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Man With Area Ties Competes in Iditarod

By Staff | Apr 17, 2015

Mark Selland and his sled dog team mush across Alaska in the 2015 Iditarod.

Mark Selland embraces a challenge.

The 57-year-old, Minot-born and raised cardiologist has climbed mountains in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the Himalayas. He got his start climbing after moving to Seattle, Wash., in 1983, when he climbed Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker with friends and enjoyed the activity.

“I learned that I acclimated well and liked traveling on snow and glaciers,” Selland said in an email to the Tribune. “The cold and wind didn’t really bother me, maybe as a result of growing up in North Dakota.”

In 1993, Selland was part of American expedition to Mt. Everest. Selland recalls reaching the top on a sunny, windless day in May and standing on the summit for 30 minutes.

“It was an awesome feeling to top the Hillary Step (A 40-foot wall of ice and rock named after New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary, who was part of the first successful Everest climb) and traverse the last few hundred yards of the summit ridge to the summit,” Selland said.

Recently, Selland took some of the things he learned from his climbing experiences with him on a different challenge: competing for the first time in the Iditarod – an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

“Some of the climbing experience that carries over to mushing includes the ability to deal with winter weather, isolation, sleep deprivation and fatigue, to name a few,” Selland said.

For three years, Selland has worked as a handler for musher Robert Bundtzen and also competed in several 200-300 mile qualifying races. Prior to this year’s race he trained 20 dogs and took 16.

Selland recalls his first experience at mushing was on a commercial tour in Denali National Park. His wife, Kathy Faryniarz, also trained dogs for mushing and skijoring (A winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by dogs, horses or a motor vehicle) for years.

“To be a good musher, you have to love working with dogs,” Selland said. “You have to have some understanding of nutrition and basic veterinary skills. You take good care of these amazing animals and they give you 110 percent. There is no way to describe the feeling of being on the back of a sled pulled by 15 or 16 dogs all pulling in perfect synchrony.”

Selland finished 59th out of 66 mushers, arriving in Nome at 9:22 p.m. local time on March 21.

It wasn’t an easy race, as Selland had to endure below freezing temperatures (the coldest of which was 50 below zero), sleep deprivation and injury.

“I crashed on an icy hairpin corner on the second day (of the race). I landed very hard on the side of my chest,” Selland said. A post-race CT scan revealed he broke nine ribs and a liter of blood had drained from his chest.

Selland said he doesn’t have any plans to run a future Iditarod at this time, but he had nothing but good things to say about the event.

“The Iditarod is an amazing event,” Selland said. “The organizers, the Iditarod Trail Committee, sponsors and competitors are all first class.”

Selland’s grandparents, Ole & Gladys, lived on a farm south of Rugby. His brother, Brian, lives in Rugby with his wife, Rev. Sharon Baker, and children, Leif, Anja and Karin, and practices medicine in the area. In his downtime, Mark enjoys climbing, skiing, travel and guitar building, and is also a member of the American Alpine Club.

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