you cheering for? Comment below!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Kuskokwim 300 Bib Numbers

Since the Copper Basin list was so popular with the Musher List of websites and social media, I figured I'd do the same with the rest of the races I preview this year. They won't get their bib numbers for another couple of days, so I'll just go with the order on the website for now (order of sign up) and I'll reorder them when we get the bibs. Updated: Bib Numbers have been selected and reflected in this list.

You can view their short bios on the Kusko website here.

1. Dennis Kananowicz - Facebook 
2. Pete Kaiser - Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
3. Joar Leifseth Ulsom - Website / Facebook / Instagram
4. Dave Turner - Facebook
5. Wade Marrs - Website / Facebook / Instagram
6. Nicolas Petit - Website / Facebook / Twitter
7. Aaron Peck - Website / Facebook / Instagram
8. Matthew Failor Website / Facebook / Instagram
9. Richie Diehl - Facebook
10. Jeff King - Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
11. Travis Beals - Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter 
12. Will Rhodes - Website / Facebook
13. Tony Browning - Facebook
14. Aaron Burmeister - Facebook
15. Ramey Smyth - Facebook
16. Jim Lanier - Website / Facebook
17. Dakota Schlosser - Website / Facebook / Instagram
18. Paige Drobny - Website / Facebook / Instagram
19. Joanna Jagow - Website / Facebook / Instagram
20. Matt Hall - Website / Facebook / Instagram
21. Lance Mackey - Facebook / Instagram

Who are you cheering for? Comment below with your picks!

2020 Kuskokwim 300 Race Preview

After a very cold Copper Basin 300, all eyes are now pointed west to the windy and cold Kuskokwim 300. The beloved race that runs out of Bethel, Alaska along the Kuskokwim River on the West Coast of Alaska is the most Rock Concert like atmosphere in the Alaska Sled Dog Race line up. It's nearly a week-long party for the fans of the Kusko area, that starts of with fireworks. This is the premiere event for the region, and they don't take it for granted. Mushers also enjoy this race due to the positive and enthusiastic volunteers and fans. The Kusko offers a wide range of challenges from wind, bad weather, over flow, and more. It's a good way for Iditarod teams to train for the third and final leg of the thousand mile race as they see similar conditions as they run up the coast to Nome.

The Kusko roster is stacked with a who's who of teams that Iditarod fans are very familiar with. Formidable teams who could all easily take the top prize. Last year, Matthew Failor and team pulled an upset winning his first Kusko 300 against the four-time and favored champion Pete Kaiser. Failor and Kaiser are both on this year's roster along with other past champions and hopefuls. Let's take a look at some of the top teams.

Dave Turner - The 2019 Tustumena 200 Champion has a solid, steady team that eats up trail. Turner has the ability to take the lead, though with this being a trail he isn't as familiar with he may take a little more conservative approach. It will be interesting to see how he plays this run.

Jeff King - Can you do a top ten and not have Mr. The King on the list? Possibly. King hasn't really dominated as the "winningest musher" in a while now, but he still has the goods. His dogs are running well on other teams, so it's most likely not the dogs that hold the team back. Like the Copper Basin the Kusko plays out as a training run for many of the teams, don't look for King to go balls to the wall, but don't expect him to sit back either.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom - the 2018 Iditarod Champion should have a good run on the Kusko. Don't expect him to be outside the top teams. We'll see how he does this year against many of his main competitors for the "big one".

Matt Hall - The former Yukon Quest Champion and his Smokin' Aces team cannot be left off the list. Matt has the goods to take a win, if he plays his cards right.

Matthew Failor - The reigning Kusko Champion is coming off a very cold and brutal Copper Basin 300. Doing two three hundred mile mid-distance races can wear a team down especially since the Kusko is the one race that is not on the road system and most teams must be flown into the area. It doesn't mean Failor's team doesn't have a good chance of taking the prize again, but it could be more challenging.

