Northern Blast Sled Dogs

Carol & Alan Pepsick

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Posted on March 29, 2015 at 11:30 PM

Here's an Alan update: After a couple of reschedules, for one reason or another, Alan finally had his (4th) surgery 4 weeks ago. The surgery went well and he now has 2 pins and 2 staples holding 2 bones together allowing them to fuse. He has to be completely off that foot for the first 6 weeks of recovery so he has been getting around minimally on crutches, and apparently they don't make crutches out of wood any more. :D  Anyhow, it is all a wait and see now. The doctor doesn't know if he will experience pain later on and if the staples will need to be removed although he feels most-likely they will. Nor do we know how this will affect his overall movement or his job. We do know he will never be able to do a deep squat where his heel lifts off the floor. Meanwhile my responsibilities have picked up with chores, chauffeuring, and I have been giving Alan a blood thinner injection every day and finally gave him his last one on Friday. Thanks goes out to Rachel who comes by 4 days a week after school to help with the dogs. This topic will be continued later as we learn more.

Meanwhile the weather has continued to be warm and mostly dry all winter. I have heard frogs croaking the entire season! I purchased a new winter jacket this year and have only worn it for a week and I have not pulled my winter boots out at all. This was definitely the year for Alan to have this surgery as training in this area has been horrible and races have cancelled left and right, while some were rescheduled to later dates only to eventually be cancelled as well. The two main races I would have done did go however, but the conditions were poor and warm. One of the races I have never done before and would have been pretty disappointed if my first try were in these conditions as mushers were running their sleds on gravel in places. So I still have a little hope left that maybe all of this will come together for us next year. Something else we will have to wait and see on.

So at the beginning of February I had time to tune into the 1000 mile Yukon Quest from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, AK. I strongly kept my eye on the three mushers we spent the weekend with in November in Lapine, OR organized by Henning Bartel (see my blog posting titled Return To Henning's Mushing Extravaganza) Brent Sass, Mike Ellis, and Hugh Neff. I am so happy to report that Brent won the Yukon Quest!! What a great comeback after his accident last year that forced him to scratch from the Quest just prior to the finish line and what could possibly have been his first win (I thought he WAS going to win). This was well deserved as he has put in so much time and effort. Mike Ellis, running our favorite dogs of course, his purebred Siberian Husky's, finished in 10th place (out of 26 starting teams). Mike still holds the fastest time on this race for Siberian's and although he didn't break his own record this year, finishing in the top 10 is still a huge achievement especially considering Mike was ill with pneumonia the last half the race. I really don't know how he did it and did so well.  Hugh placed 5th this year. Seeing Hugh in the top 5 is a normal sight as he is also a past champion of the Quest. It sounds like he was having a few physical problems of his own, so to place so high shows the type of musher he is and how well trained his dogs are. I was also watching a few other mushers that I like seeing on the trail and it was certainly fun to follow them all but I am most happy to see how successful these 3 were as we got to spend some time with them and help support them on their journey. Congratulations guys!!! It was a great race!

Then in the beginning of March the 1000 mile Iditarod started. I was glued to my computer for the 3.5 hour ceremonial start as I watched all 78 mushers take off. This blog is a bit old and I had not gotten around to completing and posting it. Here's what I wrote about the Iditarod after the ceremonial start:

Brent and Hugh are in this race. Brent was forced to pull out of the race last year as he recovered from his accident. This year his team is so well conditioned at this point and totally amped from their Quest win, I have a hunch we are going to see great things from Brent and his Wild and Free team. I must note that due to poor snow conditions the actual start of the race has been moved to Fairbanks. This changes the first 600 miles and might give Brent the advantage as these conditions are what his dogs are more used to. Looking forward to see how this works out. Hugh is always a top contender in the Iditarod as well so I am keeping an eye on both of them. Unfortunately Mike was unable to swing the Iditarod onto his schedule this year and Karen Ramstead stated she will not be running the Iditarod anymore although she is there as a judge this year. Karen also runs purebred Siberians and we have had the honor to meet up with her a couple of times as well (see past blog postings). There are several other Siberian teams in the Iditarod this year including Rob Cook who also just came off the Quest capturing the red latern (last place, 16th). If he can complete the Iditarod, Rob will be the first musher to complete both races in the same year with Siberians.

Now that the race is over, here is what happened:

Brent's starting position was 73rd out of 78 mushers meaning his team had a long wait before leaving the starting chute. One team leaves every 2 minutes so this would put Brent a couple + hours behind the first team out. Of course this is all worked out when the mushers declare their 24 hour rest as an appropriate amount of extra time is tacked on to each mushers stay. After the 24, everything is even again. Despite this, what was impressive about Brent was that his team was doing so well that he landed in 5th position by the 3rd checkpoint! I think all us fans watching were thinking first place for Brent this year. Then it all went wrong. Brent was disqualified by the race marshal; he was out of the race. Shock and disbelief hit everyone hard and hundreds of  comments swarmed the internet within an hour. This turned out to be the biggest controversy of the race and the only one who handled it well was Brent although he was clearly very disappointed. The fans however were outraged and the rest of the Iditarod became hard to follow after that.

The reason for the DQ: Brent, like a large majority of the mushers, was carrying and using his IPod to listen to music while traveling to help pass the time and it can keep sleep deprived mushers awake. Brent's IPod has wifi which has the ability, if available, for 2 way communication and 2 way communication devises are not allowed on the trail. Brent knows this of course and left his cell phone with his dad and didn't even consider the wifi on his IPod. The race marshal admits that he doesn't feel Brent was using it for cheating and that he knows others are carrying the same devices but he will not seek them out, and although there are other punishments available including just a verbal warning, Brent was completely singled out and disqualified. All that time, hard work, and the incredible expenses that went into getting him to that point, and it was all ripped away in a single moment with a single unjust decision. Fans were mortified and felt bad for Brent, and Brent felt bad for his dogs. It is hard to find all the right words to describe how poor of a decision this was and it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

It took many days to start following the race again after that but my interest lacked it's normal enthusiasm and I read just enough to get a feel where most mushers were at. Hugh finished the race well placing him in th top 20. This was a nice comeback for him after having to scratch so close to the finish last year because of a terrible storm. Rob Cook did complete the race making him the first musher to do both 1000 mile races in the same year with Siberians.


So now we are officially into the spring season, but there was no spring weather to look forward to as we have had it all winter. Here are a couple of recent yard videos:

Having your dogs respond to you is always so important. I use a simple whistle to call them. Here is what their wonderful response looks like.


An underground apartment complex went up in the small yard courtesy of Three Sisters Construction Company. And here they are at work.


March is our big birthday month at the kennel. Our Leap Year LItter turned 7! (Faith, Kwyta, Joy, Looker, Lizzy, Bounder) And Drew turned 9! But the biggest surprise to me is our first litter, the Northern Litter, turned 10!!! (Spirit, Tundra, Rosie) How can that be? They have always been such good picture posers for me and here is what I captured on their 10th birthday:

L-R: Tundra, Rosie, and Spirit.

The girsl (Rosie and Spirit) are sitting pretty while Tundra stands tall.



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