Punxsutawney Phil may not have seen his shadow on Groundhog Day, February 2nd, but most of the mushers out on the Tustumena 200 race trail did. And while the occasional sun sightings during the race once again made for unseasonably warm conditions, at least mushers could glance over at the shadow cast by their team and hope ~ contrary to Phil's prediction ~ it was a good omen for another 6 weeks of winter weather.
Of the 34 mushers to leave the T200 starting line this year, 5 scratched and 29 crossed the finish line. Anna worked her way up from a 25th starting position to finish in 16th place with 13 (of 14) dogs in harness. Kristy crossed the finish line in 9th place with all 14 dogs in harness. Despite having a team of young and fairly inexperienced dogs, Kristy's canine friends ran a very strong race. They were in great shape crossing the finish line, still full of spunk and injury-free. Those factors helped earn them a competitive ranking in the finish as well as Kristy being awarded this year's Humanitarian Award!
Anna and Kristy both enjoyed this year's T200. The race is held on the Kenai Peninsula, essentially in the backyard of the twins' home kennels. This means they both enjoy a lot of familiarity with the trails, checkpoints, and weather patterns. It also eliminates the often tiring and tedious need to travel a long distance before even getting to the starting line.
Their respective dog teams were both made up of young dogs without a lot of racing experience, but they faced the challenge well. One dog on Anna's team, a yearling in his first competitive race, decided part way through the race that he'd just had enough and didn't want to pull anymore. Rather than risk an injury or let his attitude infect the rest of the team, Anna secured him in her sled basket and carried him over 20 miles to the next checkpoint. Kristy essentially enjoyed the opposite behavior from one of her young dogs. Little Bit, a 1 year old female, was given a chance to run the lead position for a while during the race. Not only did she step up to the task, she did so remarkably well, leading the team for a 50 mile stretch. Given the warm conditions, both twins kept their speed in check and a close eye on the dogs for any sign of overheating.
With 23 mushers separating them, the twins did not get an opportunity to run along the trail together. But, during the 32+ total hours on the trail, they were usually able to overlap for a short time at the checkpoints, giving them a chance share tales from the trail and give each other encouragement.
The T200 was the last mid-distance race for the twins before the Iditarod. Anna and Scott Janssen had planned to compete in the Denali Doubles the following weekend but unfortunately had to drop out before the race. The Iditarod requires EKGs and blood work on all dogs listed on a musher's team, and both Anna and Scott ended up with scheduling conflicts between these tests and the race.
Here are a few photos and a pretty cool video from the race. Enjoy!
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Photo courtesy of the T200's Facebook Page.
While many folks were enjoying a long weekend courtesy of Martin Luther King Jr day on January 21st, Kristy and her canine pals were battling the challenging conditions on the Kuskokwim 300 race trail. Of the 28 mushers originally signed up for the race, 21 crossed the finish line. Our friend Paul Gebhardt posted an impressive 4th place finish. For her first attempt at this race, Kristy came in a respectable 19th place with 11 of 14 dogs in harness after 51 hours 34 minutes and 36 seconds on the trail.
The K300 is known for being a tough race by way of weather conditions, and this year was no exception. As much of the trail follows the river, there was no lack of jagged ice and overflow. There was also a fair amount of snow, some freezing rain, and poor visibility overall. Ambient air temps averaged below zero Fahrenheit with roughly -33F (-36C) temps when you factor in wind chill and wind gusts sometimes reaching 40mph.
Of the 14 dogs Kristy started with, 11 crossed the finish line. The 3 that were left in caring hands at checkpoints were suffering from sore wrists, a common ailment when trail conditions are rough. Duchess, one of Kristy's key leaders, was dropped early in the race, and Kristy paid for it later. Over half of her dog team was running their first competitive race ever, and few of the more experienced dogs were proven leaders. As Duchess was dropped about 1/3rd of the way into the race, that left Kristy juggling dogs and trying to find the right dog in her remaining team to lead the way.
