Against considerable odds, Aaron Burmeister and his dogs continue to do well in the Last Great Race.
The Nome-raised Iditarod musher was fourth into the Kaltag checkpoint early Saturday morning (at 5:26am). In an interview with KNOM’s Laureli Kinneen, Burmeister said that Kaltag is the first checkpoint where it’s really dawned upon him that “we’re sitting in pretty good shape.”
Despite a few dogs that are a bit sore from harder sections of trail, his team is holding up very well. With regards to his race standings, Burmeister says he’s “just hoping we can maintain it.”
A considerable factor, of course, is Burmeister’s own health status. An accident on some of the exceptionally rough stretches of trail, early in this year’s Iditarod, caused Burmeister to tear muscles in his knee.
The musher told Laureli that the adjustment period has been challenging and, at times, very painful. “I’ve learned how to drive the dog sled all over again.” He’s had to train himself to put weight on his injured knee only in very specific ways (up-and-down pressure only), which means that everything he does on the trail – feeding his dogs, riding his sled, walking around checkpoints, etc. – needs to be done differently.
Burmeister told Laureli that he’s not too concerned about exacerbating the damage to his knee, however, by remaining on the trail. “The damage is done,” he says, and the knee needs surgery – but, in Burmeister’s view, it doesn’t matter much whether the surgery is tomorrow or three weeks from now.
And just as he was in Cripple on Thursday morning, Burmeister remains dedicated to pass under the Burled Arch. “Reaching Nome at the finish line is going to be the best satisfaction in the world,” he says, and he seems to have ample support – of both the human and canine variety – to get him there.
“I’m really proud of this dog team, and that’s one of the things that keeps me going… I couldn’t ask for more; they really keep my spirits up.”
As of mid-day Saturday, Aaron Burmeister is in 9th position; he departed the Kaltag checkpoint at 10:40am (as pictured below) with 10 dogs.