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Friday March 19, 2004 - Nome
0° Cold, Clear, Some Wind
MORE PEOPLE HAVE SUMMITED MOUNT EVEREST THAN HAVE FINISHED THE IDITAROD RACE.
I woke up at 4:15 a.m. and we turned on the radio to hear the reports from the spotters on the bridge and the ramp. We knew about when Ellie was due in, but didn't have the advantage of hearing the siren announcing the teams' arrivals. Because of complaints from the locals, they don't sound the siren between 10:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. after the first 20 teams finish the race.
We bundled up and hit the streets to hike the four blocks to the finish line. When we reached Front Street we were accosted by the wind and the inebriated revelers just heading home to sleep it off.
It was really quiet at the finish line. Cym Smith had just pulled in and had a dog down. It was 4:58 A.M. and they were scrambling to locate a checker and a vet, it seems the crew overslept. Cym and his 5 dogs made the 22 miles from Safety to Nome in 1 hr. 52 min., the fastest time recorded so far during this race, but his dogs paid the price. Cym's dog recovered enough to move out of the finish chute, but they were tired pups. Ryan Reddington finished at 5:10 A.M. losing his lead to Cym.
Ellie was next in at 5:24 A.M. with 11 dogs and they looked great. It was a blur for me through teary eyes. I can't help myself. I'm so emotionally involved with her and all of her dogs and each of their stories. Following the ups and downs of seeking sponsors and the days and nights of sewing and customizing has made me feel as though I was a member of her team, but without a harness. The highs and lows of training and injuries and never-ending "to-do" lists. The culmination of our years of support of Ellie and her Jr. Iditarods and Jr. Yukon Quests all welled up inside of me and poured out of my heart and spilled out of my eyes. Seeing the entire family, international support group, and happy sponsors was overwhelming. I feel sad for the mushers who cross the line alone. I know the race finish is a happy/sad time when the mushers are so relieved to be finished, but are sad that the race is finally over. It's been the musher's focus and goal for so long that it will take time to digest this life changing experience.
Ellie was able to take her team directly to the home where we are staying. Jon, Maegan and Valerie dug snow caves in the huge snowdrifts on the east side of the house. The dogs will be safe and protected and we can keep an eye on them until after the banquet on Sunday, March 21st.
The team ate a big warm meal and quickly settled down under their colorful warm blankets on their straw beds. By the end of the race other mushers were snatching her dog blankets for their own dogs. People were also stealing her drop bags that carried Jon's cartoons.
We joined a big jovial breakfast hosted by Ellie's AT&T sponsors, who jetted in for the finish. Ellie went back to the finish line to welcome her traveling companion Scott Allen at 8:06 A.M. Then all she wanted was a long hot shower and some sleep.
As we walked back to our house, a light snow was falling and ribbons of pink unfurled across the gray sky. My momentary emotional letdown was replaced by a spiritual high. It's a new day filled with endless possibilities and all we have to do is look for them.
Later today I'll do a stint of letter cancellations at the Nome Post Office with David Schwantas of the Anchorage Philatelic Society. He kindly helped me produce a cachet for Ellie (a limited edition of 100) and her booster buttons.
We still plan to help welcome more mushers to Nome and visit the Native Arts and Crafts Show at the church. I'm not sure about the Bering Sea Golf Tournament, but we'll see.
Hopefully I'll have at least one more entry before we catch a flight back home to our pups.
For more information about Ellie and her home at Ultima Thule Lodge you can visit their web site at www.ultimathulelodge.com
More information about Ellie Claus can be found on the Iditarod web site www.iditarod.com
©2004 Jon & Jona Van Zyle
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