Dryland races

Jan Bootz-Dittmar racing during the Doty Days last fall.

Two Rivers Funjor

Fairbanks, AK

Oct. 6

The Two Rivers Dog Mushers hosted their second annual Funjor event on October 6, 2018.  According to race director and club president Amanda Smith, the turnout this year was about the same as last year, but the mix of participants was different.  Last year several local long distance mushers participated or attended in support of the inaugural dryland race in Interior Alaska.  This year, the field was lacking those mushers, perhaps, Amanda mused, that the Copper Basin having its online signup lottery at 10 a.m. on race day prohibited a few from appearing this year. Nonetheless, a great time was had by all.

The weather was cool and dry. Abby West, race founder and organizer, competed in the event and was excited to see new faces.

The 5k run started the day, followed by a 10k bike race. The Funjor ended with a 3-person/1- dog relay with 1-mile legs. Team members could choose to share the same dog or each use different dogs.

Jakob Witkop and his canine companion McCoy won the 5k run and crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of Bryan Schmel. Joe Taylor captured the bike race, and the team led by Cassidy Meyer won the relay.

The Bodany family of three approached the finish line of the canicross together. They recently relocated from Galena to Two Rivers. Karin, mother of 9-year-old Ida, said Ida loves mushing and raced three dogs in the carnival in Galena. While hiking in the area, Karin was thinking someone should put on a dryland race. The next day she saw the sign at the Pleasant Valley Store and the family signed up. Ida showed off with her pound rescue dog Tikka as they sprinted together to beat her parents across the finish line.


Alaska Dogworks Dryland Derby

Chugiak, Alaska

Oct. 6-7

After several preliminary dryland races in September, the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association (CDMA) hosted their two-day Dryland Derby, sponsored by Alaska DogWorks, on October 6 to 7, 2018. The race counts towards International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) points.

Robert Forto, owner of Alaska Dogworks and vice president of the Chugiak Dog Musher board of directors, has sponsored the $2,000 purse for the last two years and has raced in the event every year since its beginnings. He said he appreciates the early season timing of the event and loves the kicked back attitude of the Chugiak club.  

Deb Summers, dubbed the “Dryland Diva” by her follow CDMA board members, recognized the need for Dryland events in Alaska and organized the first races in 2014. The sport is growing in popularity and participation continues to increase. The number of bikers in each class has remained constant with participants numbering in the mid-teens, but the scooter and rig classes saw a record number of entrants this year.

On a beautiful Saturday, racers in all divisions established their positions for the next day of racing. Sunday started cloudy and the rain hit as the 1-dog bikers were finishing. The trail turned quite muddy and mushers received complimentary mud facials that Kim Wells suggested “may not have been all mud.”  Ten mushers raced the 2-dog scooter class. Pam Schamber has yet to lose a Dryland race at Chugiak this year in the Scooter division. Angus and Bacon are her go-to dogs. They finished one minute ahead of second place Nina Baum, who used only one dog, her “Greyster” Molly, in the race. Annie Grenier captured third place. Annie thanked the club for hosting the race and loved the livestreaming on Facebook. Her grandparents from the East Coast were finally able to watch her race.

Doug Franz raced with Taco to remain undefeated in the 1-dog bikejor class. Chris Burrow drove down from Fairbanks to compete for the purse. He and his dog Drake finished 10 seconds behind Franz. Scott Jerome rounded out the top three in the 1-dog bikejor.

Doug Franz raced Kripke and Olaf in the 2-dog and barely held off Diva Deb Summers and her fast dogs Jasper and Solo. Solo is a rescue dog from an Alaskan village and has become an amazing sprint dog.  Niina Baum borrowed a few dogs from Scott Maruskie and finished 3rd in the 2 dog. Niina has raced Dryland races all over the Midwest and recently moved to Willow, Alaska. She was planning to fly to Poland to compete in the World Championships but plans fell through, so she enjoyed the camaraderie and mud in Chugiak.

Eight mushers entered the 4-dog rig class and Scott Maruskie continued to dominate, besting second place Kim Wells by 30 seconds overall. Kris Rasey held onto third place and promised Wells that this summer, she would be re-working her own rig instead of fixing the rigs of her closest competitors. At the banquet Maruskie reminded all the mushers to “thank your dogs and thank your wife” (or husband).

