Wade Marrs on “Best Care”

Yesterday, the Iditarod issued a press release regarding a new program that will implement dog care and kennel standards that future entrants must comply to.  While I believe this is an appropriate step for our sport, it seems information being released from another kennel, Crazy Dog Kennels (Zoya Denure) has published on their website some of the “Best Care” guidelines being adopted in Colorado and Whitehorse that they hope to implement in Alaska. Zoya has confirmed that her husband, a columnist for Anchorage Daily News, will have an article published on these standards in the 12/3 paper.  Keep in mind that as of now, Iditarod has not released any guidelines in regards to a care program, but have organized a panel of mushers to help create them. I am happy to hear this, as I see some serious concerns with the drafted guidelines posted by Crazy Dog Kennels. (More below)

As a child, I was a very frequent visitor at the Redington households, adopted child status almost, and if there was a visiting musher (or mushers) I’d be sure to be there. Eyes and ears open, I took in every word. Most of them probably thought I was an awkward shy kid, but truthfully, I didn’t have much to add to conversation at the time, I was busy learning. I had the privilege of learning from different mushers with different training programs and kennel care criteria. I attribute a large part my dog team’s growing success to the time I was able to spend at the Redington’s, learning the invaluable lessons from a vast array of mushers that I carry on with my dog team today. I will never be able to thank them enough for those experiences.

But as I grew older, like most kids, I started to notice trends. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together and realize that there are 2 different kinds of mushers. The first, being so intensely involved with “the books” of the operation, with every dog’s pedigree written to the farthest extent, and pages of logs containing each dog’s daily “foot print”(or “paw print”), what they ate, training, exact start and stop days of estrus cycles: the list goes on and on. The second kind of musher, being almost the exact opposite, is the kind of musher who spends almost every waking hour with his/her team either on the trail, or out in the yard. The one who doesn’t always remember a full pedigree, or log accurate monthly feeding schedules, or recollect exactly which female was coming into heat next.

From my child to adult observations, it was ultimately the second group of mushers that seemed so instinctively in tune to their kennel. Yeah, so things weren’t logged and posted to OSHA like standards, but the second group seemed to know what was best for their dog team on and off the trail. I’ve seen so many mushers spend too much time focusing on the logistics or how to create/afford the best of the best in their yard, that they pushed aside the mental and physical relationship that occurs “outside of the books”.  That “outside the books” time is critical for a happy, healthy, and successful dog team. To me, finding the balance between understanding and implementing rules that benefit the dogs is the right place to be. At least for me.

I’m a high school dropout who thought (still do) that chasing my dreams of winning the Iditarod and spending all day on the trail with my best friends was more important than furthering my academics. I’m not ashamed to put myself in that second category of mushers. Writing, much less logging, is not something that comes easy to me. I constantly tell Sophie that I’m not good at math and numbers but she will sit and roll her eyes when I rattle off endless run/rest equations and when I ask her to sit down and look at the multiple Iditarod schedules I’ve created in just a short amount of time. Proof that unwritten and unmeasurable passion can sometimes trump our greatest weaknesses. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this: to stand up for that second group of mushers. The ones who may not have the time or resources to show for the level of love and care they provide for their dogs.

I also believe that this knee jerk reaction of implementing a care program centered around Iditarod brings attention to a problem that isn’t specific to our organization. If anyone is familiar with the seemingly outdated and ignored Mush With P.R.I.D.E program, this recently announced future care program just seems like putting a new name on it. So why aren’t we updating the current Mush With P.R.I.D.E guidelines? A system that is already proven.  I’ve heard from multiple people that Mush With P.R.I.D.E isn’t as prevalent as it seems it should be because kennel care has evolved immensely. Yes, there are a few bad apple kennels, but the majority of all kennels do not have abuse or care issues, and if they do, the mushing community has done a great job at keeping those people accountable. If we are going to make a big deal about this, it needs to be done right. This should not be Iditarod inclusive, and it should be agreed upon/practiced by more than one major race organization. In the end, I am hopeful that Iditarod will spearhead this movement in a way that is beneficial to all mushers with safety and care of the dogs at the forefront.

That said, below is my list of concerns, with the published draft of best care practices shared by Zoya Denure and Crazy Dog Kennels.

