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Category: Iditarod

No sled dog deaths during Iditarod for second consecutive year

Musher Peter Kaiser races from Safety to the Nome, Alaska, finish line of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

For the second consecutive year, no dogs died during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

"I’m ecstatic. Last year zero dog deaths were considered an anomaly. Two years in a row with no deaths is a statement," Stu Nelson, Iditarod chief veterinarian, told Eye on the Trail.

Nelson believes that one reason for the drop in dog mortality is the focus on reducing ulcers or ulcer-related issues in the sled dogs. While the cause of ulcers in the animals is unclear, methods to reduce or prevent them are not.

"In the past we did nothing, and then three years ago, ongoing research by Dr. Mike Davis showed that an acid suppressant could control ulcers," said Nelson.

Davis, a professor of Physiological Sciences at Oklahoma State University and a licensed veterinarian, does off-season research on sled dogs in cooperation with kennel owners. Thanks to that research, Nelson encouraged mushers to give acid suppressants to their teams, and said that the results from those doing so are evident.

"I knew that if we could control ulcers, we could have zero deaths," Nelson said. "The animal rights people who attack the Iditarod and the sport are not really interested in dog care. They have not spent one cent on research, not one cent on improving animal care."

Nelson, an Iditarod veterinarian for 25 years -- with 16 of those as chief managing a 41-member volunteer vet corp -- seems to enjoy everything about the 1,000-mile plus race.

"It’s about the people, the mushers, the volunteers, the villagers; there is a camaraderie that comes with sharing the event. It’s about the beauty of the land ... but ultimately it is about the dogs. They are fun-loving and happy go lucky."

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher Peter Kaiser races from Safety to the Nome, Alaska, finish line of the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News


Lance Mackey completes 2011 Iditarod, finishing 16th

Popular musher Lance Mackey pulled into Nome, Alaska, at 8:55 a.m. Wednesday, officially ending his 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race finishing in 16th place.

"The top 15 guys and some of the ones behind me have been trying to beat me for the last four years, and they all got their shot at once," Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News. "So now it's over with. I'll be back."

Upon arriving in Nome, he was met by cheers and well-wishers. "I didnt have to be first to still have a fan club. That was nice," Mackey said.

When asked if Wilson was his dog of the future, Mackey replied, "Oh, absolutely, look at him, he's so happy. He led every step, and a lot of it in single lead.

"As you've all seen they're fast enough to win this race and I've been on a training trip since Nikolai with plans for the next year or two."

His responses made it pretty clear that we'll see the Fairbanks musher back for the 2012 "last great race on Earth."

Mackey, 40, who won four consecutive Iditarod races from 2007 to 2010, was down to seven dogs in harness of the original 16-dog team he started with in Anchorage.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Video credit: Kyle Hopkins / Anchorage Daily News

Alaska native John Baker wins his first Iditarod and sets new race record

Musher John Baker pets his lead dogs Snickers, left and Velvet after winning the the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, also setting a new race record. With 10 dogs in harness, musher John Baker passed under the burled arch that marks the finish line in Nome, Alaska, at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday to win the 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Covering the 1,131 miles of the Southern Route in 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes and 39 seconds, the native Alaskan from Kotzebue has set a race record, besting the time set in 2002 by Martin Buser by about three hours.

"I feel good. Real good," Baker, 48, told the Anchorage Daily News at the finish line. "Running a team like this, there's nothing better. They are willing to climb any obstacle and make the most of it. I'm really proud of them."

Instead of the head-to-head finish anticipated against Ramey Smyth, who had been in seemingly close pursuit leaving recent checkpoints, Baker pulled away from the Willow, Alaska, musher Tuesday morning, thereby eliminating any chance of Smyth overtaking him. Smyth crossed the finish line in second place 64 minutes later, also under Buser's previous record time.

Baker's victory also ended Lance Mackey's Iditarod consecutive win streak at four, though the Fairbanks musher admitted Sunday that he wouldn't win this year. Mackey is currently listed as running in 16th place with seven dogs still in harness.

Once the last musher is off the trail -- a spot currently held by rookie Kris Hoffman -- the Widow's Lamp hanging from the burled arch will be extinguished, marking the end of the 2011 Iditarod.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher John Baker pets his lead dogs Snickers, left, and Velvet after winning the 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, also setting a race record. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News


Four-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey concedes 2011 race

Musher Lance Mackey with one of his sled dogs at a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Defending and four-time consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey has decided that a five-peat isn't in the cards for him.

"This is somebody else's year," Mackey told the Alaska Dispatch after arriving at the Kaltag checkpoint. "We’ve been lucky and now it's someone else's turn," he said. "I’ll be the first to congratulate that winner as soon as I get there to see them."

Mackey said that he did a lot of thinking between recent checkpoints about his lost shot at a fifth win, and resolved that this year's race would not be about losing but instead remembered as the race that punctuated what has been a long run of good fortune.

"It would be really greedy of me to think that I should have another perfect run," the 40-year-old Fairbanks, Ala., musher said. "These are world-class dog teams I am running against and every one of them deserves a victory."

