Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Kusko and the Tustemena

    Get ready mushing fans it's Kusko time  If there is one race which since I came to Alaska that has captivated me more then any other it is the Kusko.   As I posted on FB, I'm a little jealous of those who are there, and next year I'm determined to get The Wolf's Den team to Bethel.  Not only is the Kusko the premier mid distance race in the world, this year it's got one of the deepest fields it's had in years, and trail reports have been good.  Should be an exciting race.  I'll be glued to my laptop this weekend for sure.

    On a personal note, got one interesting Kusko related email and one phone call recently.  I sold a few dogs to John Simmon a couple of years back and John called the other night letting us know that Weasel has proven to be his star leader, "barking all the time."  He'll be running her up front in the Dash, as in Akiak.  Man that's a fast one!  The other two dogs he purchased, Trouble and Twister will be going with Jackie Larson in the 300.

    Dave Diehl, Richie's dad who I'm willing to bet is also his biggest fan, Emailed to let us know that Ajax who Richie bought from us has made the grade.  Dave's comments included the following, "his attitude is so positive, that he was added to the team."   Richie will be running the 300 hundred and It will be Ajax's racing debut.
    I think it's obvious who I'll be rooting for.  Go get em fellas!  I am also hoping that it's blatant that I have no qualms bragging about the dogs we've raised that are gettin'er done with other mushers.  It's truly one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

    As for our team, we'll get a chance to race on the following weekend at another world class venue.  The Tustemena 200  This will be our first visit to the T, and I awfully excited to finally get a chance to get down there.  I've heard nothing but stellar reports about this race for years, and I need to thank Jayne Heampstead for making our trip to the Kenai possible.

    There were doubts that the T would actually go off this year due to weather, but mother nature has again this year as she did last year blessed the T with a very timely dumping of the white stuff.  YIPPEEE!  And the T's race commitee needs to be commended for making the very smart decision to wave the late entry fee increase in order to get a bigger better field.  Many mushers where leery signing up with the bum weather reports, but now that they got snow the field is getting better every day.  Absolutely love smart decision makers.      

    The Tustemena will be full of firsts for us at The Den.  My first T, and it will also be the first time we've been able to field two teams.  Lindsay Seidenverg will running her first ever race and she'll be driving the B team as she refers to them, "she's gonna get in big trouble if she keeps calling them the B team,"  in the T 100.  Can't say enough about this young lady, she's got it all going on.
    "Mental note to self regarding the T," I recently saw that there is a Jonrowe team entered.  I'm really, really, really hoping it's Dee Dee driving.  Let's all keep our fingers crossed.  Two reasons why I'm psyched, one I just love Dee Dee.  Two it's a competitive thing.  I feel the need to further explain that one. I am by nature competitive only with myself, I'm the type of guy who is very self critical and am constantly striving to do what I do better then I did it before.  I have never, never, and I do mean it, thought to myself I want to beet so and so.  So what's the deal with Dee Dee?  Well, during the 09 Don Bowers 300, I pulled into the first check point well ahead of everyone else, We were really smokin that weekend.  Apparently Dee Dee must have had a good run at the Bowers the year before, because as I was signing in, all I heard from the folks standing around was, "only Dee Dee," "like Dee Dee," "Dee Dee this," "Dee Dee that," "Dee Dee," "Dee Dee," "Dee Dee."  Well, after taking care of my team, I took a short nap, readied the gang and left the first checkpoint.  The bummer is, a fella's got a lot of time to think with two hundred and twenty miles to go.  I was literally having the run of my life, It was all I could do to stop my team long enough to sign my name at the check points, and I was feeling great about the teams performance.  All of a sudden, I started wondering just how this whole darn thing would be unfolding if only Dee Dee was here.  Enough said.

    We'll be posting our take on the Kusko when it's over, as well as the Tustemena, until the next time I hope you are all having as much fun as I am, Mike

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Bio

Right to left, cut me some slack I'm a lefty; Lugnut, Caitlin, Me with an awesome pair of beaver mitts I won at the Alaska Excursions 120 made by Erin Redington, Iowa, and Lindsay.

