Iditarod 2013: Ed Stielstra runs ceremonial start, scratches

Alaskan Dude

Michigan musher Ed Stielstra made the decision before the 2013 Iditarod to drop out after the ceremonial start due to an injury suffered while training in February.

The 2013 Iditarod got underway Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska, but the trail ends there for at least one musher. Ed Stielstra, Michigan's lone entrant in the race, has decided to drop out due to a serious injury suffered while training in February.

Stielstra sustained the injury Feb. 12 when his sled tipped over and he received an injury to his head that resulted in a six-inch cut requiring 19 stitches. He also suffered a bit tongue, black eyes and chipped teeth. On his blog, Stielstra mentioned that he hoped to be recuperated in time for the Iditarod. However, he later made the decision that, for both his dogs' safety and his own, he would only participate in the ceremonial start.

The injury occurred when Stielstra attempted to catch a slipping head lamp at the same time his 10-dog team took off for a run. He could not keep his balance and the sled tipped over. However, for the safety of the team he could not release his hold on the sled. Doing so could result in serious injury to the dogs if they continued to run unsupervised. So he did what he must: braced himself against imminent impact.

He hit his head on a four-inch thick steel pipe used to hold the dog teams in place while they are harnessed. Then he hit another, which knocked him out cold. However, Stielstra knew he had to stop his team of dogs before one suffered an injury, and so did not seek medical attention for some time after the injury. He and his kennel manager managed to track the team down on snowmobile, despite blood that was already flowing down his face and neck from the cut on his head. But doing so was a serious risk.

Stielstra wrote:

I was very fortunate. ... I had lost a ton of blood in the hour and 5 minutes from when the incident took place and when I arrived at the hospital. If I would have passed out, things would have gone from bad to awful fast. Lesson learned.

(You can see the injury on the kennel's Facebook page if you like.)

Stielstra's wife, Tasha Stielstra, later wrote on the blog that it was the first time in 20 years the team has decided to scratch from an event, but that the sponsors were understanding of the predicament.

The ceremonial start is not timed and does not count in the standings for the race. The Iditarod begins in earnest Sunday afternoon (6 p.m. ET) in Willow, Alaska.

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