Akela’s Den 2010-2011 Racing Season

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Many people have been asking us what’s going on at Akela’s Den? Are we racing, what are our results? Etc…

Well it has been very busy out here. We have had the pleasure of having my parents out here from Belgium for 3 months. Give them a taste of what mushing is all about. So we started with cleaning poop and feeding the dogs! Always start from the bottom and work your way up! I don’t think they’ll ever run a team, but they have sure been a big help, watching the girls and helping in the yard. We’ll miss them!

We have also been lucky enough to have extra help from Joël Potié, with everything from training, to chores, to getting things ready for races…Thanks so much Joël!!. We didn’t even scare him away yet…. Tanja and Joël trained the yearlings and they are looking very promising. I (Stefaan) wish I could drive them too!

Snow came at the right time. So we promptly put the quad aside for the sleds – yahoo! Soon after though, we felt we were jinxed, because our 2 training sleds broke about the same time. So we had to do some rebuilding. Then, after one training run with 3 teams, we had a bunch of dogs with shoulder injuries…. I was pretty down about that! From having a few extra’s we were down to the bare minimum. We gave them some time off and slowly eased them back into the teams again. It seems the majority of those injured are back and running. So let’s cross our fingers for the rest of the season!

We are half way into our racing season here, and we can look back at some nice results. Joël and I ran the Neckbone Race the 3rd weekend of January. We blasted Joël with a wonderful experience the 2nd day, with whiteout conditions on Montreal Lake!! I have never seen, in all my years of mushing, such high winds. We did well for the most part, but soon the trail markers were stretched out too far. Our young bunch of dogs lost confidence and wanted to go with the wind, instead of dealing with the side wind. So we walked our teams for a while, until Karen Ramstead showed up with a good old faithful leader that brought us the last few miles across the Lake. Thanks Karen and team! We eventually came in 3rd and 4th. Pretty good for such a young bunch of dogs!

I had a day to get ready, before I had to head to BC for our first 200 mile race (www.railtrail200.com). I entered the Rail Trail 200, which starts and finishes in Grand Forks, B.C.. When I entered I was told that much of the race was going to be on the old rail trail bed. Well I guess plans changed, and soon after we left the starting Shute on January 28th, we had to tackle a big hill. The dogs and I had a nice workout! The whole day it was ups and downs. Snow filled the dark sky at night and partway in the day. It was tough and slow going for all the teams. I was running it as a qualifier, so I made sure that I took it easy on this young team. Looks like my hard slow quad training was paying off, because our home trails do not have a lot of elevation changes, but you could not have guessed that with this team climbing 3000 feet. The team grew stronger and I saw some nice things happening. Unfortunately first time races do have some problems, and we did run into them here too. Because of heavy snowfall, no trailbreakers, and with such mileage errors, we were running behind schedule! So race officials decided to box the dogs and restart the next morning (at the next checkpoint) to be able to finish on time. That night it finally froze and the trail was set for a spectacular race between Steve Mullen and my team. He had enough time on me, but the way my dogs ran I wanted to do that 56 miles in one go. They were cruising nicely. After a few hours I realized that the last stretch would be a lot longer than planned, and it resulted in a 10 and a half hour run to the finish line!! What a day. I was very proud of this bunch of prairie dogs. They should be well seasoned for the Challenge now!

The day after our home coming, we were pleasantly surprised with the birth of our first 8 puppies of the year! It was evenly divided into sexes so that was a nice bonus.

Finally after 2 years of my absence, I could start my 9th 12-dog Canadian Challenge Race again. A lot of the trail is new to me, since I last ran the race. Unfortunately, I was missing a few of my good dogs that I had to replace due to injuries. Yet in the end, one of the “replacement” dogs surprised me, by leading a good stretch of the race and finishing strong! It is always great when the dogs pull through for the team.

Tanja was also back racing the 8-dog Challenge again. 5 of her 8 dogs were yearlings, with two 2 year olds.  A very young team, yet with a lot of potential there. My team consisted of seven 2 year olds, and the 4 Quest veterans, with Yenta as a replacement. At the age of 10, he is probably running his last Challenge. Both of us kept our distances short and gave the dogs plenty of rest! Finishing was the priority. I was doing my 300 mile qualifier, so I had to be extra careful. At the last checkpoint before La Ronge I was down to 10 solid dogs, and Tanja finished with all 8 of her dogs. They looked good, and she had a great leader, so nothing was standing in her way to win this race. Well a bit of extra rest gave her position away temporarily, but luckily she was able to catch up again, to win the 8-dog Challenge!! The funny story is that she was also the only finisher in that class, so she had the honour of winning the red Lantern too (presented to the last place finisher)!