Best Care Practices:

  1. Doghouses should be waterproof and in good repair with adequate lip around the entrance.

Adequate lip around the entrance, is too specific. Though most of my kennel has “lipped entrance” wooden houses, there are non lipped alternatives that still protect dogs from the weather. This rule also does away with barrel housing. When I moved from Knik to my new kennel property, I adapted barrel housing as the ground contained large boulders that are almost impossible to pound posts in. I’ve since created a new solution which involves laying large birch logs across the yard that hold the chain with an eyebolt. It does away with the poor aesthetics of barrels, and the dogs love jumping, laying, and playing on the logs. Out of approximately 40 total houses, 9 of which are  barrels. I plan on being completely transitioned to wooden houses with my current set up come spring.

  • Tethers must be 6’ minimum and equipped with a swivel.

I know I’m not alone in having a dislike for swivel posts with chains. I’ve been in more than one kennel/tour operations where I’ve seen dogs jump off their house and get major injuries because of inappropriate chain length that gets caught under their limbs. They also can cause injury to guests if they are hit in head with the swivel. The main attraction for swivel posts is the amount of area the dogs get to run in. With my log and chain set up, the chain never wraps around a post, the eyebolt is pounded far enough into the log where any wrapping of the chain is undone by itself giving the dogs a large area of circumference in their runs. Swivel posts may give the most circumference, but they have their own issues and they are not the only safe alternative.

  • Pens should be a minimum of 100’ feet for a single dog and 150’ feet for 2 dogs.  Fencing should be adequate, designed to prevent injury and without holes.  No standing water in chain areas or pens.
    • Indoor house should be available for older dogs and short-haired dogs.

Old dogs/short haired, too specific. I have a fairly young kennel, and out of the few retirees I did have, most have been adopted. Although there are a few older dogs here who I know would highly protest being inside a warm building. This should be individualized and up to musher discretion. If the dog should be medically monitored due to old age, not able to maintain normal body temperature or appears unhappy outside, the musher should find a resolution. That is simply being a good dog owner.

My Alaskans have a lot of sprint/hound influence. Many comment on their lack of long coat or stereotypical husky appearance. Despite lack of long hair, they do develop a thick undercoat and adapt wonderfully to the cold. So what exactly draws the line on old dogs and short coats?
• Dog areas should be cleaned once daily. This is being a responsible dog owner.
• Unless there is constant monitoring, no more than 5 dogs in one pen.2.

2. All dogs must have adequate caloric intake and be fed at least once daily. Fresh, clean water available in non-freezing months. The listed is again simply being a responsible dog owner. Dogs fed and or baited water 2x’s daily during winter months.

3. Dogs should have a documentable worming protocol.  Coats will be free of matting, toenails at good length. Again, responsible dog owner.

4. Socialization. dogs must have consistent direct contact with people and other dogs. Being a responsible dog owner.

5. Tethering.  Proper tethering should allow most individual dogs to interact with one another by touching, playing and resolving conflict, while still maintaining individual space.  Aggressive dogs may need to have more space from others.
Highly disagree, dogs that can constantly touch are at risk for causing injury to each other, especially if you expect them to “resolve conflict”. Dogs don’t shake hands and agree to disagree. One displays a dominant behavior and the other backs down or reacts…most of the time inappropriately. My dogs personal areas are not able to be reached by their kennel mates. We provide dog to dog socialization by play off the chain and time on the trail. This provides a safe environment in my kennel.
It is important for sled dogs to be in a wide open area that is highly visible to each other and all dog caretakers.  Mushers and guests are able to interact with each dog in their own space.  Tethering allows caretakers to easily notice changes in behavior, apetite and in activeness.  Each dog can be individualized to monitor eating, drinking, behavior and stool health.  Humane tethering, coupled with an excellent off tether exercise program is optimum.

6. Dogs should have straw or ship bedding at temperatures consistently colder than 20*F

7. Breeding.  Sufficient pens to separate females in estrus. Disagree. Some teams train all males, mine along with others are majorly females. Having that many heat pens will take up a considerable amount of space, especially since the majority of my females cycle at the same time. A fenced area around the females is not necessary with good monitoring and housing of males, and should be left to the discretion of the musher and/or property owner. Whelped females should not be tethered.

