Although Saturday night preparations wrapped up a bit earlier than the prior night, Sunday was still knocking on the door by the time the twins were able to settle in for a little sleep (and their last night in a real bed for a while). Sunday started early, still full dark. With headlamps in place, Anna and Kristy loaded up their two teams of 16 dogs, 2 sleds full of gear, and various last minute items, and hit the road for the restart in Willow on schedule. We were on the early side of arrivals, getting to appreciate the scene (from an awesome parking spot) before the entire field of mushers and all the fans arrived.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, downright balmy in the sun. This was about perfect for spectators, but on the warm side for mushers, dogs, and volunteers. We were careful to rotate the dogs through the shady side of the truck and trailer when they were out for early snacking and just prior to being put on the line.
Both of the twins acknowledged mild, and completely understandable, stomach butterflies, but you'd be hard pressed to spot it without their admission. They were cool cucumbers, seeming to juggle sled packing, dog care, media interviews, fan questions, photo requests, and official race checks with ease. As with the ceremonial start, they again enjoyed staging together from their own truck, and realized that this was the first year Anna would leave the starting line before Kristy. This turned out to be a fun silver lining to the margin between their starting positions, allowing Kristy to help Anna with putting harnesses and booties on dogs, getting her team on the gang line, and finally running up the chute. With a hug and a smirk, they wordlessly agreed they'd see each other soon. The final seconds were counted off, and Anna's team charged off the line.
With two hours to spend until Kristy's bib was up, it was a good time to stroll through the staging area. The variety of dog trucks, trailers, sleds, and dogs between the mushers is always interesting to compare, and mushers themselves can be spotted checking out each other's gear and innovations. The overall people watching definitely didn't disappoint either.
With the final minutes ticking by, Kristy went through nearly identical steps as her twin. Her dogs seemed to sense that their friends on Anna's team had gotten a head start and were definitely raring to hit the trail. After a quick run up the chute, Kristy made a quick round of her dog team, encouraging each one while also thanking handlers and volunteers. And then it was go time, and with an enthusiastic "all right!" bib #83 shot off the line.
From that moment to the writing of this, it was a bit of a scramble for this mad blogger. Dog truck and trailer were returned to the kennel and I high-tailed it to the airport to catch a red eye flight back to Toronto. Alas, domestic dog and day job responsibilities of my own mandated I head back home, but rest assured I've got great inside tips from the twins to help guide us down the trail.
Before succumbing to my own exhaustion, I'll get Anna and Kristy's dog team bios posted. Hopefully that will energize all you armchair mushers until I can get the first detailed Race Update published. I'll do my best to publish nightly race updates until the twins pull into Nome, interspersed with my own random musings and the knowledge gleaned from the past six years of SEEING DOUBLE in and around the Iditarod.