Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Race Season-A Look Back

Flathead Sleddog Days
January 7-8, 2012
We started the season with a fun and friendly 80 miler-the Flathead Sleddog Days race. The people hosting this race were wonderful and the event was very well organized. Jack Beckstrom was the race marshal this year, a real class act! The race is set up as two 40 mile legs, one to run each day. Gery Allan came from Flagstaff to run with us, and borrowed Elvis for his team as he was one dog shy.
Since the crowds appear later in the day, the race marshall suggested that we leave 2 hours earlier than the alaskan teams so that we could finish with them. How nice was that? even though not necessary. We have to become used to finishing last:-)
We brought our 12 week old puppies along to win friends, and boy did they! There was a crowd by our dog truck all day long!
We ran 12 in this race; Copper, Rayon, Enya, Enrique, Piggy, Havok, Kinky, Marsh, Kaos, Cali, Janis, Jimi.
The team finished strong @ 7mph average and without injury, or even stiff or sore joints.  Feet looked great and we did not run booties.
Coming in on the Flathead Race

Eagle Cap Extreme
January 26, 2012
Our next endeavor was a much more challenging race, The Eagle Cap Extreme 200. This is in a continuous race format, meaning that you run the 200 miles with only one mandatory 6 hour layover, and choose your other rest breaks at your discretion.  This race was exceptionally well organized, the towns people are very involved in the event, the trail is marked so well you would have to be sleeping on the runners to get off course. Our intrepid musher took off with 12; Copper, Rayon, Eve, Enrique, Enya, Elvis, Havok, Kinky, Cali, Marsh, Piggy, and Jimi. Kinky was in full blown standing heat on this race, and managed to get herself “taken care of” by Havok along the trail on the first leg, a planned event-even if we had hoped for her to wait until the checkpoint:-) Morgan had some difficulty with control on the first 50 mile leg; there was an alaskan team that had a lot of trouble passing and in the process of trying to help him get by she nearly lost her team, then got drug and beat up pretty badly. Thankfully the other musher helped her regain control, and they both got back on the trail. She pulled into the checkpoint barely 30 minutes after the last place alaskan team.
She spent more time than she had planned in the checkpoint, recuperating and deciding to drop a couple dogs so she would have better control on the soft deep snow. Right before she was ready to leave the checkpoint the race officials approached her and strongly suggested that she “run the 100 mile course” instead of proceeding on the 200. Because of her inexperienced, beat-up and tired status and because the officials were pushing so hard, she agreed to do so-without understanding that changing course equated a scratch.  It was a disappointing and bitter end to what otherwise was a superbly organized event. 
BUT-we did learn a lot from the experience; the dogs did fantastic on the course and finished the 100 miles healthy & strong, and our musher learned checkpoint time management (& maybe to be less trusting:-) so it was not a wasted effort! When we tallied her time on the trail, she averaged 6.7 mph, which included a 30 minute break for Kinky to have her way with Havok, and the 30 minutes that Morgan spent heping a fellow musher, being drug, and recovering her team.
Will we attempt this race next year? I don’t know, we would really love to but it will depend on some things, mainly the Race Marshal. This year I think he was hasty in “force-scratching” our musher. He said after the race that if she had not agreed to switch to the 100 mile course (or effectively scratch) he would have disqualified her. Really? 50 miles into a 200 mile race? There is a saying that I really like; Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. That is the last word I will say on this subject:-)
Getting ready to take off on the ECX

Race To The Sky
February 12-13, 2012
The third race of the season was the Race To The Sky. We cannot say enough about how wonderful this experience was. Montana people are the best! :-) 
Getting dogs ready for RTTS Vet Check
This is also a continuous format, and Morgan took off around 4pm with 8 dogs; Rayon, Eve, Marsh, Piggy, Havok, Cali, Enya, Enrique. We had 2 girls in full standing season for this race-Cali and Piggy-and they were making spectacles of themselves!! 

Team getting bedded down and snacked
It was terribly warm on the take off, and never really cooled off that night. Morgan got into the first checkpoint around 11pm, got right to dog care and then slept for a few hours. Feet all looked great, no splits or fissures, and no limping or stiff joints.
Taking care of Marsh's feet

She decided to drop Piggy due to MSP syndrome (Miss Sexy Pants), got on the trail again and finished with 7 dogs, just 3 hours behind the alaskan teams!! Not bad for 100 miles, average speed for this race was 7mph.
Miss Piggy & Enya rest at Whitetail Checkpoint
The dogs all looked great, this was one of the best finishes of the year. No injuries, lameness or foot issues. This was another race that we did not run booties in, (except for Havok who "accidentally" got the hair trimmed out of his pads for a dogshow 3 weeks earlier).
This is one of the races we will definitely do next year-the 350 mile version-which we plan to use as one of our Iditarod qualifiers.

American Dog Derby
February 17-18, 2012
Last race of the season was a 100 miler less than a week after finishing Race To The Sky! A fun one in Ashton Idaho, the American Dog Derby. This was another race in stage format. We chose 10 for this race, even though we could have ran up to 12; Rayon, Eve, Enya, Enrique, Elvis, Jimi, Marsh, Havok, Sally & Liddy (their first race)! This is another event where the town gets very involved, and it was well organized too. She finished with an average speed of 7 mph again, and won her first ever purse, $300!! She was so excited to actually get a check:-)
Derby Start
We also ran a second team in the shorter 24 mile race; Craig Davis got in on the fun with a 5 dog team. He ran great times-with 2 alaskans (Copper and Sumo) and 3 malamutes (Boss, Izzy and Kaos).
Craig taking off
What a great season! Everyone had fun, even with all the work. The dogs did amazingly well. They were fantastic breed ambassadors; never a single issue with passing or being passed, and they were always the crowd favorite. Our biggest problem was control-holding them back so they did not over do it and incur injuries. This is such a young team; we have 3 yearlings, five 18 month olds, and three 2 year olds on this team. Next year we will have 3 more yearlings to bring the cycle continues!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing, interesting to know what all is involved!!! What are the reactions of other mushers about running a team of Malamutes?

    1. Hi Kim,
      Some are unsure at first because they have heard horror stories of malamute teams being aggressive. But after they run with us and realise that the dogs are all hard workers and not interested in fighting they have all been very very supportive. We haven't really met anyone that was negative after they saw the team perform, and surprisingly a lot of them actually started with malamutes:-)

  2. Interesting post:) Can you tell me what races qualify for the Iditarod, how many you need and when they have to be run prior to the Race?

    1. There are only a few I-rod qualifiers in the lower 48, and we would love to stay down here next year rather than have to go to Alaska 2 years in a row. Too expensive! Requirements are 2 300+ mile races that are qualifiers and one 150+, and they must be run at least a year before signing up for Iditarod. The races that we are thinking about for our qualifier options for 2013 are the Race To The Sky 350, the Seeney 300, the UP 200, the Eagle Cap 200, the John Beargrease Marathon are the contenders.
      In 2014 we plan to move to Alaska early in the season and run a couple 300+ mile races as well as logging all our training miles in that climate & terrain.

  3. Thank you :) Now I'm beginning to see the amount of fundraising you have to do for the Iditarod!

    1. Yes, it is intense. It takes so much time, money and work to even get ready fo the big race, and without any hope for a purse (:-)) it is hard to attract sponsors to pay for the big stuff. We are determined to get there, but it will take a lot of outside help too.