In the women’s canicross division, Alea Robinson and Azul held off Niina Baum to win first place. Kristy Berington was seconds behind in third place. At the banquet Kristy thanked the volunteers and the club for hosting the race and remarked that it was fun to race against some new faces as compared to all her Iditarod and distance racing friends. Alea raced several divisions this year. Last year she won a scooter in a raffle and took an older dog this year to try it out. Alea and Niina finished two seconds apart in the 2-dog bikejor, both finishing just ahead of Andy Pohl.

Kari Kossila is friends with Pam Schamber and was visiting from Finland with plans to summit Denali. Pam encouraged him to enter the canicross division and give dog-powered sports a try. She lent him trusty old Wilbur and they crossed the finish line ahead of the only other male competitor, Jerry Cosgrave. Kari enjoyed the experience but doesn’t plan on changing careers anytime soon.


UP Dryland Dash

Marquette, Michigan

October 13-14

The Wisconsin Trailblazers and the UP 200 race organization hosted the UP200 Dryland Dash in Negaunee, MI on October 13 to 14. This year’s event had picture perfect weather complete with amazing fall colors at their peak.  Weather leading up to the event had been unseasonably warm and many mushers had been unable to get much training time for their dogs. Turnout was lower than in the past in the rig and scooter classes.  All had a great time in the beautiful, dry fall weather.  This year race organizers encouraged participation from non-mushers. The UP 200 Dryland Dash and Fun Run, billed as the first dryland event in the Midwest, flooded Negaunee, MI with participants looking for ISDRA points as well as some recreational dog powered enthusiasts. The race was managed by the Wisconsin Trailblazers and held at the Negaunee Township Park. The canicross, 1-dog bikejor and junior races ran a one-mile course. The 4- and 6-dog rigs, scooter and 2-dog bikejor had a 2.23-mile trail. A purse of $2,000 was up for grabs, split among the fastest teams in each division.  The Fun Run was intended for people with limited or no experience to bring their dogs out and give dryland “mushing” a try. Shock absorbers, waist belts, and harnesses were available for use and demonstrations were held by club members.

Michael Marsh took first place in both the 4-and 6-dog rig classes. Canadian Kaitlynn Tidwell won the 2-dog scooter. Melissa Omernick bested her husband Keith in the 2-dog bikejor by almost one minute. Melissa beat Keith in the 1-dog class as well, but by a smaller winning margin.  Katya Burch took first place in the women’s canicross division and Timothy Burch won the men’s division.

The UP Dash also hosts a registered breeds race, and Ellyn Reese won the 4-dog rig and the 2- dog scooter. Jenifer Lyons took first place in both the 1- and 2-dog bikejor classes.


Doty’s Dusty Dog Dryland Race

Doty, Wisconsin

October 20-21

Patrick and Jenifer O’Brien are dog-powered sports enthusiasts and just happen to be friends with Phil and Kim Ruhl, current president of the Wisconsin Trailblazers.  For several years they talked about a new dryland event and last year the O’Briens took a serious look at the land they owned as a potential race venue. They used heavy equipment to create wide, hard packed dirt trails in a large field in Doty, Wisconsin. The Trailblazers club provided race management and the community support resulted in a $3,500 purse in addition to prizes. Nutrisource dog food is a main sponsor and donated a pallet of dog food.

Weather was cool and some light snow fell but the conditions remained stable for racing and the inaugural Dusty Dog Dryland Race had almost 100 teams race for the purse and some amazing prizes.

In the registered breeds races, Ellyn Reese added a few more trophies and ISDRA points to her collection, winning the 2-dog scooter and 4-dog rig classes.  Cruz Schubert-Foust won the 6-dog rig. Lori Neises took first in the 2-dog bike and finished second to Noah Baumgarten in the 1-dog bike.

Richard Kisseloff took first place in the 2-dog scooter, 2-dog bikejor and finished second in the 1-dog bike. Torrey Swanson held off Richard by six seconds to take first place in the 1-dog bike. Melissa Omernick finished in third place in the 1-dog bike and second place in the 2-dog bike.

Jay Olmstead traveled from New York to take first place in the 4-dog rig. Hannah Marsh finished second and Jan Bootz-Dittmar was 3.5 seconds behind to capture third place.  Michael Marsh won the 6-dog rig, and Jan Bootz-Dittmar finished second.

Canicross champions were Nick Weis in the men’s division and Rachael Bryar Colbath in the women’s.


