Monday, March 31, 2008

AAS - Zorro Update -

From the AAS Website: Update on injured dog, "Zorro" photo above ©2008 by Jan DeNapoli.
Nome, Alaska - 3/31/2008 11am
Just a few minutes ago we got a report on Zorro's condition. He has been examined by a veterinary neurologist
in Seattle and completed an MRI to fully evaluate his spine. The results suggest that despite significant trauma to Zorro's chest and spine, he is expected to achieve a full recovery over time without surgical intervention.

Here is a news article that reports Zorro was able to stand somewhat, and the clown who ran into them has finally come forward. Alleluia. Below, check out Aaron Burmeister and Ramy Brooks at the finish in Nome, both with pups resting in the sled bag. Cute.
These two photos are from NorthernLightMediaBlog ©2008 by Jan DeNapoli. Zorro, on the top, is from Lance's Website.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lance Mackey Hit by Snowmachine - Zorro seriously Injured

ADDENDUM II: This awesome professional photo is copyright, Theresa Daily.
Snowmachine injures dog in Mackey's Sweepstakes team - click and read
Note: In Alaska they call Snow Mobiles Snowmachines.

From the article: He was in third place in the Sweepstakes at around midnight Friday just 20 miles from the finish line when two snowmachines came up fast from behind.

"I was flashing them like mad with my headlamp," he said. "I was shining my headlamp right in his face, but they kept on coming at me. I jumped aside, and by 30 feet further up the trail, there was a snowmachine sitting on the middle of my sled."

The machine impaled the sled bag with its runners.

"Three or four dogs were sucked underneath and Zorro was trapped in the sled bag," Mackey said......

Mackey made a plea for race officials to keep snowmachines away from the trail at the end of the race, a growing safety issue.

"Running from Safety to Front Street is almost suicidal," Mackey said. "I almost got hit on the way into Nome during Iditarod and then was almost hit half an hour later."

Safety Roadhouse, about 22 miles east of Nome, operates as a bar during the race and attracts spectators on snowmachines. Mackey said he wanted to focus attention on trail safety.

The 9-year-old injured dog has been a star in the teams that won Alaska's two major long-distance races the last two years. Last year, Zorro became ill at White Mountain near the end of the Iditarod and did not get to finish the race.

Zorro is the kennel's stud dog. If he dies, Mackey said, his future in sled dog racing is uncertain.

"My team's future, my personal future, my career, my whole life is in question," he told Nome Police Department officer Byron Redburn, who took a report in cooperation with Alaska State Troopers, who have jurisdiction. Photos from Lance's Website. ADDENDUM II: First image is by Theresa Daily - and this very touching and adorable shot was taken by, Helen Hegener. Thanks to the folks at Comeback and Dew Claw Kennels for their use.

Lance and Zorro

My husband says conspiracy. I say drunken idiocy. Either way, what a bummer.

Update from Mackey's Website: ...Many of you are aware that Lance Mackey's dog "Zorro" was injured during the 2008 All Alaska Sweepstakes when a snow machine collided with his team. Zorro was in the sled bag when the machine struck his sled. Zorro sustained 3 broken ribs, some internal bleeding, and spinal injuries.... Complete update on his website, there is also an active link to donate towards Zorro's medical costs; which are over $3700 at this point! They are hoping it is just spinal swelling that is causing the issues with his legs...

ADDENDUM II: From Jodi Bailey, Dew Claw Kennel, on behalf of Lance;

If people would like to
they can
donate to the Zorro Fund at

All Alaska Sweepstakes - Seavey Shatters Record

March 28, 2008, Nome, Alaska - photos generously shared by Jan DeNapoli
Unofficially, at 11:29:45 pm, Mitch Seavey of Sterling, Alaska, finished the 2008 Centennial running of the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race in 61 hours, 29 minutes and 45 seconds.
The race will be officially certified by the race judges according to the rules 24 hours after
3 teams have finished the course....ADDENDUM: The check for $100,000 was issued immediately after the race, so evidently they have ditched this procedure...lots of confusion over the rules.

