Sprint Racing Season FINALLY Begins in Fairbanks
Yesterday marked the beginning of the two-day Gold Run Championship sled dog race. Due to poor snow conditions, this championship race was the first sprint race of the season. Normally teams would be running regular preliminary races throughout the winter. This year conditions on the race track were so poor that it was deemed unsafe to race.
The Gold Run was also nearly cancelled, when vandals in large four-wheel drive road vehicles went "off roading" on the trails, spinning donuts and cutting deep ruts that did significant damage to the carefully groomed trails. Hours of last minute work by the Chena Lake Recreation Area trail crew, led by Matt Steffy.
The results of yesterday's runs are posted on-line at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association web-site. I would expect the final results to be posted some time this evening.
The next sprint race on the schedule is the North Pole Championship race, also at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, scheduled for next weekend (February 27th & 28th)
Award Winners Honored at Quest Finish Banquet
Rookies won major accolades in the form of special awards, granted at the Yukon Quest finish banquet last night. In addition to winning Rookie of the Year, Josh Cadjow was granted the Veterinarian's Choice award. The winner of this highly coveted award is chosen by a secret ballot cast by race veterinarians, and reflects the musher the feel provided the best care for their dogs while remaining competitive in the race. Although plagued by injuries and illness in his team early in the race, Josh was able to nurse his ailing team back to health for a strong push into Whitehorse.
In addition to the Red Lantern, Jocelyn LeBlanc was awarded the Challenge of the North award. This award is given to the musher who "best represents a spirit that compels one to challenge themselves and persevere."
Not so much a rookie, Sonny Lindner was chosen by his fellow mushers to receive the Sportsmanship Award, apparently for being al all-around nice guy, offering advice and encouragement.
Mushing Toward March Mayhem
College basketball has "March madness", and dog mushing has our own version, which we should perhaps refer to as March Mayhem. As I noted earlier, the North Pole Sled Dog Championship sprint race is scheduled for next weekend. While limited class teams battle it out on the ice of Chena Lakes, the top open class teams will be in downtown Anchorage for the 2010 Open World Championship Sled Dog Race at the Anchorage Fur Rondy. I'rod icon Jeff King will be making his debut running a team provided by Buddy Streeper. After a training run with this team last week, King noted that his definition of "fast" on the dog sled had just been changed.
March 12th through 14th the Alaska Dog Musher's Association will host the Limited North American Championship (aka "LNAC"), featuring skijor, 4 dog, 6 dog and 8 dog classes. That same weekend middle distance teams will be competing in the Two Rivers 200, and it's shorter 'sister' race the Two Rivers 100.
Next comes the GCI Open North American Championship running March 19-21. The Two Rivers Dog Musher's Associations "Valley Funale" will be held March 27th, and the Tok Race of Champions is scheduled for March 27th & 28th and the Taiga 300 will start March 30th.
Of course, March also brings us the big cahuna. Billed as "The Last Great Race", the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race will have it's ceremonial start on March 6th, and the "real" race will start on the 7th.