Willow 300 2017 In the Books

The inaugural Willow 300 seems to have been a success. There is much to learn for the organizers, but spirits are high and many spoke of wanting to see it happen again.

For Pete and Nik, it was not to place as much to put some miles on the Teams, get Nik an Iditarod qualifier, and get the Teams exposed to other Teams before the Iditarod. I asked Pete about it and it just comes down to exposure, he said. Without exposure to other Teams and germs, dogs can fall ill just like kids do when they first go to school each year. Like I’ve said so many times, Pete is pretty much “Doggy Yoda” and is always considering all of these small details for the success of his Teams.

For Nik, this was a grand experience. A bit more race experience under his belt as well as many more miles on the Team. He is growing to be a fine musher and dog handler. He too possesses some “Yoda” traits of his own. His calm manner is very fun to watch as he moves from animal to animal. Watching them respond to him tells you in a minute this is something special.

The weather was good and the football game was dramatic. What more could you ask for this weekend? Here are the finish photos. Thanks to the checker gals for sticking around for each Finish!

Go Team Kaiser!

Willow 300 – Two for the Trail

Pete and Nik are on the trail together on the way to the Finish Line 32 miles away in Willow. With the race won and a nice day in sight, Pete took it easy waiting for Nik’s 6 hour layover to complete. It is pretty unusual to see both Teams side by side in a checkpoint, so it was truly a joy to see 20 members of Team Kaiser ready for the trail.

Both men caressed the feet of the sleeping Team before bootying them up, hooking up the lines and making their way out of the checkpoint. The sounds of barking Team Kaiser is quite a melody, but pair the two teams and it is almost an orchestra!

The weather is absolutely beautiful and the 3 hour run towards Willow should be a real nice rice. Leaving the boisterous crowd watching the Super Bowl in the Lodge, Pete and Nik are now one on one in their own sport of dogsled mushing. The sounds of the runners matched with 40 something paws making their way down the trail is surely a welcome change. For mushing is a solitary sport and the silence of the trail is surely a welcome reward.

The Pit Crew will be heading down towards Willow to meet them at the Finish line, so stay tuned for those photos as well.

Go Team Kaiser!

Here are Pete, Nik, and the Teams heading out of Sheep Creek Lodge:

 

Willow 300 – Sheep Creek Morning – Wait and Watch

After a long night on the Trail, Pete and the Team got into Sheep Creek Lodge at just after 6am. He was met by the Kaiser Pit Crew who had a warm cabin reserved for Pete and straw and a meal for the Team.

I left Anchorage on the way to meet up with the crew after a long night of updates for the Willow 300. We chipped in to help with the Leaderboard when that portion was left a little in the air. As I sped up to the Lodge, Nik and his Team were on the move as well from Deshka landing and I was totally afeared that I wouldn’t make it in time. It was such a pretty morning for the drive and after speaking with Nik, even better on the trail. Denali was such a pretty rose color as the sun peaked over the mountains, so majestic as it oversaw the musher’s morning.

I made it time and Nik arrived in great spirits. He was tired, but got right to work looking after his dogs. They looked great on the way in and Nik and Pete had almost identical times in from Yentna and Deshka.

A bit later Nik was snug in bed as well awaiting his 6 hour mandatory layover. Pete could leave just after noon, but decided to wait for Nik so we can all cheer them across the Finish Line together in Willow.

Congratulations to Nicolas Petit for his victory in this inaugural Willow 300.

Here are the photos from Nik coming into Sheep Creek Lodge.

Go Team Kaiser!

Willow 300- A Day in the Wilderness

24 hours ago we saw Pete and Nik and both their Teams head out into the wilderness of the Matanuska Valley. It may seem like a short time for us, but both Teams have had quite a day of it. Pete is taking a layover in Yentna and Nik is out of Talvista Lodge on the way to Yentna on the return. Since we last saw them they have mushed up to Yentna and then to the Talvista Lodge and then back to Yentna. It’s been a beautiful day to be out with the dogs. We can only imagine the fun they are having on the trail today.

Kaiser Racing stepped in to help out the Race with some Stats assistance and put up a Leaderboard, so our activity has been pretty busy as well as checkpoints text and send us data to enter on the online sheet. I almost forgot to put up a race update as I have been busy updating, but not necessarily writing a story.

The activity level will ramp up for the Pit Crew this evening as Ron, Rick and Doug will head out to Deshka Landing to meet Pete and the Team. They will need to clean up after the Team and then head up to Sheep Creek Lodge to do the same thing. At that last checkpoit before the finish will be the last 6 hour mandatory layover before the final stretch into Willow and the Finish Line. After Pete leaves, the Pit Crew will head back to Deshka to meet Nik who is traveling about 3-4 hours behind Pete.

Make sure to check the Leaderboard for the latest updates as I post them as soon as I get them.

Race to Go-
Yentna to Deshka – 33 Miles
Deshka to Sheep Creek Lodge – 28 Miles (6 Hour Mandatory Layover)
Sheep Creek Lodge to Finish – 33 Miles

Racing Forecast-
Tonight
Patchy freezing fog. Partly cloudy, with a low around 6. Calm wind.
SundayPatchy freezing fog before noon. Sunny, with a high near 23. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph.