Mitch has shattered the previous record, 74 hours, 14 minutes, and 37 seconds, held since 1910 by John “Iron Man” Johnson. This race has not been run since 1983. This year is the 100 year anniversary run, of the what has come to be known as the inaugural race to the sport of long distance dog racing. Prior to the 1910 running of this race, dogs and dog sledding were viewed solely as utilitarian tools to survival in the back wilds of Alaska. They were not considered useful in long distance, speed runs. This race initiated the birth of the sport of Dog Mushing as we know it today.Notice in the 1st image of Seavey completing the race above, there are NO plastic fences to guard the "chute" and spectators themselves form the chute through which the runners pass. It is an organic event, with lots of local flair, and is truly in a class of its own. One interesting element to this race is that drivers are not allowed to drop any dogs. All dogs are signed over to the Nome Kennel Club prior to the race, and the Official Vet determines if they are sound enough to run. If a dog gets pooped out, or injured, the musher must haul him in the sled bag. Here is a VIDEO of the finish, from Josh's Blog, and an Anchorage News sports article.Jeff King (above) arrived second, and Lance Mackey (below) showed up third. These awesome shots of the AAS are by Jan DeNapoli. She has kindly given me permission to use them. Thank you Jan! Temps at the close of the race were hovering around zero; notice the abundant ice crystals that have formed on the dogs faces. The Queen contest determines the payout for the non-1st place winning finishers; Purse details are HERE.
An interesting story within this story is the Tuluksak School dog driving team. Tuluksak School is the only school in the United States with a dog mushing team. Their teacher, Fred Mo Napoko, pictured below, is representing them in the All Alaska Sweepstakes. As mentioned earlier, the students act as his handlers and support team. Photo by Jan DeNapoli, my new lens peeping hero...."The Dog Mushing Club consists of students from ages 10 to 19. The school’s special education instructor and cheerleading coach, Brita Steinberger, wrote in a letter last month, "Tuluksak is a village on the Southwest Alaskan tundra with a population of 428. The school is 99.3% Alaskan Native (Yupi’k Eskimo). The native population maintains a subsistence lifestyle, primarily living from hunting and gathering, as they have for thousands of years. The village does not have plumbing or running water. Despite this inconvenience, Tuluksak has a strong sense of community and really comes together behind the dog team." This story came from HERE.On a side note, I am reading yet another mushing book; Sled Dog Trails, by Mary Shields. In the wee hours of the morning, vicariously completing yet another Iditarod from the comfort of my bed, I was stunned to learn of a rookie musher in 1974, who shares my name! Joel Kottke, raced in the Iditarod just once, but he became well known in Alaska for his development of a wolf line of racing dogs. He was also honored by the Alaska Legislature in 1998.

One Year after his death at age 84, Joel Wesley Kottke has been honored with a memorial legislative citation.

"The twentieth Alaksa State Legislature honors the life an accomplishments of Joel Kottke, whose love of sled dogs and contributions to the mushing community helped preserve a unique element of our state´s culture for modern Alaskans and for the world." the citation reads. Kottke came to Alaska in 1951. He and his wife Martha homesteaded in Anchorage and he became a "fixture at the early Fur Rendezvous races, checking out all the dogs and interviewing racers before the start," according to the citation. Kottke was race marshal in 1967 for the Iditarod Trail-Leonhard Seppala Memorial Race, the first modern dog race along the Iditarod Trail. Kottke ran the race in 1974 with a wolf-dog team. In 1977 he was again the Iditarods race marshal. Kottke died Oct. 1, 1997, and was honored posthumously by the Iditarod Trail Committee by being named Honorary musher for the 1998 iditarod.

Sadly, the most frequent reference to him on the net, is about the unsuccessful, long and costly legal battle over his estate, that was waged by his step children and siblings after his death. It was taken all the way to the supreme court of AK! Here's to Joel Kottke, may he rest in peace.

Friday, March 28, 2008

All Alaska Sweepstakes - Pass You on the Trail

The weather and conditions on the trail have been good, and the teams are making very good time in this year's All Alaska Sweepstakes. Jeff King is currently in the lead and was the first into Timber. As of the previous checkpoint Mitch Seavey was holding 2nd, with Lance Mackey about an hour and a half behind Jeff. Below, is Larry. He is Lance's lead pup and Iditarod Champ '08 - who has been left behind on this race, due to a nagging shoulder injury. Poor Larry! There are just 6 more mushers that have yet to reach Candle, which is the turn around point in this 408 mile out and back race. It is rare to have teams pass each other in opposing directions; most races use a loop format. The incoming (returning) teams have the right-a-way. So, those bound for Candle must pull off the side of the trail (which is just 2 snow machines wide) and allow the oncoming team to go by...praying they do not entangle themselves with the other team in the process...A couple of mushers have scratched, and there are internal rumblings about some kind of match times controversy brewing within the event; complete with closed musher meetings; rule changes by verbal consent; and yet, the main race judge will have the final say on whether there will be any adjustments to times?? I don't understand it very well. I want to know more and I'm sure it'll be revealed before too long. Josh's blog is very current, and informative - and he has a couple very interesting podcasts.This race is not only for the highly celebrated famous dog drivers. There are some Nome Kennel Club members that are serious contenders. Plus, many racers have admitted to doing this race simply for the history (centennial event) and to explore the wilds of the Yukon. Racing this year for example, is a homeschooling mother of 8, Cari Miller. Pictured below-She only started dog running about 3 years ago. And a teacher, Fred Mo Napoko (who's link actually goes to his co-teacher, Mariah Yaylor Thomas-Wolfe who might have run in his stead...but gives a good background on the school's intent.) He is representing the local high school and their mushing club and his students are acting as his handlers and support team. Stories such as these put a very folksy and human element into my appreciation for this sport.More cool blog notes HERE.
Slide shows and most photos today are from the Sweepstakes Website.

