Iditarod 2015 Recap: Shaktoolik to NOME

Early morning in Shaktoolik. We spent the night in Shaktoolik waiting for the winds to die down a bit before attempting the crossing to Koyuk. It was still windy when we left, but a more manageable 25 mph compared to the 40 and 50 mph gusts of the night before. 
Rob Cooke's team getting ready to leave Shaktoolik. 
We left Shaktoolik with Monica (ahead) and Alan Stevens (behind). We had a hard time finding the trail right out of Shaktoolik, but the three of us canvasing the area managed to locate enough markers to find our way. Still on land here. 
On the ice. Ruby in her pink coat wondering what the hold up is. After almost 9 hours in Unalakleet and an overnight stay in Shaktoolik, the team was very well rested. 
Snack break about halfway to Koyuk. Pretty windy & a tough trail obliterated in place by soft snow drifts.
Allen, mine, and Monica's team, all in a row. 
Allen and his puppy (yearling) team. 
Still smiling!
Ravni cat naps.
Cute little Linnea.
After our snack break, we took the lead and the team rocked it all the way to shore, busting through the drifts, all business. It was such a beautiful day. Last year Monica and I did the crossing in the dark, there was jumble ice, all sorts of zig zags to the trail, I hallucinated I was in a forest, and frostbit my windburn by exposing my face to the cold air in an attempt to stay awake. This year, we did it in the daylight, it was sunny and gorgeous, straight as an arrow, I kept my face covered and listened to music and danced my way across the ocean all the way to Koyuk, feeling great. 
Feeling great! Thanks to Sia, Brandi Carlile, Tove Lo, Thomas Dybdahl & more. 
Monica & Blue Steel caught us just offshore. 
Koyuk straight ahead.
Out of Koyuk, climbing up toward Little McKinley.
Almost to the top of the first summit.
Gorgeous view of the hills, the ocean in the distance.
Descending from Little McKinley, a lot steeper than it looks !!
Dropped off the summit onto the other side of the hills and holy cow did it get warm !! Stopped for a snack break and to remove all the booties -- way too warm for the dogs to run with their feet covered up. Beautiful up here in the high country.
The final descent to Golovin Bay.
Snack break in Golovin! Such a nice little welcoming committee of school kids with their teacher.
Caught up with Monica again outside of Golovin.

After 12 days on the Iditarod trail. A little bedraggled, but thanks to Silverbear Sundries Mountain Mama Healing Salve & a Norwegian cold salve, my face is remarkably not frostbit or windburnt !! PS Ember did not pay me to say this !!! 
White Mountain ! 8 hour rest here and we are on our way to Noooome!! Another overnight run from White Mountain to Safety, but without 8 inches of fresh snow on the trail, it was so fast and easy compared to last year!
Sunrise by the sea. Topkok Hills & the Solomon Blowhole behind.
Sunrise outside of Safety. Cape Nome in the distance. 
A beautiful morning to go to Nome!
Climbing over Cape Nome.
Over Cape Nome and headed to town (visible to the far right). 
Running down Front Street in Nome, a little scary because we didn't have a police escort.  Front Street is one of the main thoroughfares in Nome. Usually a police car with flashing lights meets & follows a team  -- letting people know there is a dog team on the road so they can pull over and give the dogs the right of way. Heidi Sutter unexpectedly caught me right before we jumped off the sea ice into town, but the folks at the finish line were only expecting one team (me), so I watched the police car (who did not see my team) swing around behind Heidi's team. Then I watched regular traffic resume WHILE MY TEAM WAS STILL ON THE ROAD. Luckily, I did a lot of training on subdivision roads and the Denali Hwy this fall and winter, so I was able to gee the dogs over (Ripp is taking the command in this photo) so we were on the right side of the road and not in oncoming traffic. Cars were still passing me, which was scary, because the dogs are not used to running in TRAFFIC and could dart any which way if they got scared, and since we were running on pavement, there would be no way to stop them. Finally, some smart people on both sides stopped their cars, stopping the traffic behind them, and we were able to run into the chute without getting run over, thank goodness ! Iditarod is an adventure all the way to the finish line !! 
Off the street and into the chute! RIPP & RUBY in lead, PETE & VADER in swing, then VINNIE & RAVNI heading up the rest of the team: MAJOR, FEZZIK, FRIGG, VICTOR, GEORGIE, LINNEA, PAPAS & BLACKIE LOU. 
Thanking my sweet superdog Ruby & her brother Ripp for getting us to Nome. 
Lisbet & Monica -- Trail buddies !
With my #1 supporters, Dad & Mom.