I still had 120 miles ahead of me after my 8 hour rest in La Ronge. 

Some teams were showing their weaknesses but I found my team was getting stronger. So it was time to see what they could do and I did the 70 mile run in one go to Stanley. There we had a mandatory 5 hour lay-over. I was happy that we did not lose any ground in that run and that proved we were on the right track. Because I was not going to gain any positions and had to settle for 3rd place, I gave them an extra hour of rest! The last 50 miles to the finish were pretty uneventful, except the temps dropped to a cold -35*C! Seeing the finish line after 6 hrs of running was a warm welcome. It even felt warmer when I could see my dad standing on the ice and be greeted by my whole family. My parents from Belgium, my wife and kids, Bart and my Father-in-law!  A well deserved plate of Bacon and eggs and later Bannock made this finish extra special!

We had not much time to recuperate, before our next race, in fact a week to be exact!  Joël (our handler), running Tanja’s team with 2 out of my team, and myself with our 3 dogs we leased out, started the 200 mile Torch River Run. Last year they ran on mud, but this year the temps dropped down to another -30*C. Just can’t win with the temperatures. It didn’t take too long before I noticed I had no spunk in my team. Dogs weren’t themselves and the 3 recruitments did not pan out like I wished. So when we pulled into the first checkpoint, 80 miles down the trail, I loaded the dogs in the truck. I had no hard feelings about it. It was foolish to think they can jump between races like sprinters can. Mid-distance dogs need more time to recover between races. They had already shown what they can do in previous races, so I could relax and start taking care of the injured dogs.

Joël’s team looked awesome, he passed the front runner at the last checkpoint and made enough time to come in first. We had a happy ending!!  In addition to that, we were very pleased with Joël for also receiving the best kept team award. An extra bonus, and often means more than the position you finished. It shows that the dogs still come first no matter what! Way to go Joël and team!!

Thank you also to Bart for taking time off work to handle and drive the truck and trailer for us during the Canadian Challenge Race and the Torch River Run – it was greatly appreciated!!

So with this, our racing season is complete. We learned a lot, and will sit around the table to evaluate the dogs, deciding who stays and goes. Our spring tea parties on the trail are coming up. So we can relax a bit now and spend some time with the puppies.

We are proud and excited to let you know that our trial of Akela’s Den Extreme dog food (34/25), was a success and we will be bringing it out for you to try this summer.

So keep a watch out this spring for some great dogs, new products, and a lot more.

Happy sledding…

Stefaan and co.

Akela’s Den Sled Dog Supplies & Racing Kennel

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November 15, 2010 – Training in Progress…

December 4, 2010 1 comment

Well, we are finally updating our blog, sorry for the very long hiatus! After the Yukon Quest 2010, this past February we took a break from most everything!

The Yukon Quest was a big success for our kennel. Bart and his team finished 17th out of a field of 24 teams that started. The team did great and looked even stronger at the finish than at the start!

Upon returning back home, Bart ran the same team in a local 200 mile race (Torch River Run) and blew the competition out of the water…snow actually! Marc Driessen, our handler, also ran this race with our yearling team, who had not so many miles of training behind them (the dogs I mean). They did great to finish in a respectable time and with the red lantern.

Our snow did not stay long after, so we only got the chance to gather friends and family for one “Tea Party” in the bush…a wiener roast, tea, cookies and lots of good laughs!

We sold most of our older main team of dogs, cutting our kennel size down from 50 to about 35 dogs… a more manageable size for us to maintain.

The summer was cool and very wet. The dogs did not enjoy standing in the muck, so we did a lot of work digging trenches to drain the water and tried to keep the dogs as comfortable as possible. We also built our “socializing, playpen” so now the dogs can romp around, get to know each other better, and have a change of pace during the summer months.

