My team and I had a lot of fun on the Copper Basin. We thought that the Red Team wasn’t quite as fast as the Black Team. But, we also knew that it could be a close race — which it turned out to be!

We always want the Copper Basin 300 Red Team to be as competitive as possible. But, we also want to put some unproven dogs on the team to see how they do. This year we had Spark — completely unproven — and Lydia who has never finished a mid distance race. The remainder of the team was a combo of inexperienced dogs and extremely veteran dogs.

I’ll start with the rookies.

Spark – was the least experienced dog by far and his learning curve was exponential. At the first three checkpoints, I had to physically lay him down in the straw to rest because he was far too excited. He wanted to watch all the teams come and go around him. At the final checkpoint, he actually sat down on his own but never laid down. Understandably, by mile 290 he was a tiny bit tired but still finished the race in fine form. I’m super happy about Spark’s inaugural mid-distance race.

Lydia – she is by no means a rookie but she had never finished a race for us. Not only did she finish Copper Basin 300, but she was one of the main leaders from mile 31 to mile 290. Of course, Lydia is tiny but her desire to be in charge is large! I really liked having Lydia and Waylon in front because they set an incredibly fast pace that kept us in the thick of the race.

Nomex – Nomex is comfortable with his very awkward gait. Obviously it works for him because he just accomplished an amazing feat by finishing a competitive 300 mile race butโ€ฆ by golly, he is somewhat ugly to watch! Other than that, Nomex is strong, powerful and a fun faced dog. I could tell the power that he puts into his harness as the team pulled me up and over some very tall mountains.

Driver– I ran Driver and Nomex together all the time because they were my two big powerhouses. As opposed to Nomex, Driver’s long-legged gait is slow gaited and lumbering – the complete opposite of his partner’s fast paced pitter-patter. When I glanced back and forth between dogs, I could almost get dizzy! Driver can keep a very speedy pace however. He has a little bit of race experience under his belt, so at checkpoints he was savvy enough to rest appropriately. He came through with flying colors.

Dutch – I’d say I had two All-Stars and Dutch was definitely one of them. He never got a little bit tired – not even the last few miles. He was even doing his silly little “chatter” talk whenever we stopped, even after we finished. He started the race in lead, and finished the race in lead but he missed a few hundred miles in between. I really see how he is an educated “big dog” now. Dutch is going to be an important dog for us this season.

Sandy – I never saw her not pulling. She was in wheel, right in front of the sled so I was able to watch her adorable little fanny go as fast as possible. Whenever the team sped up, she never let up. At times, she is too excited and would wind her tug-lines in circles. If that was her only fault, then I can live with it. Sandy will be on some of the main teams from now on.

Chemo – at 5 years old he is as veteran of a race dog as they get. He still gets giddy at the starting line, but then curls up in the straw ASAP and snores as quickly as he should at checkpoints. He travels down the trail like a pro. He was spot-on during the Copper Basin. I have zero complaints.

Boondocks – It was fun to have four siblings one the team: Boonie and her three brothers Scruggs, Willie and Waylon. They are seven years old and could easily keep up with the fast pace of this race. It was a little bit surprising to me. Boondocks is the queen of sassy and is showed through out the CB300. She is smart enough to know when to rest so that she easily has the stamina to crank out the miles. It is fun to see her continue to succeed.

Willie – is a fast dog so the pace wasn’t that hard on him, he has always been able to fly over the trail with very little effort and this race was no different. I think 300 miles is still just the tip of the iceberg for ole Silly Willie.

Scruggs – is slower than both Willie and Boonie but he’s a smart boy who knows how to managed the trail and what the team needs from him. He is never too stressed about any situation and never overworks himself. Therefore, he is always there in the end. Scruggs is an even better 1,000 mile dog than a mid distance racerโ€ฆ so that’s exciting!

