Anyone got a spare sled? Iditarod karma helps musher stay on the trail.
In the Iditarod, no ride means no race. Luckily for musher Mats Pettersson a friend was able to repay a favor at just the right time.
Early Tuesday morning, Pettersson helped Linwood Fieldler find his dogs who broke loose from his sled, making sure the fellow musher made it safely in to the Nikolai checkpoint.
A day later, Pettersson was in need of help himself. He had run into trouble — crashing in the Farewell Burn. After a rocky ride and holding everything together, Pettersson needed a new rig or he wouldn't make the 669 miles from Takotna to Nome. His sled was beyond repair.
In steps Iditarod karma in the form of a special delivery.
On Wednesday in Takotna, Fiedler gave Pettersson his spare sled to complete the race.
"It’s the rule of the north, or at least it should be," Fiedler said. "If a car is stranded on the side of the road, you pull over. And I think those values in Alaska are pretty important."
The Alaskan arranged to have his spare — the same style Pettersson uses, as fate would have it — couriered from McGrath to Takotna, keeping Pettersson on track to finish his sixth Iditarod.
"That's how it works in this business." Pettersson said. "It's good helping out each other. If somebody needs a sled, somebody needs other stuff, out on the trail even if it's a race competition it's all about helping out."
Pettersson wasn't the only one who swapped his sled for a new one at the checkpoint. Musher Charlie Benja, too, needed a new sled when he arrived in Takotna Wednesday morning after a rough ride from Rohn and Nikolai plus an encounter with some driftwood. Fortunately, he made arrangements a replacement weeks before the race, something the four-time finisher does not ordinarily do.
Fieldler, also a veteran Iditarod musher, is running his 25th Iditarod. He said he brings a second sled with him to increase his odds of getting to Nome.
"If I can get to Nikolai, I’ve increased my chances to getting to the finish line by about 80 percent," he estimated. "The trail from the start to Nikolai is tough, it’s just really hard. It’s the place you’re going to break something generally speaking."
The folks who compete in the sport understand the idea of what comes around, goes around. For Fiedler, it's what's endeared him to the race — that even in the heat of competition, mushers are willing to help one another.
"It was a no-brainer to give him my sled," Fiedler said. "This sort of thing happens all the time under the radar but people don’t really know about it."
Now, after saving each other, both mushers will mush on toward the burled arch in Nome.
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