As a beginning contester, this was my first multi-station event and I liken my involvement in IARU as something akin to the awe I've felt standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or watching Mt. Saint Helens explode. Considering my marginal skill level, I feel quite humbled in being "invited" to participate by Rich (KL7RA) and Larry (N1TX). I've always wondered what it would be like to watch a log tick by fast, resembling a slot-machine feed of callsigns as contacts were made. From Fairbanks, there are always a series of challenging band conditions that most times plague our best efforts and you just do not see log entries motor-boating along that fast - ever. Thankfully, band conditions, even from Fairbanks were better than normal, which I suspect added to the extraordinary tally of contacts, especially those on 10m and 15m over the course of the 24 hour event.
It was truly amazing to watch the WinTest gab window; stations being passed from one band and op to another, reports of changing band conditions and of course, the camaraderie, issued personal challenges and the humor that were often displayed. In my opinion, it was a most memorable team effort by all participants involved. Simply put, it was a lot of fun to be a part of this, not to mention the education and experience I received. There's a lot to learn by participating in contesting. Any contest will allow you to work with different radio modes and frequencies, try new equipment, have a look at a variety of antennas and get a better understanding of propagation and the effects of the sun upon propagation and locations.
I continue to be impressed with all of the pre-contest testing and last minute tweaking everyone did for IARU. Things like Larry sitting out in his shack at 1am (that's 3 hours pre-start) wiring together a 240v power cable so we can use Gary's (NL7Y) amplifier, Rich climbing the tower to replace a blown 40m relay in the middle of the event or the extraordinary IT effort by Wigi (AL7IF) to make the routers play together nicely amaze me in term of commitment. And, I am especially astonished that nothing did a big melt-down in the middle of the event. We've all dealt with radio and computer equipment over the years to know how unusual that single event is; namely that everything worked the way it was suppose to AND when it was suppose to. After all... to think there were, what, 10 radios interfaced to 10 software packages using 8 separate routers using a variety of internet providers. Whew...just think what might have happened had GCI inadvertently cut their fiber optics cable again?
There were a lot of personal "firsts" for me in this event. First time I saw logging that rapid, first time as a multi op, first time I used an amplifier (thanks Gary !) and of course first time I used the W1AW/KL7 callsign. I remember hearing more than a few "huh's ?" and "are you guys in Alaska ?" and "how much power are you guys running ?" returns on calls. I assume the amp was partly responsible for our delightful BIG BOOMING signal for a change. And then... there was the tenacity of the operators. Now I know first-hand what sort of effort it takes to rack up several million points.
This truly was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thanks again to Rich for his extraordinary courage in placing his head between the stock and the guillotine blade. Thankfully, no one had to let the blade loose.