Sunday, 5 March 2006

March 5, 2006 Willow Restart

7:00am - Head to Jamie's house where Karen and Mark are. Harry, Samantha, and Colleen are all there as well. Help Colleen with breakfast - steak, eggs, and potatoes...yummy! The sled was packed and loaded onto the dog truck the night before so all that remains is to load the plastic bins of supplies, and the dogs.
9:00am -Take off for the Willow Community Center where the restart is. Lots of laughter and jokes going on in the truck on the 5 mile drive there. Everyone's spirits are up. Anchorage always seems such a zoo, and the restart is "Okay, take a deep breath, relax, and get ready, it's the real deal today."

Photos by
by Mary Curtis
Doug & Karen
Karen & close friend Doug Grilliot
Jamie Nelson & Karen before the 2006 Iditarod Restart
Karen & mentor/friend Jamie Nelson
We pull the sled off the truck, pull out all the plastic bins for Karen to sort thru and pick out the things she's going to use or put in the sled. Go get some coffee. Wait awhile to drop dogs since they've only had a 10 minute ride from home. We just keep checking with Mark as to whether we should be doing anything at this time or not.

TheDirector.jpg (141948 bytes)
Mark (with his cast inside NEOS boots) - aka "The Director"
Drop dogs, load dogs. They don't get selected for pee testing this year. Moses fails his microchip test check. The last 3 digits read 060, and should read B6D. Karen shows up and goes right after those microchip testers and sets them straight. Later different ones show up to wish Karen good race, she has them run their scanner across Moses and his number reads just fine. Next time we drop dogs, Colleen and I put them in the order they will be on the gangline. I don't have that list, Colleen does. You'll have to badger her for it. We are on the lake for hours and hours. Buy hotdogs and reindeer sausages for lunch.

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Time for a kiss
3:45pm - We drop dogs for the last time. Karen leaves at 4:28. We harness the dogs with many helping hands. Leashes are attached to the gang line and handlers told the rules. We WALK to start line. Take the leashes off soon as we're there, step back when the countdown is at 10.

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Conrolled landing...
 PreRace Dog Drop
Dog drop before the Restart
All the trucks are parked on the lake. It's a much nicer setup than it has been in past years. No odd turns around sharp corners, no steep hills to try and control the team down. It's nearly a straight shot to the start. Head straight out from the truck and veer slightly left, lots of room to do it easily. Stop and wait for the teams in front of us. Then an easy right turn to line up for the starting chute. Stop when the sled hits the start line. Plenty of handlers to control the team to this point. Now we're really here. Go along and collect the leashes, remind everyone that when the countdown hits 10 to let go and step back and do not touch the team after that no matter what. It's all Karen's job now and if anything happens before they take off, she will deal with it.

Karen walks down the team to the the leaders and back. I walk back up to the front where Colleen is with the leaders. Colleen has a tear on her cheek and I feel them too. It's such a wonder to watch Karen get them to this point. To get to know the dogs, to watch the work Karen puts into them, to read her diary entries and to feel a part of her support team. Then to be at this point with 10 seconds left before they leave on that 1000 mile journey.....all the training and hard work is over and they are about to disappear down that trail, over the hill and out of sight.

Almost Ready
Are you ready?
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Colleen with the leaders, Snickers & Dasher
...3...2...1 and they're off! We watch for a couple seconds before we are shooed out of the start chute. I walk into to the spectator area, thru a gate and back into the musher's area. I glance back over my shoulder in time to see Karen's team climbing the hill up onto one of the road crossings she has here in Willow. Then they are gone. Good running, Karen!

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They're off!!
Olena - Moses
Herman - Hector
Going.jpg (160993 bytes)
Going, going..
Crunchie - Skor
BatDog - Junior
Gone.jpg (151350 bytes)
Janet Mattos
Handler - Iditarod 2006
Willow, Alaska
Photo by
by Pauline Schroeder
2006 Restart - On to Long Lake by Julie Verrett
Snickers - Dasher
Kara - Sprite
Olena - Moses
Herman - Hector
Crunchie (hidden) - Skor
BatDog - Junior
Draco - Surge
Loki - Odie
(The listing of names is from front to back,
left to right from Karen's perspective)

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