Bristol Dryland Canadian Championships

Bristol, Quebec

October 27-28


Dryland racing has been popular in Europe for more than 20 years. After competing in a few European wheeled events, Denis Rozon wanted to bring dryland racing to his home in Canada.

In 2010 the town of Bristol, Quebec helped him build trails and local businesses contributed $10,000 for the purse. Fifty-five racers competed that first year. The 2018 competition was the 9th annual Bristol Dryland Canadian Championships and saw over 300 teams. Due to the large number of entries, teams started in 30-second intervals. Competitors were seeded based on past performances in both the Bristol event and other dryland races.

The racecourse is in a rural location and the closest hotels are 35 minutes away in Ottawa. A few years ago, Denis built some tipis on site to rent for the week before the race. Local Native tribes painted the tipis with symbols and colors. Bathroom facilities are on site and food is available on race days. Many racers set up camp there and the weekend has a party-like atmosphere. Bleachers are set up so spectators can comfortably watch the start and finish. Race Marshall Jim Cunningham keeps things moving on schedule.

With such a spectacular venue and history of smooth organization, racers come from all over North America to compete. Denis reported that Americans make up 90 percent of the field and travel from the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, Tennessee, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Alaska. ISDRA members from the Canadian Provinces of Quebec and Ontario filled out the field, along with many racers not registered with ISDRA. On occasion, a competitor has traveled to Bristol from Europe.

Richard Kisseloff from Illinois had the fastest two-day time in the field of 26 entrants in the 1-dog scooter class. Kisseloff also finished third in the 2-dog scooter and third in the 1-dog bikejor. Kisseloff had a string of victories this season across the Midwest in 1- and 2-dog bikejor and 1- and 2-dog scooter classes.

Pam Schamber from Anchorage, Alaska traveled to the race this year with her dog Bacon and her trusty scooter. She finished on the first day in fifth place but a crash on the second day dropped her in the standings, although she still managed a respectable 14th place finish out of 26 entries. This was Pam’s first dryland event outside Alaska. She was impressed with the organization and was especially fond of the seeding, which allowed for smoother racing and less passing on a course with 180-degree bends. 

Twenty-five bikers entered the 2-dog bikejor division and Laurence Saucier beat Albine Devinant by one second to capture first place. Sylvain Daguerre finished third in the 2-dog bikejor event but won the 1-dog bikejor by almost 20 seconds over second place Yan Larouche. Fifty-seven bikers competed in the 1-dog race.

Marie Parent captured the lead on the first day in the 2-dog scooter event and held on to win the event, beating second place Mandy Collins, third place Richard Kisseloff, and the rest of the field of 20 entrants.

Nineteen men and 23 women raced the canicross division. Genevieve Baril had a solid two-minute victory over Valene Desroches and Carolane Lachance in the women’s race. Cedric Boisvert beat Nick Weis by six seconds in the men’s race and Yanick Vallieres finished third.

In addition to the usual classes of bike, scooter, canicross, and 4- and 6-dog rig, Bristol features an eight, yes, 8-dog rig class. Race organizer Denis Rozen raced the 4-dog rig this year. He acknowledges that it is difficult to stop and hold a team on a rig. Once a driver leaves the start line, they are committed to going all the way. The course design with 180-degree turns allows trail help to be staged many places throughout the race in order to assist racers if necessary. Jan Bootz-Dittmar notes that a race like this is not the place to bring an untested dog. Only the best and most dependable dogs get to race in a large team. Ten brave mushers entered the 8-dog rig and competed for $2,650 of the 10,000 purse.  Canadian Jean-Rene Saucier narrowly won the event, besting American Benjamin Thompson by six seconds overall. Louis Parent finished third.

The 6-dog rig class had 21 competitors and Americans, both from Wisconsin, grabbed the top two spots. Michael Marsch held off Jan Bootz-Dittmar by 15 seconds. Valerie Fuchs finished in third place. 

Twenty-three racers entered the 4-dog rig class. American Jay Olmstead held off Albine Devinant by one second to capture first place. Kayla Broom bested Bootz-Dittmar by half of a second to grab the third-place award.

The Bristol Dryland Races also offer a Registered Breeds class. Francois Hamel won the 6-dog rig and Lisa De Gennaro won the 4-dog rig. Lisa finished second in the 2-dog scooter as winner Kent Merkley finished the 3-mile course in 25:43, almost as fast as Lisa’s winning time in the 4-dog rig.


