SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

YQ: "Two More Runs"

The Black Team are off and away towards Braeburn!

At 7.02am, just under four hours from arrival time, Allen took all 13 team mates down the trail.

As Allen was leaving he reminded us, himself and the dogs: "Two More Runs". This next run is around 75 miles then at Braeburn all the teams have a mandatory eight hour stop before the final 100 mile push to the finish line in Whitehorse.

This is a massive deal for Allen's Yukon Quest rookies. They are more than 800 miles into a highly competitive 1000 miles race and they are still going strong. It's exciting and inspiring.

It's all a bit of a blur 800 miles in!

The handler crew will now sleep for a few hours here before we go to Braeburn Lodge, home of the famous cinnamon buns and plate-sized burgers!

YQ: Black Team in Carmacks

It was great to see the team come into Carmacks looking great. The dogs were perky and in good shape, and they are parked here for a few hours rest before the run through to Braeburn.

The dogs ate exceptionally well when they arrived with bags of snacks and kibble with water devoured right away! Allen also ate well with a "Musher's Sampler Platter". He couldn't decide on the Shepherd's Pie or the Pasta Bake so he had both.

Allen and Hugh were bantering back and forth once Hugh got up from his rest and it was quite comical. Even in their sleep deprived state they can enjoy each other's company. We saw Brent for a fleeting moment but he was on the move, filling his water thermos and hitting the trail!

Kodiak and Scout lead the team into Carmacks; Allen enjoys the "Mushers' Sampler Platter"

Allen said it definitely feels like it cooled off a bit which is nice for him and the dogs. The temperature right now in Carmacks is around 3F but the forecast is for another warm day tomorrow.

My photography capabilities are limited at 3am so check out the Yukon Quest Facebook Page for some great pics and video of the Black Team's arrival.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

YQ: Carmacks Handler Update

We've just arrived into Carmacks checkpoint after leaving Pelly and stopping in to McCabe Creek dog drop.

Black Team leaving Pelly Crossing

Allen and the Black Team left Pelly after about a four hour rest. Allen managed to get a good sleep and some great eggs (thanks Jill) before he quickly and efficiently completed is exit chores: feeding the dogs, packing his sled and bootying/dressing his team mates before hitting the trail to McCabe. Bridgett led the team up to the checkout point to give them a chance to pee and poo after their sleep, then they got on their way, heading down the road for the next few hours.

He led out with Mismo and Kodiak, Waylon and Scout in swing, the sassy girls Chipper and Izzy are still running together, Schmoe and Scruggs, Willie and Dutch, Mac gets to choose which side of the line he runs on as he has no running partner, then Commando and Clyde still in wheel.

Thanks to the Vet crew!; Allen opens the student letters (don't worry, Bridgett got permission to be that close to the dog team - we normally are not allowed to do so)

We cleaned up the camp spot; by then Allen had put all his reject stuff into used drop bags; then got a bite to eat before making our way to McCabe Creek.

The Kruse Family are so welcoming and it is always a nice stop along the way. The cinnamon buns (right) are legendary! They have pecans and sultanas and all good things, and the coffee is good! Thanks Jari and team, we really appreciate everything you do.

While we were there Mark (our Mark) and Mark Sass (Brent's Dad) helped whip up a drying rack around the wood stove for any mushers stopping in and wanting their gear dried. It was something to behold: one minute there was nothing, next minute there was a sturdy temporary structure ready and waiting.

We saw Hugh and team go through and watched as Brent fed and bed-down his dogs for a short rest. The Black Team followed about an hour later and Allen didn't even stop - he gee-hawed them through the driveway and disappeared into the night.

We did manage to catch a glimpse of the team and they did look good. He'd swapped out Mismo for Scout in the lead with Kodiak but it was too dark and too quick to spot any other configuration changes.

Before he left Pelly Allen said this next leg has a bit of everything: hills, river, roads so it will be interesting for the dogs to have different terrain and environments.

Carmack's checkpoint is actually my old stomping ground. My first experience with the Yukon Quest was as a volunteer at Dawson and Carmacks and I spent nearly a week here back in 2012. It feels familiar and like I have come home to my Quest roots!

Like Pelly, there is a large gymnasium where handlers, fans and supporters can sleep, a lounge area with wi-fi and the mushers will sleep upstairs away from the hustle and bustle of the checkpoint.

Felix Update: he's doing great! I sat outside with him for a while when we arrived tonight and he just wanted a butt scratch and some kisses.

He is feeling so much better and he's eating as we would hope. For those interested, and not eating their dinner right now, his bum is no longer runny so that's great news.

He's going to start getting sassy soon as he will be fully rested and back to himself!