With the backing of friends, family & Siberian Husky fans from around the world, I finished the 2015 Iditarod one day faster than the year before, as the fastest Siberian Husky team, with 14 dogs still on the line.  

I ran a relaxed schedule until we hit the coast, easing a team comprised of dogs with vastly different conditioning and experience levels into the race routine. I had one dog that had never gone further than 40 miles at once her whole life. So we took it easy. In Unalakleet, I realized my competition was well within striking distance & we picked it up a little. I had three goals for Iditarod this year: I wanted to improve my time from last year, I wanted to be the fastest Siberian Husky team, and I wanted to make it in time for the Official Finisher's Photo (Monica and I missed it last year). 

Check, check, and check!

I couldn't have done any of it without support from friends and family across the globe.  I am SO grateful for the assistance I have received and as we are gearing up for another season of training and racing, I am looking again to my supporters for help.  Racing costs me an estimated $30,000/ year.  I work hard to earn kibble money in the summer, but because racing is so expensive, I count on some of these costs to be defrayed by sponsorships.

At Alaskan Kennels, we want to show that Siberians can perform well in all venues, sprint especially, but my discipline is long distance racing. My eventual goal is to have the best placing Siberian Husky team in Iditarod ever —17th place or better. A lofty goal, but one I think we can realize in the next few years. 

Would you like to help us achieve our goals? Are you someone who adores Siberian Huskies and would like to see them out on the trail where they belong?  Consider becoming a team sponsor.  Any amount helps & I am so grateful and appreciative of your support. Come on board and help us field a competitive Siberian Husky team in the 2016 Iditarod! 

xoxo Lisbet & Team


Iditarod 2015 Recap: Koyukuk to Shaktoolik (featuring the beautiful Blueberry Hills!)

Leaving Koyukuk, back on the original race route! 
A close-up of my face for Ember Hayes of Silverbear Sundries and Anne Marie Orheim. Looking pretty ok for 8 days on the trail. My cheeks and nose are quite sensitive to the cold after being badly windburnt/frostbit in 2014. This year, I used a combination of Ember's Mountain Mama Healing Salve and a lanolin-based cold salve that Anne Marie sent from Norway to soothe and protect my face. (I actually use Ember's salve for everything skin-related, summer or winter. I also use her lotions, deodorant, hemp oil and more. All-natural & highly recommended !! Silverbearsundries.com
Leaving Nulato. In a snow storm. Again. Same thing last year. Is this part of the river a snow hole ? Ripp and Ruby broke trail and led us, Monica, and Yuka Honda from Nulato to Kaltag. Awesome dogs. 
Our last night on the Yukon River. Monica's team with Blue Steel in lead. 
My mess in Kaltag. Monica lighting her cooker, our teams nestled close together.
Becca Moore's team resting with the Kaltag log roundhouse in the background. That's where the mushers slept. In 2014, Monica and I had the luxury of having the checkpoint to ourselves. This year, we had to sleep on the opposite side of the cabin from the wood stove :( 
Entrusting my sweet Goofy boy to the vet in Kaltag. He (Goofy) had a sore wrist and I didn't want to have to carry him on the 90 mile stretch to Unalakleet if it got worse. The log building behind the vet serves as quarters for race officials and volunteers. One of the volunteers was Mark Greene, a Team Anadyr supporter.
Everyone except Ripp ready to go to Unalakleet. Like a lazy teenager, he will wait until the very last second (me stepping on the sled) to get up. Or rather, to put it in a more flattering light, like a super efficient sled dog. 
A grey, somewhat dark, cloudy day to cross the Kaltag Portage, a historical no-man's-land where people have "disappeared" for millennia. 
Snack break just past Tripod Flats Cabin.
Surreal light conditions. 
Climbing into the grey. 
Ruby having a roll in the snow. Ripp, ready to keep going, ignores his sister's shenanigans. 
Old Woman Mountain, taken with a disposable camera on the 2014 Iditarod. Note the tree to the left of the mountain. 
Tried to recreate the shot, but the mountain was hiding and my timing off. But I'm pretty sure that big spruce tree directly above the leaders is the same spruce tree in the 2014 shot ! 
Old Old Woman Cabin. The walls inside are covered in neat inscriptions and signatures from mushers and travelers from years past.
Major and Fezzik snoozing in front of New Old Woman Cabin; built and maintained by the BLM. Really nice !! 
Yuka Honda.
Becca Moore positioning herself at the tip of the trail as to pull a fancy race maneuver & sneak out unnoticed by the rest of us ;)
Alan Stevens heading inside for a snooze. 
Georgie the glutton lounging in the straw. She managed to gulp down an incredible amount of kibble some musher left by the side of the cabin parking area before I could get her away from it. 