Redpaw’s Dirty Dog Dryland Derby

Pearson, Wisconsin

November 3-4


Amy Cooper signed up to race her first IFSS event in 2005. She flew her bike and a dog to Belgium and loved the event. Upon arriving back home in Wisconsin she set to work organizing a dryland event in the Midwest. Fellow enthusiasts Beth Wagner and Beth Castaldi joined forces with Amy, found a great location at the MaKaJaWan Boy Scout Camp in Pearson, Wisconsin, and in 2006 the Dirty Dog Drlyand Derby was born.

The three co-chairs worked to foster community support and built a network of volunteers to help with all aspects of the race. Each September, after the Boy Scouts are finished with summer activities, the volunteer crew brushes and maintains a 1.5-mile and a 2.5-mile trail. Other volunteers make food items to sell on race days. More volunteers make unique awards for the winners in each class. One year each award was fabricated from parts of a bicycle. The Dirty Dog motto is “Come have a blast with your dogs”, and the co-chairs have that in mind as they co-ordinate all aspects of the event. Local businesses like Cannonball Canine Sports and CoVantage Credit Union have been loyal sponsors, and about four years ago, Redpaw dog food became a major sponsor. The Boy Scout camp is a great place to hold a race and has most of the necessary tables, chairs and shelters to stage the event. The collaboration with the Boy Scouts is invaluable in the success of the Dirty Dog Derby.

Trail Boss Pam Krueger travels every year from Grand Rapids, Michigan to volunteer at the race. Entries have remained constant over the last several years and co-chair Beth Castaldi has noticed a marked increase in dog conditioning and driver technical skill. Juniors age 7-15 can enter their own 1- or 2-dog wheel division or the Jr. Canicross.

Weather is always a big challenge in any outdoor event. The Dirty Dog has been lucky most years. Once they had to cancel the first day of a race due to heavy snow but a quick warm up melted snow and the next day’s races were held. Other years they have moved some classes to the shorter 1.5-mile trail. But as in any two-day race, rarely are conditions the same both days.

The 13th annual Redpaw Dirty Dog Derby started Saturday, November 3, with perfect race conditions and 88 teams registered. Not even the borrowed race bibs from Three Bear Land O Lakes dampened spirits. Redpaw race bibs had been ordered but had not been delivered in time and organizers scrambled to borrow bibs from available sources. Competition was fierce to earn a handmade “Dirty Dog pillow” and part of the $2,000 purse. After the sanctioned classes were complete, a cani-fun-run-walk event was held and about 35 people traveled the 1.5-mile trail, attached in some fashion to their dogs. Excited children, perhaps too young to compete yet in the junior division, harnessed up to a parent and a dog for the fun-run-walk.

Mushers, families, spectators and volunteers lingered around a bonfire Saturday night, catching up with old friends and making new ones. Snow started falling Sunday morning, slowly at first. The 4-dog rig class was finished and the snow continued to fall, increasing in intensity. The 6- dog rig class finished despite a serious accident involving well-known ISDRA competitor Jan Bootz-Ditmar. She suffered a broken leg and collarbone and in the time it took the ambulance to negotiate the trails, the snow continued to pile up. At that point the rest of the race was canceled. During the award ceremony every participant wins a door prize and this year’s prizes earned ooohhhsss and ahhhhssss from the crowd.

Results this year were interesting as the 4-and 6-dog rig races had two day totals while all other classes had only times from one day of racing. Michael Marsch held off second place finisher Benjamin Thompson and third place Matt Johnson to win the 6-dog rig. Hannah Marsch took first place in the 4-dog rig, followed by Jamie Johnson in second and Jan Bootz-Dittmar in third place.  Niina Baum and her dog Molly traveled back to Wisconsin from Willow, Alaska to compete and finished second in the 2-dog scooter class, which was won by Richard Kisseloff. Mandy Collins finished in third place, just .05 seconds off Niina’s time.

Richard Kisseloff also won both bikejor classes, besting Daniel Bocock and Melissa Omernick in the 1-dog bikejor. In the 2-dog class Melissa Omernick bested husband Keith by two seconds as they finished in second and third place behind Kisseloff.

Canicross races were canceled on the second day. Nick Weis from Missouri won the men’s division and Brooke Kish from Colorado won the women’s race.




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