YQ: Black Team First to Pelly

At 12.53pm Allen and the Black Team arrived as the first team into the Pelly Crossing checkpoint.

The dogs looked so good and happy coming in and, as usual, Mac was slamming his harness and screaming while Allen had his mandatory gear checked by the officials.

Mac yells! Izzy and Chipper get their straw beds

Bridgett then led the team to a nice parking spot just off the main trail and Allen set to and methodically completed his chores. First up is always giving the dogs snacks of beef and poultry skins and a little dry kibble right off the snow. What I thought was great was that the dogs weren't so tired that they flopped down immediately, they snacked and settled and only once the straw was down and booties off did we see them stretch out and enjoy the sun. Mismo decided he wanted to sleep right on the snow rather than straw. Allen massaged and wrapped a couple of wrists, just as a precautionary measure and the vets came to have a quick check-over and consult with Allen if he had any issues.

There were a sweet moment during the busy-ness: we all know that Dutch is a lover and when Allen was kneeling next to him taking is booties off Dutch was kissing and nuzzling him.

When the race goes from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Pelly Crossing is where Allen gets light! He took off the caboose of his sled and will now be travelling as lightly as he can while keeping enough food, supplies and equipment to keep them safe out there. You know when you clean out your kitchen cupboards and it looks way worse until it looks better when you pull everything out, sort it then put it back in? Well, that's what his camp spot looked like while he was repacking!

Allen works on his sled

Allen then came inside and devoured two plates of lasagne, answered a few questions from the media and then took his place in the mushers' sleeping quarters for a fast, but hopefully rejuvenating sleep. Allen himself is looking good and is extremely coherent. The potential strategies and timing of other mushers Bridgett was working out this morning - Allen was doing the same thing during his run. His math is better than mine right now and he's been on a sled since Saturday!!

Allen is not that fond of this weather. When one of the reporters asked him if he preferred this weather (around 30-34F) to last years 50 below he said he preferred last year! He said it is so much better for the dogs to be cooler and if he had to choose between the two he'd choose 50 below. The advantage he said is that the team is now resting during the heat of the day compared to a few other mushers who are still mushing through the afternoon.

Once Allen and team pull out of Pelly we (handler crew) will need to clear up the camp spot then tuck tail to get to McCabe Creek Dog Drop to meet the team there. You won't hear from me on here again until we get to Carmacks so keep an eye on the Yukon Quest website and Facebook page for updates. I may be able to post a few pics to our Instagram and Facebook so check them out also.

Anything can still happen in this race. There are a bunch of them in striking distance of a win or a top five placing and we could still see some big moves and surprising tactics. It's a long way from over!

I have video of the team arriving but don't want to use up all the checkpoint's bandwidth so I'll catch you up at the end.

Waylon wins Bonus Fan Club Draw

Congratulations to Barb who has won this week's draw. Barb is a fan of WAYLON.

Right now Waylon is on the trail between Stepping Stone and Pelly Crossing and we can't wait to see him soon!

Waylon is such a Super Star. He is running in lead a lot and is as positive and energetic as he has ever been. One would think that his enthusiasm for trotting down the trail would lessen over the years... NOPE! His new favorite running partner is Mismo - they are funny to watch as a pair. Waylon has lost none of his confidence or swagger!

As we are in the middle of the Quest, Barb wins a 2016 Yukon Quest patch and race programme signed by both Aliy and Allen, along with some other kennel goodies.

Our next draw is next Friday, February 19th. If you haven't already won this season or if you are a new member your name will be in the next draw.

NOTE: you can win more than once if you are a fan of more than one dog!

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:

Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

YQ: Pelly Crossing Update

The handler crew rolled into Pelly Crossing checkpoint about midnight last night and immediately threw our sleeping pads and bags down and got a GREAT sleep. The checkpoint is based in the community centre and gym so there is always plenty of space to spread out and relax while our mushers and teams are out on the trail.

The local school students have made pictures of the mushers and written them letters to open once they arrive. It's so fun to see how the communities get involved with the race.

The temperatures in this part of the world have been and are forecast to be warm so the volunteers have packed snow around the drop bags to keep them frozen. The bags are full of frozen meat and human food so it is important to keep it cold.

Drop bags packed in snow; the handlers' sleeping quarters

This morning Allen and the Black Team went through Stepping Stone Hospitality Stop at around 8.30am (there are no 'official' times as it is not an actual checkpoint).

The run from Stepping Stone to Pelly is around 38 miles. The trail is evidently hard packed and fast with few obstacles so we hope to see them early this afternoon (unless he plans to camp again on the trail).

The Yukon Quest team have done an awesome job setting up internet for us to use in checkpoints so we will be utilising it to watch the tracker very closely. Bridgett is a master at studying the tracker and working out different scenarios for different mushers so it's is fun to try to figure who is going to make what move next!