Who will get that victory remains to be seen, though it will likely be decided in the next few days.

Current race leader John Baker, 48, headed out of the Unalakleet checkpoint about three hours before the second-place team of Hans Gatt. During his layover at the previous checkpoint of Kaltag, Baker, a native Alaskan from Kotzebue, said that his strategy now to the finish will simply be to "keep traveling as much as we can" and to "just keep moving'' so as to maintain the lead he has established.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Musher Lance Mackey with one of his sled dogs at a checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a new leader

We'll likely see continued leaderboard changes as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race makes its way from Anchorage to Nome. Currently, the musher holding the first position is Sebastian Schnuelle, who grabbed the lead by hitting the trail four minutes after arriving in Anvik Friday morning.

The Anchorage Daily News has been posting profiles of different mushers and their sled-dogs, including the one above of Skunk, one of the Schnuelle's teammates who "knows that she's kind of cute and gets away with a lot," the veteran musher from Whitehorse, Canada, says in the video.

Defending and four-time consecutive champion Lance Mackey is now competing with a reduced team of nine dogs, dropping seven of his 16-dog team thus far. Mackey is still in contention, and is currently listed in fifth place.

Meanwhile, Martin Buser, who has been making tremendous time between checkpoints thus far, has fallen back in the pack and is in seventh.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Video credit: Anchorage Daily News

 

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher reaches halfway point

Sled dogs rest at a checkpoint during the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race reached the halfway point for one musher early Thursday.

Trent Herbst of Ketchum, Idaho, was the first to arrive in the abandoned mining town of Iditarod, which marks the midpoint of the race, and in doing so was awarded the GCI Dorothy Page Halfway Award as well as $3,000 in gold nuggets.

Herbst, however, had not yet taken the mandatory 24-hour layover for his team. Race frontrunners took layovers in Takotna on Wednesday, so Herbst will watch as others pass him, including Martin Buser, who has been making tremendous time between checkpoints thus far.

Veteran musher Mitch Seavey had to drop out of the race Thursday morning with an injured hand. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Seavey, who won the 2004 Idatarod, was cutting open a bale of straw at Ophir checkpoint when he injured his fingers. Race marshal Mark Nordman determined that the injury was severe enough to warrant Seavey's removal from the race.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Sled dogs rest at a checkpoint. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

 

Martin Buser leading Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

An Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher crosses the taiga forest between the Skwentna and Finger Lake checkpoints Monday with Mount Foraker, left, and Denali in the background.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had a new leader Tuesday morning, with Martin Buser the first musher to reach the Nikolai checkpoint.

Four minutes behind Buser was Robert Bundtzen, with Hugh Neff arriving one minute after that. Ray Redington Jr. checked in fourth, and Lance Mackey arrived fifth, 35 minutes after Buser.

Mackey, the defending and four-time consecutive champion, has dropped four of his 16-dog team, including the 2010 Golden Harness winner, Maple, who led Mackey's team to victory last year.

"I'm not going to get discouraged at this point, but it doesn’t look too promising at this time," Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News as he piled straw among his team at the Nikolai checkpoint, where he dropped three of his dogs -- Jester, Pimp (who Mackey described as "one of my veteran superstars") and Lippy -- that he said weren't pulling or eating well and seemed sore.

"They're not right, and I'm not one to jeopardize the future of my dogs just for my own personal satisfaction," he said.

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2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins

Defending champion Lance Mackey drives his dog team from the starting line of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. The 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicked off this weekend, with 62 mushers and their dog teams on the road to Nome, Alaska, vying for the championship.

With both Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and the official restart from Willow behind them, the teams will cover a total of 1,131 miles using the Southern Route, as is done in odd-numbered years.

Called the "last great race on Earth," each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the distance in approximately nine to 13 days, with 25 checkpoints, including Anchorage and Nome, along the way.

Current Iditarod champion Lance Mackey is back, hoping to add a fifth victory to his record four consecutive wins. Also in the mix is Rick Swenson, the only competitor to have won the race five times (though over 30 years). Another returning champion is Martin Buser, a four-time winner as well. Buser is currently the musher with the most consecutive Iditarod finishes -- 25 races -- and holds the record for the fastest Iditarod, completing the 2002 race in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds.

Here's wishing all competitors -- both human and canine -- luck on their journey over the days and weeks ahead. Hopefully all will arrive safely in Nome.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Defending champion Lance Mackey drives his dog team from the starting line of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Al Grillo /Reuters


Outposts looks back at 2010: Achievements

With the the year ending, it is worth looking back at memorable posts of 2010. Each day this week through Friday, Outposts will recount some of the records broken, the achievements reached, the notable passings and the downright unusual during 2010 in the outdoors, action and adventure world.

Kelly Slater clinches historic 10th ASP World Tour title

Kelly Slater clinched his 10th ASP World Tour title on Nov. 6. Kelly Slater made sporting history on Nov. 6, claiming an unprecedented 10th Assn. of Surfing Professionals World Tour title.

Culminating a 20-year effort, Slater, 38, accomplished an incredible feat that will undoubtedly remain at the top of the ASP record book for a long time.

