The Nome Library hosted a Meet and Greet with Martin Buser today. He took questions from the fans and was pretty open and honest with his answers. It was clearly a tough race for Martin and the rest of the mushers. It has given them lots to think about.
Martin said that his biggest obstacle in the race was his own physical disabilities. About a week prior to the race he dislocated his pinky finger. He didn’t really think much about it at the time. He went to the doctor had it taped up and everyone agreed that it wouldn’t affect his race and so he went on and finished his final preparations for the 2014 Iditarod. Once on the trail however, the finger started acting up and kept slipping out of socket. At first he was able to put it back in himself, but the further he got down the trail, the more he needed the vets’ assistance. They had to put it back in the socket for him and then tape it to his ring finger. This would seem to work at first, but then he’d get halfway on the next run and it would start to really hurt where the tape was. He’d stop and cut the tape, and then by the time he was at the next checkpoint he’d have to find the vets to help him and start the process all over again. Then of course, he also hurt his ankle. He says he caught his foot under his sled two or three times and really wrenched his ankle. He said it hurt so bad and got to the point that he would start to cry when he knew he’d have to put weight on it. He’d pre-cry in anticipation of the pain that was going to shoot up his leg from putting weight on it. His finger and his ankle were warring with each other, “I’m going to hurt more.” “No, I’m going to hurt more!” “No, I am!” They are still apparently worried about his ankle. He may have a stress fracture. I got the feeling he’d be visiting his doctor when he returns home to Big Lake.
What was his biggest joy in the race? “Finishing it.” Did you expect to hear something different?
Martin explains that some people have years that are based on calendar years. Their year starts on January first and runs to the next January first. Some people run their years on tax years. Their year runs from April fifteenth to April fifteenth. I know that as a teacher, my natural year runs from September to September, from one school year to the next. For Martin, his year is based on the Iditarod. He breeds, plans, trains, practices for his end of the year test, the Iditarod. The Iditarod is his final exam. This is how he knows how successful his program has been. He runs the Iditarod to test his program. He doesn’t always like the Iditarod, but he loves his dogs, he loves the lifestyle, he loves the history and culture of dogsledding and that’s why he does what he does. He feels like this year he let his dogs down. They were perfectly capable of being the top team, but he was the weakest link.
As for checkpoints, the only thing Martin said he’d change about the checkpoints it that it would be nice to have water at each checkpoint. It wouldn’t even have to be hot water, just water so that he could take care of the dogs faster. That’s all they really need, a place to lay down and some water.
What I thought was the most telling was that Martin admitted that if he could go back in time to March 2nd, knowing what he knows now about how the trail would be he would still do it. He would do it again. Now, if March 2nd was tomorrow, would he do it? No. Because physically he couldn’t do it, but give him a few days and he’d go. When I talked to Nathan Schroeder later about what Martin said, he echoed the same sentiment. As bad is it was, he’d do it again too. It seems like a few days has given them the distance to look back and gain a little perspective.