Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iditarod: The Real Alaskan Race

So I just got home yesterday after being in Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod. I'd have to say that the week prior to the start went great. In the past there's always been some crazyness to add to the stress of the Iditarod start. This year a big thanks goes out to Eric Jayne who helped with our vet checks and our endless Iditarod paperwork, all while he was stressing over his own son being in the race. Our biggest support was from Alisa and Jesse Guzman though who not only pick up and look after our drop dogs during the race but opened their house and backyard to Hugh and I and our 20 race dogs. It was so great to not have to drive back and forth to Willow all week and to be able to let the dogs out of the truck and run around their backyard.

So starting at the beginning - the Iditarod banquet. It was really long as usual. Hugh's plan was to pick the earliest number he could which would still get him out around 4pm to start him on a good run-rest schedule. He ended up with #57. When he finally got back over to the table after signing loads of pictures, he asked, "so who am I leaving near anyway?" He almost flipped when I said, "uh Hugh, actually you leave between John Baker and Martin Buser." oh well lots of pressure but good role models. The ceremonial start was on Saturday. I got to ride the second sled and our good friend Bruce Hagstrom drove the truck over to BLM for us. About 100' past the start line Hugh stopped the team to fix a line. As he was walking back the leaders jumped over the berm onto the road. We waited a moment but no one came over to help. Hugh ran up and pulled them back onto the snow which resulted in his sled with the Iditarider in butting up against the side of the berm and flipping over on its side. Of course the crowd were all laughing, and thankfully so was the Iditarider. Hugh ran back, righted the sled and we were able to take up just before Martin Buser took off. Through the 11 miles we took it slow but still passed a couple of teams that had pulled over to the side. Martin passed us on one of our stops but we ended up staying with him the rest of the trip. On the last downhill before BLM my sled flipped going around a corner (they call it a whip sled for a reason!) I dragged with the sled to the bottom of the hill where Hugh, laughing finally stopped the team. And there we were at the end of the first day - with me brushing off all the extra snow.

The real start was from Willow again this year. We got to Willow in good time - by 10 and had until 4pm when the team was scheduled to leave. Hugh was packing his sled when he realized he didn't have his cooker. This cooker was specially made this year and is part of the mandatory gear. Luckily Jesse and his friend were coming from Anchorage to help out. We gave them a call and they'd just arrived in Willow. Being the kind souls that they are, they agreed to run home and bring it back. The equipment checker came back a few times until finally Hugh borrowed Sebastian's extra cooker just in case. Jesse arrived just 5 minutes before Sebastian was leaving so we were able to sort things out. That chaos averted we had the sled packed and the dogs all harnessed and bootied with lots of time to spare. Hugh had Darkie and Blaze in lead, followed by Colby, Mertyle, Flame, Omen, Sally, Shyela, Snow, Friday, Blondie, Dozer, Nova, Titan, Mahoosic and Maestro. Hugh had decided in the Quest that he really didn't like the Seavey harnesses he had so I had to run out two days before the start and buy all new traditional H-Back style harnesses. From what he's said they're working out good. With the help of about 10 people we got the dogs to the start and Hugh left on time. I then got a ride from Mike Jayne's girlfriend Michelle up to Fairbanks. Sunday night and Monday I stayed with our friend Janie and then I flew home to Whitehorse on Tuesday. I've been trying to figure out ways to get to Nome for the finish but besides the cost (about $800) I'm not sure I could make it in to see Hugh and the team arrive. I'm still working on it though....


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