I built this roster assuming that Lester would be my main leader and he was! Lester will pair with anyone, and run anywhere. He is a confident little trooper but he doesn’t like to press the pace so lucky for me I was trying to go slowly (9 miles/hour) for most of the race. I thought if I sat between 9-10 miles/hr hour at the start, I could finish doing 9-10 miles/hr – apart from the two huge hills where I would go 2 miles/hr!

I brought Boondocks as my back up quarterback, and because she makes me laugh. She totally looks small compared with the small two year old girls! She really has no legs and I don’t know how she gets over the trail like she does. I can see Boondocks has definitely slowed down over the years, but haven’t we all? It wasn’t too long ago she was winning the Quest.

Chemo (right) was an alternate for Allen’s team and at the last minute he chose Commando so I was happy to have Chemo on my team – it was slightly unexpected.

I guess in one word he’s ‘steady’ but I thought “why not mix things up a little?” so I put him in lead leaving Central on the longer run over to Circle. He really stepped up to the plate and he was genuinely happy to be up there.

He’s not super fast but when you talk to him and get him excited he will pick up the pace (and drag Lester along with him).

Driver’s (left) been on every one of my mid-distance races this season. He’s such a big lug of a dog compared to all the little sprites on the team but he can move those legs and stay up with every one in a simple casual trot, whereas the other dogs have to canter to keep up. I like that he’s pretty excited to go whenever we stop – it reminds me of his dad Biscuit. I expected him perhaps to get a little more tired on that last leg because he did lose a tiny amount of focus but his tug line was never loose. He was in swing for the last 150 miles and it’s important to be enthusiastic in that position.

This was Iron’s (right) first 300 mile race. He is a strong positive part of the team and he just is always there when you need him, that’s for sure. His one flaw is that he grabs for snow off the side of the trail constantly. I actually put a neck line on him because he would accidently fall into the deep snow when he misjudged his dip and that would bring the team to an angered halt with him deep in the snow. So he had a neckline on.

A little over 5 miles from the finish line there was a long patch of crunchy sugar snow and we were all sinking pretty deep into it and we came up an embankment. I saw Iron go deep into the snow and I think he may have damaged a tendon. So, for rest of the race I made the team go a little slower because he was not comfortable on it going up hill.

I had Sandy in wheel – I guess I just habitually put her there. She’s pretty agile and fast so she can maneuver all those quick turns we had. You can tell she’s a pretty experienced three year old: she’ll set up camp as soon as I want her to, eats all her food when I want, then she gets up , gets tangled with excitement and is ready to go. I don’t think that race was very hard on her. She’s just kinda always there – I don’t know what else to say about her.

Amber ran in the back in wheel with Sandy and they are a nice little pair together. Amber is one of my favorites, she doesn’t seem like she should be as perky as she is because she is kind of shy and reserved in the yard, especially meeting new people, but, holy cow, whenever we are getting ready to leave a checkpoint she is jumping on her back legs screaming or when climbing a big hill (and there were quite a few!) she would actually scream going up the hill. The team was quite vocal climbing up the hill, there were 5 or 6 of them yelling. Possibly all the two year olds wondering what the heck are we doing? That was her first 300 mile race.

Daisy (left) is a bigger bolder dog than her female siblings. She’s not actually that much bigger but she seems it. She really likes being near the front of the team so I ran in swing with Driver for last 150 miles. She has some confidence up there. She puts her head down really low and she trots, she’s not a loper, but she puts a lot of effort into that harness. That was her first 300 mile race as well.

I like to call her my little brown dog because she’s so ‘plain’ looking compared to the glamorous Amber and Violet and the other blue eyed dogs.

Champ is gorgeous, number one. He should be the best sled dog we’ve ever had seems he such a handsome fellah. He was completely solid. He has a really pretty trot – an efficient, pretty trot, I could tell that those longer runs made him tired though, he was actually laying on his side in Circle, sound asleep snoring when I came out to the team. Not curled out in a little ball – he was splayed out. He’s a really easy dog to get excited about anything: he’s one of the first to get to howl and another of the dogs barking when climbing the steep mountains. This race must have given him more confidence and that’s the only thing he lacks. This was his first 300 mile race.

I really like Chena. She’s an honest worker and solid leader – I’m not sure she knows Gee, but she definitely does know Haw – or smart enough to ignore me at times. She did quite well for 100 miles but when we pulled the team out of its parking spot at 101 she was limping. Neither the vets nor I noticed anything weird earlier so she might have slept on it wrong or got a cramp, but regardless, I didn’t want to take a limping dog down the trail so I left her with Wendy.

I really really like Violet (right), she’s not graceful by any means, hergait is kind of a pace but she’s comfortable in it so I guess I can’t complain. She’s got longer legs than any of her sisters so I guess she’s gotta do something with those appendages. I had moved her in last 150 miles up to middle of team running with Boondocks. Boondocks, as we know can get a little sassy, but Violet can handle that sass if I put them together. She did exceptionally well on this race. This is her first 300 mile race that she actually finished.

