Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca’

Iditarod (9) Home Stretch Edition


March 16th, 2016 Posted 8:20 am

Rebecca of Snowhook’s overnight report (we have AJ at 40 out of 86 who began):

As the daughter of a successful football coach, I often heard fans sitting in the stands say that we had the win in the bag as the game neared its end. “A lot can happen in two minutes,” my mother would say. She was right. And, while the two minute warning is measured in miles on the trail, the same is true. A lot can happen between Anchorage and Nome. It always does.

Without a doubt most mushers if not all mushers have a different race than he or she intended, front runners and back of the packers alike and all the teams in between. Most mushers leave the starting line with goals or at the least, day dreams of winning, breaking the top twenty, being recognized as the most improved, or receiving awards like the humanitarian honor, rookie of the year, or sportsmanship. But, there are only so many awards to go around, and only one first place finish.

The first team may have crossed the finish line hours ago, but the race is not over. It is not over for those teams in the middle of the pack or those closer to the trail sweeps than they are to the finish line. For them, the trek from checkpoint to checkpoint may be a race within the race, each mile may be a triumph.

Recently, our neighbor’s daughter entered her first 100 mile race. Her mother stressed and worried that her daughter finished last after she stopped to care for a dog she would eventually drop. I told her mother, “There is no shame for coming in last for caring for your team. Shame comes from putting race standings before the dogs.” Every team has a different race. For some, the race went closer to plan and day dreams than it did for others.

The miles are many for those still on the trail. Once the team leaves the Elim checkpoint, there are 123 miles that separate Snowhook and the finish line. Even though not all races go according to plan, I have my own race plans. I plan to meet the team under the burled arch. Based on the next 123 miles, I anticipate to greet my favorite musher on Front Street in the wee hours of Thursday morning.



Iditarod (8) Cool Place Name Edition


March 15th, 2016 Posted 9:23 am

Overnight report from Snowhook’s Rebecca. (We have AJ running 40 out of 73 remaining. And a big congrats to Dallas Seavey, into Nome! And thus the winner, for any newbies out there.)

There are many tricks of the trail that mushers know like there is pie in Takotna, fail to leave an offering at old Old Woman cabin at your own risk, and look for the lights of Koyuk. This last trick has served AJ well in the past.

In 2012, the trail markers between Shaktoolik and Koyuk were blown out by a storm. For hours AJ tried to find his way to the checkpoint through a maze of jumble ice. When some race fans called for his rescue, he did not give up on the dogs, nor they on him. Instead, they waited for darkness to fall. With the lights of Koyuk as a beacon, the team made it to the checkpoint, and with some rest, continued to the finish line. This is not the only time the lights of Koyuk have been a welcome sight for the team.

In 2015, under a bluebird sky, the team reached Shaktoolik. While tending to the dogs, AJ was told by an Elder that a storm was coming. He was counseled to leave the checkpoint earlier than he planned. I have a couple of my own tricks of the trail for AJ—please and thank you go a long way, and listen to the Elders. With the latter echoing in his head he prepared to leave. Before pulling the snowhook, he tried to rally other teams to hit the trail early. He left the checkpoint alone.

Sitting at home, I watched his GPS tracker as well as the trackers of the pack of teams that left a couple hours ahead of him. I also watched as one of the pack fell behind and then stopped for far too long. AJ, now traveling in high winds and low visibility, had no way of knowing another team was camped in the trail ahead. I watched as AJs GPS came upon the tracker of the other team. In the matter of just a few refreshes, with AJ serving as pace car, both teams were moving toward the lights of Koyuk. In the hours to come, other teams in distress would be reported in that same stretch—could they see the lights of Koyuk?

Yesterday evening, the team reached Shaktoolik. After resting, they will head for Koyuk when our slice of the world is asleep. Running to the lights of Koyuk—not a bad way to start the day.


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Posted in Chet The Dog

Iditarod (7): Memorial Edition


March 14th, 2016 Posted 8:29 am

Many thanks to Rebecca, CEO of the Snowhook team, for this overnight Iditarod post. It will mean a lot to people here who knew Melanie.

I often write these posts in the late hours when sleep will not come and while I wait for the #46 flag to diligently march across the map in three minute increments. This is one such post. Sometimes the words come easy and other times they are forced, they take greater effort that I want to give. Yet, tonight, although simple, I feel the words are with me.

Tonight there is a team running the long trail from Kaltag to the first checkpoint on the coast with a purple ribbon tied to the sled. Neither the color of the ribbon or its sparkles are the musher’s style. No, not even close. However, instead of being removed as the sled is rigged for the race, the ribbon is tightened. The ribbon is a remnant of a race dedicated to a woman who battled cancer. It is a reminder of a woman who was one of Snowhook’s champions. It is a way to honor someone we call friend.


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Posted in Chet The Dog

Iditarod (6)


March 13th, 2016 Posted 9:19 am

First, this strange and unhappy story from last night on the trail.

Then, our report from the hard-working Rebecca, CEO of Snowhook, our team (and unhurt in last night’s event). She has also sent in a story she wrote, supplementing the report and linked to below. Chetspeak on Sunday returns next Sunday.

Watching and waiting for the GPS tracker flag to move becomes a professional sport at Snowhook. As past races has taught, the flag—or the damn flag, as I affectionately call it—does not move on command. It is easy to will the flag to move or plead for it to move faster, but what we watch on the screen is different that the reality of the trail. This is where trust in AJ’s judgement comes into play. A lot of factors impact AJs decision to run or rest, to check-in at a checkpoint or blow through it and camp on the trail.

Checkpoints usually offer amenities like water, a designated space for mushers to sleep, and sometimes access to indoor plumbing. The water may or may not be hot, and that space to slumber is not the Hilton. Yet, when a musher is tired, he or she can sleep just about anywhere. The space that welcomes the weary musher can be a gym floor in the village school, or a room in the Elder center. What the checkpoint might lack in Egyptian cotton and high thread count, they usually more than make up for in mushers dozing in their fur covered mushing gear. How could a musher trade the hospitality of a checkpoint for camping on the trail?

The musher may seek out peace and quiet so the dogs can rest without the distraction of teams parked next to them in a dog lot. Or, it could be part of the planned or unplanned run/rest schedule. Typically, but not always a team will match their rest with the time spent running. However, the team’s performance, trail conditions, weather, and the distance between checkpoints impacts when and where AJ chooses to camp the team. Whether camping or at the checkpoint, the care given to the dogs does not change.

When AJ stops to rest the team, the dogs are fed, booties removed, beds made for the dogs, paws checked and muscles massaged. It is then, that AJ will eat. It is then that he might sleep. Each of these tasks is done efficiently as possible. The quicker the tasks are completed, the more uninterrupted rest the dogs receive. But, what about the short breaks we see the team take on the GPS tracker? We have to trust the unknown reason. It could be stopping to untangle a line, switch a dogs position, to snack the dogs. These breaks can also be a time to play, to encourage, to love. In the spirit of Chetspeak Sunday, below is a link to such a tale of the trail.



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