Dryland racing draws Alaskan mushers to Chugiak

Chugiak hosts dryland races in the fall.

The first dryland event of the year in Alaska took place in Chugiak. Over 40 participants filled the parking lot early Saturday morning. Ten bikers took off at 1-minute intervals in the 1-dog division, followed by 13 entrants in the 2 dog.  Although the dogs may only run in one division per day, six mushers entered both bike divisions, and several mushers entered teams in multiple events.

The 2 dog scooter race had 3 competitors, as did the 4 dog rig.  Kim Wells took first place in the rig. Kim lost her main leader this past summer to prostate cancer and entered the race with an untested front end. Her new rig, named “Summer Sucks II” was also untested, having undergone significant repairs.  2nd place finisher Kris Rasey, (owner of the rig aptly named “Summer Sucks I”) provided the majority of the repairs for Well’s rig. Kim is pretty sure that Kris Rasey will be out to win in their next meeting.

Pam Schamber won the 2 dog scooter division with her most excellent 10 year old leader and a 1 year old pup in training. She also ran in the canicross with her retired dog Wilbur, who pulled her to a respectable 13 minute finish. Pam hasn’t run much this summer and was sore enough the day after the race to reconsider running canicross the same day she races on the scooter.

Pam’s husband, Doug Franz, won both the 1 and 2 dog bike divisions. His 2 dog team of Bacon and Olaf finished 11 seconds faster than second place finisher Debora Summers. Doug pedaled their super star sprint dog Kripke to a 29 second victory in the 1 dog race and said he was pretty gassed at the end of the 2 races. First time dryland racer Andy Pohl had respectable finishes in both the 1 and 2 dog divisions. Andy is a competitive biker and a member of Team Speedway Cycles. He finished Iditarod in 2018 and raced with dogs from his Iditarod team. Andy was happy his long distance canine racers were able to hang with the houndy sprinters. Andy’s Fatback bike also traveled the Iditarod trail in 2014 and 2015, where he met his wife, Kristi Berington.

Kristi and her twin sister Anna have been running marathons and ultra’s the past few summers to stay in shape for their Iditarod activities. Both entered the Canicross with older retired Iditarod finishers.  Kristi and Jonah beat Anna and Jandall by 2 seconds. Both sisters felt the tightness in their quads that night after what felt like sprinting 2 miles compared to their usual pace in a marathon. Kristi tried to get around Alea Robinson at the finish line but Jonah slowed instead of passing and Alea held on to win by 1 second.  

Alea Robinson raced with 7 year old Azul, a rescue dog from the Mat-Su animal shelter. Neither Alea nor Azul had done much training this summer and Azul isn’t a particularly strong lead dog but he seemed to enjoy being in front of the other dogs. Alea worked hard to hold the lead and keep up with Azul. Alea also had a 3rd place finish in the 2 dog bike, racing with Harley and Clara. Clara is a houndy dog with speed but Harley is from Jesse Royer’s kennel and is a hard driving, hard pulling male. Alea has not fully qualified for Iditarod yet but in 2013 won the 300 mile Race to the Sky in Montana as a 17 year old, mushing a team from Royer’s kennel. Alea has finished college and is back in Alaska working at the Alaska Children’s Heart Center. She expects to stay involved with mushing and is trying to work out the logistics of a possible Iditarod.

Alea’s younger brother, Andy Noble, won the men’s canicross with a time of 10:23, and in fact was the only male to cross the finish line before the top 3 female finishers.

Chugiak Preliminary Dryland Race #2,  September 15, 2018.

The rematch between Kim Wells and Kris Rasey in the rig division saw both racers shave important seconds off their week 1 times. However, Scott Maruskie, who was out of town during week1, raced some fast young dogs to victory, besting both Wells and Rasey. The rigs have one more preliminary race before the ISDRA sanctioned Alaska Dog Works Dryland Derby on October 6-7, 2018.  

Andy Pohl captured second place in both the 1 and 2 dog bike races. He brought different dogs from his Iditarod team, looking for the best combination of speed and teamwork. Sweetums and Rizo helped Andy trim almost 20 seconds off last week’s 2 dog pace. Doug Franz finished in first place in both bike divisions again this weekend, cutting 15 seconds from last weekend’s times.  Doug changed up a few dogs with his wife Pam Schamber. Pam cut her time in the 2 dog scooter division by 13 seconds and bested the rest of the field by almost a minute.

Kristi Berington was pretty sore last week after Jonah surged at the starting line and pulled her hard the whole 2 miles. She switched up dogs this week and her time was about 30 seconds slower but she still held off her twin sister Anna by 2 seconds to grab first place in the female canicross. Mark Selland crossed the finish line one step ahead of Kristi to grab 2nd place in the male canicross, and Francis Cosgrave won the male division in 11:08.

Preliminary Dryland Race #3 was held September 22, 2018 and featured a relay format for the bike, canicross, and scooter.  October 6-7 is the Dryland Derby, sponsored by Alaska Dog Works. Racers will compete for ISDRA points and a $2,000 purse.