A Quebec musher who won the Can-Am Crown 250 International Sled Dog Race a record 10 times achieved a lifelong dream when he and his team completed the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Wednesday evening.
Facing challenges that included navigating a blinding snowstorm and fending off an angry moose with a ski pole, Martin Massicotte of St-Tite, Quebec, crossed the finish line at Nome, Alaska, in 21st place after tackling the grueling 1,000-mile-plus Iditarod trail over 10 days, 8 hours, 17 minutes and 15 seconds.
Massicotte, 53, last won the Fort Kent-based Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog 250-mile race, considered the premier sled dog race of the Northeast, in 2019. The Iditarod course sees mushers cross the harshest of natural terrain such as mountain ranges and frozen waterways including ice along the Bering Sea coast.
The award-winning musher has dreamed of competing in the Iditarod since he saw video footage of the race when he was just a teenager. Massicotte first attempted the Iditarod in 2020, but was forced to scratch when his dogs were sidelined with a virus.
His successful 2022 Iditarod run was not without challenges.
Massicotte and his team encountered a snowstorm.
“Martin would not give up; he would only stop at the safety cabin and wait for the wind to calm down,” said Massicotte’s wife Marie-Josee DuLong.
Later in the journey, an aggressive moose charged his team. Massicotte fought off the beast with a ski pole, which was bent in the process.
Another musher also had a run-in with the moose, whose anger seemed to increase after the confrontation with Massicotte. Matthew Failor had no choice but to shoot the moose for the safety of himself and his dogs.
Massicotte said his Can-Am experiences helped prepare him for the Iditarod — by giving him experience in running long distances with his dogs and overcoming a lack of sleep — but the Alaska environment proved more hostile than that of northern Maine.
“The wind can blow like you run on blue ice,” he said.
A familiar Maine face was there to greet Massicotte when he crossed the finish line at Nome.
Can-Am Vice President and Portage checkpoint coordinator Sarah Brooks traveled to Alaska to witness the world’s most challenging sled dog race.
“I wanted to see how the Iditarod is run,” Brooks said. “We flew over the actual trail and were able to see teams. It is hard to describe the elements/terrain that they travel.”
Brooks said she has been wearing a parka in Alaska that has the Can Am 250 logo embroidered on it and has been recognized by people due to the jacket. She was looking for ideas to improve the checkpoints in the Can-Am.
Massicotte was escorted to the finish line on Nome’s Front Street by two police cars, Brooks said.
“Martin is a very serious and competitive musher,” Brooks said. “I was so honored to be under the burled arches of the Iditarod finish with his wife Marie-Josee DuLong to greet him at the finish.”
DuLong said she experienced every emotion possible throughout the week and a day that she tracked her husband’s Iditarod adventure.
“My legs were shaking for hours before the finish,” she said.
Massicotte said his dogs were in good health after the Iditarod race. He was happy to have fulfilled his dream, and will forever keep a picture in his mind of the experience, which he described as “beautiful.”
Now that he has conquered the Iditarod, Massicotte plans to return to the Can-Am race next year.
“Yes, he will go back to Maine,” DuLong said.