8.Euthanasia. If a dog is no longer healthy and pain-free it may be euthanized by a veterinarian. This brings most concern to remote areas who do not have readily available access to a veterinarian.

9. On site care. The staff should be knowledgeable.  Large kennels, (in excess of 25 animals) should have constant monitoring available.

10. No more than 30 dogs per caregiver at single location.

11.Record-keeping.  Meticulous record-keeping is the most important piece in any kennel program. Committee members and veterinarians must be able follow individual dogs.  All dogs should have a kennel card with a complete physical and psychological description.  Name, birth date, sex, previous owners, when acquired, spay/neuter should all be recorded.  Additionally, breeding, worming and veterinary records should also be available.  Deceased animals will have the cause and date of death recorded.Also, a monthly training and conditioning must be kept for each dog.Seems a little specific for some, especially when a team all completes the same training.

When not working or pulling sleds, or for dogs no longer working, a log of days and times off-tether must be kept.

At SJK our puppies spend safe time in pens with their mother, as well as supervised puppy hikes around the acres of swamp and woods available to them. The retired dogs are spayed/neutered upon retirement and spend a large part of their day outside monitoring dog yard shenanigans or inside keeping a spot on the couch warm for you. I’d hate to take 30 minutes away from them to make sure thats all documented…


I’d be happy to engage in conversation regarding the importance of sled dog care. You know how to reach me, lets chat!

Wrapping up 2017!

2017 has been quite the year, but we are SO ready for 2018!

2017 PenAir Spirit of Alaska Award-First to Ruby

After a successful 6th place Iditarod finish, Wade was elected by his peers to be the new Iditarod Official Finishers Club President and sit on the Iditarod Board of Directors as a the Musher Representative. This was quite the honor for Wade, being young and passionate about the future of mushing he was more than ready for the challenge, and the more recent Iditarod controversies have proven it to be a challenge indeed! Managing these new responsibilities while continuing to care and train for his team at the caliber required…I’m not sure how he gets any sleep at night. He’s doing an incredible job and handling everything like a pro. To say I’m beamin’ proud is an understatement!

2017 Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award- First to Unalakleet

This summer threw us a new set of challenges as Wade left for the Lower 48 to help start a new sled dog tour operation, he left with about 30 dogs, and I stayed in Alaska with his main team. After Iditarod, Wade decided he was going to transform his training program into something more consistent, more year round. We had long conversations after that on what the summer would entail, and if both of us were comfortable with the commitment. Long story short, we put our hands in and yelled 1,2,3 go team, and off we went! Before I knew it, I was standing in the middle of a semi-empty dog yard with Wades best dogs staring me down. Suddenly I was the one feeling honored, that Wade comfortably left me to care for and TRAIN his prized fur babies for 2.5 months. It was just me and them, and it was time to get to work! We had a blast, with the help of a neighbor kid we were able to get good summer training in and spent a lot of 1-on-1 time with the dogs. I get my fair share of time with Wades team, but it was great to be able to bond with them so much more over the summer. Late August, Wade returned with the yearling crew and all was right again at home.


Upon Wades homecoming training continued in full force. By late September the team was months ahead of the training schedules of years past. Although up-ing or modifying a training program needs to be done cautiously and the care of the dogs needs to always be at 200%. If anything, I think our transformed training program has even further tightened and increased the focus on early season veterinary care. Staying ahead of the game with these athletes is crucial for success and their continued health throughout the season.  Fall was filled with its fair share of rainy and sunny days. The dogs love training in the rain! The mushers…not so much 😉

Low early season snow totals have caused us to migrate to the Denail Hwy for some of our training, we don’t complain, we absolutely love it up there! Miles and miles of great trail, one-of-a-kind hospitality and awesome training! We always be sure to stay at Alpine Creek Lodge as we venture down the highway. Good food, good company, and a warm bed! We continue to do our snow dances back home and know that one day soon we will be able to leave the yard with the dog team!

We hope you enjoy our newly updated website, be sure to check back at SJK Life to get the inside scoop of what’s happening at the kennel. December is here, so make the best of this last month in 2017 and get ready for a new year!

Iditarod 2018 here we come!



