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!

No comments: