It was 1998 and I was so overwhelmed to be there. I was handling for my friend Ross Adam and I remember holding dogs in the start chute for him and vowing I would be back with my own team.
Of course I have been, but little did I know that 15 years later I would be here as a race judge, having stood in the start chute 10 times with my own team.
The vissie vested security crew on 4th Avenue are well know for their thoroughness at the Ceremonial start - if you don't have a pass or musher/handler armband you are quickly escorted behind the fence. My 'race judge' pass was tucked inside my anorak, but yet the reception I got from security helped ease the pain of not racing this year. "Good morning, Karen", "Miss your beautiful team being here, Karen", "Aren't you Karen Ramstead?? I love your team".
I never had to pull out my pass.
There is really no 'job' for race judges on this 'clock not on' day, so I just visited with friends and wandered - ending up right next to the start line for most of the start. Cool spot to watch from, for sure!!!
|Ed Steilstra's team heading into the chute|
|Mike Williams' family|
|See the dog watching??|
|My dear friend Louise Russell - aka www.dogbooties.com|
|Mike Ellis confidently leading his lovely team of Siberians into the chute|
After everything was over I headed out to Willow for the evening. The traffic on Sunday morning into the re-start of Iditarod is CRAZY so I decided to avoid it by spending the night with my friends Doug and Krista Grilliot. Grilliots live just a couple miles from the restart, so if worse came to worst, Doug could snowmachine me over to the staging area.
Grilliots and I had a lovely evening catching up. I squished everything I'd need for the next 2 weeks into a backpack and stuffed my sleeping bag into its sack to be ready for the morning.
Doug had no pass nor 'handler' badge for the next day, so we were a bit concerned about getting him into the staging area but again my reception was all "Good morning, Karen", "Nice to see you, Karen" and we both skated through the security checks. Doug is the Quest's race marshal so when we bumped into Mark Nordman, he tracked down a pass for him, so we were 'official' after that.
Again, not a lot for race judges to do here - one real task only and that was bag checks for mandatory gear. Fellow race judge Rhodie and I divided up the task and set to work. That was actually a cool job, as I was able to get a good look at other mushers sled setups and packing.
|Mikhail Telpin's bag check|
|One of Mikhail's dogs patiently waiting for things to get underway!|
|Lance showing off his new 'cook on the go' cooker!|
|Not sure whose bag this is, but liked this quick access to the front of the sled bag option!|
|"Is it time yet?"|
I had been told that I likely wouldn't be able to watch the whole restart, as I would likely be flying out to Finger Lake before it finished but the restart finished and there I still was!!
|The 'Start' banner coming down!|
It turned into a good lesson for the next 2 weeks. Relax and enjoy - when you are needed, you will be found!