The remainder of December and most of January were focused on fairly aggressive Iditarod-geared training runs, with the team tackling 200, 300, and 250 mile training campouts, predominantly along the scenic Denali Highway. The twins also found time for a quick presentation to the Rotary Club in downtown Anchorage, taking Jonah along to enjoy the views from the top floors of the Hilton.
January 27th brought the start of the Tustumena 200 (T200). Designed as a 200 mile race, lack of snow necessitated a reroute, resulting in 167 miles of challenging trail through the Caribou Hills on the southern Kenia Peninsula of Alaska. The hills were no joke - as elevation changes were the standard for this trail - nor were the glaciers and dangerous water crossings. Of 18 entrants, Anna finished 10th and Kristy 13th, after 28 hr 56 min and 29 hr 18 minutes, respectively. Three teams scratched. For those curious on the overall spread, the winner came in around 26 1/2 hours while the “red lantern” came in at 33 1/2 hours.
After only a few day’s rest, Seeing Double didn’t have to venture far from home for the start of the Willow 300 (W300) on February 1st, a (technically) 279 mile race through the Susitna Valley. Thirty-five teams with 14 dogs each converged on Lake Willow for an atypical mass start (most races usually have teams start individually in 2 minute intervals). Although Anna said both longer races of the season had “friendly weather”, they did see -25F (-31.6C) air temps and intense headwinds at times during this one. Anna finished in 20th place in 52 hr 16 min and Kristy finished 22nd in 53 hr 5 min. Five of the thirty-five teams scratched.
Most Iditarod-qualifying and sanctioned mid-distances races award Sportsmanship and Humanitarian awards, both held in high regard in the sport. The Humanitarian award is voted on by the race’s vets for the musher they feel exhibited exceptional dog care during the event. Anna was thrilled to be named this year’s Willow 300 Humanitarian award winner!
All attentions are now focused on Iditarod 2018. Drop Bags, the bags of dog and musher food and supplies shipped out to checkpoints in advance of the 1,000 mile race, are due by Feb. 15th. Each of these is a logistical consideration, an educated guess at what you and your dogs likely need most at each of the 25 checkpoints along the trail. More training runs will be made and gear readied.
Generally, Kristy and Anna feel good about their dogs and their season thus far. They've made changes to their training program, the dogs' diet, and they have lots of new canine talent in the kennel. This season, they’ve been focused on training for Iditarod rather than impressive fast finishes in mid-distance events. They’re also training 3 Iditarod dog teams (with Kristy's husband Andy Pohl running a team this year), which presents some logistical challenges and stretches things a bit thinner than they’d like. But they are confident in their experience as mushers and their dogs and are optimistic personal bests can be achieved in Iditarod 2018.
While you wait for the start of the 46th Iditarod, be sure to check out...
Footage from the Mass Start of the Willow 300 (ADN.com)
Seeing Double helps The Try Guys Race Dog Sleds, in Part 3 of the Dirty Tour.
And of course... pictures!