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The Shot List: Adventures in Video

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by Tom McDonald

Tom with cameraLast weekend marked the start of what is often referred to as the world’s toughest race: the Iditarod. This sled dog race covers over 1,000 miles, starting in Wasilla and ending in Nome, Alaska. I was fortunate enough to be part of the video crew that documented the race two years ago. It was an extraordinary experience, but it was also the most physically demanding ten days of my life. If only I had known about back then, I could have prepared with the best outdoor equipment to withstand the harsh Alaskan conditions.

My assignment was to stay with the leaders of the race.  I was equipped with a snowmobile, a guide, lots and lots of layers and a video camera, of course.  We traveled over the Alaskan Range, through thTom bundled upe Interior, up the Yukon River and then, up the Bering Sea to the finish in Nome.  The temperature ranged from the mid-20s to -55 degrees.  I believe I slept an average of two to four hours a day and worked at all hours – whether out in the wilderness shooting video or traveling to the next stop.

As challenging asTaking a rest picture all of that seems, it is nothing compared to what the mushers and their dog teams endure.  After all, they are not aided by snowmobiles.  They are on- foot, sled and paws.  The teams will typically travel up to six hours between rests.  At the checkpoints, the mushers will bed the dogs in hay, remove their booties, massage them and prepare the food.  After that, they have an hour or two to eat and get some sleep themselves before it is time to prepare the team for the next run.Finish line picture

I remember so many crazy things that happened on that journey and the exhilaration felt as we made it into Nome.  It took days to recover from the race and several weeks for the feeling to return to my digits.  I remember thinking I would probably never go back, but it wasn’t long until I was dreaming of Alaska.

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