Happy Holidays


December 17th, 2016 – Tis the season! For snow and sleds! Mother nature granted our wish for more snow and gave us a fresh 8-9 inches over the last 2 days! The main team headed out for a 12hr day on Friday, and the Nolan boys took out the Jr. team for their first 60 mile camp!


Headed out, 18 strong! -click to enlarge

On Friday the snow started falling, but did not amount to what was needed to run a large team by sled. Wade and I decided to take 18 out on the snowmachine for a camp and check out the trails. This run would be the farthest I have ever been out with the dog team. It was fun to leave the kennel and finally reach the main Willow trails via dog team. Our run was fairly uneventful, aside from the off and on snowstorm, some unexpected difficulties with our supply trailer (thankfully Wade is the MacGyver of all things mushing) and stopping to snack dogs and make snow angels. Being one of the first teams out on the new snow the run to our camp took us a bit longer than usual, but we made it to Turning Heads Kennel where we rested and visited with friends before making the run straight back home.

Traveling the swamps -Click to enlarge

Traveling the swamps -Click to enlarge

Come Saturday, the snow continued, this time much larger flakes and faster snowfall. The Nolan boys arrived at the kennel around 4am and took the yearlings on the sleds for their first long camping trip! I woke up still feeling ill, (been battling an obnoxious head cold for the last few days) but really wanted to take advantage of the fresh snow and get some time on the sled. I convinced Wade to help me hook up the 15 young dogs (ages 7-9 months) with 2 veterans and off we went in small teams for some fun runs around the swamp. The young dogs enjoy getting out and they allow me to practice my sled control with a little less power than the race team! We all had a blast.



Mid afternoon the boys arrived back at the kennel. Tired, they said they were breaking trail the whole time! Andrews team ranges from 1-2 yrs old, a young team of future all stars!


Daniel coming into the yard with Team 2!

Andrew will be racing them in the Copper Basin 300, the Willow 300 and the Jr. Iditarod to complete his Iditarod qualifiers, Daniel Nolan will race the Willow Jr. 100 and Hannah Mahoney will take some on her Jr. Iditarod race! We are very pleased with the determination and willingness to learn from our Jr. mushers and love having them around.

So what’s next for the crew?! Hopefully even more snow and more time on sleds. The Gin Gin 200 is the first weekend in January, followed by the Copper Basin for Andrew. As usual we are busy working hard to prepare all teams for success this season. We know everyone is anxiously awaiting Iditarod 2017 and so are we!


Sophie -click to enlarge

Many thanks to our wonderful sponsors and supporters who continue to help make this happen for us and our furry athletes! Want to become part of our team? See the link! http://stumpjumpinkennel.com/support-sjk/

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!





More pictures from the last two days (click to enlarge):


Counting the days until Iditarod!

Posted by Sophie, November 2nd, 2016

There is nothing quite like the first snowfall, dogs with their noses to the sky, prancing about as a fresh blanket of white covers the dusty brown earth. Fall was productive and each warm day was eagerly taken advantage of, but now as winter emerges a new chapter is set to begin.

packersselfie-800 Rewind to September when our jam-packed fall took us to the Lower 48. packerstailgate-800Our first stop was in Wisconsin, there we spent time with my family and soaked in some much needed R&R before the peak of dog training began. Wade attended his first NFL game and experienced his first waterpark adventure! As always, it is incredibly difficult to leave the company of family and friends, but the next leg of our trip was upon us.

From Wisconsin we traveled to New Hampshire, the most Eastern state Wade and I have both ever been to. There we attend the Northern New England Sled Dog Trade Fair, Wade was a featured speaker at the event. This was going to be Wades first “adult” talk, needing to occupy those attending for an hour and a half each day both Saturday and Sunday. Wade was a little nervous, and I was a little nervous for him! Should he have practiced more? Prepared longer?


