You won’t be surprised to hear that mushers put a lot of work and planning into running an Iditarod. Jessie has lists of things she needs, things she has to do, and things for us to do; then she thinks of things not listed and Jessie, friends and helpers run and get those things done. Jessie’s has taken over the garage of her hosts for packing her sled, adjusting dog harnesses and rehearsing day to day obligations of being on the trail. Melting snow for the 5 gallons of water to mix with dog food and water the animals is a twice a day chore. One of the metallic cookers might get the job done faster than the other, so we had to test each cooker. But if the cooker is too big it won’t fit in the sled. It’s complicated.
The dogs sure are ready to go. Every time somebody opens the garage door the dog yard erupts in barks and howls from anxious huskies. Last night Jessie picked her final line-up: Dogwood is out and Onyx is in. Dogwood has a sore shoulder that Jessie thinks will feel fine in a day or two, but it might slow him down at the start.
We’re all meeting in Anchorage for today’s ceremonial start.
An hour before race start a thick fog rolled into Anchorage hiding the mountains and what had been a bright, sunny morning; but the fog did not cloud the dogs’ spirits. They were jumping at their harnesses, yelping, howling, and wagging tails at a furious pace. Most mushers tried to keep their dogs calm until just before they were called to the starting line. Some even succeeded. But with 100,000 spectators milling through the teams and along the streets of downtown Anchorage, it was hard not to pick up on the excitement. Even the ravens watching from the lampposts joined the ruckus with croaking cheers. When Jessie, #30, was called to the starting line, it took 8 dog handlers, a weighted-down sled, and two brakewomen to keep the trot down Anchorage’s 4th Avenue from turning into a huskie stampede.
They held Jessie at the starting line for 2 minutes while the announcers recited the J Team’s biography, Iditarod accomplishments, and sponsors, including recognition of Triple Creek Ranch. When they let Jessie go the crowd cheered, Jessie and Kristen held on, and the dogs immediately fell silent and started to dig into the soft snow. They were gone in a flash, heading through the streets of Anchorage then out of town. Jessie and crew stopped 11 miles later to reload the team for the drive to Willow, Alaska, and the start of the real race, which happens this afternoon at 2pm.
Jessie said she plans to sleep late this morning, so she will be ready to mush through Sunday night and into Monday evening. Jessie says she is pleased with the condition of her team. They have fewer training related injuries this year than she is used to, and despite the limited snow time in November and December, she thinks they may be in excellent athletic condition. We’ll know in 9 to 15 days, weather conditions permitting.
Someone at Triple Creek Ranch had asked me if they drug test Iditarod dogs for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. The answer is yes. Technicians randomly select dogs from each team and take urine samples for drug analysis. This race has all the jockeying, psyche, intensity, and intrigue of any world class athletic event, so world class precautions are taken. Dogs named Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson are automatically disqualified.
More photos of Jessie & the ‘J Team’.
|Heading To The Start|
|Line Them Out|