GIRDWOOD, Alaska (KTUU) — It's a homecoming of sorts. For the first time since scratching at Shaktoolik in the 2019 Iditarod, Nicolas Petit returned to Girdwood Wednesday, where members of the community were waiting to welcome him back.
In the cozy taproom of Girdwood Brewing Company, Petit was welcomed back by dozens of people with open arms.
"Home sweet home," he said with a sad smile. "Didn't make it to Nome."
The Girdwood musher had the lead for most of the grueling race before his dog team refused to run anymore, sitting on the ice just 14 miles outside of Shaktoolik.
But according to Petit, he's not giving up, and instead is planning to take them right back to the coast and train with them so they aren't afraid of that part of Alaska.
"Belly rubs across the sea ice is kind of what I've been saying," Petit said with a chuckle. "Outside of a race context and even more energy than we had that day, which we had lots, so we'll be fine. We'll go across there and probably only the dogs that went this last time."
KTUU asked if he was happy about getting to spend more time out in Unalakleet with his dogs after everything that happened.
"I'm excited to get to teach them a valuable lesson," he said quietly. "They need to learn this place isn't always going to blow, and we'll make it through and we won't be feeling lost like last year," referring to the 2018 Iditarod when Petit again had and lost the lead during a ground blizzard on the coast. He ended up finishing second to Joar Leifseth Ulsom after finally finding the trail.
In the end, Petit says the biggest thing he's learned is that the memory of his dogs is just as important as their physical health.
"More than ever, I know that their mental well being is that I'm happy this second. They have a very, very good memory and you have to take that into consideration when you do anything with anybody," he said. "They're a dog team, not a snow machine. Just because there's nothing physically there, there might be something mentally there. I know that the way it went until that, was the epitome of a magic carpet ride."
Next up for Nic and his team is training for the Kobuk 440 and then back out to Unalakleet to conquer the part of the race that has troubled them for the past two years.