I love Spark. He just generally makes people smile because he’s such a goof and he’s no different on a race. Honest cheerful and I’m kinda bummed that he didn’t make it the last 150 miles. I could tell he had some kind of upper right hand stiffening going on because he started to do a little different gait than normal to compensate for something. The vets thought that maybe he had a cramp in his shoulder muscle. After I dropped him Wendy said he had a meal and was running around playing so I hope it is nothing serious.

Bill Cotter (former Yukon Quest champion and multiple Iditarod competitor) was joking with me prior to the race when he asked: “Why do you insist on running the hardest 300 miles?” I laughed it off but boy, you forget how hard anything is you when you finish. This is a challenging 300 mile race! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the mountains on the Yukon Quest are not challenging. Because they ARE!

Probably the thing I like the most about it is that you can decide how much rest to give your team. It’s not decided by the race rules. The only mandatory rest you are required is for an official vet check and gear check and that’s a 6 hour rest so you can give anywhere between 6 or 25 hours if you want to, which I like because then you can do your own thing. I chose to rest my dogs the minimum amount that I thought they needed in order to complete those 300 miles. I might have been able to skimp another hour but I think my speed would have dropped dramatically in the end.

Always my goal is to finish with all my team mates because when you leave a couple behind they, and you, don’t get the full experience that you signed up for.

So, I was rather confident in this team. I was running up Boulder Summit – the mountain before Rosebud – and at the beginning it is not real steep but you do have get off and run behind the sled. I saw a team parked ahead – doing stop and go, stop and go, and my team was barking and ready to roll. They like mountains so I got right behind this team (Tore in the YQ1000) BUT then that’s when I got cocky and shouldn’t have. I decided to pass him right on the steepest part of the mountain! I asked my leaders to go Gee and we went in deep snow around his team. I got off and ran straight up hill (what we’d all been training for) and I was ahead of him for a while and he was right behind us.

We got almost to the precipice and it was very steep, I don’t know how to describe how steep. The steepness only was a problem because it was so windblown and hard packed that my boots didn’t have any traction. I needed crampons (which – side note – Allen ALWAYS packs on YQ). My sled came to a stop, I need you to push because at this point I was underneath and the dogs are above it. I could get no traction at all and the sled started coming back about 4 feet because I couldn’t hold up. I was failing at my end. Then it slid back another 2 or 3 feet and I couldn’t hold the sled or myself from sliding down mountain.

The dogs, trying to please me obviously thought: “Oh you don’t want us to go up any more? You want us to go down?” and I can’t blame them as I did pull them backwards. “Alright, we’ll go back down.” Tore was right there any my team fell into a little ball of dogs right at his feet. Anyhow, we got that sorted and I told Tore to go ahead, I didn’t want to screw up his race. His team lined out up the hill and I thought that my team had followed them before so they might again now. It took a bit of time for us to get sorted out, I put necklines on everyone and needed to get the sled in right direction so by time we were ready he was already at the top.

Then Ryne was next up the hill at the same time my team was still in a cluster. She asked if I was alright – “Yeah… kinda..” So she went on by and I was trying to put one snow hook behind the sled then crawl up to front and put the other snow hook in front so they couldn’t turn around. I got them sorted out and untangled but I still had no traction! I had to use my little snow hook as an ice axe to climb up I looked up and Ryne come running back down hill. She’d parked her team at top and she didn’t say anything – she just grabbed the hook and I got on back of sled and together we went up the mountain – all 14 of us. I don’t think I even thanked her because there were no appropriate words but I’ll make it up to her somehow. I would have made it up that hill but it would have taken me probably another hour at least using the snow hook as ice axe, so I sure am happy I didn’t have to do that. Thanks Ryne.

21 Responses

  • Oh terrific write up recap! Aliy you have a sense of humor that's hard to match! Finally the Student gets to show gratitude and repay the teacher! way Ryne and you! Thanks for loving the dogs so much and sharing them with us. I am super proud to support this wonderful kennel. The pups did great and you did too!

  • Wow, now that's a story. First, awesome job to the youngsters with Lester and Boonie teaching them and helping them out! That Ryne is a class act. Great sportsmanship helping out a fellow musher and good friend! You had me in suspense there for a minute as I'm picturing a pile of dogs and Aliy sliding down the mountain! Wow, scary and nerve-wracking all at once. Great job guys, coming in second after all that and minus 2 dogs! What a team!!

  • Good heavens Aliy… And all team mates… I got very tense just reading about the climb… Talk about a slippery slope! Ryne should be awarded sportsmanship 2016 YQ 300. So glad you & pups remained safe through a that… Also – thank you Ryne…

  • Wow! What a story!!!
    A good friend, Ryne, and a strong competitor and sportspersdon!

