We had an ice storm a few weeks ago and lots of snow since. The trees are heavily loaded and are snapping in half over the trail left and right. I've started carrying a swede saw, tiger saw and an axe in my sled. Parts of the trail look like tree carnage, fresh fallen spruce lining parts of the more heavily forested routes. All the trail users on our system have been busy cutting as new trees fall several times a day (!). Kinda annoying, but I guess sometimes the musher needs exercise too.
Frigg looks at Tree 1, glad he's not the one who has to chop it out. He has more important things to do, like cry about Linnea (in heat) back behind him. 
Papas watching my slow progress. Need to get the ax sharpened!  
Papas, Ruby and Pete waiting patiently. Vader facing forward.
One second later...
Around the corner, three seconds later..... Tree 2.
A couple miles down the trail, tree 3. 


Aurora 50/50: Day 2

We had such a good time on Day 2 of the race! I was more confident the dogs could handle the distance, it stopped snowing about two hours into the race (it had been snowing almost non-stop since Friday), the sky cleared up, and a good time was had by all, mushers and dogs alike. The race started an hour earlier on Sunday, which meant we were able to complete the whole run in daylight, which is always nice. I really enjoyed the race trail. Once it stopped snowing, I was able to look about and soak in the scenery. It is really gorgeous out in the Big Lake swamps. The trail followed a part of the old Iditarod trail, a fun, twisty track that winds through lakes and beautiful snow covered birch forest until it drops into the long straight section lines that run through the Susitna River drainage.

Sunday's Race Roster:

* had never run 52 miles before this weekend

The dogs I had concerns over after Day 1, Ruby & Goofy, seemed fine in the morning. I let Ruby run around the dog lot before I loaded her and didn't observe any signs of soreness, just her regular goofy antics. Goofy still seemed a little tired, but then almost pulled my arm off on the way to the dog truck, so I figured he was fine. The dogs were a little more toned down off the starting line on Day 2. After about 15 miles, they warmed up and started rolling. After 20 miles we hit the slog on the section lines-big snowmachine highways with terrible churned up trail, and after 25 miles, Flathorn Lake, which had blown in and Cim had broke in by dog team just that morning. They powered through it all awesomely. Not as awesomely as the Redington & Berkowitz teams, those dogs were impressive to watch as they steamrolled though the sloppy trail, but great for what we have been doing :) Ruby was the super star of the team this weekend. She is so incredibly driven. Head down, working hard, no matter trail condition or incline. There are some STEEP hills on the Iditarod trail! Great training for the dogs; we don't have any hills quite that steep on our local trails. Fritz got demoted from lead and had to watch his brother Nils lead the team with Ruby from back in swing. 52 miles is the longest these boys have ever gone in their life, so I let them each get a turn. Goofy did even better on Day 2 than Day 1. I think he is getting back into the groove of pacing himself for long distances again. Buddy did better Sunday too. Vinnie & Sneezy got tired. The rest were as steady and awesome as they were the day before. Out of 20 teams that started the race, 16 finished. We finished in 15th place overall.

The front runners can of course be congratulated on their wins & fine looking teams, but I'd like to extend a special congratulations to my friend Mary Helwig, who took home the red lantern and the accomplishment of completing her very first race with dogs from her very own kennel. Good job Mary!  And a BIG BIG THANK YOU! to Aurora Dog Mushers Club for organizing and hosting the race. I'm on the board for Aurora so am well aware of how much work went into putting it on, from paperwork, parking lot plowing, to putting in trail, and I am so appreciative of everyone's hard work. Sled dog races can not happen without volunteers! It's fun to follow the mushers, but be sure to thank and congratulate the race organizers & volunteers as well. They work so hard to make these events happen. You can check in with Aurora Dog Mushers via their website and Facebook: http://www.auroradogmushers.net/Aurora_Dog_Mushers/HOME.html  and  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aurora-Dog-Mushers-Club-Inc/170131633016136

Some info about the dogs I took:  FRITZ, NILS and PETE are brothers and all lead dogs. They are former Rondy dogs and are trying their hand at distance this season. Their other brother, Fox, is a lead dog for our neighbors down the road. SNEEZY is a half-brother of these boys (Sire is Cowboy). VINNIE and VICTOR are brothers. Victor ran with me last year, Vinnie is new to distance. I have their other brother, Vader, as well (he was left at home to lead the other 9 dogs who didn't get to run the race on a run today). I tried to get Dad to give me their sister Vixen so I could have the whole set, but it didn't go over :)  RUBY is a half-sibling (sire: Demon) to the V litter, so is MAJOR. BUDDY is out of Echo and Pebbles, which means he is GOOFY's cousin. ROBBER is a Kozy (Kozelskiy of Anadyr) puppy.

Some interesting Siberian history I learned recently: All Siberian Huskies in existence today can be traced back to one of three males (Tserko, Smoky or Togo) on the sire line. Maternally, to one of four females on the dam line. Our kennel is probably one of the only kennels today that still has dogs going back to every single line. Kozy goes back to Tserko.