ADDENDUM: Photo credit for banner pic and shots from the Sweepstakes page goes to Jan DeNapoli She is a kind and talented photographer, who is generously sharing her gifts with all of us. Thanks Jan! Northern Light Media images are by Mark and Helen Hegener.

Got Pups?? .....Notice in the photos below, all the teams were transported to Nome via sledges, and standard pick-up trucks! It was reported that not one traditional dog truck was enlisted in the transport of the dogs this year... maybe I can do this with an f-150...or even a plywood box, as evidenced by the pics!
SlideShow 1 of the staging area; by Laura Samuelson

SlideShow2 of the race start; by T.Daily sleddog@alaska.netCheck out the burls on that archway. Burly!

Race finish for 1st place is projected at around 10 pm (Alaska time) tonight. Lance did claim he'd be back in Nome before breakfast on Saturday... not so sure he'll be the first to do it though. Keep Mushing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All Alaska Sweepstakes - Day One

A commemoration of Alaska's colorful past. A celebration of Alaska's official sport and Centennial re-run of the famous dog sled race between Nome and Candle.
The All Alaska Sweepstakes began this morning. It is a hectic, out and back run of about 400 miles, with a winner take all $100,000 purse. There is a description of the route in the book "The Cruelest Miles" from a very cool Sweepstakes BLOG:

“For the first fifty miles, the trail ran east along the blustery coast
and up Topkok Mountain, a steep, 600-foot incline rising up over the
sea. It turned inland and climbed steadily through willow and cottonwood
bush, then across creeks & rivers to Council, a mining settlement 80
miles from Nome. The route snaked through valleys, tiptoed along
ridgetops as narrow as a sled was wide, and sloped off in half-mile-long
drops. Then, about 120 miles into the race, the trail entered Death Valley.

“If the musher had survived this far, he climbed a glacier to cross over
the Continental Divide–the boundary line separating the Pacific and
Arctic Ocean watersheds. Thirty miles farther lay the turnaround mark,
the village of Candle, which was situated near Kotzebue Sound on the
north shore of the peninsula. An exhausted and sleep-deprived driver
would have to turn around and face the same terrible 204 miles all over
again. …

Winners of the 2nd All Alaska Sweepstakes 1909. J. Berger, owner; Scotty Allan, driver.


There are 16 drivers entered this year. Lance Mackey and Jeff King, who came in 1st and 2nd respectively, in the Iditarod, are both racing. They have covered over 80 miles today. Lance, who was 15th out of the chute this morning was in the lead as of this evening, but by only a few minutes. There are just 2 women entered. Race standings are HERE It's interesting to note, the entrance fee for this race is between $1500 and $2000 (..depending on when you enter) AND 1 ounce of gold! I guess gold is still common currency in Alaska~!~

Another very cool sweepstakes Blog. Photos shared tonight are from the blogs featured and the ASS website.

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Video + Iditarod Epilogue

Old News:
March 18, 2008 at 9:15 am

2008 Iditarod Ends With 78 Official Finishers

The 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officially ended at 8:36 on March 18th, 2008, when Auke Bay Alaska musher Deborah Bicknell (Bib #21) ended her journey under the Burled Arch in Nome Alaska with a breathtaking sunset at her back. The 62 year old musher made the trek from Willow to Nome in 15 days, 5 hours, 36 minutes and 12 seconds.

Bicknell was greeted by a large crowd of well wishers at the finish line including Loren Prosser Wells Fargo Bering Sea Community Bank President who awarded her with the highly coveted Wells Fargo Red All Lantern. Bicknell then ended the 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race by blowing out the Widow’s Lamp, signifying that all mushers and their teams were safely off the Iditarod Trail.

