It's T minus three hours! Allen and the Black Team will pull the hook at 2.19am (local time). Brent Sass and his team leaves a hair under two hours ahead and Hugh Neff half an hour after Allen. Matt Hall and Ed Hopkins also leave just a few hours behind.
Right now in Dawson it is 18F and there had been snow falling for at least 24 hours but it has now cleared a little. It's been a lot warmer this year than last which is great for the dogs while resting to stretch out when sleeping to ease their muscles and relax. It's not so great for the dogs running though as they would prefer a little colder.
Allen is about to head over to camp to start packing his sled and gearing up for the 200-odd mile run into Pelly Crossing. He will ensure he has enough dog food and snacks to feed meals along the way. He'll need human food also, and enough fuel for his cooker to make dog and human water to keep them all hydrated. It's so warm right now so hydration is important. Spare clothing and equipment for both musher and dogs is critical on such a long run because, as we know on the Quest, anything can happen and they must have contingency plans in place.
We will help gear the dogs up by dressing them in T-shirts and/or jackets if needed, booties and harnesses. At around T minus 15 minutes they will leave the camp spot and make their way down to the opposite end of the camp ground to sign-out and go.
As the run is over 200 miles they will need to stop between Dawson and Pelly - at this stage we don't know whether Allen will ask his team to do it in two runs or three. Historically he has run it in three but he could mix it up a bit this year. Who knows? (Well, actually, we do know but we ain't gonna share that piece of strategic information!)
About halfway along the trail to Pelly Crossing is Scroggy Creek. Scroggy is a dog drop stop manned by volunteers and vets and there won't be recorded times in and out as it is not an official checkpoint. Allen described Scroggy as an "8' x 8' uninsulated plywood cabin with a wood stove". It's an important milestone for the mushers to know they are almost halfway to Pelly! Any dogs left there will make their way forward to be picked up by the handler teams. The teams then get to Stepping Stone hospitality stop - famous for their creative signage and good food; then onto Pelly.
Earlier today there was a myriad of tasks to be completed. Mark was in charge of ensuring the sled was ready and all the gear dried out. Bridgett and Aliy have been mostly in charge of the dogs with help from Mark and I. As you will have seen, I've been in charge of letting y'all know what's been going on. The Dogs' and Allen's job today was to sleep and eat.
The town is really getting behind the race, as it does every year. This evening there is a city bonfire to celebrate the race and there are lots of people out and about to watch the first bunch of mushers leave. We are excited to get the team back on the trail this morning. I'll be back briefly after they've left to update you.