“It was a gut-wrenching 24 hours,” said an emotional Brent Sass under the burled arch in Nome. With much fanfare and a lot of love from cheering crowds, he and his team trotted down Front Street close to midnight.
Brent ignored the crowds and fans and ran to the front of his team and hugged each dog. It was an emotional end to an emotional race. He was swarmed by reporters and was gracious as he spoke about his time in White Mountain and the twists and turns this 2016 Iditarod gave him.
With my Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ badge, I have incredible access to this event. Sadly, my 5 foot tall frame does not! What I did manage to see was Brent being honest about his experiences and how it felt to look into his dogs’ eyes and see that they could not go on and wanted to stop.
It was there that he turned around and returned to the checkpoint to sleep and rest. As usual, Brent took on all responsibility for the race and was very emotional talking about his love for his dogs. “I had faith,” he commented when someone asked him about White Mountain.
Brent got busy being checked out by race officials and showing his mandatory gear. After that, it was time to head to the dog lot for some private time with handlers, family, and friends far away from the public eye.
I headed to the dog lot to meet up with my Iditarod “P” Patrol volunteers to continue our testing of the top 20 dog teams. Brent was hugging family and friends as his team settled in. Even after finishing in the top 20 in Nome, there are still dog chores to do! His handlers were obviously friends, and we all connected for a photo and some fun. They called out to Brent, and with a smile, he joined in too!
It was time to celebrate this amazing experience and be proud and happy in the moment. I was happy to be there in that private moment with Brent and his team and mentor.
As I was leaving I noticed the pizza they had ordered sitting in the sled. This group was ready to enjoy the moment and celebrate Brent and his “Wild and Free” way of life.