As the days came I wish I would have saved the worry…because he ROCKED it. I should have known he would do so well, he was talking about his passion, his career! The whole presentation flowed with ease, charming the audience with his polite sense of humor and vast knowledge of the sport. The first talk was focused on Wade, how he grew up mushing and how that developed into him climbing the Iditarod ladder at such a young age. The second talk was more specifically about our kennel, the dogs breed/lineage, Wade’s training methods, etc. wade-pumaslide-800At the trade fair we also had the opportunity to meet in person our sponsors John and Amy at Mountain Ridge Sled Dog Equipment. They are even more wonderful than we imagined and we highly appreciate the support they bring to the team. We had a great time with our host family, Greg and Cindy Barker, and even spent time with our good friends David and Lucy, who traveled from New York to see us! We were truly blessed with a fun, safe, and successful vacation!wade-mingles-800

Even though we were having an enjoyable time in the Lower 48, there’s always that longing to get back to Alaska. Unlike Wade, I was lucky enough to get a few hours of shut eye on our flight to Anchorage and volunteered to drive us back home. The drive was fairly uneventful other than the occasional aurora saying hello. We returned home to a happy, healthy dog team thanks to our winter helper, Jimmy! Jimmy has known Wade since he was a young boy, worked with him in Juneau and has been a dog handler/tour guide now for 20yrs. Jimmy will be running our second team this year in Iditarod and we appreciate his help around the kennel with chores and dog care. Without missing a beat, Wade and I began training dogs again that next morning, back to the routine! Luckily this fall I was able to secure some time driving the second team as often as I could. I told Wade on our last run, with Jimmy and Andrew (our jr musher) you almost have to reserve a spot if you want some training time! This fall has already shown tremendous personal growth in my own mushing. I can confidently run a large string of dogs by myself, and feel prepared to tackle whatever the trail may bring…to an extent! There have definitely been some moments of courage and learning. I do always appreciate having Wade around to help when needed. As we both say, the training wheels are slowly coming off! There has been some chatter about me entering a race this year, time will tell.wade-sophie-prezo-500

Speaking of racing, Stump Jumpin’ Kennel already has teams signed up in a few races this winter. This will be Andrew Nolan’s last year competing in the Jr. Iditarod, and he will also be completing the last of his Iditarod qualifying races. Hello Iditarod 2018! In past years, Andrew has always run Wade’s main race team in his Jr. Races. That has come with a lot of trust and responsibility from both Wade and Andrew. Andrew always had strict instructions on how to drive the dog team, no matter how close the race may be. Jr. Iditarod is only 2 weeks before Iditarod and there was no room for error. This year Andrew will be training up his own yearling team for Jr. Iditarod and his qualifying races consisting of mostly 1-1.5 year-olds. Aside from the Jr. Iditarod, he will be competing in the Copper Basin 300 and the Willow 300. The Willow 300 is a new dog sled race in the Willow area, this race is being organized by the Willow Dog Mushers Association. Wade will be the 2017 W300 Race Marshall, and we are both actively involved on the race committee.

Just checked the countdown, we are approaching almost 100 days until Iditarod. That doesn’t seem like that much time! Training is full swing around here with some beautiful dog teams emerging. Now we wait for a good dumping of snow so we can hop on our sleds and go mushing the trails!

Waving good-bye to Summer 2016

May came and went, June stopped by for a short visit, and July is running off into the night…quite literally. Gone is the endless daylight as the dark is already reminding us of what’s to come. Here at the kennel our summers seem like a short lunch break during a hectic day at work. Just enough time to take a few deep breaths, get a quick bite to eat, and then we’re back to hitting the ground running…again quite literally!

Even though our summers are short we do our best to take advantage of every free day we have. Throughout summer Wade has continued to work for a local business doing barn construction, particularly restoration and timber frame construction. I am still working at the veterinary hospital as a veterinary technician, but have also started a dance program for the children of our community. It has taken up a little more of my free time, but it’s an exciting new venture that is shaping up to be a success! I’m lucky to have Wade encourage my own dreams and goals, as much as I support his. I wont sugarcoat it though, sometimes we look at each other like we are crazy, often contemplating if this much madness in our 20’s is healthy. But like we always say, building the dream ain’t easy, but living the dream is worth it! Around here we work hard for what we want and need, and have little dependence on the financial help of others. We may not be exactly where we want to quite yet, and sometimes things get a little messy, but it’s a work in progress!