Why is a good lead dog so important? Judge for yourself... At one point later in the race, Kristy left a checkpoint knowing the next section of trail ran along the lake. A ground blizzard was reported and, when you're running near a lake, misdirection can lead you to open water ~ a disaster in the making. Kristy left the checkpoint under very fair conditions and spent the first part of the run wondering what all the hub-bub was about. Before long, she hit a veritable wall of snow, with visibility so poor she often couldn't see the lead dog at the front of the gangline. Trail markers were knocked over or gone all together. Her inexperienced leader kept wanting to pull to the right, and she was left wondering if the dogs knew best or if it was time for a little human intervention. After swapping one dog after another in the lead position, eventually Kristy hopped off the sled and led the team on foot until conditions improved and the trail was more apparent. The twins are rarely scared when they're on a sled or out on the trail, but this was one situation where Kristy will admit she was more than a little nervous!
Fortunately, the race ended well and was generally a success. While this is an expensive race to run, Kristy says she would do it again. It is a fun race despite (or maybe because of) the challenges, and is a great learning experience for the musher and more seasoned dogs. It can be hard on yearlings, as Kristy learned firsthand with her young team this year. Part of what makes it especially fun is the fact that the race runs through small villages, and the inhabitants really get into it and support the mushers as they pass through.
Next up for both Kristy and Anna is the Tustumena 200, starting this Saturday, Feb. 2nd. The race starts in Kasilof, making it a "home game" for both of the twins. They have both been able to get out and run sections of the race trail on training runs, which hopefully will give them an advantage. Recent snowfall of 8-9 inches should make for good trail conditions if the current threat of freezing rain holds off. Although the T200 isn't known for having the brutal weather conditions of the K300, it is a very hilly race that presents its own challenges.
In addition to preparing for the T200 this weekend, Anna is also preparing for the Denali Doubles race starting on Feb. 7th, and both twins are frantically packing their drop bags for the 41st Iditarod. Drop bags are due to the Iditarod race committee in 2 weeks, which is no small undertaking. Each musher must have an idea of where they're planning to stop and what they might need when they get there, making educated guesses about the dogs that will make the final cut for the team and weather conditions. And nobody gets a "do-over" on drop bags... If you haven't packed it, you had better be prepared to find room for it in your sled or do without!
Stay tuned for more updates on the T200 and Iditarod preparations.
If you've been checking our site periodically, you're probably wondering where the race updates are for the 2012-2013 race season. Sadly, Mother Nature is not cooperating so far this year as far as snow is concerned! But before we get to that, allow us to provide a couple of other updates since our last Off Season Blog
For the second year in a row, Anna and Kristy participated in the Turkey Trot on the Kenai Peninsula on Thanksgiving weekend to benefit the Tustumena 200 race organization. The twins crossed the finish line together after 29 minutes, 56 seconds to take 1st and 2nd place in the women's 5k division. Check out this article on the event in the Peninsula Clarion
After the Turkey Trot, both Kristy and Anna were eagerly looking forward to running with their canine friends in the Sheep Mountain 150 in mid-December. Although not one of the longest mid-distance races held in the area, it is still recognized as being a very tough race given the mountainous terrain and often rough trail conditions. Those two factors mandate a substantial snow base on the trail for mushers to race safely, as snow is needed to ensure teams have proper braking ability and to limit chance of injury to the dogs. Unfortunately, race officials determined there just wasn't enough snow to safely hold the race this year and it was cancelled.
The twins spent the second half of December on training runs around their respective kennels, celebrating the holidays, and ringing in the new year. We hope this time was also enjoyed by all of our fans, no matter where you were or how you chose to celebrate!!
The first race on the calendar for the twins in the new year was the Knik 200 on January 5th. Alas, this race was also cancelled due to unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow. At this point, if weather and trail conditions hold, Anna and Kristy have a few events on the horizon:Kuskokwim 300
: Starts at 6:30pm Alaska time on Friday, Jan. 18th in Bethel, Alaska. Kristy is one of 28 total mushers currently registered in the race.Tustumena 200
: Starts at 11:00am Alaska time on Saturday, Feb. 2nd in Kasilof, Alaska. Kristy will be starting in 2nd position and Anna will be running in 23rd position for Dean Osmar's kennel, in a field of 29 total. Denali Doubles
: Anna will be teaming up with friend of the kennel and fellow musher Scott Janssen for their first attempt at the Denali Doubles Sled Dog Race. The race is run Feb. 7 - 9 and starts in Cantwell, Alaska.
