Have you ever watched a sled dog race? I mean watching by staring at the little markers on the SpotLive GPS tracker? For days…
I was researching an article on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race a few years ago for a website I was writing for and discovered my “sport”. You Armchair Quarterbacks have nothing on us Live Internet Armchair Mushers. I mean come on. Watching the live start, via a Livestream, barely connected, constantly getting kicked off the the air, just when “your” musher leaves the start line. What could be more fun? How about when the GPS tracker stops sending signal, just when “your” musher is about to pass someone for the lead? It’s totally exhilarating!
Seriously though…it is. I’ve set the alarm clock to get up at 3am to watch the winner pass under the Burled Arch in Nome, Alaska. It is a crazy sport to follow. I started off picking a random female to watch along with the rookie of that particular year. So, as the race plays out, two weeks of watching video, live feeds, and GPS tracker dots on a screen, and I’m drawn to really routing on the woman. I mean I’m watching her care of the dogs, her personality, and, well, she’s a woman…of course I’m going to end up routing for her. Here’s how the race finished that year. The rookie, Dallas Seavey, won his first Iditarod race as the youngest rookie to win. And the woman, Aliy Zirkle, of SP Kennels, placed second coming in, literally on his heals. It’s been a battle between the two of them for the last three years I’ve watched. Aliy has pulled out a second place win, three years in a row. No easy feat for a woman. Or a man. It’s a grueling 1000 miles across snow (if you’re lucky), ice (if you’re not so lucky), over-wash…aka water (if you don’t mind soggy, cold feet) and a test to your mental aptitude, physical condition, and of course, there’s the dogs.
The dogs are unbelievably cared for. They are monitored, and health checked numerous times before these races. Checked prior to the start of the races, and then checked all throughout the race by veterinarians who volunteer their time! Then when you really get to know a person or kennel that run these races, you listen to their interviews, read their blogs, and you get an inside look into how much they care for the dogs. Allen Moore, of SP Kennels, (married to Aliy) carried a dog in his basket for many miles because she looked a little “off”. An extra 45 pounds in the sled to slow down progress. One thing I’ve discovered with most of these mushers is, the dogs come first. Without the dogs, there is no race, and without the race, we lose history.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race was started to remind people of the importance of the sled dog. They provided an incredible service to the extended areas of the world, where mail, food, supplies and in the case of the Iditarod Trail, much needed vaccines had to be delivered in really yucky conditions, to really remote areas. Go to Iditarod.com and read about last’s years trying conditions that even the best of the best said were extremely difficult and at times, life threatening.
I just finished watching the Copper Basin 300. A 300 mile race that is a setup race for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod 1000 mile races. Many mushers have this race as their qualifier for the longer races. As usual, I’m routing on Aliy and Allen,and basically all of SP Kennels. These folks are just great people, and they are open about their livelihood, how they train themselves, how they train the dogs, and they open up pieces of their world to the rest of us to enjoy. Allen just won this race a few hours ago. I’ve been staring at that tracker all weekend! Aliy came in 6th. It’s gonna be another great year! Go check them out at http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/p/skunks-place-sp-kennel.html and then read here all about the sport http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/p/mushing-basics.html
One year, I’m going to go see the Iditarod live. Either the start in Anchorage, Alaska or the finish in Nome, Alaska. And my next trip to Alaska (a friend and I were discussing a blog post on a mapped out trip to Alaska if driving from the US…coming soon!) will include a stop at SP Kennels for a visit with Aliy and Allen and the dog I’ll be sponsoring. I’m on the wait list…maybe next year. Think positive and it will happen!
Happy Trails everyone!