Saturday, January 30, 2021

John Beargrease 2021 Musher Roster

Seventeen teams are signed up to run the John Beargrease Marathon this year. Many veterans, some rookies to the 300mile race but not the John Beargrease. All in all it looks like a robust and healthy roster for the unorthodox 2021 racing season. 

As with the preview I wrote yesterday, I'm just focused on the marathon race. There are also the 120, Junior 120, and 40 Beargrease races. These are not less important races by any means, and perhaps in the future I can focus more attention on them. They are highly competitive and all race fans should pay attention. However, if I want to be able to do more than just sit on my booty and research all weekend, and to get this all out before race day tomorrow, I've gotta be willing to sacrifice something. 

As with my other rosters, I have assembled the list in bib number order. So, without further adieu...

Beargrease Marathon Mushers

2 Peter McClelland - Facebook

3 Alice White - Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Tumblr

4 Erin Altemus - Website / Facebook

5 Sarah Keefer - Website / Facebook

6 Jennifer Freking - Website / Facebook / Instagram

7 Mary Manning - Facebook / Twitter

8 Ryan Redington - Website / Facebook / Instagram

9 Blake Freking - Website / Facebook / Instagram

10 Ero Wallin - Facebook / Instagram

11 Colleen Wallin - Instagram 12 Bailey Vitello - Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

13 Erin Letzring - Facebook

14 Gregg Vitello - Website / Facebook / Instagram

15 John Fisher - Facebook

16 Charmayne Morrison - Facebook / Instagram

17 Kevin Mathis - Facebook

20 Josi Thyr - Facebook

Who are you cheering for?

Friday, January 29, 2021

John Beargrease sled dog races will happen this weekend

Sled Dog races have continually found ways to show Covid that it will not win this season - while some races have had to restructure or move their dates, the race season is still happening with some of the biggest races standing firm. The Beargrease is no exception. While the threat of Covid-19 numbers rising kept many wary of whether or not the premier marathon sled dog race in the Lower-48 would happen, here we are. The race begins this weekend with a strict Covid-19 Mitigation plan.

While this blogger remains focused on Alaska (and mainly the sled dog races run therein) it's time to give this race its due. Several familiar names associated with Alaska's big races choose to run the Beargrease as well. It's also the race chosen to be part of the "Mushing Grand Prix Series" being pushed by Qrill Pet Sports and the Iditarod's CEO. 

Seventeen names are on the roster for the 300mile marathon race set to start on Sunday, January 31. Several top teams are back this year and more strong teams I'm probably not even aware of being top teams. Normally, we'd look at the top teams in the race, but I honestly don't follow enough of the lower-48 teams/races to have a real clue beyond watch the Frekings and watch Ryan Redington. Both kennels have been top teams and have won the race several times between them. 

Sorry, maybe the more I pay attention to these races the more prepared I'll feel to make any pre-race judgement. Maybe 2022? I know, that doesn't help your Fantasy Mushing team selection for this year, though.

How to Follow
As with most races this season, the race does not want spectators at the start, finish, or at checkpoints due to Covid-19 concerns. They are working with media outlets to make sure fans are able to watch the race in video form. Local news outlet WDIO will livefeed the start, and you can find the link on the race's website. Qrill PAWS has also announced they will report on the race

GPS Tracker
As we saw with last year's race, it looks like the Beargrease will again have two GPS tracker systems in place to follow the race. Race fans will be happy to know that the more familiar TrackLeaders trackers are still in play, but there is also the high tech looking QrillPet trackers linked to the race website. Both offer some interesting bits, and if one tracker goes out the other one typically keeps running so there's that. If nothing else it's back up!

Social Media
As with most sled dog races, the Beargrease is fairly active on their facebook page and they do have a twitter account though it isn't very active. And for a few pics check them out on Instagram. WDIO's Sports Director is also a good follow on Twitter to keep up with all of their headlines about the race. 