Felix Update: Felix is doing fine; he had a long sleep and he ate a good meal this morning. He is obviously feeling better! Next time we get him out of the truck we'll get a pic or two.

Friday, February 12, 2016

YQ: Halftime Interview with Clyde

The handler crew has just arrived into Pelly Crossing checkpoint and we are going to get some rest before the teams come in later this morning or early this afternoon.

In the meantime check out this interview.

Clyde found time in his busy Dawson schedule to answer a few questions from Aliy about how the race has gone so far.

Watch for the out-take at the end as he literally falls asleep mid-question.

YQ: Watch the Team Leave Dawson

Allen and the Black Team left Dawson at 2.19am. Leading the team out was Kodiak and Mismo with Scout and Waylon in swing, Chipper and Izzy will run this next leg together followed by Schmoe and Scruggs; Dutch and Willie partner up, and Mac took his place alone on the line. Clyde and Commando bring up the rear in the wheel position.

In this video you'll see them leaving the camp spot with both Allen and Aliy on the sled as they make their way out to the checkout point. Allen's mandatory gear was checked then they were sent on their way.

YQ: They're On Their Way!

We got Allen and 13 of his team mates on their way to Pelly Crossing right on time and rearing to go.

The great news is we have 13 fantastic, strong, healthy and enthusiastic dogs on the trail with Allen!

Unfortunately Felix is still with us.

He came into Dawson looking great but he didn't eat as well as everyone else during the layover. He had a bit of a runny bum (not the technical term) and as departure time got closer it was clear he wasn't feeling 100%. We just ran out of time to get him over it completely.

He needs a couple more days rest, hydration and medicine but it is something we expect him to get over very quickly. Allen decided it was in Felix's best interest to do the rest of the race in the truck.

Allen is very fond of Felix and will miss him on the team.

We don't see the team now for a long time as they travel the 200-odd miles to Pelly. All we will see is the bouncing dog on the tracker so will be hitting refresh repeatedly!

We are catching some sleep now and will break camp down tomorrow. Thanks for waiting up with us!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

YQ: Leaving Dawson

It's T minus three hours! Allen and the Black Team will pull the hook at 2.19am (local time). Brent Sass and his team leaves a hair under two hours ahead and Hugh Neff half an hour after Allen. Matt Hall and Ed Hopkins also leave just a few hours behind.

Right now in Dawson it is 18F and there had been snow falling for at least 24 hours but it has now cleared a little. It's been a lot warmer this year than last which is great for the dogs while resting to stretch out when sleeping to ease their muscles and relax. It's not so great for the dogs running though as they would prefer a little colder.

Allen is about to head over to camp to start packing his sled and gearing up for the 200-odd mile run into Pelly Crossing. He will ensure he has enough dog food and snacks to feed meals along the way. He'll need human food also, and enough fuel for his cooker to make dog and human water to keep them all hydrated. It's so warm right now so hydration is important. Spare clothing and equipment for both musher and dogs is critical on such a long run because, as we know on the Quest, anything can happen and they must have contingency plans in place.

We will help gear the dogs up by dressing them in T-shirts and/or jackets if needed, booties and harnesses. At around T minus 15 minutes they will leave the camp spot and make their way down to the opposite end of the camp ground to sign-out and go.

As the run is over 200 miles they will need to stop between Dawson and Pelly - at this stage we don't know whether Allen will ask his team to do it in two runs or three. Historically he has run it in three but he could mix it up a bit this year. Who knows? (Well, actually, we do know but we ain't gonna share that piece of strategic information!)

About halfway along the trail to Pelly Crossing is Scroggy Creek. Scroggy is a dog drop stop manned by volunteers and vets and there won't be recorded times in and out as it is not an official checkpoint. Allen described Scroggy as an "8' x 8' uninsulated plywood cabin with a wood stove". It's an important milestone for the mushers to know they are almost halfway to Pelly! Any dogs left there will make their way forward to be picked up by the handler teams. The teams then get to Stepping Stone hospitality stop - famous for their creative signage and good food; then onto Pelly.

Earlier today there was a myriad of tasks to be completed. Mark was in charge of ensuring the sled was ready and all the gear dried out. Bridgett and Aliy have been mostly in charge of the dogs with help from Mark and I. As you will have seen, I've been in charge of letting y'all know what's been going on. The Dogs' and Allen's job today was to sleep and eat.

The town is really getting behind the race, as it does every year. This evening there is a city bonfire to celebrate the race and there are lots of people out and about to watch the first bunch of mushers leave. We are excited to get the team back on the trail this morning. I'll be back briefly after they've left to update you.