    Just got back from an eight day six hundred plus mile training/camping trip.  One of the many Emails awaiting my return was from a gal working on my Iditarod bio.  She sent a list of questions, I'm not sure this is what she was looking for but I think it is as revealing as I'm currently willing to be,  and because I've now accepted the nakedness of FB I fiqured what the heck, why don't I just post my reply here for all to see, if anyones interested.  {sometimes feel like the character from the Toby Keith song the Critic, "ain't even sure anyones reading yo page,"

Hi connie,

    I'm 42 years old married and working on starting a family.  I moved to Alaska in 2005, and as I like to say I was born Alaskan in Massachusetts.  I started my kennel in 1986, and have been mushing ever since.  We currently own 80 sled dogs and one beagle.  We live in Cantwell AK, AKA Camelot, it is the most beautiful spot on the planet.

    This March will be my first of what I hope to be many Iditarods.  I've been hooked on the Iditarod all the way back to the Butcher Swenson days.  My wife and I decided about six years ago to seriously attempt to put together an Iditarod team.  We bought what we thought were some of the finest breeding stock and we've been raising puppies ever since.  We are very proud that all the dogs on our team were born and raised here at the Wolf's Den Kennel.

    I have run many many races over the years, and I've even managed to win a few.  However, what's interesting is when I look back at all of those races the ones that stick out in my mind as being memorable are not necessarily the ones where I've won or placed well. the races that I remember as being special are the ones where my team met or exceeded their maximum potential.   A  team that might not have the sheer talent to win, but comes together at the right time and performs to the best of it's inherent ability is a real pleasure to experience.  regardless of where you place.

    As for my past occupations, that is an easy one.  I've done almost everything you can imagine in order to cover the dog food bill.  When I think of it.  I'm pretty sure that what I've spent on dog food over the last 24 years would have covered a degree from every Ivy league institution on the planet.  But I would never trade the education I've acquired living with dogs for any other form of education.

    Why, is my favorite word in the english language.  So the question of WHY do I love the Iditarod really is a big part of the answer.  Every musher has a different reason for running the race, and each musher has people who help them and many people who support them, and the race itself has volunteers, pilots, vets, trail breakers, checkers, etc, Iditarod to me is much more then a two week odyssey .  It's a rich intricately woven tapestry each fiber of which is the myriad of answers to the question, "why" of every person who has ever been involved with race.  Why do all these people from all over the world, do what they do all year long in order to be involved.  Imagine what that story would be like?

    As for why I'm still crazy about sled dogs, I think that it's really because without a team of dogs in front of me I'm really not much at all, I'm not really athletic, I'm not really that competitive, and sometimes I can be a little lazy even.  However with a dog team, I'm able to achieve a state of grace which on my own would be impossible.

    The dogs I select are similar to the people I enjoy, and those are the ones with a certain fire in the belly if you know what I mean.  Great outlook on life, that sort of thing.  I need to enjoy their company and they need to enjoy my company three hundred and sixty five days a year.   
    The bond between musher and dog, might answer many of the questions you've asked.  Like the scariest moments, and what it is like to finish a race.  We've just got back from an eight day six hundred plus mile training/camping trip, and when a person spends that kind of time with a group of dogs an interesting phenomenon takes place which I call the, "bubble."  After three days it is no longer a person and a group of dogs.  A musher and a dog team become a single living breathing organism, that moves around in an invisible bubble, that isolates itself from the rest of the world.  This bubble is created by overcoming the many, "scary moments," and often it is disappointing when the bubble bursts, like at the end of a long race or a long training run. 

    The other interesting thing about scary moments, is that over the years, I've been gaffed with snow hooks, soaked in overflow, dragged, lost, and I've smashed into almost every type of obstacle imaginable, including my good friends pick up, but to be honest there has only been one instance when I've felt fear, and that is the one and only time I lost a team.  Otherwise with a team of huskies in front of me I feel ten feat tall and bullet proof.

    I hope this answers some of your questions, but as you might have guessed this is a subject I could gone forever about.  Sometimes even in my sleep, you can ask Caitlin if you don't believe it. 

Hope you're all having as much fun as I am, Lugnut and Mike