Four-Time Iditarod champion Martin buser pulled into Huslia Friday morning around 8:30am, after nearly 22 hours on the 82 mile run from Galena. What happened along that stretch of trail?
“I had a good long think,” Buser says, “which is always dangerous if you have two brain cells ping-ponging their thoughts back and forth.”
Handmade cardboard signs brighten the trail into Huslia, a reminder to Martin of the olden days of the Iditarod when checkpoints were more simple: “Not much more than markers and good intentions, you know?” Teachers encouraged school kids to write inspiring messages to the mushers. One sign, in particular, caught Martin’s attention. It reads, “We teenagers look up to you.”
Martin says, “Maybe I touched somebody just by being me, by doing what I do.”
Martin started Iditarod 2015, blazing the trail, leading the race into Nenana, into Manley and Tanana. Thinking back on the race so far, Buser says his team can’t win, that he’s made enough mistakes already; starting with training. “A responsible coach will always say, ‘I lost the game.’ We didn’t train on punchy trail. When there was snow in other places,…I didn’t pack up and go. You hope for a hard, fast trail; trail conditions that suit your team. [And when it doesn’t happen,] you can always blame the trail, but I blame myself.” Without that valuable training, Buser’s dogs are sore and tired.
Buser plans to run this race from here on out according to his team first and foremost. He’s not in a hurry anymore, mentioning the option to wait a couple days for son Rohn to catch up and run the second half to Nome together. But scratching? “Scratching is probably the last thing I would do. I would probably be out here until breakup. I might even build a boat.”
Buser remembers the Huslia teenagers, saying it’s that sign that needs to be rememberd when the chips are down. “That’s when you can really lead by example. That’s maybe when in the darkest moments you can make a difference. When somebody thinks about checking out, but they don’t. People can overcome, people can tough it out. If I make this race so important that I compromise my values, then I’m a loser. That’s what I don’t want to happen.”