Wednesday night, the mushers draw their bib numbers. Everyone brings a potluck dish to ‘Race Central’ and hang out. For this we brought all 5 kids! I had planned to get a piece of ECX-branded clothing for the kids, as a thank you for their help, then figured it best to do so before the race, so they can wear them. TBear chose a hoodie sweatshirt, Queen Marie got a pull-over, and I got myself a new beanie!
I was continuing to wake the kids earlier each day, preparing for our 6 AM shift. Thursday was their last day, sleeping in until 5. I made us all a batch of overnight oats, which was received with mixed success as we hit the road at 6. By the time we arrived, dawn was breaking over Salt Creek Summit.
The groomer hadn’t placed any snow across the asphalt, so we continued with “Plan B.” Plan B was to setup the barricades and fencing anyway, then carve a ramp from the bare asphalt onto the packed snow trail… by hand. My new pillars worked well, and we had the fence completed by 10 am.
However, a long-standing volunteer took issue with several things, so I sent Queen Marie to go pacify them. Together, they closed gaps intentionally created for the groomer, and secondary trail users such as snowmobiles and skiers. They detached, un-rolled, and re-flattened the fencing in many areas, much to our frustration. We were instructed that (if dogs could see under/over the rolled fence) that they’d run it right over.
The race started at noon, with mushers leaving in 3-minute intervals. By the time they reach Salt Creek Summit (the first checkpoint) an hour later, many spectators have a chance to arrive. This year, we had more than ever. Since the road was bare, and we had several local mushers, I wasn’t terribly surprised by this.
I was able to set my own schedule for volunteers this year, so I moved the shift change to 2 PM, right in the middle of the action. As hoped, this meant that the morning shift (my kids & I) stayed late, and the next came early, resulting in a well-staffed checkpoint during that critical 12-3pm window.
There were 3 races this year, a 31-mile/day X 2days = 62 Mile “pot” race, a 100-mile race, and an Iditarod-qualifying 200-mile race. Each has a team of snowmobiles that goes in front of those racers (Point Team) and behind them (Sweep Team). The “100 Point” team had a snowmobile break down, so they dropped the driver at our checkpoint before continuing on. (This driver had a radio to keep in contact, and checked in more regularly.) It was really handy to have extra hands to handle the musher traffic while we dealt with that.
Initially, I had the kids recording the mushers as they went by. They wrote down their time, bib number, and how many dogs they had. While not all information is critical at this juncture, it is all helpful later on. We took turns calling in the information over the radio, and TBear made me proud with his execution, and impressed lots of folks. Queen Marie wasn’t too disappointed to miss out on that, but wished she had one of the nifty vests.
There was a pile-up on the trail after the checkpoint, where a passing team had taken issue with a parked team. At this point, a 100-mile musher stopped at the checkpoint, and decided to put his dogs’ little snow-booties on. It was nice for the kids to see a musher work with their team up close.
After all the racers have gone by, there’s a slight break, before the shorter 31-milers return. We took this opportunity to make repairs. One Christmas light bulb was broke, disabling 1/2 of its strand. Also, the moisture had gotten into an Ethernet cable and shorted out. Fortunately, I had some connectors and electrical tape to donate to the cause. I also offered up an old laptop, so we could watch both cameras at once.
We stayed for all the 31-milers to pass by on their way back to the start, then headed home. Snow had started to fall heavy, and we had several inches to drive through. The kids were tired, but excited. After showers and dinner, we retired for day 2, and an even earlier wake up time.