Schedule of Events

Saturday, January 30
8am-2:30pm Vet Checks
**There will be no Meet and Greet/Opening Ceremony this year due to Covid protocols**
3pm-ish? Handler & Musher Meetings (Bib Draw)

Sunday, January 31
9am - Live Stream of Race Start Begins

Monday, January 11, 2021

Nicolas Petit is your 2021 Copper Basin 300 champion

In a finish that surprised really no one, Nicolas Petit and his team of 9 dogs stormed the finish of the Copper Basin 300 at 11:48am Monday to take his fourth title. According to KCAM Radio, Nic is the first musher to ever win four Copper Basin races in a row. Nic left Chistochina with 10 dogs on the line, but had to put one in his sled due to the dog tiring early in the run. Due to Covid-19 there will not be an awards ceremony and the teams are going to receive any prizes at the finish. Also due to Covid-19 there are no large crowds to welcome them. 

In a battle for second Joar Leifseth Ulsom has a narrow lead over Gunnar Johnson, both teams are less than 5 miles from the finish line and should be in in time for lunch. Joar is technically a rookie in this race as the other time he competed in the Copper Basin 300 the race was stopped mid-race over concerns of brutally cold temperatures. 

There is a live video feed of the finishes provided by the Copper Basin 300, as well as radio broadcast through KCAM radio

With 7 mile lead Petit looks to finish strong

Nicolas Petit at the ReStart of Iditarod 47
March 3, 2019.
It ain't over til it's over, but in all likelihood Nicolas Petit is running into the finish of the Copper Basin 300 to win his fourth consecutive title. Gunnar Johnson and Joar Leifseth Ulsom have given chase, but sit seven miles behind the leader who has kicked it into high gear. It seems Petit owns this race. Of course, stranger things have happened and it isn't a given that he's won until he wins, but be on the look out for Nic Petit to come into the finish around 11:30am AKST (could be earlier, more likely later. Check the GPS to make sure you don't miss him come across the finish line.) 

Overnight three more teams scratched from the race, including Shaynee Traska who was one of the leaders of the chase pack yesterday. It was reported by fans who watched over night that Shaynee left Meier's Lake and ran a few miles before turning back and returning to the checkpoint. There's no official report on any of the race scratches, so we will only know what happened if the musher(s) decide to make a statement on their own social media pages. Scratching is a very emotional and personal decision for mushers and sometimes they remain silent. Jeff Reid and Allen Dunn also scratched last night at Meier's Lake.

ATAO kennel reports that the trail is not the best condition with a lot of sugar snow. Sugar Snow adds friction to the sled and also makes for a very unstable/soft trail which only gets worse the more teams go over it. 

It does appear that Julie Ahrens did not complete her mandatory six hour plus differential and has had to take another 6+ rest in Chistochina. The rookie musher had a phenomenal race and should be very proud of what she and her team accomplished. Every team has made the differential mistake, it wouldn't be a "rookie mistake" if they hadn't. This was Ahren's first Iditarod qualifier and above all that is the goal.

The champion finish is always celebration worthy, but the true excitement comes from battle for placement. second place and fourth place look at being closely contended. Teams must give the right of way to the team coming up faster behind them UNTIL "no man's land" (typically the last mile to the finish) then it's every team for itself. Watching teams come in seconds after each other always gives for a fun little jump in excitement.

Get ready for an exciting afternoon of finishes, race fans. CB300 had announced they planned to go live for the finish and I believe the link will be shared on their website. You can also listen to the finish on KCAM online

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Ulsom and Hall giving chase towards the final checkpoint

Nicolas Petit at the ReStart of
Iditarod 48. March 8, 2020.
Petit might need to look over his shoulder from time to time. What was once a challenge of two is now a challenge of potentially four as Matt Hall and Joar Leifseth Ulsom have made a move to join Gunnar Johnson and Julie Ahren in chasing Petit. Of the top five out of Meier's Lake, only Ahren has yet to take their six hour plus differential mandatory rest (though a refresh does show her staying for 6.5, they don't have it down as completed). Ahren will have to take it at the final checkpoint at Chistochina (unless the notation is . With the rest having just the final few hours to take, Ahrens is all but out of contention (we've seen some weird finishes, so never say never). Gunnar Johnson led for most of Saturday and has been hot on Petit's heels when not in lead.