    And we know which piece of equipment will be in your bag next time – real estate agents who show property in Weston in the winter carry these, too!

    Some years ago people used their spiked golf shoes to blow snow…

    Like eastern skiing you need sharp edges!!!

  • The young ones are maturing by leaps and bounds in both these races. There was a picture on YQ Facebook of Allen and team on the trail and the first thing I thought was that it was a mature, well-trained and well-handled team. Of course the leaders were not rookies, but the team on the whole looked like "we got this!"

    Aliy, you and the red team dogs did awesome! I love the locker room style analysis of the race. That's what you do after a big game, you analyze, assess, make notes and move forward. And Ryne, what a great friend/fellow musher she is! I get more hooked on SPK each year I follow you. And SPK crew, you all are what holds it all together. Your work does not go unnoticed. Great job!

  • Is anyone who knows the Ryne-SP Kennel connection surprised?? I doubt it!

    Thanks for your impressions of each dog's race. Love the way they all came together.

    I imagine you'll hear about your lack of crampons from Allen… yearly! All told, a strong second place finish to celebrate- way to go Red Team!

  • Wow! What a story of dogs and mushing experience. As a fan of Lester
    and Violet it takes an entire team to do a race! Glad to hear every-
    one is OK tho! Big Thanks to Ryne for helping a fellow musher!
    Go SPK!

  • Great reading love all the analysis of the dogs especially the new comers to the distance races . I felt exhausted reading up your uphill episode 🏔 . I always thought Ryne was a slightly younger version of Aliy …..all class ! Love reading these race blogs and love SP KENNELS ! Denali 🐾🐾 and Joanne 🇦🇺

  • Awesome recap, THANK YOU Aliy and Moira!
    Lester and Boonie, I don't know how you do it, 7 x 8.58 = 60, WOW.
    Way to go Chemo, Driver, and Iron (aka big dipper, heal up buddy.
    Sandy, I'm hoping you get your chance in the limelight soon, who knows?
    Amber, Daisy and Champ, fantastic finish on your first 300!!!!
    Good job Chena and Spark, I hope you're well and stay healthy.
    Way to finish Violet, yes, I'm a bit fond of this one too. :-))))

    Way to go Aliy, even the attempt at the difficult pass on Boulder Summit. Heck, ya never know what you can do, unless you try.
    Ryne and her team knew they would come back, not matter Aliy's answer, heck that there was family and friends!!!!

  • That was a great story!! You have a good friend in Ryne….its so nice to hear about Mushers helping other Mushers on the trail. So cool!!! I noticed the YQ 300 race rules were a bit sparce on the mandatory rests….6 hours…unlike the CB300 where it is basically prescribed! I would think teams enjoy the flexibility…and it allows strategy to play a role too….knowing your Team and its ability is the key….you have that down pat! Im thinking next time you will be packing some creepers for traction? OH….and Chemo…SO glad you got to run in lead my boy!!! Sounds like Aliy's sweet talking to you put some fast energy in your step! We are SO proud of you!! Good Boy!!

  • Yes – that's what you get when class trains class! Helping others is something that maybe was passed down or at least reinforced by Aliy and Allen over the years with Ryne. Thank you, Ryne. What goes around comes around.
    And wow – Aliy – what a GREAT race! Congratulations! All those youngsters! A lot of 'newbies' and my goodness the team did an awesome job. Now that this 'training run' (ha) is over, do you think any of the younger/newer athletes will make your Iditarod team? I can't believe what an incredible job they did on this race – can't believe it. And looking at the mountains/climbs/whatever, it is a grueling 300. Thank you for the wrap up and thank you for sharing the details. We will now be focusing all of our cheering on the Black Team! GO SP KENNEL!

  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this write-up! It brings the Quest to life as I sit in my kitchen in Wisconsin. Great story about Ryne. She is a quality person. You have such a terrific friendship. I don't know how you do it but it is evident that you love mushing dogs! I complained about the cold for the 3 minute walk from the parking lot to church tonight….it's 9 degrees which probably would seem warm to you. Mush on!

  • Great tale from a great race. I am glad all ended ok and thank goodness Ryne sensed something was wrong and pitched in. I love that sportsmanship that 90% of the mushers show. They will help a fellow racer in trouble even if it costs them precious time. Good to hear about the four footed team members and what each contributed. Proud of those young dogs and how well they are shaping up.
    Pets and scratches to each and a treat, well-deserved! Bravo SPK!

  • What a fabulous race analysis/recap. Thanks Ryne for your helping hand(pull) up to the summit. Thanks for sharing and the pictures. The fire litter are well represented are your team, Aliy.

  • What a fabulous race analysis/recap. Thanks Ryne for your helping hand(pull) up to the summit. Thanks for sharing and the pictures. The fire litter are well represented are your team, Aliy.

  • Awesome write up! Love hearing your about your experiences on the race. Especially love hearing how the dogs performed. They are all super stars! Also thanks to Ryne for helping you.

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