Monday 28 February 2000

February 27-2, 2000

This is test, and only a test, if this was a real post Karen would be running down the Iditarod trail instead of sitting beside me on the couch.

For those of you who don't know me my name is Mark and I'm Karen's husband. My job around the kennel is the handler. The Handler is the person who does all the work and gets none of the glory. Actually the handler is the most important job in the kennel. You must be able to be a Vet, a Coach, a sports psychologist, a chef, a truck driver, a quad and snowmachine mechanic, a sled repairer, a carpenter, a trail builder, a pooper scooper, a dog groomer, a sponsor, and a kennel builder, and in my spare time I run the second team. My favorite thing about being a handler is getting to spend time with each of the dogs. Some nights I go outside and lay on the doghouses and watch the stars with each of the dogs. I guess now I can add journalist to the list of responsibilities.

While Karen is on the trail I'll be keeping you up to date with her progress, so keep an eye open.

Bye for now Mark

Sunday 27 February 2000

February 27, 2000

Things are happening pretty quick around here. I can't believe how the days are just flying by! Less then 1 week to go until the start of Iditarod - AMAZING! I think I am actually ready!

The dogs were in last Wednesday for their EKG's, bloodwork, and microchipping. Every single dog that participates in the Race gets this workup to make sure that they are in tip-top condition! The vet techs that do the collecting of information were just great - helpful, friendly, and full of ear and belly rubs for the dogs! Amazing patience, especially when you consider they will deal with 81 mushers and over 1600 dogs before they are done! Diane Johnson, the Iditarod's Teacher on the Trail for this year hung around to watch the process and did a really nice post to her Notebook on the team. You can read it by going to the Teacher or Student's section of the Iditarod homepage and clicking on 'Diane's Notebook'. Thanks for the nice words Diane!

Thursday was vet check day. Dr. Baetsle of the Big Lake/Susitna Vet Clinic carefully examined each of our 20 dogs for attitude, body weight, coat condition, joint soreness, foot problems, hydration, and overall health. All 20 easily passed his exams, as is necessary for them to be able to run Iditarod. That afternoon we also gave them a final pre Race deworming that Iditarod insists on.

We have had a few trips into Anchorage this week too! On Tuesday we drove our friend and handler, Bob into the airport for his trip home to Prince George. We are certainly going to miss his help around here. Friday found us back in town again dropping my second sled off for it's trip to McGrath, where it will be waiting if I run into sled problems on the trail. Guess I should get used to all the driving, as next week we will probably be into the city at least 4 more times - one final organizational trip, in for the Musher's Banquet on Thursday, back to visit with family that's in town for the Race on Friday, and the Start on Saturday!!! Luckily, I'm good at sleeping in the truck!

I almost forget to mention that Mark and I each ran a 10 dog team in the Goose Bay 120 last weekend, finishing 11th and 12th (out of 18). This was Mark's first time out on a long race. I heard him muttering something about 'Never again', but I'm pretty sure that he really did have a good time. The Race follows the first part of the Iditarod Trail, stops in Yentna, and then you turn around and run home. As a real treat, part of the trail was on the Historic Iditarod Trail. This is the real, original freight/mail route and it is just starting to be signed and cleared again. In fact, the Goose Bay Race was the first to run over this part of the trail and I must say - it was LOVELY!!! It's great to see this treasure of a trail being reclaimed and used!

Something happened out on the trail that weekend that could ONLY HAPPEN IN ALASKA. As we dropped onto Flathorn Lake, 30 miles or so into the Race, we had a head on pass with a guy on a MOUNTAIN BIKE! He was followed by more mountain bikes and throughout the day and night, cross country skiers and hikers! This was the Iditasport. Racers do 100 + miles, mostly on the Iditarod trail by bike, ski or foot. I thought it was kinda neat to be passing all these folks that were, basically, crazier then I am! But it did take the dogs a bit to get used to and it was DARN hard to find a private moment to pee!!!! :)

The dogs had a good race. At the turnaround point we had a mandatory 8 hour layover. About 5 hours into that the dogs were rested and ready to roll. Every time they could find an excuse they would start singing and letting me know that they wanted to GO!!! At the finish line, they were bouncing around and acting very fresh! That certainly builds my confidence that they are ready for Iditarod.

Well, I think that is about all the news for now. I'm going to teach Mark how to post to the page later today so he will be able to post once I'm out on the trail and keep everyone updated on what is happening. I must say that I'm delighted (and amazed) to be getting emails from so many people that are following my diary.

Thank you to all of you for your interest!

Thursday 17 February 2000

February 17, 2000


Drops bags are done and have been delivered to Iditarod! What a chore that was! I started it off by figuring out my race plan, with how long each stretch of the trail was going to take to run and then how long I was planning on staying in each checkpoint. From there I had to work out a feeding plan and base food drops on all that information. I feel really good about the race plan and the drops. I know I sent out more then most mushers (I'm told average is 2,000 lbs - my drops were 2572 lbs) but that will allow me flexibility to change my running/resting plan during the race should unexpected problems arise. And after all - I am a woman and women are not known for packing light!

Tomorrow we are going treat ourselves to a real day off! Jamie and Ken Nelson, their handler Lori, Mark, Bob and I are all going into Anchorage to watch the first day of the Fur Rendezvous Sprint Races. The Rondy is sprint racing's 'Iditarod'. Big teams of upwards of 18 dogs race, basically, flat out for 20 or so miles. It should be really exciting! All of Anchorage gets into the excitement of 'Rondy Week' too with snow sculpture contests, snowshoe racing, and much more! Mark and Bob had been hoping to catch the Fur Bikini Contest, but, sadly, we were busy finishing up food drops during that one!
The weekend was supposed to be devoted to running the Goose Bay 120, however continuing warm weather and the start of the 2000 mile Iron Dog snowmachine race could change our plans. I don't relish the idea of sharing the trail on Sunday with a whole bunch of snowmachiners!!! Although by far the majority of snowmachiners in the area are friendly and courteous to dog teams, there is always a risk when you mix large numbers of both on a trail system! We will keep our fingers crossed that the race is a go and that they have a plan to divert us from the Iron Dog.

Next week Bob will be leaving for home. We will be busy getting the dogs in for their EKG's, bloodwork, microchipping, and vet checks! And then the following week is ...... IDITAROD!!!!!

Yikes! On that note I'm back to work!!!

Wednesday 9 February 2000

February 9, 2000

Good Morning!

Things are really picking up around here. Iditarod is less then a month away and the work is building every day. Right now the pressing task is Food Drops - we are planning, acquiring, and packaging the approximately 2000lbs of food and gear needed to drive a dog team across Alaska. Everything needs to be ready to go to the shipping company on February 17th - no ands, ifs, or buts. We are hoping to have it all ready and in a freezer by early next week, so there is no danger of us missing the due date. I just need to find a freezer :)

Training on the dogs continues to go well. The dogs are strong and spunky! On Monday we did a 50 mile run and the dogs loped the last mile into the yard - that was sure nice to see! We are scaling back things a little now, shortening up the miles a little to keep the attitudes upbeat! The Goose Bay that we had planned on running last weekend was postponed for 2 weeks due to unseasonably warm weather. We are still going to run it, but we will just treat it as a fun weekend and not push the dogs at all. It should be a good time! Jamie Nelson and her crew arrived from Minnesota. Jamie has been helping me prepare for the Race since last year and it is sure nice to have her around again. I so much appreciate her help and advice, especially since she is busy getting her own team ready for Iditarod!

All for now!