AK Calling

Nathan’s report from Alaska today:

There’s lots of snow in Willow. There are trails all over; everything from swamps to lakes to rivers. There are a few hills to work with as well.

We’ve been running two teams of ten. I run one and Nick Vigilante runs the other.

When we are not on the trail, we have been working on improving our gear, drying used booties, and have become a soup kitchen for long time friend Beckie Hacker.

We have a big week coming up: ECGs and vet checks on Wednesday, banquet on Thursday, Ceremonial Start on Saturday, and finally the restart in Fairbanks on Monday.

It sounds like it will be another cold race (brrrr!). I hope I can feel my toes after this one. My goal is to do better than last year. Stay tuned!

Here are some shots from today’s run. We ran out to Red Shirt Lake. Took trails six and eleven to the Susistna River up to where it meets the Yentna River and back home again. Total, it was about 56 miles or so.

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Checking in from AK

Nathan and the team are in Willow, Alaska and hitting the trails in a few training runs. Yesterday the team ran to Yentna Station Roadhouse. Nathan reports there was lots of snow and lots of snowmobile traffic!  Go Dogs Go!

Want to take a ride with Nathan and the team in Willow? Just play the video below!

Beargrease Recap

January 30th:

As the race reaches the halfway point in Grand Portage Ryan Redington continues to set a very fast pace. He has taken less rest so far than everyone but continues with consistently fast runs. Normally as a Beargrease “rookie”, this race plan would seem to be train wreck ready to happen later on down the trail. But Ryan has been racing since he could hang on to a sled may be able to pull it off. The “target” is on his back. Matt Schmidt is running a strong race with his full compliment of dogs. Nathan should be the third one into Grand Portage. He dropped 3 of his two year olds at Trail Center with minor muscle strains. Colleen Wallin has 12 strong dogs and is keeping pace with the front runners. Ryan Anderson still has all 14 of his dogs. They were very animated when they left trail Center! Canadian Denis Trembly is also in the mix of front runners. With the trail being hard and fast it is going to come down to who manages their team the best from here on in. Nathan has veteran Filmore leading all the way, with Sheriff and Lightning waiting in the wings when the extra speed is needed. Way to close to call at this point. stay tuned!!! ~ Vern

January 30th:

The trail giveth, the trail taketh away. What makes the Beargrease one of the toughest trails for dogs is the continuous steep climbs and descents of the trail. Add to this an icy hard packed trail it starts to take its toll on the dogs wrists and shoulders. Now add a fresh coat of fluffy snow currently falling covering the icy portions and you have another variable the musher must “manage” his team through. Now, who is in the hunt for the coveted title. Ryan Redington will be first out but is down to 8 dogs. Doable yes, but I heard he may have dropped a key member of his team. Matt Schmidt’s team may have picked up a bug with loose stools, but I think it may be stress. Nathan will be leaving with 9 dogs. He is dropping 2 dogs, Goofy and Filmore. Filmore developed an achilles problem spotted by musher/ vet, Jen Freking. Although down to 9 dogs it’s still doable. They are a solid core with 8 of them leaders. Still he will have to be super cautious the rest of the trek. Ryan Anderson still has 14. He said they haven’t been eating that well and are dropping a little weight. Ryan is pretty savvy and should be strong to the end. Colleen Wallin is having a super race. Her dogs look good and she is in great spirits. Could this be the year? I honestly think she will be in contention for top spot. Denis Trembly, always happy go lucky has a very good team. They are fast! He has been stopping on the trail a lot, snacking or just giving the dogs a quick pat on the head, keeping them happy and pumped up. These teams will be in the mix for the top 5 spots. Who’s going to win. I think things will shake out a little more by the time they reach Sawbill tomorrow. Nathan for his part will probably turn the leader reigns to Sheriff. Young Bernie led from Trail Center and is doing outstanding. He will be teaming with Sheriff up front for the next leg. One constant for Nathan is his fantastic handling crew. Jake, Nick, Brett and Carmen are doing a great job. Stay tuned for more!! ~ Vern

January 31st:

As the race reaches the halfway point in Grand Portage Ryan Redington continues to set a very fast pace. He has taken less rest so far than everyone but continues with consistently fast runs. Normally as a Beargrease “rookie”, this race plan would seem to be train wreck ready to happen later on down the trail. But Ryan has been racing since he could hang on to a sled may be able to pull it off. The “target” is on his back. Matt Schmidt is running a strong race with his full compliment of dogs. Nathan should be the third one into Grand Portage. He dropped 3 of his two year olds at Trail Center with minor muscle strains. Colleen Wallin has 12 strong dogs and is keeping pace with the front runners. Ryan Anderson still has all 14 of his dogs. They were very animated when they left trail Center! Canadian Denis Trembly is also in the mix of front runners. With the trail being hard and fast it is going to come down to who manages their team the best from here on in. Nathan has veteran Filmore leading all the way, with Sheriff and Lightning waiting in the wings when the extra speed is needed. Way to close to call at this point. stay tuned!!! ~ Vern

January 31st:

Anticipate the finish for Nathan at about 9:30 AM. He said it takes about 12 hours after he leaves Finland. Go Dogs Go! We are proud of you!!!

February 1st:

He is in! He finished in 3rd place, and ALMOST caught Ryan!! Ryan Anderson 1st, and Ryan Redington 2nd. Congrats to Ryan and Ryan!!

February 2nd:

Two nights ago, I was caring for the dog team of Nathan Schroeder in the Two Harbors Checkpoint of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon which is an open, windy and cold checkpoint and the last checkpoint before the finish line in this 375 mile race. I was working my way through the dogs, massaging and doing any preventative care with them. At this point in the race, we are all very sleep deprived. I finished the last dog, who was a young leader named Buffy. I then laid down and used her as a pillow, much like I did the night before. We were laying in the straw with the dog trailer next to us as somewhat of a windbreak. I was asleep for maybe a half hour and I was face down with my hood over me and Buffy when I heard someone say… “should we wake him up?” “I guess we have to wake him up.” I popped my head up and said, ” I’m up, we’re good.” It was the Vet Team coming to do vet checks on the dogs. I knew they would be coming at some point so I guess I didn’t sleep too hard in anticipation of their arrival. They asked the name of the dog next to Buffy and I had a complete brain fart, and couldn’t think of his name even though I know him well. But since I was half asleep, I had nothing. I remembered after 30 seconds or so once my brain warmed up. The vets finished checking the dogs over and I went right back to sleep with Buffy.

About an 1.5 hours later, I was in deep sleep and having a dream that I was getting beat up, so I woke up and I was actually getting beat up.

Nicholas Vigilante was kicking me in the ribs to wake me up. He said he started out gentle… he shook me, picked me up and dropped me, and kicked me before I finally woke up. It was time to start working with the dogs so we could get them out of the checkpoint on time.

Good thing the vets didn’t try to wake me then… I probably would have been woken up with a cold stethoscope going down my back to see if I was alive. – Jake

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Boost Post

New Year Training Update!

15433767_568539806677111_8906467704483013325_nSnow conditions have been very mild to poor. We started training the week before Thanksgiving with the sleds as we received two feet of snow. Conditions were warm, we were happy with the snow…. and then it rained.   It rained just enough to get rid of the two feet of snow. Back on ATV’s we went. With a little luck, the temperatures dropped, swamps and lakes started to freeze and we received enough snow to return to the sleds. The trail was decent for 10 days and then with all the traffic from training, the trail got awfully fast. So, to play it safe, instead of hurting me or one of the dogs on these fast rough trails, we converted to using the snowmobile. I have been focusing on trying to put a core group of dogs, which has not been easy. They are all awesome. The week before Christmas we put 350 miles on in four days. The week after Christmas, we put on 400 miles in four days. I spend the New Year’s night celebrating, on the trail, two miles from home. I couldn’t quite make it back home before midnight, I arrived back at 12:06. My goal was 11:59.
The dogs will be off for 5-6 days after putting on nearly 800 miles in less than 12 days.15823211_393229231026559_1993775887704012129_n Drop bags are starting to be organized.  They are due to ship on the 21st of January from Pine City to Washington and then on a barge to Anchorage. The cost to ship this is $200 per pallet, we have to get 2 there. Anyone want to be the Shipping sponsor?!?!?
We have three dogs left up for sponsorships: Nala, Kenia, and Snip.  We have a dozen checkpoints and some miles left too.
Beargrease is right around the corner, as far as number 5, we will have to see. My focus has been more on the Iditarod instead of the Beargrease. But you never know, the dogs might decide that they want it.
We are hopefully going to be having another meet and greet at the Green Mill on Friday, More to come on that.