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

Fall Training Update!

Fall training is going well, we are putting on as many miles as we can, weather dependent. It has been warm. The dogs are looking strong and getting in shape quickly. They are up to 20+ miles in a run. We are hoping to start camping out and mimicking rest stops/checkpoints soon. We might even have a “rest stop” at home to prep everyone for the race trail. There are lots of up and coming leaders: Buffy, Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Bernie, Maple, Freezer, Frozen, and Grizzly; so we will have a great future to work with! The seasoned dogs are also doing awesome. Sheriff, Filmore, Lightning, Miss Sally are the “fab four.” Bandit and Google are also doing really well; they are super excited to run and ready to go even at the end of the trail. Bambie and Pippi are also coming up really well. These sister have some serious leadership skills. Snip and Snag are getting there; sometimes those boys take longer to mature! We have a great system of trails that are dry, so we have to do a lot of big loops to circle back to our “spa treatment” to cool off. We have to stop often to water the dogs. We carry a bucket of water with us all the time. We are exploring some new trails and hope to get some options when we have cooler temps.  We are ,of course, looking forward to ice on the river and snow on the trails!

Planning for the race schedule is hard and unpredictable. We are looking at the Mail Run, Beargrease, UP 200 and of course the Iditarod. We are already hard at work sorting and counting booties, meal prepping, checking off supplies needed and getting the bins organized and ready to go.

Want to help the team hit the trail this season? What’s your favorite part of racing? The trail? The checkpoints? The dogs? Learn more about how to help the team this season here!