Lots of odds and ends to report - so I'll get right too it.
I was wide-awake at 4:30 this morning, eager for the day to get underway. The reason for my excitement, you ask?? Well Mark arrives back in Alaska this evening.
Earlier this year some friends did a video taped interview with Mark and I discussing our relationship, how we deal with the responsibilities of the dogs together, etc. (Apparently, some folks think we work really well together - obviously they are not ones that have ever watched us try to paddle a canoe across a lake together. After that we had to go out and buy 2 one-man kayaks to prevent a divorce. Mind you, that was many years ago :) .
One of the questions that really stuck with me was when Mark was asked how he handles my being 'away' for close to 2 weeks on the Iditarod Trail. He laughed and said that at least he can follow me when I'm on the trail and that the tough part was the months we are apart during training. He's right. We spend a lot of time apart throughout the year and although I love my lifestyle, my happiest times are the ones when he is around. I'm grateful for the freedom he so willing gives me to spend time in Minnesota and Alaska (remember he still has 35 - 40 dogs to care for at home when I'm away, as well as his job), but even more grateful that he is willing to follow me to those places.
The one thing he did before heading up was secure a place to watch TV on Sunday morning that gets the FOX network so he could watch the Daytona 500.
Many thanks to Doug and Krista Grillot for the offer of the use of their couch and TV - he might have stayed home otherwise. He's supportive - but there are limits to everything! * grin *
Yesterday was Drop Bag day - always a relief to have that out of the way. Jamie and Harry regained some usable space in their basement and shed when I loaded up the 42 bags and headed for town yesterday morning.
Howling Dog Farm handler, Janet came along to keep me company on the drive to Anchorage. She broke her collarbone in a sledding accident a few weeks back and has a fair amount of time on her hands while she mends. I'm glad laughing doesn't involve collarbones, because we managed to get severely lost in Anchorage about 3 or 4 times yesterday. With much giggling, some banging of my head on the steering wheel, and a little luck we did manage to get the bags dropped off, to Gwennie's for lunch and then back to Willow.
Total weight on the bags this year was 1575 lbs - just about the same as last year's, but substantially down from my first 3 years when I sent out in excess of 2000 lbs each time. Better team, better food (that Eagle Ultra is wonderful!), better race plan, more experience = small food drop.
The dogs have been on a fairly light training schedule the last while due to the heavy going on the trail and my needing to spend some time on drop bag stuff. I have opted for this rather then an extended break that they usually get somewhere around this time of year and it seems to be working pretty well. The next week they will get a final 'push' with some 50-mile runs planned and then their training will be scaled back to allow them to really ready themselves for Iditarod.
I am sad to report that one cut has been made to the team this year - Chester will not be making a 4th trek across Alaska. Although he is fine and full of energy now - his injury from Copper Basin put him out of training long enough that it would be unfair to expect him to get back into racing shape before the beginning of March. His presence will definitely be missed. He natters away at the team when we are getting ready to leave on a run and when we come back into the yard, I hope he is giving the younger dogs some good tips and advice on how to be as tough a sled dog as he has always been.
No one else is volunteering to stay home on Race Day - they are trying to make it as tough as possible for me to make cuts. I think this year, rather then deciding which 4 will stay home, I'll be picking which 16 need to go. Regardless, it will be hard.
Everything else is moving along. We are starting to make plans for the pre race days. We have a bunch of family and friends coming up for the start this year, which will be wonderful. Jamie and Harry have graciously agreed to allow us to do an Open House here on the Friday before the Race, which will allow us to spend some time with everyone. The dogs are looking forward to an afternoon of mega attention, for sure! More details on the Open House will be announced as soon as I sort them out.
Well that is about it for now. If any of you are looking for a little 'pre Iditarod' race fix, make sure to check out the Yukon Quest (www.yukonquest.org), which is already in progress, and cheer on fellow Siberian musher, Blake Freking!! I certainly am!