Nicolas Petit - Team Petit is no stranger to back to back races where "dad" let's them run. Petit and crew just finished the Copper Basin 300, and here they are on the Kusko. Don't expect him to take it easy. Petit will get up front early and do his best to stay there. He just has to not take the wrong turn.

Pete Kaiser - The 4-time consecutive Kusko Champion didn't make it a 5-Pete, but that doesn't mean the era of Kaiser is over. He's the reigning Iditarod Champion after all, this team has just found its stride. Look for a strong, confident team who will be hunting for that win again. Expect them to take it.

Richie Diehl - Another team who are running in their backyard, Diehl wants this win and has the speeds and the knowledge to do it. It just has to come together for him. I almost put Ramey Smyth on here instead, but with it being Richie's stomping grounds I'm gonna give him the edge.

Travis Beals - While this is Beals' first trip to the Kusko, this is not his first sled dog race. Beals has steadily climbed the ranks in the sport and is another solid competitor in any race he enters. Don't expect the rookie to hold back, he'll be in the mix and I wouldn't be surprised to see him running close to the front.

Wade Marrs - Wade is another one of the younger mushers who has already made his mark. He's always in the mix and he just needs the stars to align for it to happen. Look for him to be in the lead pack.

How to Follow
Unlike the bigger races like the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, there is very little promise of any video coverage. With the temps dropping so low, even the facebook live feeds we've grown accustomed to cannot be guaranteed. Cold air zaps batteries faster than lighting, and who has the time or ability to keep their fingers exposed long enough to even press "start"?! So, how can race fans follow along when a race doesn't have Iditarod Insider like coverage?

Official Website
The Kusko's website is pretty slick. You can follow all of the races, fundraising and news from their site. It's easy to navigate and they have great musher bios. Be sure to check it out.

GPS Tracker
Real time updates will come through the trackers as always. With the cold there may be more glitches than we'd like (I blame the aliens!) but there's not much we can do. Cold and technology don't get along. You can follow the trackers here, but they won't go live until closer to go time on Friday.

Radio Broadcast
KYUK Radio will broadcast the start which begins at 6:30pm (start listening at 6pm for pre-race info). You can listen to the broadcast online through this link.

Social Media
Updates will most likely be posted on the race's facebook page, and possibly their twitter account. Photo updates should come from Instagram. They typically try to have a facebook live feed, but if it stays cold that could become problematic. If you are tweeting, instagramming, etc. the traditional hashtag is #K300.

KYUK is also plans to post updates on their facebook page, including facebook live feeds of the start.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, January 16
6pm - K300 starting position drawing
7pm - Bogus Creek 150 starting position drawing

​Friday, January 17
5pm - Bogus Creek 150 START
6:30pm - 2020 Kuskokwim 300 START
"The Lead Dog Light Show" presented by First National Bank Alaska

Saturday, January 18
2pm - Akiak Dash Mass Start
7pm - K300 Concert (Co-sponsored by Bethel Council on the Arts)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Mitch Seavey "takes his hat off (quickly)" to Copper Basin Finishers

Mitch Seavey was the latest musher to take to Facebook following his scratch from the Copper Basin 300. Temperatures averaged in the -40s all weekend on the trail, and reports had the second checkpoint on the trail hovering at -60. While 13 teams have managed to make it to the Chistochina checkpoint - the final stop before the finish - 15 teams so far have scratched. Seven teams are still racing, six have come into the finish.

"It was -44 F. at the start of the Copper Basin Sled Dog Race," Mitch wrote. "At the first checkpoint, 75 miles into the race, it was -52 and -60 at Sourdough, the next checkpoint. We (Hal Hanson with second team) scratched from the race out of concern for frostbite to the dogs. Personally, I was quite comfortable, considering the temperature. I’ve been experimenting with some new gear and called it a success, especially heated insoles in my boots! Using contact lenses for the first time avoided frozen glasses – another plus."

