Did I mention it was cold? This did not improve upon reaching the restart staging area. But fortunately there was little to no wind, and eventually the sun did its best to move the needle back up to the mid-teens below zero. And this was about the best we were going to get out of the day. But with the right gear and things to keep you busy and moving, even in a half frozen state the time passed quickly.
There were official race checks, from the microchips in each dog and their tags, to the mandatory gear in each twins' sled. New plastic runners and SPOT GPS trackers were attached to their sleds. Members of the press grabbed precious minutes for quick interviews. Race officials gave Kristy and Anna their respective go times and confirmed how many handlers they would need to help restrain their teams as they made their way up to the start. We asked for 10 handlers for each twin, and - turns out - it was barely enough.
As Anna's time neared, 64 booties were put on excited paws. Next was each dog's padded harness and jacket with safety reflectors. Many of the dogs, particularly the boys, have a special Velcro flap that is also attached to the underside of the jacket to further protect from frostbite in a particularly delicate area...
As the minutes ticked down, Anna put on her parka and, as has become our tradition, had me put on her racing bib. Then she put her dogs on the line, told Kristy she'd see her soon on the trail, and I joined her on the runners as she got the signal to make her way to the official start.
We probably had a half mile or so of actual trail from the truck to the line, and there were lots of fans along the way wishing Anna well. When her turn was up, she pulled to the line where at least 4 strong individuals helped hold the sled as the handlers unhooked. I stood on the brake while Anna made a quick round of her dog team and then wished her well as the announcer gave her the go.
I barely had time to run halfway back to the truck before catching up with Kristy. But having gone through all the same steps as Anna, I would have spared you the redundancy anyway. Kristy was all smiles with fiancé Andy sharing the runners, and I jogged alongside to grab what pictures I could before my second iPhone of the morning succumbed to the cold. Shortly after her twin (14 minutes, to be precise), Kristy hit and her team the trail, both now on their way some 970 miles to Nome.
And because there's no rest for the wicked, your Mad Blogger took a breath, took in the scene, and then hightailed it to the Fairbanks airport for an afternoon flight back to Anchorage. After a redeye flight that got me back to Toronto mid-afternoon on Tuesday, I was exhausted. As I melted onto my couch while my dogs sniffed my returning gear between accusing stares, I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that my sisters were just starting this immense journey. And they had been at least two times as busy as I had in the days leading up to it. Boggles the mind.
Enjoy a few photos I took before the aforementioned camera phones gave up the ghost, and I'll get to work on the next update!