For Joar Leifseth Ulsom it looks like plans from when he made his racing schedule for the season have changed. While he posted on his site that this would be treated like a training run - it seems he's making a run that's more competitive than training. Matt, too, has a young team that apparently has shown they're ready to race and he's let up on the brake to let them have that experience. Hall's team has reported through out the Copper Basin how GREAT the team is doing. Always good to read that the coach is happy with his team.

If Ahrens has taken her mandatory, she and Gunnar both have a half hour less rest to take than Petit. Ulsom also has just 3.5 hours to take. Hall, like Petit, has four hours left to take. It should be an interesting night, especially since both Matt and Joar's trackers seem to not want to refresh. The current leg for the front runners have a lot of river crossings and potential for overflow is high. There are also some intense (for this race) elevation changes. It could be slow going for a while depending on trail conditions.

Nic's got about 90 miles until the finish. 40 to his final checkpoint and mandatory four hours of rest. His moving average speed according to trackers is 9mph. I don't expect that for this current run, but he'll punch it out of Chistochina. If we give him an 8.5mph average we could see a finish tomorrow around 11:30am or Noon - if all goes well and speed improves from what it is at the moment. We're probably looking closer to 1pm (IFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF my math is correct at all which we all know I'm the worst at this). I just encourage everyone to be ready for a late morning early afternoon finish.

This is not saying that it couldn't change up and we could see someone else take the title away from the reigning champion, but for now Nic has command of the trail and without a trail report we don't know if he will be hindered by being so far up ahead or if this will see a four-peat for the speedy musher.

Petit charges into lead over night


Nicolas Petit's team at the Ceremonial Start of
Iditarod 48. March 7, 2020.
It should surprise no one that Team Petit currently leads - mile-wise - the Copper Basin 300. The three-time and reigning CB champ is known for his aggressive racing strategy of get out ahead of everyone and keep the lead. Nic often accounts his racing style to just letting the dogs set their pace and if that means they lead, they lead, but to me it feels far more like that's just where the musher likes to keep his team. It's a good strategy if you can keep it, and so far in the mid-distance races it works for him (still waiting to see it truly work for him in the Iditarod). 

Keeping Petit company is rookie Julie Ahren who is running a team of dogs belonging to Reality TV Star Jessie Holmes. Holmes is playing handler while Ahren runs the dogs and she has consistently stayed with the lead pack. Rounding out top three is Gunnar Johnson who is kind of a surprise through all of this and one wonders if he can keep the pace for the whole course. Johnson is running his Iditarod 2021 season with the goal of bringing more awareness to Suicide and Suicide prevention, so it's nice to see him rocket up the trail with confidence. (I believe he is running Jim Lanier dogs? I could be wrong.) 

The chase pack is large but full of a lot of well known names as well as a few up and comers many may not be aware of. Hunter Keefe looks to really improve his standing over last year's Copper Basin. Joar Leifseth Ulsom's "puppy team" that was just using this race as a "training run" seems to be more into racing than his website led on (also he has a lot of veteran dogs on his team for a "puppy team" but who am I to judge). Matt Hall is reportedly very excited that his young team seems to be "getting it" in their first major race, and Jeff Deeter's team is also performing strongly. 

Three scratches happened overnight. The first sign of "trouble" was Falk Huettman's tracker starting and stopping multiple times in the first leg and falling very much behind. Suddenly his tracker pinged going 41mph and that was almost a total giveaway that someone decided to throw in the towel. The scratch wasn't made official until this morning, but it came as no surprise. John Lloyd, running a puppy team for Team Petit, chose to scratch when the group of young dogs decided they were done. The whole goal of a puppy team is to get them used to the schedule of racing, the energy of a race, and to make sure they have fun. From John's wife's report it sounds like by the end of the night neither team or musher was having much fun. Elisha Rutledge rounds out the list of scratches, but no word on reason.