We started checking items off the “to-do list” starting with the installation of the new well, and what a day that was! Wade has not had a well his entire life, and not having to haul 5 gallon buckets down to the local spring to get water for 60 dogs every 2-3 days is a huge time saver (and back saver!) The cabin still remains dry with no indoor plumbing, but no one around here seems to care too much now that we have such immediate water access. One step at a time, right? Another big item checked off the list was purchasing the neighboring lot next door! This now makes the kennel close to 8 acres! We enjoy the additional privacy, and the dogs are enjoying more space to play. With the expansion of acreage, also came the expansion of the dog yard, originally built to accommodate approximately 25-30 dogs. With the success of our breeding program the last 2 years, the new dog lot will now be able to hold around 60 dogs. Along with the new dog lot, the majority of the team will be getting new wooden dog houses built by Wade himself! Our current dog house construction is slow as Wade was hired to make 25 houses for another musher, but we are okay with that and plan to have everything all squared up by snowfall.

Speaking of snowfall, the dogs around here are not-so-patiently waiting for the weather to cool off, I think they know it’s coming. The birch leaves are yellowing, a few starting to fall, which creates a large group of anxiously prancing 4-leggeds, and two anxiously scurrying two-leggeds making sure everything is prepped for fall training. This upcoming season we will have some new faces joining the crew. A team ready to work, have fun, and achieve success! So while most still refuse to admit that our Alaskan summer is quickly coming to a close, we at the kennel have smiles on our faces, ready to wave good-bye.

SJK takes fourth place in Iditarod 2016!

Iditarod 2016 Race Recap-as written by Wade Marrs

For the first time in my Iditarod career I went into this year’s race very sick from the flu. I was bedridden with fever, chills, and aches for the days leading up to the race. I relied graciously on my girlfriend Sophie to take charge in organizing my last minute preparations. I am also very appreciative of my sponsors, neighbors and friends who stepped up to make sure I was fully ready to hit the trail despite my sick and foggy mind! I spent the day Thursday in mandatory race meetings trying to distract myself from the illness, but I felt like I was hit by a train and my fever had yet to break. Between the meetings and the official start banquet I was able to go to the doctor for some Tamiflu. I was desperate for any kind of relief this close to the race and was hoping that would do the trick!

We woke up Saturday morning, myself feeling much better and headed to the Cermonial Start in Anchorage. 12 dogs, 1 double driver sled, and a couple of my helpers loaded and rolling. Our morning was filled with interviews, meeting fans and signing autographs. We then hooked up our 12 dogs to the sled, loaded in our Iditarider (who by the way was a very sweet young lady with amazing grandparents) had Sophie on the back of the sled as a second driver and the 15 of us headed down the streets and through the crowds in Anchorage. We made sure to stop and say hi to everyone holding up a Wade Marrs sign! The trail was short but beautiful. When done with the run, we headed to REI for a couple of last minute supplies, then back to the kennel to finish packing the sled!

This rolled us over to a beautiful Sunday morning on Willow Lake. A small nap, relaxation with friends, and a huge steak to fill my belly was just what the doctor ordered! The excitement of booting and harnessing dogs could be heard across the lake as teams started barking and lunging in anticipation. We had 15 of our 16 dogs hooked up to the line when my friend and biggest fan Ashley Perry comes sprinting up to me and says “COOKIES NECKLINE IS ALMOST..” and at that second Cookie goes sprinting past all of us loose and running across Willow Lake! Luckily she doubled back and ran right back into the team, Sophie was able to get ahold of her quickly and get her all hooked up in the team. The team and I approached the chute, I gave my dogs a quick pep talk, said my good byes and we were off like a rocket!!

There were great crowds out this year to watch us on the trail to Skwentna! The trail was a bit icy and fast, but it’s what we were expecting. The dogs were enjoying the trail and leaving Skwentna the snow started to increase dramatically! Going down the steps and the gorge was a cake walk, very nice snow and very well set up by the Iditarod trail guys. Now leaving Rohn was a slightly different story…the trail crew did an awesome job with what they had to work with, but there was not much snow and the trail was fast! One good wipe out resulted in me skidding on my elbows and knees at 15mph, I was glad it was the only one! The team and I then left Nikolai with a choice to make, we were in 3rd position, but in the 1st by the clock. I decided right then to stop early for my 24hr mandatory rest in the checkpoint of McGrath. I had a good plan leaving there heading for Cripple and it turned out quite well. Leaving the checkpoint of Cripple we made the choice to run straight over to Ruby. This is a very long run, a lot of big hills. It was a difficult run for me in regards to sleep, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I kept dozing off and waking up going up very big hills with both feet on the brake!! Both feet on the brake? That was not benefiting us one bit and I was unknowingly slowing my team down. During one of my brief moments of falling asleep, the team was coming down one of the big hills and I was sitting on my seat both feet on the brake, before I know it I wake up on my hands and knees on the ground with my one foot hooked in my sled and I am dragging backward down this huge hill! Wooohooo that was fun, luckily the dogs stopped after a bit and let me get back on the sled!

