Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alaska Winter Wrap-Up

It's time to wrap-up my second winter in Alaska, another powerful experience that has changed my life forever. I came up here for a second time to leverage my experience from last year and "take things to a new level." I am satisfied that I have successfully fulfilled my mission, and then some.

First, I think it's fair to say that I "raised the bar" for professionalism in the sled dog racing world. Just one look at the SP Kennel teams at the start of the Iditarod pretty much captures the development of team livery, kennel image, sponsor positioning, etc.

The SP Kennel Teams looked like the professional racing teams that they are. That's no small thing in the sled dog racing world, and I'm satisfied that people -- both fans, spectators, sponsors and other teams -- noticed.

Second, I also think it's fair to say that I took internet coverage of the sport to a new level. My goal was to make the SP Kennel Dog Log "the most educational and entertaining internet source on sled dog sports." In the process, I made at least daily posts of all kinds, from informative videos on various topics to goofy stories about dogs being dogs.

For actual race coverage I broke new ground with a sled-mounted "AliyCam" that everyone has been ecstatic about. Behind the scenes, I overcame consistent internet connection issues to bring virtually up-to-the-moment coverage from remote locations. No small feat, I can assure you.

Even more behind-the-scenes were the endless trips to the post office, all-night marathons of creating collateral material, communicating with sponsors and fans, taking dogs to the vet and a million other "little things" that needed to be done. I honestly don't think I could have done more or better, and that means a lot to me. I have a new understanding of what Aliy meant when she said that I'm a competitor too.

There are only two aspect of my experience which I would describe as less than I hoped for. The first is that I didn't get to spend all that much time with the dogs. I never thought I'd say that I missed the daily cleaning of the dog yard, but I missed the daily contact with each and every dog. I also spent no time with the dogs out on a sled, or even on a four-wheeler. I didn't notice it so much while I was so busy doing other stuff, but I know now that I missed it. I did get to have some very special dog moments, though, and they will remain forever in my heart. Hugging Chica before her photo-shoot and taking a nap with Boss ChaCha after our different but similarly exhausting race experiences are just two examples. I do love the dogs.

The other aspect that was perhaps less than I wanted was the sense of being part of a team. I was part of the team, of course, but my role was so different in time and space from other team members that it sometimes didn't feel that way. We'd meet at the kennel for them to hook up and head out, then I'd go back to my camper to do my work. I'd meet them again when they returned, pretty much only to pick up the day's media and go back to my camper to work. It was a very efficient system, but not very connected. I'm accustomed to -- and very comfortable with -- being and working by myself, but it was harder being alone so much when I was ostensibly part of a team. It's hard to describe, but that's the gist. Not a bad experience, just not as good as it might have been.

Without question, though, my second winter in Alaska was an astonishingly profound and powerful experience. I feel entirely satisfied about fulfilling my original and reprise intentions. I am also feeling quite "complete" about it. I can't think of anything else I want to accomplish in this realm. My sincerest thanks to Aliy, the dogs and everyone else for two fantastic winters!

Now, I have to admit that I'm exhausted. I can't think of a time when I've ever worked harder or longer hours for such an extended period. So, I'm going to take a couple of weeks just to hang out and catch my breath. After that, I'll think about what's next and let you know... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iditarod 2010: "Please Do Not Disturb!"

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Dingle, a truly fantastic young dog who finished in lead for the Red Team -- practically in single-lead if you consider that Rosie was next to him! Does it get any cuter than that?

Iditarod 2010: Aliy Zirkle's SP Kennel Red Team Finish

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

SP Kennel's Red Team have just finished Iditarod 2010. Aliy Zirkle and eight fantastic dogs -- Dingle, Rose, Bullet, Skittles, Tony, Nutmeg, Biscuit & Tatfish -- crossed under Nome's famous burled Arch in 16th position after only 9 days, 18 hours. This was Aliy's fastest time ever in her ten consecutive Iditarod finishes!

Everyone on the Team -- canine and human -- has had a big hot meal and is tucked in for a good sleep. We'll follow up with them all very soon… Stay tuned!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Greetings From Nome

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

I've been out for a brief foray/recon here in Nome and wanted to share a few sights with you. First, of course, the famous burled arch has been erected and awaits the mushers:

Next, a sign of free enterprise in this amazing little city:

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite sign in front of the Nome Department of Redundancy Department:

If the internet holds together up here, I might have a real treat for you later this afternoon!... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Iditarod 2010: City Moose

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

You never know what you might see up here in Alaska, even downtown in the city of Anchorage. Repeat with me, "That's a big moose."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Max's Midnight Mission

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Earlier, I promised to post a video from before the ceremonial start of something that you've probably never seen. This is it, but it needs just a little set-up.

My young friend Max -- my best friend's oldest son -- flew up from Atlanta and was a big help to the Team all last week. He was especially valuable to me -- and to you! -- by putting his camera skills to use. For example, the still photos we posted of both starts are his, along with many great candid shots like the one here that I would not otherwise have gotten while shooting video.

He also went on a "midnight mission" last Friday night, to get this footage of how Anchorage goes through a major transformation from bare city streets to the snow covered trail you saw on Saturday morning.

So, thanks to Max, here's a little "insider" view we hope you like:

Iditarod 2010: Happy's Ceremonial Start

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

I've finally had a few minutes to check out the Iditarod discussion forums and saw some of the dialogue about "Happy The Sled Dog."

My apologies for leaving you all in such suspense for so long. There's a lot to Happy's story this year, and I will try to give you a full account soon. For now, let me just say that I was as surprised as you were that she ran the Ceremonial Start on the Red Team. Truth is, I actually didn't know she had run until after it happened and I saw her in the video!

Speaking of which... Many of you commented about trying to see her, and I want to try to help you out. So, I've taken a piece of the footage, slowed it down and zoomed in on Happy. I hope you will enjoy viewing her starting line antics in this more recognizable format. I think you will also see that she is favoring her left front leg, which explains pretty much everything.

Just for fun, I've replaced the now-garbled audio track with a little tune called "Look At All The Pretty Lights" by my friend Jeff Tolbert... It just seems fitting for our Happy girl!

Again, I will try to give you "the rest of the story" about Happy soon!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Official Starts

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Here they are! The 2010 Iditarod SP Kennel Official Starts!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Iditarod 2010: Ceremonial Starts

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Here they are! The 2010 Iditarod Ceremonial Starts for your SP Kennel Teams! The footage is entirely uncut so you can have the next best experience to being here in person:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

On The Road To Anchorage

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

Aliy and Allen have already flown to Anchorage to attend a variety of Pre-Iditarod events with race officials, sponsors, media, etc. Early this morning we will load up the dogs and begin our drive to join them. If all goes well, we will arrive mid-afternoon and have a little time to get settled in before the Mushers' Banquet in the evening. Stay tuned!