Several teams chose to scratch at Point Lake after hearing reports of the temperatures dropping so low, including Iditarod and Quest veteran Michelle Phillips

Mitch continued, "Caring for dogs in cold temperatures is a challenge. Booties, coats, leggings, male wraps, flank protectors and more are deployed. As long as the team keeps eating well, cold temperatures are manageable, unless something goes awry, such as a wrap or protector getting dislodged, urine-soaked or snow-filled. Then a problem can develop quickly.

Cold can also be depressing to the dogs. More than ever, they rely on their musher to set a positive tone and mood, and as long as we project joy and optimism, they will join in the festivities. But extreme cold can be depressing to humans, too."

Weather, and especially temperatures are always a huge factor in races. Mushers have to take into account what their dogs are capable of, and what they're prepared for. 

"The first time I won the Copper Basin Race was in 1997. Warm temperatures as high as 48 F. stopped teams as they waited for cooler evening temperatures. I kept going, developed a big lead, and won the race. I was criticized and even dissed by the race marshal at the finisher’s banquet for running when it was, “too hot” and for taking a “big risk.”

I shrugged. “Apparently, it wasn’t too hot,” I said flatly, as I took the check and sat down. Today, 50 F. is a common cut-off temperature for teams doing long runs, especially in fall training."

Ultimately, Mitch chose to do what was best for his team on the day of decision. That does not mean it was the right decision for another team.

He concluded, "Techniques, gear, experience and even the dogs themselves continue to improve as the years go by and conquering extremes is at the heart of sports. At 60 below my hat’s off (and back on quickly) to the teams who reached their goals in the 2020 Copper Basin. If I’d been carrying the diphtheria serum to Nome, I would have gone on. But geesh, I was just hoping for a nice training run! Congratulations finishers."

Hal Hanson's next race will be the Willow 300 on January 30. Mitch Seavey's next race will be the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race set for March 7. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

2020 Copper Basin Bib Numbers

The race is set for its 10am start, the Bib Numbers have been drawn!

Want to know who the mushers are running this year's Copper Basin 300? Look no further. I just spent a crazy amount of time tracking down the teams online. Mushers are traditionally the sort who balk at modern technology, so some of these sites are outdated at best, and some non-existant. Use this info as you wish, perhaps this will help some with their Fantasy Mushing teams. 

1. Misha Wiljes - Website / Facebook
2. Mille Porsild - Website / Facebook
3. Kalyn Holl - Website / Facebook
4. Fabian Schmitz - Facebook
5. Nicholas Petit - Website / Facebook / Twitter
6. Madeline Rubida - 
Website / Facebook / Instagram
7. Michelle Phillips - Website / Facebook
8. Hal Hanson - Website / Facebook
9. Eric Kelly - Instagram / Facebook
10. Rob Cooke - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
11. KattiJo Deeter - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
12. Susannah Tuminelli - Website / Facebook
13. Aliy Zirkle - Website / Facebook / Twitter
14. Chad Stoddard - Facebook
15. Riley Dyche - Website / Facebook / Instagram
16. Louve Tweddell - Website
17. Mitch Seavey - Website / Facebook / Instagram
18. Lori Tweddell - Website /
19. Kyla Boivin - Facebook
20. Jason Biasetti - Can't find anything!
21. Christopher Parker - Website / Facebook / Instagram
22. Magnus Kaltenborn - Facebook / Instagram
23. Ryne Olson - Website / Facebook
24. Matt Paveglio - Website / Facebook
25. Brent Sass - Website / Facebook / Instagram
26. Hunter Keefe - Website / Facebook
27. Matthew Failor
 - Website / Facebook / Instagram

2020 Gunflint Mail Run begins Saturday

The Copper Basin 300 isn't the only race happening this weekend. Minnesota's Gunflint Mail Run race also begins January 11. There are two events a 12-dog 100-mile continuous race, and an 8-dog 65-mile continuous race. Fourteen teams are signed up for the twelve-dog event, and sixteen teams signed up for the eight-dog event. Fans of Iditarod will recognize several names on the longer race, while "UglyDogs" (fans of BraverMountain Kennel) will most likely recognize several names on the shorter.