Article from Iditarod Website under News

In all 18 mushers scratched this year, the last, just one check point out from the finish. Lance Mackey, this years winner, did the 1100 miles in 9 days 11 hoursThere is an interesting story on the youngest musher, Melissa Owens (who is just 5 days older than the youngest ever to run the Iditarod) at 18 years old she is a real tough woman, and has proved she is not a quitter. She placed 30th in the field of over 90 - the last paying position- and the realization of a dream for her. The prize money that is awarded to the top 30 finishers is pretty huge. Check out the purse details HERE.There was a pretty big raffle going on as well; Nancy Jenson of Petaluma, CA won the 2008 Dodge Ram Laramie “HEMI” 4×4 Quad Cab Pickup with Leather Package, 20″ Alloy Wheels & Tow Package from, Anchorage Chrysler Dodge . Way to take it for California. Go Nancy!I am sad to report that a total of 3 dogs died during the race; and one, Aries, was severely injured in a snow machine accident that also took the life of another dog. RIP : Zaster, Cargo and Lorne. Pictured below, Lorne and Aries before the crash. Aries, who is from the same kennels as Lorne, is now adapting to life with a paralyzed leg. Those two teams from Team JedEye; husband and wife; Blake and Jen (pictured below in a moment of connection) went on to finish the race, and earned the Siberian Record by recording the fastest time ever for an entire team of Siberian Huskies. Jen also earned the most inspirational musher. Inspirational indeed.Lots more news stories HERE
Team JedEye photos from their website , all the rest are from my good friend, JeffShultz.Our new youtube video 3.5 minutes...bring the popcorn!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Double-Double for Lance Mackey!

Lance Mackey with lead dogs Larry(L), and Handsome.

Yukon Quest winner in 2007 and 2008, and Iditarod Champion in 2007 does it again, and claims the Iditarod 36 victory for his own!! He is the first, and second man, to win them both in the same year. For his Iditarod victory he received $69,000, and a brand new truck (the rig he won last year went to his wife, so maybe this year he can keep it for himself!) There is a super article HERE by Jon Little. An excerpt :

..."The old Mackey magic was back. They trotted smoothly up to Elim. There, he set a trap for King. Mackey had his cooker going and was feeding his dogs when King pulled in, just three minutes behind him. King, who’d been exhausted since Kaltag, fed his team and lay down for a quick nap. Mackey sprung up when he heard the first snore and snuck out. King jolted awake 30 minutes later, figured out Mackey was gone, and got his own team up and out of the checkpoint. But he’d lost an hour on his rival by then.

On the ice out of Elim, hoping his ruse worked, Mackey wondered. “If this actually works, it would be one of the coolest things I’ve done in the race,” he said. “I don’t know how else to out-run him.”

It worked, changing the momentum for good. (By the way, the word “ruse” is based on an old French word that means “the dodging movements of a hunted animal.” That perfectly describes Mackey at that point in the race.)...."

Handsome moves in for a smooch...Jeff King came in 2nd by about an hour. ...that same fateful hour that Lance gained in Elim. He said in an interview that Lance was "hungrier" (for the victory.)

Both drivers are set to run in the All Alaska Sweepstakes in a week and a half, which starts and ends in Nome. Before the Iditarod kicked off this year, Mackey said that his real focus was the 400-mile Sweepstakes and its winner-take-all $100,000 purse.

The contenders for the remaining top ten places should be rolling into Nome shortly. Check out Race standings HERE. Race images by the PhotoPro Jeff Shultz.

more later...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Homestretch Iditarod XXXVI

Team JedEye...

Death on the Iditarod Update:
"Lorne", who was killed... and "Aries" who sustained injuries in a snow machine accident on the 9th were both from Blake and Jen Fretig's team; Jedeye Racing. Blake and Jen compete in many races together. I saw them interviewed before the race and there was so much love and affection between them. She pointed out that just being together on the trail, with their dogs, would be the best part of the race. sigh. They hail from Finland MN and are running Siberian Huskies, which tend to be slower than the Alaskan Huskies. The Siberians have sturdy pads, and rarely need booties. Thick fur protects them in the harshest of conditions, but can also make running in warmer temps, like they've had this year, a bit more difficult as they tend to overheat. Pics of Aries and Lorne are from their website.