Waylon – is just so cocky and proud of himself that it is fun to watch him running down he trail with a gleam in his eye. I know he’s thinking “Yup, I’m going to win this race!” For that reason he was my other All Star this race. He liked running with Lydia as she has the same kind of confidence and character as he does. In reality, he’s the closest thing SP Kennel has to a whippet. So I guess the fast pace shouldn’t be hard on him (perhaps he needs a rabbit out in front!?!)

Scout – I can ask Scout to do anything and he will. When I needed someone in challenging situations he’s the man. He’ll easily pass around barking, crazy, rookie dog teams by dragging the team through deep snow and off the trail. Obviously he’s still fast enough to compete.
SIDENOTE: One of the biggest obstacles on the CB300 is always the Gakona River crossing. During the mushers meeting prior to the race start, the trail breaker said “the first dog team that goes over my trail on the Gakona better follow my trail markers exactly or you and the rest of the 46 dog teams will go swimming.” The braided river is actually several miles wide and has many spots with no ice and flowing deep water. The trail breakers have to zig and zag 180 degree turns on the ice in order to put in a safe trail and avoid water holes. Sometimes the trail that a snow machine puts in is not necessarily logical to a dog. I remembered this comment as we were the first dog team to cross the the Gakona River. Needless to say, I had Scout in lead. And – as far as I know – none of the 47 racing dog teams got wet in the Gakona River this year. Thank you Scout!

Both Allen and I want to thank the Copper Basin committee and all the volunteers for putting on one of our most favorite races. The start was drama-free, the checkpoints well organized and the trail fantastic.

This race also relies a LOT on a good handler team. A good result is more than just a good dog team and a good musher so we wish to thank our handler team of Wes, Chris and Mark for their hard work and getting us to the finish line. Thanks guys!


Chris (with Junior), Mark and Wes

24 Responses

  • Great recap, oh that Scout he sure does follow his name huh! Spark always follows whoever is in the yard as well sometimes while on his back so no surprise he wanted to know who's dat and where day going? Boonie, Boonie you are the best in the yard always keeping everyone informed as to when its treats and all. Again no surprise she did great. So Happy for SP kennel teams and mushers. Great Race!
    Padee
    Fairbanks

  • Thanks Aliy for the review of your Red Teams canine athletes . Really enjoy learning about how each dog performs and reacts to the race and how the new members react to all the new situations they are experiencing . Also a thanks to the S.P handlers also ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป and pats and hugs for the canine athletes ๐Ÿ˜. Denali and Joanne ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

  • Way to go Red Team…..it was super fun for us fans to watch how well you all traveled down the trail in the front pack of Teams!! I had to laugh with the description of physically laying Spark down to rest at the check points….it must be exciting for a rookie to be around that race atmosphere wanting to know everything that goes on around them! Sounds like you had a solid group of veterans who have the whole race routine down pat, thus allowing you to enjoy the race without having to fuss too much over them. Congrats on an awesome race, and having all 12 dogs finishing happy and healthy!

  • As a first time "watcher" of these races, I.m not only riveted by the race itself, but by these behind the scenes looks after. Thank you for taking time to give us all these fun little nuggets of insight..!!

    Great job..!! Looking fwd to many more!!

    Todd & Charlie.

  • Fantastic wrap-up. It's only three weeks until the YQ so I can see how important this race is as far as the dogs learning, gaining experience and for you all to gauge where they are in all of that. Hearing about the young ones figuring it all out is enjoyable so thanks for the details. Thanks for a great job handlers. And I'm glad Scout led the way over the river successfully.

  • Personally I found it very exciting to see Aliy in the hunt for the win as much as Allen. And if this team is supposed to be slower than Allen's team and finished only 1 place behind Allen, the potential is amazing. I appreciate your competitiveness. It made for a wonderful race.

  • Super wrap up. Thank you. Aliy, you have to capture some footage of Nomex. Would love to see him in action. Go, Nomex, go!