The Gunflint is not a qualifier for the 1,000 mile races, but it is one of the most anticipated races in the lower 48. While it won't get the attention and coverage that it probably deserves, with the help of Blair Braverman's fandom, it's gotten a lot more attention in the last couple of years. BraverMountain kennel will not be represented in this year's roster, but the field is exciting none the less.

Names like Redington, Neese, Freking, and Schroeder should all be familiar to mushing fans. Should be a fun race to follow.

So where can you watch the race unfold online? Let's get a quick rundown on how to follow this lovely little race.

GPS Tracker! Yes, where would we be in 2020 if we didn't have GPS trackers following our favorite teams' every step?! How did we ever survive the 70s-90s when all we had were the official times in and out of checkpoints?! All snark aside, if you aren't glued to a GPS tracker, why not? Gunflint's tracker map can be found here.

The Official Site of the race is one of the best organized and cleanly built. Lots of great information can be found on the site, including information of the areas the race runs through. Give it a look see. The FAQ is especially fun.

WTIP Broadcasting is the official radio station of the Gunflint Mail Run and will broadcast the start of the race. The broadcast can be streamed online.

Social Media
Gunflint's Official Facebook page will hopefully have live video feeds of the start and throughout the race, and of course will keep updated with race stats throughout the weekend. Years past they've been active on twitter as well.

Dog Talk Sports Network a fun fanlead twitter account that tweets as though dogs are commentating sports will be at the race and hope to cover it. With the unknown of weather and other logistics they are unsure if they will be able to "live twit", but there will be updates as they can be made available. It's a highly entertaining twitter account either way and I highly recommend you follow them.

Did I forget anything? Who are you cheering for? Comment below!

Fantasy Mushing - Join the Fun!

Several years ago Danny Seavey didn't have enough to do with running his family's tourism business, being a dad, and blogging about his dad and brother running Iditarod. No, Danny needed something more to do and he created a Fantasy Mushing League for everyone to join and add a new element of fun while following the Iditarod. What started out as a Google Spreadsheet with Danny computing everything, has now grown to its own website (run by David Hunt, volunteer extraordinaire). They've also expanded from just Iditarod rosters to include the Copper Basin 300, Yukon Quest, and Finmarkslopet.

The "league" is always free of charge and just a fun way to follow the sport. Improvement suggestions are encouraged, and there are simple ways to financially support the site should one want to.

You can even create your own "pack" so that you can play directly against friends, family, and fan groups.

If you want to join a pack, you're more than welcome to join "Iditafans".

Registration is currently open for the 2020 Copper Basin 300 and will close two hours after the race begins (so roughly 12pm AKST).

Do you have a team in Fantasy Mushing? Share your team name in the comments below!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 Copper Basin 300 Preview

After a snow free December, snow blew in and along with it came frigid temps in January. Early season races were cancelled for lack of trail and too warm conditions. Fans and participants alike worried if this would be another season with races few and far between. But, since the new year the weather has turned to make races possible. The first big race of the season is upon us this weekend with the Copper Basin 300 race starting on Saturday.

Weather forecast is calling for clear skies and temps between -25 and -35 degrees Fahrenheit. It is going to be a cold race and as such some teams are making the decision to withdraw from the race. Depending on where teams have been training can impact how teams run in these conditions. While most of Alaska has been under these very cold temps, not all teams have experienced it for days on end while training. At this time, there are at least four teams that are still listed as racing have made public statements saying they will not race this weekend. **Update 5pm, January 10: the roster is down to 30 teams now.**

Until the bib draw Friday, there's no real way to know just how many teams plan to make it to the start line, but the roster is a healthy number and even a few more withdrawals won't hinder a very difficult, yet promising race. A quick scan of teams' social media pages (ones that are known, anyway) it looks like most plan to race this weekend. Let's take a look at some of the top players in this weekend's race.