If you are interested in pedigrees, check out ped.anadyr.com. You can type in any dog's name, click "breeding info" and trace the pedigrees. I know a lot of people following my racing this season have relatives to my race dogs. Suzanne in England, for example, has Buddy's uncle. Major's sister lives in Finland, and Fezzik's mother came from the Netherlands.

I remembered to bring my phone and was able to snap a few shots along the race trail. Don't think the photos don't do the landscape justice...
The NOME sign, 15 miles from the Aurora Dog Musher's clubhouse. Arrows point toward Nome and the sign reads: "Nome 1049 miles"
The sky began to clear. Sleeping Lady visible ahead.
Headed towards Flathorn Lake.
Cottonwoods. Sleeping Lady in the distance again.
Overflow on the lake.
Having fun. Dogs looking good 30 miles in.
Fantastic colors in the swamp. The trail runs though the Susitna Flats State Game Refuge.
Looking back at a great day. 


Aurora 50/50: Day 1

Day 1 of the Aurora 50/50. Two days, 55 mile heat each day.

On the roster:

We finished 18th of 20 teams with a total time of 6 hrs 7mins. Not too bad, considering our longest run up to this point has only been 35 miles. The dogs went out well. We held to our usual training speed 10-11 mph. After about 25 miles, the trail turned into a slog and our speed dropped. We didn't get passed until after we hit the halfway point at Flathorn Lake. As soon as we made up the bank off the lake, Dean Osmar, Robert Redington, Markus Ingebretsen and Kelly Maixner caught up and roared past. After 35 miles, we completed a 20 mile loop that dumped us back onto better trail. The dogs were a little tired by this point, but steady. We motored on. About 15 miles from the finish line, another group including Kristin Bacon and Ben Harper passed. Grant, Kelly Maixner's handler passed just after Burma Road and Vern Halter caught me in No Man's Land, two miles from the club house. The dogs did really good. 20 miles was a big jump for them. I feel confident they will do well tomorrow. The soft trail on the 20 mile loop should set up a bit tonight, making for easier going, but I don't expect our speed to improve; the dogs will be a little tired from Day 1. I'll take at least nine dogs out tomorrow. Frida decided her head wasn't in it for this distance mushing thing and will be dropped. Ruby seemed a little stiff at feeding and Goofy seemed a little tired. We'll see how they feel in the morning. The rest hopped about and ate voraciously (as usual). 

Click here for full race results:


Mushing with Anja

Monday morning. I loaded up 12 dogs and headed to Talkeetna to run dogs with my friend Anja.  We did a nice thirty mile loop, running along the Spur Road, crossing driveways, past giant satellite dishes, and onto a fine winter trail that takes off from the end of Comsat Road. -20F, winter sunlight filtered through the tops of the trees, the trail was twisty and hilly. We crossed two small creeks, went across a footbridge, and I saw one of the biggest cottenwoods I've ever seen in my life. We dropped down onto Fish Lake for an extra two miles on our way back. The skies were clear and at the far end of the lake we could see the jewels of the Alaska Range --Denali, Hunter, and Foraker-- dominating the landscape. Back again to the kennel, kibble treats for the dogs, hot cocoa for the girls :)

Mushing with Anja!
Bootie check. Eggs & his buddy in lead.

BIG cottenwood!

big mountains looking small through a lens. 


sunset at the kennel

December 2nd, 4 p.m.

thanksgiving weekend

Clear & cold, for the most part. Temps ranging from -10F to -30F. Runs 20 to 40 miles in length.  
 lovely winter sun.
Blackie Lou & Linnea
Low lying sun peeks through the swamp spruce.
The gold & blue light of a cloudy winter afternoon.

The musher at -25F
Blue swamps in the fading sun.
Pete & Vader, Fezzik in swing.
A long overdue training report coming soon, with updates on progress, training, fundraising & the dogs that make up the Iditarod training pool :)


chocolate sponsor

That's right, CHOCOLATE sponsor :)  I want to extend a BIG thank you to Rob Donaldson, who is kind enough to gift me with chocolate on a regular basis. This fine Belgian chocolate keeps me fueled at work & on the trail. The hazelnut chocolate is SO GOOD!!   Thank you so much Rob!!

num num. 

*Please note: this is not an exclusive sponsorship... All chocolate sponsors are welcome!   ;) 

Femundlabben Review *updated with pics*

Femundlabben after one season of use. 

Last season, Protex A/S sponsored me with a pair of Femundlabben aka Femund Boots --- the newest dog mushing boot to hit the market.  I've used the boots since February 2013 and did two races with them: the Goose Bay 150 and the Sheep Mountain 300. Here are my thoughts regarding their performance:

The Femund Boot
Protex is the same company that makes the wildly popular Polar Lobben boots, often used in conjunction with overshoes. With the new boot, Protex has modified the design of the Polar Lobben to make a boot even more suitable for dog mushers--- no curled toe, a no-slip tongue, reinforced sole, and an easy, fast lace-up system.  I wear the same size Femund boot as I do regular Lobbens--- and am able to wear a full size smaller in overshoes (L to M). This makes walking, peddling --- everything--- so much easier!! I feel unbelievably light and free with this shoe system---no more clunking around in too-big overboots.

