With three dog teams in the GinGin 200 Sled Dog Race, we had even more than the usual amount of preparation to do for the start. In very good order, however, Aliy, Allen and Bridgett did their final sled packing, then it was time to drop the dogs, put on their harnesses and booties, and hook them up.
Now, the GinGin 200 Sled Dog Race is organized into a Women's Division and a Men's division. The women start first, so Aliy and Bridgett were scheduled to go out well before Allen. This meant that we only had their two teams starting sequentially -- at two minute intervals -- rather than a triple-start that I will admit I had been a little worried about handling.
When the time came, the race start was pretty much the usual chaos, and maybe even a little more chaotic than usual. With 55 dog teams packed into a pretty small parking area -- actually several even smaller parking areas -- there ended up being various routes to the start line, all of which had some obstacles to be navigated around. Plus, the Alaska National Guard were present in force to help support the race, including riding snow machines around the staging area to help lead teams to the start. I've mentioned this scene in some detail because it makes the performance of our teams even more admirable.
When the time came for Aliy and Bridgett to move to the start line -- over 200 yards from our parking place -- I led the dogs only about 50 yards to a more-or-less open trench of deep powder between two snow berms and they worked on verbal commands -- "gee", "stay gee", "haw", etc. -- the rest of the way. Compared to other teams that were led by snow machines all the way to the start line, I'll admit I had a sense of pride that our teams were so "professional" and navigated the obstacles in such fine manner on their own.
What this starting line location meant, unfortunately, is that I was unable to be there for their actual starts and have no photos or videos to share. I can report, however, that Aliy and Bridgett both had clean, timely starts and were on their way down the Denali Highway when I last saw them from a distance.
About 50 minutes later it was Allen's turn, and we went through the same procedure with the exception that as Allen was passing by me at the entrance to the snow trench he said, "Climb on the sled!" So, I jumped on the back of his runners and held on tight as he navigated the team to the starting line. Once there I was able to hop off, run to the front of the team and help line them out. I was also able to fire up one of my pocket cameras and grab this footage of Allen's team starting the GinGin 200. As you will see, I'm a little out of breath and yammering my usual nonsense to the dogs, but I think you will enjoy being there with me at the actual start.