"I feel relieved, honestly," Slater said. "It’s been the most stressful title I’ve ever had, because it’s sort of an unknown place and you know at my age people say, 'You shouldn’t be doing this.'"

Photo credit: Kirstin Scholtz / ASP


Lance Mackey wins fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple,after winning his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. With 11 dogs in harness, musher Lance Mackey rode into Nome, Alaska, at 2:59 p.m. March 16, passing under the burled arch and the Widow's Lamp hanging from it to win the 38th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 39-year-old Mackey, from Fairbanks, Alaska, also rode into the record books, becoming the first to win the "last great race on Earth"  four times in a row.

Photo credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News

 

Irvine woman with rare disease conquers Mt. Everest

Cindy Abbott displays her National Organization for Rare Disorders banner at Camp 4 before leaving for the summit of Mt. Everest. Cindy Abbott lives with adversity. The Irvine resident started losing vision in her left eye more than 15 years ago, and began having a slew of mini-strokes and vertigo. Finally, in 2007, Abbott was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare and potentially deadly disease of uncertain cause.

Abbott, 51, has no idea how long she has left to live because of the incurable disease. But she did not let the debilitating affliction hold her back, and on May 23, became the first person with Wegener's Granulomatosis to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

Photo credit: Bill Allen

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Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey profiled in ESPN The Magazine

Lance Mackey holds two of his dogs, Rev and Maple, who wear rose garlands, after Mackey won his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race.

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey is one tough son-of-a-gun. The musher is profiled in the article, "Pushing through the pain," by Seth Wickersham in the Oct. 18 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

A truly remarkable athlete, Mackey speaks candidly about his life, including his fight with cancer, drug and alcohol addiction, losing body parts (including his left index finger) and how he keeps persevering through it all.

Next March, Mackey could become the first man to win five consecutive Iditarods, the "Last Great Race on Earth."

While some may decry the annual race as 1,000-miles of cruelty for the sled-dogs, with Mackey it is obvious he cares about his dogs -- not only those he races but also the ones he and his wife, Tonya, raise at Lance Mackey's Comeback Kennel, which sells and leases dogs to other mushers. If he doesn't like the way his customers care for his dogs, he often takes them back.

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Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey featured on 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel'

Lance Mackey shares a private moment with Rev, one of his sled dogs, during the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Like Sarah Palin, four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey is probably one of the most-recognized names and faces in his home state of Alaska. Get outside the 49th state, however, and the 39-year-old musher is likely little-known.

Mackey is the modern-day champion of the 1,100-plus mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, enduring days of sub-zero temperatures, long hours of darkness and little sleep to ride into the record books this year as the only musher to win the "last great race on Earth" four consecutive times (he is also the only musher to win the Yukon Quest, another challenging 1,000 mile sled dog race, four times, doing so in consecutive years).

Now, others will have the opportunity to learn a little about Mackey, who will be featured in one of the segment's on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, debuting at 10 p.m.Tuesday on HBO

Correspondent Jon Frankel traveled to Alaska to speak with Mackey, visiting him at home where he  lives with his family (which includes a pack of 12 house dogs that are rescued canines), and runs his sled dog facility, Comeback Kennel.

"I'm addicted to dogs, and not just sled dogs.  I love 'em all.  All the dogs I got runnin' around my house are -- are pretty much, you know rescue dogs," Mackey told Frankel. "Nobody else give 'em a chance or -- or the time of day.  And -- and I felt that was kinda me as well.  And -- and -- and because of it, I think the relationship I have with my dogs today is -- is second to none." 

Mackey delves into his relationship with his father, Dick, who in 1978 won the Iditarod by one second. He also discusses his youth, when he seemed lost in a vortex of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as his battle with throat cancer, which he wasn't expected to survive.

The segment focused more on Mackey's past rather than the present, which I would have liked to have heard more about -- his family life with wife Tonya and their three children, his work tutoring other mushers, and what he does when not training for races -- but I still found it interesting. Perhaps Mackey wanted it that way though, wishing to remain a bit mysterious, like some of the Alaskan tundra he crosses during the iconic race.

The episode will re-air at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday as well as on May 20, 23, 25, 29 and 31.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Lance Mackey shares a private moment with Rev, one of his sled dogs, during the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News / Associated Press

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Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officially ends with no sled dog deaths

Lance Mackey drives his dog team down Front Street in Nome, Alaska, on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. No sled dogs died during this year's race.

The final musher crossed under the burled arch in Nome, Alaska, at the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, marking the official end to the 2010 competition. 

Rookie musher Celeste Davis, 37, was awarded the Red Lantern, given to the last team to finish the race.

Davis, from Deer Lodge, Mont., finished in 13 days, 5 hours, 6 minutes and 40 seconds, the fastest Red Lantern time in the race's 38-year history.

With the last musher off the trail, officials noted that there have been no dog deaths related to this year's Iditarod, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

"To stand there and watch that last team come in, I'll tell you, is the highlight of my veterinarian career," chief race veterinarian Stuart Nelson said. "I think it's a pretty safe assumption that this is a first."

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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