We'll do our best to post updates on these races to the site.
Even though snow conditions have limited competitive race miles so far this season, the training miles continue to rack up. Both twins have packed up the dogs and gear when necessary and driven several hours away from their homes in Kasilof to find trails suitable to run on.
And don't forget ~ the 41st running of the Iditarod will be here before we know it! We're pleased to post that both Kristy and Anna's Iditarider auctions were quickly closed. Anna's sled was purchased by Peter Stephens from The Lotus Group out of the UK and Kristy's sled was again purchased by Halliburton. Proceeds from the Iditarider auction benefit the Iditarod Trail race organization and help make the race possible, so thank you for supporting an event that we love.
Anna gets frosty during a training run at -10F. She's still smiling under that face mask!
The view from a cabin up in the hills ~ one destination in this season's quest to find snowy trails.
There's more info turning up on line from this past weekend's T200. You can find some quotes from Anna in this article in the Peninsula Clarion
. There have also been some neat photos published from the Homer checkpoint (nice shot of the dog teams bedded down, below). You can find the link to more pictures on the Tustumena 200's race site. You can also find short video clips of the race start by searching on YouTube.
Photo of the Homer checkpoint during the 2012 Tustumena 200 (photo posting courtesy of odoi2009).
Congrats to Anna and her young team of dogs for successfully finishing the Tustumena 200 this past weekend. Anna secured an 8th place finish in 28 hours and 27 minutes (total race time not including the mandatory rest time) with 10 of the starting 14 dogs in harness. Anna was also the recipient of the Humanitarian Award! The 4 dogs that were dropped at various points suffered from nothing more severe than sore wrists or yearling attitudes. There were 21 mushers initially registered to compete with 5 scratching before the race start and another 5 scratching during the race.
There are some neat photos turning up online
Anna is registered and will be wearing bib #9 for this year's Tustumena 200, which will have her off and running down the trail Saturday Jan. 28th at 11am Alaska time. She will be racing a team of younger, less experienced dogs, so her tails from the trail could be interesting.
There are a few amendments to the T200 rules for 2012. A few highlights:
- There will be two mandatory layovers instead of one ~ 4 hours (2 hours each outbound and inbound) at the new checkpoint in Homer and a 6 hour layover at the halfway point in Clam Gulch.
- This also effectively increases total mandatory layover time from 8 to 10 hours.
- The Caribou Lake checkpoint has been eliminated.
- There will be no T100 run this year.
What a way to wrap up 2011! Kristy fought her way through sub-zero temperatures, steady winds that at times were gusting 30-45mph, soft trail (when it wasn't river overflow, that is...), and alternating deep or blowing snow conditions to take 1st place in the women's division and 2nd place overall. She was very pleased with how her veteran team of dogs ran given the severity of the conditions.
Congrats also go out to Paul Gebhardt for taking 2nd place in the men's division and for receiving the Veterinary Care Award!
Anna ran a great race in this year's Sheep Mountain 150. Due to some scheduling conflicts, she was a late entrant to the race and thus started in the back of the pack with bib number 47. She encountered a very well-used trail given her position, but the weather was cooperative the first day. She did have an issue with one dog suffering reoccurring nose bleeds. A race vet confirmed the bleeds were not cause for concern and were likely stemming from a simple scratch that couldn't heal under the exertion of racing. So Anna took advantage of this race's rules and swapped that dog for another.
The second day of racing brought some menacing weather and, near the finish line, an encounter with a musher of highly questionable sportsmanship. But Anna was able to keep her team in check and successfully cross the finish line with total race time of 31 hours 8 minutes. She had 12 dogs in harness and placed 32nd. She was also the recipient of the Veterinary Care Award!
Kristy enjoyed a successful start to the 2011-12 race season with a 12th place finish in the Alaska Excursions 120. Her total race time was 7:06:45.