Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Iditarod 2014 Re-Start - Bet

Howdy Ho Everybodies!!!

It's time for the telling of the re-start of the 2014 Iditarod and everythings and stuffs.

Unlike the Ceremonial start, that happens in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, the re-start happens on a lake in Willow, Alaska, which happens to be about an hour and a half from Anchorage.  Don't ask me why, I have no clue, so I looked it up and everybodies pretty much said "because that's where all of the snow is" and that's normally true, except for this year, but we'll get into that a bit later... harumpf.

Anyhoo, so all of the dog trucks go and park on Willow Lake... because it's frozen.  It would be a bit difficult and silly to park in the lake if it wasn't, so I assure you they do have peoples there checking to make sure that it is indeed frozen before peoples go and park there... they pay attention to details like that.

So yes, this year the Willow lake was indeed frozen and therefore all of the dog trucks went and parked on it and similar to how the start was in the Ceremonial start, the mushers with the smaller numbers park farther away from the start than those with the bigger numbers so their dog trucks can leave after the Musher has started!

So this is what it looks like from the air and we were right about where the red arrow is pointing:
Picture courtesy of ADN

The circle part on the left hand side is where all of the dog trucks are parked and the line is all of the spectators watching the Mushers and dogs starting.

Anyhoo, the restart starts at 2pm, but the Mushers have to get there early, and the support peoples have to get there early, and the fans want to get there early to get good parking, and so everyone is getting there pretty early and driving the 1.5 hours to get there from Anchorage, except our Musher is smart and is staying in Willow so they just had a short relaxing drive.

Some of the minions took advantage of the Willow Elementary School all-you-can-eat breakfast fundraiser for some tasty foodables and coffee, and also their parking lot which is a lot closer than the race parking lot.

Nearby the start is the Willow community center up on the hill and there are vendors with foodables and drinks and coffee and bathrooms and there's also those lovely port-o-potties in the start area place, but lucky for me I don't have to use those... euw.

Security is a bit tighter for the re-start because this is the really real re-start.  They let people meander around with the Mushers early on, but then security comes through and makes everyone without an official arm-band or credentials get behind the orange fences.  You are still pretty close to the mushers and trucks though and you are very close to where the start is and the starting chute, so there's plenty of opportunity to get very good pictures of the Mushers as they prepare and as they leave.

Anyhooo, so here we all are at the start.

Since I'm officially a qualified Iditarod dog, of course I am allowed with my team.

I had heard the conditions were a bit icky out on the trail so I was just checking the sled thingies for the Musher.

It's sorta like a big tailgating party.  The Musher's supporters brought chairs, coolers, foodables that were left over from the open house, a grill was set up near the hood of the dog truck and tasty foods were cooked for the Musher and support crew by Doug.

I shared some bloggity blogging tips with the famous Sebastian Schnuelle and he shared his foodables with me out of professional courtesy.

So generally, the Musher and the support crew made themselves busy making sure the Musher and Pretty Curly Tails had everything they needed before the race.

Look!  It's Louise of official sponsor of North Wapiti Kennels!

Since this was the first time the Musher grew her hair out long, she needed to figure out how to pull it back on the trail and still look stylish and FABulous, so that meant bringing Jenifer Minion in to braid the Musher's hair.

We officially found an official role for Jenifer Minion as the offically braidy minion!
There was more waiting around, and at 2pm the teams started moving to the starty line for the official restart.  The Musher knew her starty time was around 3:49, so she could plan accordingly and get everythings ready.

To give you an idea of the ambiance, here is what everybodies could hear and see from the truck.  That's Minions Jenifer and husband Mark behind the fence plotting where they would go to see the Musher start.

There's all sorts of official things that are done while the Mushers wait.  The Iditarod official comes to go through the sled bag to make sure that all of the required things are indeed in the sled bag.

What are all of the required things that need to be in the sled bag?  Well I'm glad you asked, because here is the list for you:

  • Proper cold weather sleeping bag, 
  • ax, 
  • snowshoes, 
  • any promotional material provided by the ITC, 
  • eight booties for each dog 
  • an operational cooker and cooking pot, 
  • Veterinarian notebook to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint, 
  • an adequate amount of fuel to bring three gallons of water to a boil, 
  • cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing dog team, 
  • a functional non-chafing harness for each dog in team and 
  • a functional neckline and 
  • adequate emergency dog food must be in the sled when leaving a checkpoint

You can find out more information on what Musher's need to consider they bring along the trail in this very informative blog posting from Iditarod dog blogger Gypsy (who is my personal favorite and who knows Donna F Minion personally too).

That metal bucket inside another bucket is the Musher's cooker!  Yes, that fits nicely inside her sled bag.
 You may also notice the coils that are secured to the sled bag, those are graphite sled rail covers.  Some mushers use plastic sled rail covers, but the Musher had heard that trail conditions were a bit daunting and spent the extra money for some heavy duty rail covers.

Red blinking light on the left hand side

Green blinky light on the right hand side, and now others know which way she's facing... kinda like how airplanes are lit.

The microchip checkers also come around to make sure that all of the dogs that were vet checked and cleared to run the race are the ones that will be hooked up and running the race.

The Musher took some time to do interviews before the race.

Last, but not least, the ITC came and attached the new and improved GPS unit onto each sled bag.  Instead of a large unit on the nose of the sled, this year it was one or two units pinned with very large safety pins toward the top of the bag opening.  Wayward was not happy about this.

There was even more waiting and waiting, so the Musher decided to relax on the top of the dog truck for a while.

It gave her a good view of the other mushers leaving... and here is Deedee Jonrowe leaving for the chute.

A few hours before their start, the Pretty Curly Tails got let out to grab a bite to eat.

Then got put back to they could rest up, update their Facebooks statuses or whatever they wanted while the Musher did her final preparation to make sure she had everything she needed for the race, and that everything was perfect on the sled.

This is where everybodies got all serious and I had to go into the command center to make sure all of the checklists were checked off.

The Musher double and triple checked the contents of her sled, Minions calmly scurried all over looking for whatever the Musher needed or followed Richard's directions.

Official handlers arrived from ITC and they were all handed leashes and given directions on what they were to do.

The gangline was pulled out.

Everything was going very quickly but methodically as the Pretty Sled Dogs were pulled out of their boxes and escorted to their place on the gangline and assigned a handler.

Being the professionals they are and very well trained by ahem... me, the Pretty Curly Tails were very calm as they waited to be told what to do by the Musher.

When it was their turn to head to the chute, the handlers, led by Andrew Gersbach, guided the Pretty Curly Tails toward the mouth of the chute.

Then waited their turn.  Then moved up as each musher left the start.

Until finally it was the Musher's turn to start.  Please note, once again... this is the Musher's 11th Iditarod, not the 10th.

We would also like to point out that the Pretty Sled Dogs were perfectly calm and only barking a little bit in the chute... all of that barking is from the team behind them.


And just like that... they were gone!

My next bloggity blog will be "After The Start" so join us then!

- Bet

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