Several teams chose to do their mandatory 6 hour (plus differential) layover in Lake Louise, the front runners were not among them. Teams must have a mandatory 18 hours of rest over the course of the race. Nic has 8.5 hours tallied so far. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

2021 Copper Basin Musher Roster

You asked, and I'm willing to spend my "day off" (it's not, I have to work tonight and all day tomorrow so I will miss a lot of sled dog action, cry for me) looking up links for all of you to follow the mushers and their teams who are running this year's Copper Basin 300. If I've missed a link or have the wrong link, please let me know in the comments below. I really do appreciate the readership and the feedback! I will try to edit this once they have their bib numbers, but for now we'll go with the list on their website.

Musher List for the 2021 Copper Basin 300

1 Honorary Musher - Jamey Kemp
2 Gunnar Johnson Website / Facebook / Twitter 
3 John Lloyd Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 
4 Adam Lindenmuth Facebook / Instagram / Youtube 
5 Joe Taylor Facebook 6 Allen Dunn Facebook   7 Gerhardt Thiart Website / Facebook  8 KattiJo Deeter Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 9 Julie Ahnen  Facebook / Instagram  10 Will Troshynski Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 11 Dre Langefeld Facebook / Instagram  12 Eric Kelly Instagram / Facebook
13 Matt Randall  Facebook / Twitter  14 Hal Hanson Website / Facebook 15 Falk Huettmann - maybe found a personal fb page but not sure 16 Rebecca Rowin  Facebook 17 Matt Hall Website / Facebook / Instagram  18 Chad Stoddard Website / Facebook / Instagram 
19 Nicolas Petit Website / Facebook / Twitter 20 Deke Naaktgeboren Website / Facebook / Instagram 21 Jeff Reid Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram  22 Joshua Cadzow Facebook  23 Joar Ulsom Website / Facebook / Instagram 24 Jeffrey Deeter Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 25 Dan Powell Website / Facebook / Instagram  26 Jacob Witkop Facebook  27 Misha Wiljes Website / Facebook 28 Amanda Otto Facebook / Kennel Facebook / Instagram  29 Dennis Kananowicz Facebook  
Elisha Rutledge Instagram 
31 Shaynee Traska Website / Facebook / Instagram
32 Philip Hanke  Facebook 
33 Hunter Keefe Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 

*Edited to add bib number and starting order. 
**Added Will since no one caught my mistake earlier!

Monday, January 4, 2021

2021 Copper Basin 300 Preview

Happy New Year race fans! With the crazy end to the race season last year (it seems like a life-time ago since the final team ran under the burled arch in Nome ending the 48th running of the Iditarod) the mushing world has held its breath for 2021 and whether or not a season would happen. Well, here we are. It's the first full week of January and the Copper Basin 300 is in sight! 

A quick glance at the forecast for Glennallen for race start is a balmy 20 degrees above zero. That's an 80 degree difference from the frigid temps of last year's race (which saw many of the top names in mushing decide to withdraw halfway through). What a difference a year makes. The weather sounds like an ideal situation for teams running a mid-distance race to start their season (other smaller races have gone on, but this is the first *big* one). 

While most of dog mushing is naturally socially distant, races add in checkpoints with Veterinarians, Race Officials and Volunteers, and the spectators. As such all races have publicized their goals to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 spreading into these often time extremely rural areas. The Copper Basin has their plan posted on their website. This year there will be no meet and greet, banquet, and they are asking spectators to stay away. All participants will wear masks to the bib draw and musher meeting, and awards will be given at the finish line. There's even suggestion that mushers will be asked to sleep in their dog trucks in the checkpoints (thank God for a race completely on the road system, eh?)  

There are 32 names on the roster as of January 3, but as we know with many of these smaller races we won't know the actual number and names until the Bib Draw, however we can take a look at the roster and guess who we will see as front runners (should they show up).

