Posts Tagged ‘AJ’

Iditarod (4)


March 10th, 2016 Posted 7:50 am

Overnight report from Snowhook’s Rebecca, CEO of our team in the world’s greatest dog sled race:

‘Taking the 24’ is musher shorthand for whether or not a team has completed their mandatory 24 hour layover. At the time of this update, some teams have completed their 24—Snowhook among them—and others are in the process of ticking off the minutes of their mandatory layover. The 24 not only offers extended comfort for the dogs, but also a chance for the musher to get rest in greater than two hour increments. The fatigue of a race not only wears on the body, but also the mind. The mental fatigue of sleep deprivation can lead to poor choices, slower responses, and avoidable mistakes. How does AJ combat the mental fatigue of the trail? One word–routine.

Mushers have to have a system for how they do things. When mind and body are tired, the routine kicks in as muscle memory. AJ has his sled back packed in a certain way. Items like matches, salves, and booties go into the same pocket or sled bag pouch every time. Even the drop bags are packed with a system in mind. Checkpoints can have up to three drop bags. AJ labels the drop bags as with an ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and ‘C.’ He knows exactly what he will find in each drop bag, as the the staples—-kibble, meat, equipment, his meals—are all packed in the same way at each checkpoint. Why does this matter? Because efficiency impacts a musher’s race.

The lay of the race land starts to come together once teams have taken their 24 followed by their mandatory 8 hour layover. However, a 24 and the 8 does not alone a race make. A lot can happen on the trail, good and bad.

A team can have a good run or a bad run between checkpoints. Things can go wrong that halt a good run, and things can go well that propel a team in the right direction. When things do not go the musher’s way, can he or she hit the reset button? For some, the answer is yes. For others, it can be done with some difficulty. A musher’s routine can help push that reset button, and help them deal with their new reality that the trail presents.

Admin: Taking 24 – probably a good idea for everybody! And an update – AJ and the team are on the trail now, nearing the Takotna checkpoint.


Tags: , , ,
Posted in Chet The Dog

Iditarod (3)


March 9th, 2016 Posted 6:58 am

The Iditarod overnight report from Rebecca, CEO of Snowhook – our team!

In a thousand mile race, what you hope for and what actually happens are two different things. For us, what we hope is that what we plan for is closer to what actually happens on the race spectrum. While you would not hope to be hood up on the side of a trail with a broken runner, it does happen. With a low snow year, AJ sent out a second sled to McGrath before he left the starting line. This kind of planning did not take a crystal ball. Both pain and experience are a beautiful teachers. In 2014, AJ pulled into McGrath driving something that once had resembled a dog sled and traded it for a second sled he sent to McGrath ahead of time. The second sled that year was courtesy Rose and Grizz from Chet’s blog. What was a luxury for Snowhook, became a necessity.

The broken runner that AJ limped into McGrath from Nikolai yesterday is not to the extent of 2014’s damage, but it is not the first time AJ has experienced actuality vs. hope on the trail. In 2012, his sled was damaged, and again in 2013. Not only did AJ ship out a second sled this year, his normal practice is to carry a small tool kit in his sled bag. Did he try to make repairs on the trail or while the team rested in Nikolai?—It is possible. Maybe the possible repairs were enough to gracefully get the team to McGrath, maybe not. In any event, I can hear AJ’s voice saying something I have heard him say to mushers and fans, ‘Whatever happens on the trail, that’s you’re new reality. You have to make it work.’ This is true. Although there are somethings like trail conditions that are out of a musher’s hands, there are somethings that are in the squarely in the musher’s mitts.

The dogs do the running, but the musher makes the decisions. Each of these decisions—when and where to rest the team and for how long, what to feed, to bootie or not to bootie—impacts the dogs and ultimately your race for better or for worse. It is not just the decisions made after the five, four, three, two, one at the starting line that count. Training matters. Being a presence for and with the dogs so they have confidence in their musher when things are uncertain and difficult (like breaking a runner in the Farewell Burn) matters. Trust, attitude, consistency—it all matters. All these factors are a choice that AJ can make or not make. Either way, it impacts the dogs.

Breaking a runner was not part of Snowhook’s race strategy, but preparing for the possibility of it was part of the plan not just by sending out a second sled, but by establishing a relationship of consistency and trust with the dogs. The team ran at least 48 miles with a broken runner, but now in McGrath—the base of Operation Find Whitey-Lance in 2010—AJ will switch from his broken sled to his finishing sled.

How else does McGrath play into Snowhook’s planning?—It will serve as the home of AJ’s mandatory 24 hour layover. There, AJ and the dogs will rest, eat and repeat.

And here is team member Fritz (thanks, Dawson):



Iditarod (1)


March 7th, 2016 Posted 8:24 am

And they’re off! We refer to the Iditarod, world’s greatest dog sled race, and of course we are backing Snowhook, the wonderfully humane kennel with a close association to this blog. Some of the Plunderers (an energetic sub-group of the blog) are up in Alaska at the moment. And we’re very lucky to get insider race reports from Rebecca, CEO of Snowhook. Here’s today’s:

“It’s a nice day for a dog race,” Coach, the father not the dog said as we approached the staging area for the restart in Willow. It was true unless you are the dog. The uncharacteristically warm winter—above freezing— is impacting the race strategy of every team. And, if it is not, it should be.

Typically, we prefer to draw a smaller bib number for an earlier start time and a less churned up trail, but not this year. This year is different. Pulling bib 46 at the mushers banquet had the team leaving mid-afternoon and less out of the heat of the day. This is better for the dogs. AJ’s intent to hold the team back to preserve them in the heat is being hampered by trail conditions. With a winter that has included more freezing rain than snow storms, the trails are fast and hard. To slow the team, AJ left the starting line towing a trailer behind his sled full with half a bale of straw—anything to slow the team.

At the time of this post, the team has likely finished putting that straw to good use. After camping on the trail almost twenty miles from the second checkpoint, the team is back on the move. Snowhook is not the only team on the move. Not a lot of distance exists between teams. They are either stacked at a checkpoint or stacked on the trail. As the race progresses, the field of eighty-five teams will space out on the trail.

Here’s a list of Snowhook’s team (thanks, Boo Bear), with Abe pictured at the bottom (thanks, HOH): Amy
Rio Jr



Tags: , , ,
Posted in Chet The Dog

Chetspeak on Sunday


March 6th, 2016 Posted 7:37 am

“I’m Adelina Borghese,” the woman said.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Bernie, extending his hand. Adelina Borghese’s hand remained at her side.

“Didn’t that policeman mention me?” she said. “I thought this was all set up.”

“Ah,” said Bernie. “The client with the ridic – “ He stopped himself. “Uh, come in. Please. The office is – “ He motioned down the hall. Adelina’s gaze followed the movement, paused on a pair of boxers lying on the floor. Bernie noticed. “Um, on vacation,” he said. “The maid.”

We had a maid? So many things I liked about Bernie, and that was just one of them: you learned something new every day. But no time to think about that now. I bolted outside, raced to the rock at the end of the driveway and lifted my leg. At the same time, I heard that yip-yip-yip, and, leg still up, turned my head – I can turn it practically right around backward if I have to – and there was Iggy at his window. Good to see Iggy, but – uh-oh, what was that? He was lifting his leg, too.





The Books

powered by wordpress | site by michael baker digital