Thursday is always a busy day for the mushers. They begin the morning super early with their Musher Meeting. This is when they are given all the information and details they need to know about the race. The meeting is followed by the official group musher photo and a toast to a safe race.
My morning started very early too… I gave my third presentation of the conference and finally got to actually Skype with the boys; then I headed over to the Lakefront Hotel Race Headquarters to meet up with the mushers as their meeting wrapped up.
Once the mushers were finished with the seriousness of the meeting, they got to have a bit of relaxation as they enjoyed a pizza lunch with their IditaRiders. The IditaRider is a program where fans get to bid in an auction to try to win a ride in the Ceremonial Start. The IditaRiders will ride the 11 mile trail sitting in the sled of mushers. It’s important for a few reasons. First, it’s a powerful fundraiser for the race. Secondly, it adds needed weight to the sleds to help slow the teams down while they are traveling through the city streets. Imagine – the mushers usually take less then their full team, have themselves on sled along with the IditaRider, AND have a second sled and rider (tag sled) attached behind them. All that weight, and the teams STILL have to be held back at the starting line by six or seven people! The power these dogs have is just amazing!
The next big event of the day was the Musher Banquet! This is the big social gathering where fans, mushers, families, and friends all gather together to learn the starting order from the race. Hobo Jim performed before the delicious dinner was served. Once everyone had been entertained, fed, and had time to visit and meet and greet, the draw started. One at a time the mushers were called to the stage where they reached into a mukluk and drew a number. The number drawn becomes their official start number. The mushers would then step to the microphone, thank their sponsors, announce their number and then head off through the autograph chute. Once they have their number, they also pick up packets that include the correct tags for their dogs. It’s always a very long night…. but it’s always fun to see everyone! It seems appropriate that a Redington – Ryan this time – will be leading the pack out with bib number 2 (number one is always reserved for an honorary musher). Monica will be going out 58th and Nathan 62nd.
Friday is the calm before the storm. Mushers will be making their final preparations, volunteers are busy making sure everything is in place, and the excitement is building!