We've posted over 100 pictures to Flickr that Anna and Kristy took while out on the trail as well as two new YouTube videos, so don't miss the two posts prior to this one! Check those out to help get back into a mushing mood before reading on.
As the twins unwound from the race, both immediately after and upon returning home, stories from the trail emerged. Several make for humorous comparisons to daily life. Take food, for example. I already made reference in a prior post to the 'salad phenomenon' in Nome after the race, as mushers flock to the fresh vegetables they've been lacking for so many days. Out on the trail, little food novelties are welcome. The twins were thrilled to find some cheesecake left over at one of the checkpoints (apparently some mushers go all out with their personal food supplies). It pays to be discriminating with leftovers, though... Anna had a questionable encounter with some Chinese. I'll spare you the details.
Beverages are another consideration. They're tough to pack out as everything freezes. Paul loves Pepsi, and happened upon one along the trail. It was frozen, but after making dinner for his dogs, he placed the can in the remnants of warm water in his cooker hoping it would thaw. Imagine how surprised Paul and his dog team were when not long after there was a loud noise and the can shot about 15 feet in the air! Note to self... do not attempt to thaw a compressed liquid with the top facing down.
How about sleep? The mushers on the trail get precious little, and you can bet there is fair amount of catching up to do when the race is done. Aside from maybe stretching out for 15 - 20 minutes, the twins didn't really sleep at all over the first 3 days of the race, which is typical of most mushers. And outside of their 24 hour layover, they only got a couple hours of sleep per day. One of Anna's first comments to me when we were chatting in the dog lot after the race was, "I had no idea how much I could sleep standing up!" A certain skill and instinct must be required to sleep standing up on the back of a moving dog sled in subzero temps, but it's a practical way of recharging one's batteries. It's not without its risks, though. One could wake up and not know when a trail marker was last passed, or be caught off guard by a hazard on the trail. There's also the simple risk of falling off the sled and waking up as you face plant in the snow (Kristy can give a firsthand account of that!).
As far as the trail is concerned, there were sections that proved as challenging as usual, and sections that weren't so bad. The twins had been a bit nervous about the Farewell Burn and the Happy River Steps, but the snowpack was very deep this year, making some of the typical pitfalls of these portions less daunting. The Dalzell Gorge, between Rainy Pass and Rohn, left quite an impression on Anna, though, as one of the more technically difficult sections of trail. And of course there's the Blowhole near Safety. Windy, cold, unforgiving.
Kristy was quoted after her 3rd running of this race that it was the "toughest Iditarod yet," and "The wind... my god, the wind!" And they did see -50 degrees F ambient air temp on the trail (witnessed near Old Woman Cabin).
Folks frequently ask if there were any animal sightings on the trail. Other mushers saw a moose or two. Anna and Kristy saw 2 wolves from a manageable distance. Paul's dogs found new spring in their paws when they followed a fox down the trail for a while late in the race (Paul all the while hoping the fox didn't suddently dart off the trail with the dogs not far behind).
There was even a bit of trail treasure! Paul noticed something blowing down the trail towards him... in the middle of nowhere there was a cash tumbleweed amounting to $11. Each twin spotted a dropped pair of goggles along the trail that went unclaimed (c'mon... if you drop something out there do you really expect to see it again?!).
The twins are probably lucky they didn't contribute some of their own things to others' trail treasure. As they moved along the trail together, conditions rarely allowed them to mush side by side. So they discovered the most efficient way to pass things between one another was for the twin in front to set an item ~ be it their camera or a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup ~ in the snow along the trail. After an indicative wave, the next twin would know to retreive whatever it was when she came along. Kristy learned to get an acknowledgement from Anna, though, as a few times Kristy was waving and waving, only to realize her twin was practicing sleeping standing up again.
There was one thing they shared unintentionally ~ similar tone of voice and command style. At one point near McGrath, Kristy was leading the way down a hill. Near the bottom, she gave her dogs the command to pick up the pace so she would be well out of Anna's way as she descended. Anna's dog team, however, thought the command was meant for them! Needless to say, Anna made shorter work of that hill than Kristy had.
All in all, it was a great race and the twins are very thankful it worked out that they could run it together. They moved along at the same comfortable pace and with similar stop and checkpoint routines. They were both very pleased with their dog teams. The dogs that were dropped along the trail were dropped for fairly minor ailments, like sore wrists or shoulders that didn't clear up or poor appetite, and are all doing well now. The younger dogs that made this journey for the first time came away from a positive experience. The twins were generally pleased with their personal gear and sleds, and despite rough trail conditions, they finished none too worse for wear.
A quick note on gear ~ we apologize to those that were following our personal GPS trackers. In the Battery Battle of Iditarod 2012, Headlamps beat SPOT Trackers 5 to 1. We hope fans understand and were able to get the updates they wanted from the blog our the Iditarod's official website. We'll try to account for this next season.
On that note, we'll wrap up things up for this racing season with a final thank you to everyone for your support. Please check back in to our home page over the summer to see what we're up to and catch early developments on the 2012-13 racing season!
Peace, Love, Happiness & Paw Prints!
Anna & Kristy