Brent Sass - The three-time and reigning Yukon Quest Champion has proven in the last two seasons that he didn't lose any momentum during his break from long-distance competitive mushing when he took a break three years ago. Don't expect Sass to sit back and let other teams dominate the Copper Basin. While his ultimate goal is most likely Iditarod, with no Yukon Quest this will be a very good test for his team to get into champion form. 

Jeff Deeter - Last year Jeff played handler for wife and kennel partner, KattiJo. This year he'll join her out on the trail with a team one can only imagine is working towards being his A-team for the Iditarod. Deeter is a solid top-20 Iditarod team, and can cause some "damage" to the top contenders standings in any race. 

Joar Leifseth Ulsom - The 2018 Iditarod Champion and QrillPet team member is technically a rookie for the Copper Basin 300. He started the race in 2012 but that race was called during the race when the weather became too treacherous for the teams to continue safely. According to Ulsom's website, Joar plans to compete with a team of young dogs with "just a few veterans", but don't count the team out of being close to the front.

Matt Hall - Matt took last season off as a rebuilding year. With young dogs he wanted to keep stress levels down and fun at an all time high, but now with a few more training miles under their legs, Matt and team are ready. Hall and team won the 2017 Yukon Quest, and this year we'll see if he's lost any momentum taking an easier schedule last year.

Nicolas Petit - The three-time and reigning Copper Basin Champion looks to keep the tradition alive and is no doubt going for four. Team Petit is known for it's fast, "balls to the wall", style of racing that works very well for mid-distance racing. Nic often says he allows his dogs to set the pace and that he knows that they are capable of keeping high speeds even when he tries to slow them. Weather doesn't seem to factor into their racing, either. Whether 20 above or 60 below, his dogs deliver. Look to see him taking an early command of the race and holding on.

Travis Beals - The team from Seward will no doubt be happy to see temps above freezing, though they seem to do well in most any winter conditions. Beals is another member of that next generation of mushers who has steadily climbed the ranks and now is consistently in the top 20 (the last three years Beals has been top 10). The Turning Heads Kennel operator has turned heads for some time now, and no doubt heads turn back to look whenever he's on their heels.

How to Follow
Due to Covid, races are having to cut back on a number of amenities to make sure that they keep the threat to a minimum. It's unknown if that means less coverage on social media by volunteers working social media. The Copper Basin is a crap shoot for coverage anyway as they are in areas where cell service is unreliable at best and in many cases non-existent. All that to say, listed below are your best way to follow the race in as close to "real time" as possible. And make sure to give those that are covering the race on the ground some love, they deserve it when often all they get are the frustrations when things go sideways. So here's a pre-event THANK YOU to the media crew of Copper Basin 300!

GPS Tracker
According to their website, trackers WILL be available. If the weather report is to be believed we may see less glitches than in previous races just because they don't freeze, but there are still "dead zones". Just keep hitting refresh and eventually those trackers will move again. You can follow the trackers here, the actual program will be available "soon", but so far it does not show up on the trackleaders website (as of January 4). The best way to make a mushing fan happy is make GPS tracking available, and as of this afternoon the trackers are live... well as live as they can be without actually having the race going yet. You can follow the trackers for the 2021 race here.

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 there's been no promise (though Team Petit's Katie Lloyd promises footage over on twitter). If you are tweeting, instagramming, etc. the traditional hashtag is #CB300.

KCAM normally posts updates throughout the weekend on the race on facebook as well. 

Schedule of Events

Friday, January 8
9am-4pm Registration
10am-4pm Vet Checks
**There will be no Meet and Greet this year due to Covid protocols**
6pm Handler & Musher Meetings (Bib Draw?)

Saturday, January 11
10am - Race Start

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

*Edited to add the link to the trackleaders page.
**Edited to strike out Brent Sass in the preview. Brent took to facebook on Thursday night to announce he had to withdraw from the Copper Basin 300 to take care of things closer to home. He has his eyes on March (for Iditarod, presumably). 

***Edited to strike out Travis Beals as his name no longer appears on the official roster.