ANCHORAGE -

From broken bones and sleds to treacherous trail conditions, Iditarod XLII had many mushers scared for their lives and dog teams, during what may go down as The Last Great Race’s most controversial outing.

For veteran Tok musher and previous Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff, he’s simply happy to be home.

"I just kept on saying, ‘I want to live, I want to live,’ over and over for hours,” Neff said.

For roughly 10 hours on March 14, Neff repeated these words as he was tucked away in his sled during a fight for his life.

After leaving Elim, Neff battled blistering headwinds and a layer of ice atop Golovin Bay akin to a skating rink that made completing the stretch impossible for Neff and his team of eight dogs.

As night approached, Neff realized he had been blown about a half-mile off the trail. It was then that Neff decided to signal for help using a tracker attached to his sled that had an SOS function -- help wouldn't come for hours.

Race officials say when Neff pushed the button, he actually turned the tracker off. It wasn't until he was 10 hours overdue into the White Mountain checkpoint that officials made the call to send help.

At the time of his rescue Neff said he could start to feel his body dying, saying he's lucky to be alive and is left to wonder why nobody came to check on him sooner.

“If I had known that I wasn't going to have anybody get the signal or even think of coming out to at least check on me, they don't have to come save me -- I don't want to be saved,” Neff said. "You could at least come out and go, ‘Hey, are doing okay?’”

Race Marshal Mark Nordman said the decision on whether or not to send someone out to check on Neff was a tough one. Without an SOS signal from Neff, officials followed standard protocol -- which says officials will only send help if a musher has exceeded the average run time between checkpoints by three times the normal period.

Neff was only two hours overdue into White Mountain at the point when he tried to signal for help.

"It's a really hard thing because Hugh was still racing, and so it's a really hard time when you start thinking about where do you go out and make that contact, which may end their race?" Nordman said. "Because if we go out there and help them their race is over, so many times people aren't looking for that."

Race officials sent White Mountain snowmachiner Dave Branholm to find Neff at about 5 a.m. on Tuesday, March 15. Branholm reached Neff 30 minutes later.

"(Branholm) literally had to grab me and pull me out of the sled because I was all crinkled up, a little stiff -- I had been in there for quite a long time," Neff said. “It was a very heartfelt moment and he was happy, as happy as I was, because he thought he was coming to find somebody frozen in their sled bag.”

Neff and his dogs safely arrived in Nome earlier this week, having scratched from the race. He says the dogs appear to be doing great, while he remains a little shaken up following the traumatic experience.