We had to check out of our beautiful little cottage at a time that fell during J's race, so it was up early to pack and load up. J took the trailer packed with dogs, sled, gear and luggage, as well as his computer equipment, up to the start line early, and I did all the glamorous things a lady likes to do in the mornings. (Pooper scooping!) The cottage was the scene of some last minute scrambling (thank heavens someone smarter than me read the check out instructions!) to do all the chores required and grab all the bits and pieces left behind, and again, I was so thrilled my family are supportive.
Up at the start line, there was some scrambling going on too, as the snow was deteriorating and the start chute was melting. The crew got the start chute repositioned to where the finish chute had been, and the new finish chute back under the trees. A very efficient little manoeuvre! The race was running in reverse order, so J was heading out early in the order. As the official timer, J had spent a chunk of the previous day working out the new race order. This meant the teams with the slowest times were going out first, and the fastest teams going out last and passing the slower teams, giving them a "tow" with each pass. (Oh no, passing!! The most complained about part of any race!) But after working out the new lists for his own race, and the other two, and working on times from the one-heat event, J suddenly couldn't remember where he came in the new order.
We got the boys and Layla all harnessed up and over to the start line. My brothers were, again, brilliant handlers. We got to the end of the start chute and hunted around for someone with a clipboard, which took a couple of minutes. While waiting for an answer, I watched a friend who was going out with a furry cover over her helmet. She disappeared between some other teams heading out the start chute. I turned back towards J, to see if he had an answer. Of course, the answer was the lady with the cute helmet! Quick, where did she go? Out the start chute! Sudden rush to get J in line, thank god for brilliant beginner handlers!
One of the tricky things about J racing is the issue of predicting how long he will be. This has been especially tricky this year, as we've run different dog teams over different distances each time. Did anyone have time to go back to the cottage for last minute packing? I predicted J would take about 30 minutes, and everyone organised their time accordingly. We scattered, me to go and do other glamourous lady things (making sure Frankie peed OUTSIDE the trailer!). I regrouped with the others by the finish line about 20 minutes later, to cheer the teams coming in.
The lovely E came in wearing a Frosty the Snowman suit that was just as entertaining as her Owl Onesie at Falls Creek the week before. At the presentations later in the day, E was presented with a special award for women in sled dog racing. The award recognised E's contributions, assisting with training (running boot camp and supporting rookies), with race events (committee member for NVSDC races) and with promoting sled dog sports (big supporter of skijoring as well). Congrats E! Here's to another great year for you and the Snowsteed puppies!
When J came in, (bang on my 30 minute prediction, but not before everyone came back from their respective chores) he was looking a little worse for wear. Happily, I had a spare musher or two on hand to get the sled back to our stake out line! Cool!! Poor J had a nasty scrape from trying to use his arm as a break on the ice. Most of the mushers coming back over the finish line had ice scrapes - the conditions had definitely deteriorated. We got J and the puppies sorted - lots of members of the public came over for pats and photos and my new team took over PR duties with great aplomb. (Have I mentioned that you guys are welcome to come to any race?)
The four dog teams went out a little later and we enjoyed watching the start chute without panicking about getting our team ready. After they were all done, (or so we thought) I was waiting for J to finish timing duties. However, not all the four dog teams had come back in - one musher had, like so many, taken a nasty spill on the ice, but much worse. Running a team of wire-haired pointers, M had come around a glassy corner very fast, and lost his balance. Hitting the ice very hard, he was stunned and winded, knocked about so hard that he broke Rule Number One. He lay very still and unresponsive when his team careened off along the trail. Very scary. Fortunately, corner marshals got medical help quickly and his runaway dogs were caught. The decision was made that the trail was too slippery and dangerous for the eight dog teams, so the races came to an early end. By the time we got to presentations, word had come through that M was ok, despite some damage to his ribs. M, we hope you and your dogs are recovering quickly!
Presentations were the final formalities for the day. The High Plains Hotel packed out quickly with mushers and their families. The speeches congratulated everyone, especially those who had taken the time and effort to help others. Our helpers had already made tracks for the long trip back to Melbourne, and we followed them soon after. Many friends were staying up for an extra day or two, and I left thinking how much nicer the day would have been to have had more time to relax, chat and enjoy the amazing scenery. Instead, we made our slow but uneventful way back to Melbourne. There's always next year!