Let the games begin! Iditarod 2012 is underway. Mike and the team had a wonderful time at the ceremonial start in Anchorage. From our homebase at the Inlet Tower hotel, we were able to attend several fun events. The festivities included time to meet with friends and fans at the musher's banquet. Mike drew bib number 22 from the mukluk. On Friday, Mike, Mitch Seavey, and Jeff King, put on a jam packed musher meet and greet. On Saturday, Mike gave a great presentation for the Denali PEAK homeschool families.
The ceremonial start was a party. Mike played it up for the cameras and there is a great video of him and our team on the Iditarod Insider. If you are not an Insider yet, I highly recommend the account. I especially like the GPS feature which gives you updates of Mike's precise location and speed every 10 minutes. (Which leaves about 5 minutes for working or sleeping in between updates. :) )
In the ceremonial start, the mushers take two extra people with them. Their Iditarider bids to ride in the sled and someone else rides a tag sled for extra control. Our Iditarider this year was Fran Lockwood from Indiana. She had a lot of fun and made us feel like family. Mike took me along on his tag sled this year. I was nervous that I would mess up in some way and either hurt Mike's race sled or be photographed upside down, which could get Mike in the paper, but maybe not in the fashion he would choose. However, it turned out that I was worrying unnecesarily. (Not me!) The ride was really fun and easy. I had never driven Mike's race sled before and it steers really well. I guess he knew what he was doing when he built it. (Thanks Jim Wheeler for helping make it happen!)
On the ride through the city we went through crowds of fans. They clapped, rang bells, reached for high fives, and yelled out words of encouragement. I was impressed by how they would yell, "Go Mike!" It gave the impression that they knew us. I realize that Mike's name was in the paper, but personal greeting feel very Alaskan to me. We are a huge state geographically, but very small in population. People really do know each other and take pride in the accomplishments of fellow Alaskans.
The ride took us through the city streets and trails, through two tunnels and over two bridge overpasses. The dogs had no problem with seeing all of these strange things. Snow was falling and the trail was soft. About half way through the run, Mike asked me to pick up my drag mat. On the sled there are two breaks, a drag pad for slowing down and a metal break with teeth to stop. Mike often makes fun of me for standing on the mat too much. This time he asked me to pick it up right before we went over an overpass that led into a sharp turn. Even without my mat, we made the corner, and the paper.
Sunday was the restart in Willow. Mike left the starting line with Rachel, our neighbor, riding the sled with him. I wondered if she would go all the way to Nome with him, but she was in school the next day.
This whole weekend could not have been possible without the help of many people. I really feel like we had the dream team this year. Christian and Ian, our handlers, Ellen, Chris, Rick, Shane, and Jen for doing everything needed, Tom Farbo for caring for all the dogs at home (especially Willie), Justin Mason for taking amazing pictures, and most importantly Clint Warnke for making sure everything was done right and taking the load off my shoulders. Thank you all for your help.