My four lead dogs: Vader, Pete, Ripp (behind) & Ruby.
Snapshot of our fantastic night run into Unalakleet. Just taken to remind me of how nice the trail was, how the dogs were feeling fresh, and of the fantastic big green northern lights that lit up the night sky for a good portion of the run. The aurora gave off a really good show, undulating wildly, arching directly above the little headlights in a string behind me. I turned my headlight off and almost got a crook in my neck from staring skyward. Monica, Allan, Yuka, Becca & I were all traveling pretty close together. Close, but not so close that when I saw their headlights all pointing straight forward when the aurora was dancing like crazy I could yell at them to LOOK UP, guys !! But close enough that if I stopped to snack, they would catch up and it would take me a while to pull ahead out of the beam of a headlight. This became a problem when I had to pee. I pulled out my ski pole and kicked and poled for a while until I had pulled a ways ahead of Allen. Then I looked ahead for a flattish spot on the trail that would work for me to drop my snowpants and have a pee on the go. Just up ahead the trail curved gently to the right. That would be fine. So I drop my pants and am going about my business when all of a sudden the team drops into the ONLY ravine in 90 miles of trail and of course I have to navigate it with my pants around my ankles. ha. ha. ha. Typical. 

The team nestled next to bags of hay (serving as a windblock) in Unalakleet. Most mushers and racers use straw instead of hay to bed their dogs, as straw has a better insulating value and is cheaper. However, every year Iditarod buys a load of hay to send to Rainy Pass, where it is fed to the lodge's horses after the race. As this year's race route bypassed Rainy Pass, the hay got sent to Unalakleet.  

The dogs snoozing in their hay beds.

Victor made himself a bed INSIDE a hay bag! He looooooved it in there. I had to pull him out to put his booties on, and then he dived right back in again.
On the river leaving Unalakleet.
Some windblown spots at the base of the Blueberry Hills.
Ripp & Ruby chilling after the first steep climb into the hills. 
Monica's team leaving the misty ocean air behind for now. 
Windblown tussocks.
Whaaaaat a day !!!  
Blue Steel leading Team Zappa over the hills.

Egavik fish camp I think ? 
Looking back at our ascent.  
Trail buddies. 
Woooowww.... what else can you say ?? 
Descending down to the dune line that leads to Shaktoolik. 
Back down to sea level. 
Snack break at the base of the hills, before it got windy. 
Not much farther in along the dune line, the wind really picked up! Minor ground storm going on here. 
Ruby & Ripp doing an awesome job leading the team to Shaktoolik in a ferocious windstorm. This was the kind of wind that tests the mettle of a team, causes sleds to barrel roll, frostbites uncovered skin, and builds up giant snow drifts in seconds. To get a sense of how deep some of the drifts were, to the left of the team is a trail marker, buried almost up to the top. Markers were scarce, blown over and covered by drifting snow. (While it is hard to get lost here because you are following the dune line, it is definately a lot easier to travel on the trail when you can find it, rather than busting through drifts to make your own way ! )