 

 

Willow 300 – On the Trail to Talvista

Good Morning Race Fans!

This morning has Pete about 7 miles out of Talvista and Nik about 20 miles or about 2-3 hours behind him. Teams are headed to the Talvista Lodge, the halfway point in the race. When we were sitting having a burger with Nik and Pete last night, Ray Redington Jr. was at a nearby table. “You need sheep feet to get up there, but the trail’s good,” he said. Looking at the Race Flow, you can see what he means– The first two teams slowed dramatically indicating a pretty steep trail for the last couple of miles into the checkpoint.

Willow 300 has posted the Checker’s sheet from Yentna. I converted it to a table so we could see it. We don’t have accumulated rest, so it’s a bit tough to see where musher’s are at. I believe that Travis Beals may have taken 1 hour less rest in Knik, as he left before Nicolas Petit last night, but Nicolas had arrived first.

Weather is really nice for mushing. It has been close or just below zero over night and a clear day will bring temperatures into the 20’s today. Maybe a bit warm, but definitely a good thing as the trail markers aren’t reflective.

Willow 300 – Knik Checkpoint – Nik Wikstrand

We love this guy! I’ll just say it– His relaxed way and kind dog care has really made us his fans! He fits in just perfectly with the Kaiser program.

About 30 minutes behind Pete and the Team, Niklas Wikstrand arrived into the Knik Checkpoint, just before dark.

The Willow 300 is really a different sort of race in many ways, but one big difference is in what each musher can do and what help they can have during the race. Niklas is using the Willow 300 as an Iditarod qualifying race, so he cannot have any help at checkpoints. Pete, since he isn’t using the race as a qualifier, can have help at the checkpoints.

Unfortunately for Nik and some of the other later arriving mushers, the facilities ran out of hot water just after the first Teams arrived, so he had to heat his water to cook his dog food. In his quite, calm way, though, it didn’t bother him a bit and he completed his chores in short order and it was off to the restuarant for his own large order of a Cheeseburger and fries.

After Pete and the Team were off on the trail, Nik began to ready his Team as well. I teased him and asked him if he was teaching his Team Norwegian- “Yah” was his answer, “they seem to understand me.” As I listened as he bootied the Team, indeed he was speaking to them in Norwegian. As Nik gently worked with the dogs and speaking to them, the Team was definitely responding. I then teased Ron, “Hey- We’ve got a bilingual Team now” We all chuckled, but I for one think Nik has something here…

As his 3 hour break came to an end, Team Kaiser sprang into barks and howls, lunging at the gangline- Ready to Go. Nik grabbed the hook, signed out with the Checker and off the made onto the trail. 65 miles to go until the next Checkpoint.

We won’t see them again in person until the Sheep Creek Lodge Checkpoint late tomorrow. Go Team Kaiser!

 

Willow 300 – Knik Checkpoint – Pete and the Team

It’s something that we don’t get to do very often here at Kaiser Central– See Pete and the Team at a Checkpoint in a race. 50 miles down the trail of the 2017 Willow 300 lies the checkpoint of Knik. Placed on a small lake near Knik Bar and Grill, the secluded little lake was alive this evening with the howls and sounds of hundreds of dogs, support crews, and mushers.

As the sun set into the fog of the Matanuska Valley, Pete and Team Kaiser arrived into Knik 17 minutes behind the leader, Nicolas Petit. It was a beautiful evening in the crisp still air. Just perfect for mushing.

Generally Pete and the Team leave off into the wilderness leaving all of us behind until the finish line appears. In this race, support crews are mandatory in a couple of checkpoints to clean up straw and other presents left behind.

After the Team was bedded down and snacked, it was a pleasant break for Pete as we all gathered in the restuarant for Alaska sized hamburgers from the Knik Bar and Grill. Being it was a Friday night, the place was packed and festive to celebrate the event.

In this race, mushers are mandated to take 18 hours of break. Knik is 50 miles into the 300 mile race (think Tuluksak if this was the K300). But many teams were taking 3 and even 4 hour breaks before heading back onto the trail. I’m sure the Team was wondering what was going on with a 3 hour break after such a short time, but not a one complained and fell fast asleep on their beds of straw.

After his┬ámonster-sized hamburger and fries, Pete made his way out to the Team, bootied them up, and with a “Ready- Let’s Go!” – They were off into the darkness. It was just a fun time with Pete and the Team. Highly Recommended! Here are Pete’s Photos!

Willow 300 Starting Line

A mass start into the wilds of Matanuska Valley took place at noon today. Pete and Nik and two Teams from the Kaiser Kennel were joined by a jovial pit crew in Willow to send them off in grand style.

While this reporter was stuck in a dentist’s chair to relieve a bit of tooth pain, Ron took the helm of Kaiser Media and has sent the following photos. He as joined by Sterling Rearden, Pat Glasheen, “the taller Salzbrun brother” Tony Cotton, Donna Shantz, Paul Thurmond, and Rick Hanson.

Apparently it was a crowded Start Line with not enough room for all of the mushers, so they left in basically two “waves” with some mushers at the Start Line and others in the Parking Lot.

Mushers are at this hour headed to the Knik Bar, the first checkpoint where we hope to see both Nik and Pete do a short break.

Go Team Kaiser!