Aliy Zirkle - If you've followed mushing at all in the last two decades (wow, she won the Quest a long while ago!) you know who Zirkle is and what the SPKennel dogs are capable of. Zirkle trains in the Interior of Alaska and is no stranger to plunging temps. In fact, Aliy made a point to acknowledge the negative temps in a recent blog post. This is a great weekend for Yukon Quest like weather training. While most of the top names in mushing use the mid-distance races as "training runs" for the bigger races like the Quest and Iditarod, they are still competitive.

Brent Sass - Another Interior musher who also has a couple of Yukon Quest titles to his name. No stranger to cold, Sass's Wild and Free team will be a formidable team charging down the trail. The Interior has seen temps close to fifty below, so -30 will probably feel like a heat wave. Sass is coming off a fairly successful 2019 season (he won the Yukon Quest). Look for Brent to have some strong pushes along the trail.

Matthew Failor - The 2019 Kuskokwim champion can no longer be called an "up-and-comer", Matt Failor is another team that has the goods to be a spoiler to the "more experienced" teams out on any trail. Having a decade of mushing under his belt, Failor considers himself the "17th dog" (which I guess now that the Iditarod is down to 14 dogs per team he's the 15th dog?) Don't expect Matt to just be along for the ride. He'll run with his team to the finish. (In Nome for the Iditarod finish he actually picked up the sled because it had too much drag on the pavement. Quite the feat after a week on the trail with little to no sleep.)

Michelle Phillips - Girl power on the trail! in 2017 the top three teams to finish the Copper Basin were women. Phillips came in third that year, beating out Allen Moore. Phillips is a consistant competitor on the Yukon Quest and Quest 300 coming close to finishing first several times. Another team that's used to "brutal cold" this weekend should shape up nicely for them.

Mitch Seavey - The three time Iditarod Champion is known to use the mid-distance races as training runs. Doesn't mean he can't win them, just that it isn't the goal for the weekend. Mitch has won the Copper Basin several times... in the nineties. He's been around a while. Look for a strong run from Team Seavey, but don't expect him to have the dogs to balls to the wall.

Nicolas Petit - The speed demon of the trails, Petit will once again go for the win. Petit is known to "let the dogs" choose how to run. "Dad" is just there to make sure everyone does it safe. Petit and "the kids" have won before, and I wouldn't expect anything short of going for another win this time around.

Ryne Olson - Ryne was the woman to win the race in 2017, and has also seen some pretty cold temps in the last week or more. Olson's posts seem confident about her race weekend, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her post some good runs and make a push for the front. Ryne's positive approach to racing is always good for the team, and she'll need it with temps reaching -33 by weekend's end.

How to Follow
Unlike the bigger races like the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, there is very little promise of any video coverage. With the temps dropping so low, even the facebook live feeds we've grown accustomed to cannot be guaranteed. Cold air zaps batteries faster than lighting, and who has the time or ability to keep their fingers exposed long enough to even press "start"?! So, how can race fans follow along when a race doesn't have Iditarod Insider like coverage?

GPS Tracker
Real time updates will come through the trackers as always. With the cold there may be more glitches than we'd like (I blame the aliens!) but there's not much we can do. Cold and technology don't get along. You can follow the trackers here, but they won't go live until closer to go time on Saturday.

Radio Broadcast
KCAM Radio will broadcast the start beginning with musher interviews at 9:30am. If you're in the area you can listen to the broadcast on AM 790, or online through this link.

Social Media
Updates will most likely be posted on the race's facebook page, and possibly their twitter account. There may even be live video feeds, but again with the cold don't count on it. If you are tweeting, instagramming, etc. the traditional hashtag is #CB300.

KCAM is also posting updates on their facebook page, starting with the musher meet and greet Friday night.

Schedule of Events

Friday, January 10
9am-3pm Food Drops
10am-4pm Vet Checks
3pm-5pm Community Dinner and Musher Meet and Greet

Saturday, January 11
10am - Race Start

Will you be watching? Who are you hoping takes the win? Comment below with your thoughts!