So my first morning in Alaska was spent on a brand new adventure… painting dogs at the Rondy Sprint Races.
Yes. You heard right.
So what I imagined in my mind was painting wooden cut outs of dogs for display along the race route. Think – how they paint the horses in the jockey’s colors at Pimlico.
But I was wrong. Super wrong.
So here’s what really happened.
We showed up downtown at the staging area for the races about an hour before the race was due to start. We met up with Lexie, who is in charge of the painters. She carried with her three clipboards, a can of yellow paint, and a paintbrush.
Today was the second day of the revised Sprint Races. The Rondy Sprint Races are a three day event. The teams run a short race three days in a row and their combined times for the three days are their final times. This year because the snow cover is, well, non-existent, they have shortened the course to just three miles. The mushers go out in heats of six mushers two minutes apart. So the first heat goes out and back, there is a six minute break, and then the next heat goes out, and so on.
Yesterday, on the first day, the mushers decided which dogs they wanted in their “pool” of dogs. This is an open class race, so they could have any number of dogs they wanted, ten to twelve seemed to be about the average. The painting team, went around and painted each dog who was in the pool with blue paint. Just a small splotch. All the dogs on the team were painted in the same spot and each team was painted in a different location – front left shoulder, back right knee, etc.
Today, we went around and asked each musher if they were dropping any dogs. Any dog that was being dropped had to have yellow paint painted over their blue mark. Then as each team came to the start line we had to check to make sure that all of the dogs on the line had their blue mark from yesterday and then count how many dogs were on the line. The paint ensures that dogs who are on the line and in the team are the ones who are supposed to be there!
It was a pretty neat thing to be a part of. It is a totally different atmosphere then the distance races. The dogs are built differently. The sleds are built differently. But the excitement of the dogs who want to run, run, run is just the same whether they are sprint racers or distance runners!