Warm feet are dry feet
To stay warm, feet need room to move and breathe. This is why boots from Protex are so warm---not because they are super insulated---but because they are made out of breathable wool. Dry feet are warm feet, and wool transports moisture away from your body. And herein lies my only concern with the Femund boot---I think the leather added to reinforce the shoe may absorb more moisture into the boot than if it were made only of wool. In comparison with the Polar boot, moisture in the Femund boot was noticeable. However, compared to bunny boots, Baffin boots, or Sorels, moisture in the Femund boot is practically a non-issue. As I understand it, the leather modification was added to address a weak point along the sole (an issue I have never experienced) and increase the overall longevity of the boot. In any case, the advantages to using the Femund boot far outweigh the one and only detraction. I had no problem on the 150, and on the 300 I was able to combat boot moisture by regularly changing socks (something I do anyway) and taking advantage of wood stoves and toyo heaters at checkpoints to dry boots. Being able to move freely and still have warm feet is a hard balance to find---and the Femund boot is the closest I've ever gotten. To top it all off, the boot is trimmed in paw print ribbon and has the beautiful blue and orange Femundløpet logo on the outside. The embroidered name is optional-- but a good idea.  I fully expect more than a few mushers to jump on the Femundlabben Bandwagon -- and knowing which pair of boots in front of the woodstove is yours might come in handy ;)

Regarding sizing
Due to the round toe, there is not quite as much room in the Femund boot as there is in the Polar boot. As such, the company recommends you size up. I found this to be true; I ordered the same size I normally use in Lobbens and noticed a tighter fit. However, the boots stretched with use, which has been my previous experience with Lobbens. I can now comfortably fit two to three pairs of socks inside, but would recommend sizing up at time of purchase, as Protex suggests. With the Polar boot, I automatically size up three sizes from my regular shoe size (38 to 41). With the Femund boots I would do four sizes (38 to 42). In Norway it is quite common for mushers to size up even more to accommodate special felted wool socks (called kartanker). I have a pair of size 44 Polar boots (A men's 10 1/2 !) to use with this type of liner.  However, as these felted socks are not commonly available in the US, four sizes up should be enough for most people to wear two to three layers of socks with room to spare.

I am super happy with the Femund boots and anticipate spending many thousands of miles in them next season.  If all goes well, I fully expect these boots to accompany me on the 2014 Iditarod... racing from Willow to Nome !!

Femundlobben are available for purchase from Protex's web shop and are on sale (!) until December 15. 


first sled run of the season :)

I dug my sled out of storage and took Ruby & Vader out for exploratory jaunt on the local winter trails today. Pretty rough out there; little snow, a few wet spots & open creeks, but I think safe enough for a 6 dog team. Planning on breaking today's 17 dog team into three and going sledding :) 5F and dropping. I think we'll see negative temps again tonight. Good news, things didn't quite get a chance to freeze up before we had our dumping of snow last weekend.


yay for Fezzik!

Fezzik, Spring 2013.

Thanks to a collective effort headed by Hyls & Nies Heeringa from the Netherlands, my handsome brown dog Fezzik has been sponsored! Folks from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, and Denmark all contributed to a fund for Fezzik. First to sponsor booties for his feet, and then enough to sponsor the whole dog for Iditarod :)


M.de Jonge, G. de Bie, R.J.Swinkels, E.Visser, F.Hellwich, B.Bergsma, J.Derksen, H.Schipper, H.v.d.Berselaar, E.de Boer, L.Keur, H.v.d.Sleen, M.Muller, F.v.d.Laan, H.Heeringa, P.Beedham, I.Wittemann, H.Rauhama, M.Pedersen/Denmark, & A.Match.

Thank you all so much for your contributions

A little about Fezzik:  Fezzik is a charmer! He is big and brown and sweet, with gorgeous almond eyes. Fezzik is an extremely hard driver and a solid team dog. Very, very strong. He can run anywhere in team. Fezzik likes to dance with paws waving at the very end of his chain until it's his turn to be hooked up. I usually hook him up next to last because he is so crazy to go, amps everyone up, and tends to chomp at all the lines. I have high hopes Fezzik and his equally steady nephew Frigg will be two of the final sixteen selected to go in March.

Fezzik is very photogenic, apart from his ears, which always seem 2x bigger than in real life. 
Happy boy.

Fezzik in swing.


Puppy walk

Mucking around in the swamp.

Bike, the little suck-up, is the first to come running when you call.

Pea, Mygga & Svidd

Ripe for the picking. 

Puppy goes swimming. Didn't mean to though!