Their version of the events is HERE w/excerpts below:

At 10 PM Sunday night, March 9th, Jen's team was struck by a snowmachine (snow-mobile) on the Yukon River between Galena and Nulato. 3 year old Lorne was killed and Aries was injured.
"... The accident was the worst nightmare imaginable. We are so lucky neither Blake or I was struck and more dogs were not injured. I thought we had just witnessed half my team killed at the time....At the time of the accident, we were both sure our race was over. However, on the long run to the checkpoint we realized we would be working through this tragedy whether we were on the trail or scratching. If we were not traveling together as we are, it would be harder to go on. But we have eachother for support and company. We just want to travel the rest of the trail with no thoughts of competition at all..."

There is some ruckus on the Iditarod Forum over all this. There are accusations about a cover up..and an equal amount of replies like "Hey! This is the Alaska interior, everything takes longer." A fair amount of bitching over the care in general, of all the 'dropped dogs' - complete with rumors of unreported deaths. WAH! Poor doggies. Below, Cim Smythe and his team. GO HERE for more great pics by Jeff Shultz.ON TO THE FINISH!
Lance and Jeff are both at White Mountain right now -mandatory 8 hour rest- then only 77 miles to Nome. Lance can leave 1 hour ahead of Jeff @ 5pm Alaska time (around 6pm PT.) It is a 9-10 hour dash to Nome, so the estimated finish is around 2- 3am Wednesday morning, Nome time. Live coverage starts 60-90 minutes before the finish. The Iditarod Website is calling the finish for 10pm tonight? Either way, some folks might be sleeping with their laptops near their pillows tonight! Below, Warren Palrey and his team. Race news HERE. And a super collection of Iditarod Links.

Monday, March 10, 2008

150 Miles to Nome

Iditarod 36 is in its closing moments. With just about 150 miles for the front runners to go, it is time to tune in and check out this amazing and adventurous race across the wilds of Alaska. Below, local school children watch as Lance Mackey tends to his dogs.At this point, twelve Mushers have scratched; most citing concerns for the health of their dogs. One team was withdrawn when the driver lost a dog. (The dog was recovered -yea!)

Lance Mackey is leading (barely) with a team of 12. Jeff King rolled into Koyok just 10 minutes behind him with his team of 16, having gained and hour on him from the last checkpoint. They both have only 4 more checkpoints in the 150 miles that lie along the Norton sound, to the finish in Nome. They are both Iditarod Veteran Champions, and know a lot about the teams they are driving. They both have the knowledge to not only survive, but win this race. I've been betting on Lance, but now I'm worried about his team, or lack of....Below, Jeff King with his team.

Ice floes are a major concern over the next part of the trail, (don't want to drift out to sea!) as well as fatigue, and the natural consequences of such a state - human error- like getting lost, or misjudging the route. The trek is less dangerous in a race setting, thanks to the trail breakers. Things can still change rapidly so the drivers have to stay alert. If you check out the LIVE TRACKING you can see the whole route, and perhaps an exciting finish as well, both Lance and Jeff are equipped with the monitors. (Just 20 mushers are using them). There are strong contenders (Go DeeDee!) who will be battling it out for third, as the two front leaders have at least two hours between them and the rest of the pack. NEWS highlights below. Its a bummer that another dog has died. Super cool images, like some of what I've used today, are found HERE.

Another Death on the Iditarod
DATE: March 10, 2008

"At approximately 10 p.m. last evening, a snowmachiner (snow-mobiles are called snow machines in Akaska) ran into Jennifer Freking’s team on the Yukon River near Koyukuk. Unfortunately, the incident caused the death of a 3-year-old female named ‘Lorne.’ At this time I do not have further details. However, the Alaska State Troopers will be notified." This was posted by the official Iditarod vet. RIP: LORNEScratched Mushers - All withdrew over concern for the health of their team.

IDITAROD XXXVI MUSHER Art Church, (Bib #18) scratched at 6 am (March 10, 2008) in Ruby Checkpoint. The 51 year old musher from Willow Alaska had 12 dogs on his team when he scratched.

IDITAROD XXXVI MUSHER Darin Nelson, (Bib #81) scratched at 2:45 pm (March 09, 2008) in Galena Checkpoint. The 38 year old rookie musher from Kotzebue Alaska had 10 dogs on his team when he scratched.

IDITAROD XXXVI MUSHER Rodney Whaley, (Bib #78) made the decision to scratch at 5:08 pm (March 09, 2008) in Cripple Checkpoint. The 55 year old rookie musher from Franklin Tennessee had 13 dogs on his team when he made the decision to scratch.

This is a cool MUSHING GAME on PBS for kids or novices.

Thanks to Eric for the cool links on his blog SoHumParlance, which is our local virtual water cooler for all things current. It must really be a slow news week...heh.. heh. Hey Eric, how big is that pooch of yours?