Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Race Schedule

     As 2011 comes to a close, and the 2012 racing season begins I've finally put together a race schedule which I'm really excited about.
     Putting together a race schedule is one of my biggest challenges each year, and there are many factors which I look at before I decide to commit to a race.  

     Mother Nature is usually to blame for making racing decisions difficult.  NOAA  has a hard time predicting what the weather will do an hour from now, so trying to guess if some of the early races will actually go off, or if there will be enough snow to have a safe race is almost impossible for me to predetermine.  This year Mother Nature has made almost all of us Alaskan mushers very happy by blessing the entire state with plenty of the white stuff.  This is the first year that I've been racing in Alaska where weather wasn't a factor in determining where I would be going.  

     The next thing I look at is the quality of the event.  What makes a quality event?  One thing a race needs to have is a good trail, which is well marked.  A good trail is one that is safe, and makes sense to negotiate with a dog team.  I gave up adventure a long time ago and no longer feel that in order to prove myself worthy, I must do all the foolish things I used to do.  As for a well marked trail, I live in one of the more remote locations on our road system so I'm very fortunate in that I can get lost at my own leisure without leaving home.  Cool huh!

     Next, I look at the rules.  Most of our races have similar rules, but each race usually has at least one or two rules which may vary from the norm.  What I'm looking for in the rules are things which I feel do not make sense to a dog team.

    The most important consideration is are the distances, and mandatory rests appropriate for my team at each specific time of the year.  As the winter progresses, the dogs' condition improves, and so each race should be challenging, but well within the abilities of the dogs on my team.   

     Enough of my yapping, let's go to the races.   

The Knik 200
 January 7th + 8th

The Northern Lights 300  
January 27th.

Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450   
February 8th*

March 3rd

     *dependent on whether or not I can convince 3,500
      of my dearest friends to give me a buck.

     Well that's all for now.  Looking forward to seeing all my friends, and hoping to make a few new ones.  Until the next time, I hope you're having as much fun with your dog or dogs as I am with mine.
     I'm outta here, Mike

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Team Work

      I had the privilege of listening to John Baker speak a little bit ago, and loved his description of what he calls Team Baker.  In the most humble manner imaginable, from a man who is not only the reigning Iditarod champ, but who has the distinction of having the fastest Iditarod finish ever, he referred to himself as simply the driver of Team Baker.

     I think that all too often, at least in the eyes of the general public, dog mushing is viewed as a solitary endeavor, because unlike in NASCAR, rarely does anyone ever see our pit crews.  As the 2012 sled dog racing season approaches, I thought it appropriate to introduce you to our crew.  

     Introducing our handlers this year. These are the guys who are in the trenches day after day, night after night, doing the million little things right that allow us to succeed. 


From Topeka Kansas, Nicholas Guy, with his favorite dog Nestor.  

 From Jericho Vermont, Christian Taylor, with his favorite dog Edison. 

     Handlers are the unsung heroes of the dog mushing world, without whose help it would be impossible for us to do what we do.  Maintaining a large kennel is in many ways very similar to other forms of farming in that it's a 365 day a year job, which requires a lot of man power.  I rely on these guys, even if you don't see them often, just like a NASCAR driver depends on his pit crew.  The world's fastest driver can only get out of the pit as quickly as his crew can change his tires and fuel his car.      

     As I begin to look at putting together a race schedule that makes sense for our team and our team's goals, there is another group of folks who are vital members of this team that I would like to thank.  They are our sponsors.  They are the folks who make it possible for us to purchase the mountain of stuff a dog team requires on a yearly basis.  Their financial support of our team cannot be overstated, but I'm also proud to be associated with them all on a personal level.  They are our extended family.

  • Rick McMahan, and the boys that make fishing fun at Denali Fly Fishing Guides.
  • James and Joy Wheeler, EMS K-9 Unit. 
  • Jayne Hempstead, Cantwell Veterinary Service for taking great care of our dogs.
  • Frances Gray, dear friend and supporter.
  • Kenny Dolenak, Josh Baltimore, and the gals in the office at Ringers Gloves
  • Claude and Jennifer Bondy and the crew at Alpine Creek Lodge.
  • Land officer James Smith and AHTNA Inc., our neighbors.
  • Michelle Henderson Grainger Industrial Supply. Can't wait to take you mushing Michelle 
  • Mark Roberts, and the fellows from New Zealand for making the greatest dog food on the planet at K9 Natural.
  • Scott Lee for making me feel at home at the Inlet Towers.
  • Tom and EZ Farbo, long time friends and supporters. Love you.  
  • Maureen Regan, my Iditarod chef from Mighty Fine Kitchens.