It was 2:25 in the early morning when he left us and give or take minutes here or there it was about 1/2 hour later that we were finally on the road back to La Ronge.
The dogs looked amazing after their slumber in the warmer dog boxes. I can only imagine how the team would have fared if we had the truck all along. One never knows, but the cards are dealt and you play the hand you are given. I'd say up to this point we did pretty good with our handicap.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams
Randy and his kids were on their own with 55 miles to go until they would cross the finish line and anything can happen between there and here.
The four of us, Rob behind the wheel Jessica in shot gun and myself and Melissa crashed in the back seat drove the windy road south.
I awoke feeling disorientated not knowing where we were to find out that Rob had brought us to the finish line just in time (4:30) to see Rick Wannamaker cross the finish line and win first place.
I've never been so pleased to not be taken back to the hotel where my pillow was screaming for me.. thanks Rob!!
Now I must take a moment or two to leave my loyalty to Randy and shift gears.
Ricks team holds a special place in my heart as I was able to help run dogs over the last couple of months as the fur dudes prepared for this race. I'm not 100% sure but my guess is I got to run roughly 300 miles(ish) behind these incredible athletes.
Photo Credit: Jim Williams
Ricks fur dudes... so, does that make me kinda like a Nanny to these guys?
The only downside to the training this year was our lack of snow and the limited amount of times we were able to run with the sled.
Regardless, it was a proud moment to see them come over the finish line in first place. I know the work that Rick put into his kids to get here and I was over come with emotion when I wandered over to give them all loves, hugs and cuddles.
I started with Salt and burst into tears.
I guess it didn't take much anymore, but this was different.
While Rick and Dena settled their team, exactly 1/2 hour later at 5:00 Gerry Walker came over the finish line in second.
The saddest part of finishing in the wee morning hours is the lack of spectators to cheer you in so I was glad we could be there for both of them.
Click here to watch Ricks team come in And then click here to see Gerry Walker cross the finish line.
Laura scooted in behind Rick and Gerry by an hour and 17 minutes to nab third place.
I'm afraid by the time Laura arrived just after 6, I was asleep at the hotel. It was a pretty light sleep which was broken while I kept checking on Randy's progress. I had set the alarm but I really have the hardest time laying there knowing I could be back at the site waiting.
I think it stems from the horrible past that Randy and I shared in Dawson City 2013. I will not speak of details other than stating the fact that Randy's spot checker was no longer working properly. (bad handler, bad!)
Finally just before 8:30 I had everyone up to get ready to get going, I'm sure they must all hate me by now. But I yam what I yam.
When we got down to the finish line there awaiting us on the heated bus was an angel who shone from the heavens. I don't even know what her name was but all I can tell you is she made the best breakfast ever. Bacon, sausages, eggs, toast and hashbrowns with orange juice. Oh it was pure bliss and I almost cried as it helped fuel and warm me for the big finish that was on it's way.
Photo Credit: Jessica Fielding
Now the moment everyone has been waiting for. Randy and his pack of awesome fur dudes came rolling over the finish line in fourth place at 10:10 on February 27.
Photo Credit: Jessica Fielding
I wasn't quite as emotional as I thought I was going to be, perhaps it was the couple hours of sleep I got earlier and the full tummy, but I think I disappointed Randy when I didn't actually cry. I was close though.
There is still much to be done when a team crosses the line and of course the first order of business is checking over the dogs. \
Sage came in without her tug line attached. Randy said she was pretty much done as they neared La Ronge. He tried putting her in the bag but she would have none of it and although she didn't want to do anymore pulling she was happy enough to walk along with the pack and although it slowed everyone down everyone came in on their own four feet.
The vets re-checked everyone and answered any of our questions and concerns.
Again Randy had given many snacks along the way in that he figured the dogs could use a sleep before a big meal so they were all tucked away into their boxes.
Rob and Randy began putting everything away in the sled and this is when I grabbed Randy telling him to leave the packing to Rob and presented him to the bus to meet the breakfast fairy.
The rest of the day is blurred into feeding the dogs a big meaty sloppy soup that they all wolfed down greedily.
Shopping at the Trading post. (There were a pair of wolf mitts that had my name on them but, sigh, I did not pick them up silly me)
Naps and then supper.
Finally it was back to the hotel where I fell into a deep deep sleep until morning.
Breakfast was served banquet style and was also the time when the awards were handed out.
Stories told and lots of visiting done before everyone said their goodbyes.
I'm not finished yet.
A most wonderful gift awaited the team.
Randy was presented with the vet award for Best Kept Team.
This is an incredible honour for all the work put into making sure the dogs were healthy, happy and injury free during the race.
Ruth shared with me some kind words about my work as well which made me feel pretty great (and yes, I almost cried, again!)
Just like that.
Randy and his Fort Mac crew said goodbye and I left with Rick and Dena.
Home and in my own bed by midnight on Saturday.
What an adventure.
Little bits in its own way. Dena informs me if I call it fun I shall be committed. I do have tons of memories.... and lots of pictures stored inside this still tired brain of mine.
It's back to routine with my own little crew of fur kids and boy did they miss me.
It was fun coming home to the lovin'
Until next time.