We are now back, full of energy and excited for the upcoming racing season…

Fall training started in mid September, once things were finally starting to dry out a bit. We have mostly very young dogs, so this will be a building year. They are all very eager and have great potential, so this will be a fun winter!

Currently, we have about 3” of snow on the ground, but mild temperatures yet, so we are waiting for things to freeze up, more snow, and then time on the sleds can begin….we can hardly wait!!

Stefaan will be doing most of the racing this season, which may include up to 4, 200 – 300 mile races. I, Tanja, am planning to race the 8-dog Canadian Challenge. Bart is helping out lots again this season, but taking a year off from racing.

We also welcome another helping hand, Joël Potier, for this season. Who may race the Torch River Run with my yearling team.

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Mission Accomplished

February 19, 2010 5 comments

Whitehorse 8.19pm

Mission accomplished! Today after 2nd fastest run of all teams Bart crossed the finish line with 9 dogs in Harness. 100 miles in one go! The dogs did not look all that tired if you consider the very warm day. They looked great. Still wanting to go, but as eager to find a cozy spot in the dog trailer. It was with a lot of excitement to see the team crossing the line. The first ever Saskatchewan Dog team running and finishing the Quest! We are very proud of that.
The 2 leaders to finish this journey were Scoobie and Achilles. Each dog is so special in this team that I want to tank them personally.

Scoobie: what can I say, He surprised us all with his leader capabilities. We knew he had it but never got it out of him till this race

Alamo: Our first breeding showing off big time. This 4 year old male showed what a good leader is made off. he got almost dropped but he dis served to finish after running most of the race in lead. He was the guy that pulled the team out of a checkpoint.

Achilles: Junior of the team but showing a lot of potential to go along with Alamo. Looking forward to see him growing more …

Popeye: Our little energy bunny! Ran most of the time in swing and was always ready to go.

Oslo: A guy we would have never guessed to cross the finish line. he did more than we asked him too.

Juneau: Came back out of BC with a shoulder injury and was our ? for the 14th spot but Bart was glad to have him along. A special team dog that missed his brother and partner, Joker,beside him.

Nelson: A rock, made out of concrete. Had a hard time, being sick coming into Dawson. He had a lot of TLC and bounced back to finish his job, Pulling Hard!

Alvin: The only veteran on the team. Did his job in glory and never complained.

Baltic: An other own breeding that showed off. Because he was a picky eater we were not sure to take him along but his appetite and performance was something to remember.

We can not forget the dogs that performed but unfortunately did not make it but we should give them the thumps up; Avalanche,Quincy,Odi,Quigly and Ernie. Thanks guys!

This team could not have done it without a great caretaker. Bart did everything to keep as many dogs in the team as possible. He was out massaging his dogs, feeding them, and gave them a lot of TLC. Before this race Bart did not have a lot of experience but he grew into it, learned a lot during those long hours on the trail behind the sled and in front taking care while resting. He fulfilled a job that I know a lot of people had question marks about it. He can be proud that he accomplished this adventure in glory.

I would also thank all our fans out there. sending us wishes and believing in us. We have it done a few times but I want to thank our Sponsors again for making this journey a success. As part of the team we thank you for your interest and support. Hope you stick with us in the future because we are building up our new generation Quest dogs!

So what is planned in the next few days. You think we can just sit back and relax. Nop, we will be stretching out those sore muscles for a short run. Bart has some media stuff going on tomorrow and the awards are on Saturday. So hopefully we will hit the road by Sunday afternoon. Ill try to put some finishing pictures on if I can download them.

Thanks,
Stefaan

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Bart on his last leg of the race

February 18, 2010 6 comments

Braeburn 2.15am

Last run just began! Bart left with 9 dogs in Harness. He left Ernie behind this time. He looked to tired and was not working that great anymore.

Bart came in with Alamo in the bag. He had a sore shoulder, but seems he got it massaged out and did not want to give up on him. This great dog ran more than half the race in lead and has not failed yet! it looked forever to get Bart into this checkpoint. He was just camping about 3 hours from it. Weather turned on us and has been warming up so much stuff is melting. Even tonight it is barley freezing!

Unfortunate we saw an other scratch in this race. Hope the rest hangs in there!

So now we going to have to wait till he crosses the finish line in +12hours depending if he will rest on the trail or not, weather and temperature depending. Follow Bart last run on the tracker. It is really addicting and can drive us crazy…..