  • Thanks for sharing your insight on each member of your team. Such details emphasize the professionalism and care with which you manage your dogs…and the love shows too! All the best as you and Allen continue your 2016 racing season.

  • I LOVE this! It is so interesting to hear how the team did in the race. It also helps us fans in getting to know the dogs. Thank you Aliy, Allen, Handlers & SPK Teams!

  • Thanks for the great wrap-up. Hugs and scratches to all of the team. Looking forward to the Two Rivers race next. Thumbs up for the handler team too; nice pic. I'm raising a fresh cup of Joe to all at SPK from Montana.

  • Woof, woof, woof!!!

    Thanks ever so much for this entertaining, bubbly and direct analysis of how the 4-legged Red Team made out!!!

    I am always impressed with SP Kennel, in all parts of the mushing operation. All 2-legged teams members of various job descriptions as well as the wonderful canine athletes should be proud!

    This season is an upwardly mobile linear story!!!

    Best,

    Margaret

  • Aliy,
    It truly is exciting that your "second string" team all made it to the finish line, and just four minutes behind your "top dogs."
    ๐Ÿ™‚
    It shows the amazing depth that you have trained this year, and allows you so many options for choosing your 1000 mile teams.
    I'm hoping your training conditions continue to accommodate you, and that the youngsters keep knocking your socks off.
    I'm especially excited to hear how well Lydia, Dutch, Sandy and Driver performed. SPK has a grip of three year old talent this year!
    And that Waylon, still has the fire to fight for first, awesome.
    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
    Happy training, very exciting races to come!

  • Great Race! Great Team! We enjoy these wrap ups so much. Through them, we can almost go down the trail with you. What a ride! Special hugs to Scout from us for keeping you dry.
    Ann and Tom, TN

  • This is an excellent recap. When you post the YQ teams, I will be coming back to read these 2 posts (Black Team and Red Team) to see which dogs you chose to work together for the "big" race.
    I also would love to see Nomex's unusual gait – I can't quite picture it. Is there a video somewhere already? Oh, and Sandy's fanny and Dutch's chatter….. the way you write, Aliy (Moira?) just makes me want to picture all these in my mind.
    I'm looking forward to future posts as you prepare for the Two Rivers 200/100 and YQ. Thanks SO much for all the work you put into keeping us fans informed.

  • Thank you so much for your wrap ups! For those of us who can't experience dog mushing, your website opens up a whole new world. I started following you 2 years ago and now have a few friends that follow you too. What great spokespeople you are for this sport, and your willingness to be so transparent is refreshing and appreciated. I have begun saving to get to the Iditerod in 2017. I love how respectful you are to your dogs! Nice job to Chris and Wes and Mark. It must have been crazy to handle for two teams that were so close together in the race. Julie

  • Like A-town Becky, I am thrilled to see the 2012 litters come into their own. All day, I have been carrying around the image of Sandy's "adorable fanny!" It makes me laugh every time.

  • Your wrap ups are priceless, through your commentaries I feel like I know all of SP Kennel athletes. You have a very loyal fan base due to the love and care in all that you do. Like Julie, I have already booked my trip to the 2017 Iditarod just for opportunity to witness and cheer for the Red and Black teams. A Nomex video is something all would probably enjoy. Thanks again.

  • So glad for all these insights. I *thought* Waylon looked like a Whippet with his well developed long legs. I am so glad for all of you, each and every one with such individuality, running and pulling. Yes thank you Scout. (Isn't she the one called the Fun Police? Love her focus – keeping everyone dry).

  • What a great start for both teams, should be awesome races the rest of the season. Aliy I love your writeup. Sandy's cute fanny, love it. Spark having to be physically laid down @ checkpoints reminds me of Commando last year dozing off sitting up at the first several checkpoints. Spark needs to learn from Chemo in failing asleep at checkpoints. The future is bright for SPK. Super job by Chris, Mark, and Wes. Well done all around.

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