Its traditional for the first place getter in each class to say a few thankyou's at presentations on Sunday morning. They thank the sponsors, the dogs, the handlers and the committee or RGO (race giving organization). Usually, folks are concentrating on thanking their spouse or their mates who help them train, get to the start chute, etc; the people who are really special and important in their lives. The many sponsors and the faceless committee sometimes get a cursory mention, sometimes a generic "thanks for a great weekend."
Well, my experience being on the NVSDC Classic committee two weeks ago has opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes to make "a great weekend" and I have to say that this weekend's RGO, the Goldseekers Club, have my very specific and very non cursory thanks for a great weekend, especially since I have the luxury of saying thanks in a blog post, rather than tying up everyone in a long winded presentation speech!
So, here's what I'd like to say to the Goldseekers committee:
- thanks for doing the endless paperwork, for getting us permits and bookings months in advance.
- thanks for organizing toilets and lighting, thanks for bringing extra canopies and boxes and boxes of essential gear.
- thanks for publishing entry forms, processing entries and banking monies, tracking interest in classes and offering an extra class by request of the race goers.
- thanks for spending time together prior to the race to organize all the bibs, pack and label a show bag for each competitor, with a catalogue, dog biscuits, lollies, rubbish bags, toilet paper, tea bags and other "little luxuries" to cheer us all along.
- thanks for taking time off work and getting to the race site to set up before all the competitors arrived on the weekend.
- thank you for driving at least an extra 100kms after arriving, for hammering dozens of marker stakes and star pickets into the trails, for chain sawing fallen trees and all the other physical hard yakka that goes into setting trails.
- thank you for asking family members and friends to go and sit out on the trails as corner marshals, track checkers and timers, ready to help in case of emergency, in the cold and the dark.
- thank you for choosing an awesome Race Marshall, who is passionate about the sport but calm and diplomatic when there are incidents or disputes. Special thanks to the great women who take on this job, serving as role models to our kids that women are highly respected and capable of great authority in our sport.
- thank you for running Drivers' meetings, straining your voices to be heard in the open air, while competitors whisper and gossip and then ask for information to be repeated. (My day job makes me especially appreciative of that one!)
- thank you for giving up time with your own families and own dogs, back at your campsite, while you stand for hours in the chutes, and then run off to calculate times while everyone else gets to relax.
Most of the above, and more, are done by every RGO, and so many of them do it happily and without complaining. Newbies like me often don't realize how much hard work goes into a race, because these experienced guys make it look easy. It's not. It's exhausting, time consuming and too often, thankless.
But this weekend, the Goldseekers Committee are owed special thanks from all of us. Last night, one of the biggest disasters that can befall a musher happened to one of the guys competing in the eight dog class - two of his dogs came loose from the tug lines that attach them to the rest of the team, and charged off into the darkness. The Goldseekers Committee and volunteers immediately launched a search effort. For many hours they walk, rode and drove backwards and forwards across the state forest and surrounds, looking for the dogs. Some might say that it's not the committee's responsibility to hunt for dogs that don't belong to them, but that wasn't even a question that occurred to these folks. On a weekend where they were already tired, cold and ridiculously busy, they gave up many hours of rest and sleep. So far, the dogs have not been found, despite hopes that they might see or hear the other teams running this morning, and follow another team back to camp.
Looking at the committee running racing, pee wee events and presentations today, most of us wouldn't have known how tired they were. Seriously sleep deprived, worried for the missing dogs, concerned for distressed dog owners, they nonetheless continued in a thoroughly professional fashion, emphasizing the positives and congratulating achievements.
RGOs are the backbone of sled dog racing in Australia (and probably in many other places too). We owe them a massive debt of gratitude. Until every newbie has "done time" on a committee, they can only underestimate the amount of work that goes into hosting an event like this. I sincerely hope that the experienced folks will encourage newbie participation and educate a new generation of mushers on how to run an event, just as they train us on how to run our dogs.