I have made the decision to withdraw from the 2017 Yukon Quest. This has not been an easy decision, nor one that I have taken lightly. I am, however, making this decision knowing that it is the right thing to do for my team this year. As most of you know, I have been training a large group of yearlings, and those pups are now my core dogs and only solid leaders. While they have been doing an excellent job in that position, they are only 16 to 20 months old, and just experienced their first race this last weekend. As I look at the Quest trail, the teams signed up, and my current group of dogs, I recognize that it would be unwise to start the toughest thousand mile race in the world and rely on those young, inexperienced dogs to take us comfortably down the trail. While they are very talented in my opinion, I don’t want to risk their racing careers by getting into a situation that would be overwhelming for them, and no longer be able to move down the trail because I have no one to lead.
This decision is a bit last minute, as we would be leaving for the start line in only two and a half weeks. But I have been thinking about our dog numbers and experience levels for a long time, and the Knik 200 was an excellent chance for me to analyze my youngsters on a new trail, in a new situation, with a fresh mindset. While the team that finished performed very well, I only finished with 8 of the 12 I started with, and a few of those guys were not in perfect health either. The trail was definitely a contributing factor, but also their age, experience and training this season. I recognized from the start of our season that our yearlings were going to be the core members of this year’s team. I did try and purchase a few solid leaders at the end of the summer, but did not have much luck in that department. We also had a few of our old standby leaders who were a part of training until recently, but are just not going to be up to the challenge of running a thousand miles. So, I have known that the pups were going to be the team, and there has been a part of me that has recognized it might be a little too much for this year. But, you do not know until you put the time in and see how things come together.
For those of you that are concerned we may not have another race this year, do not fear! I have a few races in mind for the months of February, March, AND possibly, even April. (Our friend and employee Riley is planning to run the Kobuk 440, and it may be that I have to go up there and help represent our neighborhood in that race… We will see.) Many of you may also know from previous seasons, that we have been traveling to the North Slope to do a spring caribou hunt. This year, Katti and I plan to go together and setup our camp for a little longer, spending about two to three weeks on the north side of the Brooks Range. We will be looking for caribou during that time, but also enjoying the beauty and magnificence of that region by dog team, traveling around to different river valleys and possibly making a trip to Anaktuvuk Pass (depending on weather and snow conditions). Non of these other races or trips would be possible without the consistent training we have done in preparation for the Yukon Quest. It has been a fun and important season so far, and we definitely have a lot to look forward to before the snow melts.
Thank you all for your continuing support of our dogs and lifestyle, it means so much to us! I will continue to keep you informed as training progresses, and have an update on 2017 races as we are able to sign up and get into those events.