We just got out of the Iditarod start banquet. Phew, long day.
The morning began with the mushers meeting. This is a mandatory meeting for all mushers. Role is taken then various subjects are discussed like ceremonial start instructions, the restart on Sunday, drug testing dogs, drug testing mushers, rules overview, and the trail report. In summary: we careen around downtown Anchorage with our Iditarider clinging on to dear life in the sled during the ceremonial start; we start the real race on Sunday 1 1/2 hours north of Anchorage in Willow on a mushy lake (it's been warm); pee is collected from dogs at some point (I didn't pay attention to the part) to test for steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and other drug; pee is collected from mushers in some random fashion (didn't pay much attention to that part either) to test for drug type things..... whatever; and then....... the trail report.
The trail is pretty bad this year. There's very little snow plus the Iron Dog snow machine race has gone over the bad trail and has made it worse, if that's possible. The Happy Steps (misnomer) and the Gorge are bare; which means it's very hard to control the sled and dogs, thus very hard to slow down, much less stop. I am very worried about hurting dogs through this stretch. There is a stretch of at least 13 miles between Rohn and Nikoli that is bare ground. No snow. This is hard on the dogs and hard on the sled.
Hmm. I am pondering running 14 dogs instead of 16. 14 dogs are easier to control than 16, especially through such crappy trail. Will think hard on this tomorrow and Saturday.
We had a little break after the mushers meeting then went to the start banquet. The start banquet began with a wine tasting deal. A winery made a special red wine for the 2010 Iditarod and made labels with each musher's picture on it. We each received a complimentary bottle (mine went to my mom) and 3 additional bottles were signed (by said musher) then auctioned off. Proceeds will be divided evenly among the mushers - yay!
The banquet then began with a bunch of milling about, people getting autographs, friends catching up with each other, and a lot of people watching. We ate a nice dinner while there were various speakers, then the finale of the night: we each drew our start number. The current number on the Iditarod site is the order in which we signed up; we draw a number out of boot for our real start number. I drew #26, which is a really nice number. 2 and 6, and 2 and 6 make 8, and all are nice even round numbers. It all feels good and this is how my brain works. So I will be starting out, in both the ceremonial start and the restart in Willow, in the 26th position (out of 71).
Oh, one additional comment about the banquet. After we drew our number, we sat for our picture (not sure where that will go), I think I talked to a reporter, then we went down an amazingly long line of fans to sign posters, books, hats, bibs, etc etc. It was a little surreal, and fun to connect with folks who just dig the race and the mushers.
I'll try to write at least one more time before I'm off to Nome.