Stefaan

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Bart on his way to Braeburn

February 17, 2010 3 comments

Carmacks 3.15am

Seems Bart has the luck to keep me awake most of the night till he leaves. Than a quick note and it makes it almost daylight.

Bart surprised us all with driving the team in one shot to Carmacks. Dogs looked great coming in and after an 8hour rest he left just after 2am for the last checkpoint Braeburn. It is about an 80 mile run so will see how the dogs are doing. He may give them a break half way for a couple of hours.

Bart was so kind to take off in Pelly with Peter under his wings and tried to get the Swiss guy Hertier going too. He came back telling his leaders did not want to go. Bart tried to help him going out again but no luck his leaders bulked on him again. Now it will be pretty hard to get them going again.

I bet some people wonder what we are doing all the time. Well not much. We have done our duty in Dawson City so it is up to Bart again. We hang around with other mushers. Check the internet over and over again and read some books. We also take care of all the dropped dogs. Mushers probably losing weight and handlers gaining some in this race!

Now we have some time to close our eyes before we hit the road to the next checkpoint. from there on it is only a 100 mile sprint to the finish line. Before that he has a mandatory 8h layover and a vet check. So I will get back to you in Breaburn.

Greetings,

Stefaan

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Bart in Pelly Crossing

February 16, 2010 3 comments

Pelly Crossing 3.15am

Bart pulled into the checkpoint a good hour ago with shortly behind him the British guy, Peter Fleck. Just now Jen pulled in and Katie is about an hour out of the checkpoint. This stretch between Dawson and Pelly is the longest stretch in the Quest without a checkpoint. It is 200 miles long with the Blackhills and King Salomons dome. Not forgetting some glaciers. So Bart had his adventure. He has been unfortunate to run into day time hours and today the weather was above freezing. It was almost t-shirt weather! I quickly had a look at the dogs before they bedded down and the looked a little tired, just the heat a bit but they are wagging their tails and were in good spirits. He said the dogs been eating good again and Nelson he carried into Dawson is back to normal and pulling hard. During all that time Bart has discovered his 2 magic leader that are his back bone. Scoobie and Alamo are an amazing duo seems like.

Bart said he did not sleep much the last 48 hours so he is ready for a nap!

Seems like he has been performing the good Samaritan over the last several 100 miles. He helped the Swiss guy getting out of Eagle when his leader bulked on him and for the longest time he has Peter Fleck under his wings. Peter is only 19 and his first real racing year and has done his qualifiers but the Quest is an other ball game. He has been thinking about quitting at times so Bart has been dragging him along. They have only 250 miles to go to the finish line. I bet that is also a bit why he is hanging back more.

The trail from hear is fairly flat now. His next run will be 75 miles bringing him into Carmacks. Weather depending he may pull over for a while to stay out of the heat.

So long,

Stefaan

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Bart´s off again

February 14, 2010 5 comments

Dawson City 2.50am

Well we sent Bart off around 2.25am to continue his journey after a mandatory 36h layover here. Team still counts 11 members! The dogs rested good, ate good and are in good spirits. Nelson was our question mark because he was still sick but he bounced back over the break. Hopefully they hang on. Some are still not 100% but at least they are eating!No sore muscles so that is a good sign.

During the 36 hours we were in full force, Mark and I. Our routine was continuous without a lot of sleep. It starts to take the dogs out from the tent and put them on the stake out. They can stretch and pee and do more business. We feed them, rub them in, and put them back to bed. Than a few hours later we take them for a walk and start over again. This about every 6hours,36 hours later our job is done for now. I dropped Mark off at the house because he needed some sleep asap! I am in the race office trying to get this out before you all wake up!

Later on today after a few hours o

f sleep we will go and break down the camp and will head towards the dog drop 100 miles down the road.

So now Bart has 200 miles ahead of him. When I put his sled in place I had a hard time moving it. He has food along for that stretch and he is cutting it in 4 runs of 50 miles. After a 100 miles there is a dog drop but before that he has to concur his last summit. King Salomon’s dome is waiting for him shortly. It should be OK. It is a nice ascent over 25 miles. Than if he makes the top he has the Black hills ahead of him. A rolling trail that will eventually take him to lower altitude.

His tracking device has been reset so you should be able to follow him along



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