Heading down the Yukon River was for the most part uneventful. Leaving the Yukon we headed towards Unalakleet. Just a little ways into that run Mitch Seavey comes up from behind and just flies past us! But just as he gets past my team, his sled comes down off of the bank, shoots across the trail and tips on its side (Mitch still on) then flips back up and onto the other side, and a quick back and forth until Mitch is sitting on his seat with one hand in the air as if he just conquered a bull ride in the cage!!! We then ran all the way straight to Unalakleet. It was a very long run but the dogs killed it and were ready to get up and roll onto the coast after a short rest in UNK. Leaving Unalakleet there was a lot of dirt that we had to mush over, the dirt created a lot of drag on the bottom of the runners, so if we wanted to move good and fast I had to get off the sled and run a lot to keep the teams speed up. Other than that the run into Shaktoolik was awesome! We stopped for a short rest there, unknown to us, were about to embark on the worst section of our trip down the Iditarod trail. The trail to Koyuk was 2-3 inches of sugar snow and the wind was howling right in my face. If I stood up on the sled the team would pretty much stop, so by the time I got to Koyuk my arms were limp from sitting and ski polling, and I was extremely sore from sitting on the top of a bucket as my seat for 7 hours. Needless to say when we reached Koyuk the dogs and I were ready for a good nap! The rest did us good, we left Koyuk looking good and flew over to Elim. On the way there we saw our first fox! He was right in the middle of the trail looking straight at us! He then turned and bolted about 75 feet before he turned and ran right back at us! I was just sitting there laughing untill I realized he was not going to get off the trail. I let out a loud scream and at that moment he was out of there! The dogs loved the excitement and gave me some speed for a bit after that.

Pulling into Elim I had the thought of going through, but also the thought of the move I had made the year before. I decided to try it again and roll on when I heard that Pete Kaiser was approaching. As I left Elim after a very short rest I could see Pete coming down the road into town as I was dropping onto the ice out of the checkpoint. Luckily Pete did not see me and he decided to take a short break as well! My timing was perfect. Going down into Golivin was a long run up through the hills, my mind filled with thoughts of second guessing my decision to leave Elim so quickly, and looking over the shoulder to see if Pete was chasing towards me! At one point I looked back to see two headlamps coming down a hill not far back. My first thought was Nick caught Pete and now they were both on their way to passing me. I made a quick stop to feed the dogs and tried to keep my head in the game, it was time for me to give everything I had. Soon after I finished up feeding, here come two people on snowmachines! Wow was I ever happy! Still didn’t stop me from constantly looking over my shoulder on the way to White Mountain! As I pulled into White Mountain for my last 8hr mandatory, I was counting the minutes that went by as I waited for Petes arrival. When Pete arrived after 30 mins I knew for a fact he was catching me, it was all I could think about, the idea of a Top 5 finish started to fade from my mind.

I had just laid down inside for a nap in White Mountain when Brent Sass comes in looking discouraged and flops down next to us. After exchanging words with Brent about how his race was unfolding and giving him some words of encouragement, the thought of a Top 5 finish started to creep back in. As much as Brent’s story was sad to hear, it reminded me that our Iditarod race isn’t over until we cross that Burled Arch in Nome! I knew my team was going to give everything we had to get under that arch in front of Pete Kaiser and his team. I do not mean it lightly when I say we pushed with our all, at the end I had no more to give but we kept his team behind us and we crossed under the arch in 4th place! 8 days,18 hours, our personal best by far. I could not be any more proud of my dogs, some of them hugely surprised me. Best feeling a musher could ask for, I knew they had it in them. This team is the best, fully capable of being champions, and I cannot wait to come back and do my best to prove that to the world…..

Here we come, Iditarod 2017!