Yukon Quest musher Brent Sass says withdrawing from this year's race was one of the hardest decisions he's ever had to make.
Sass spoke to the media for the first time Tuesday following his withdrawal. Sass, of Eureka, Alaska, was one of the front runners when he was forced to drop out after a suffering a concussion.
"I was confused and unable to really form a plan to get to Braeburn," he said.
"I was making conscious decisions and I was still able to feed the dogs. I was still able to do these things, but they were taking me three times as long. I went from being a eight-year Quest veteran to being a rookie who was trying to survive out there."
Sass was airlifted from the Braeburn checkpoint after Canadian Rangers responded to an alarm he had triggered.
He says leaving his dog team behind on the trail was heartbreaking. Musher Hugh Neff helped race official Scott Smith bring Sass's team out of the bush.
Sass said he is grateful the dogs were kept safe and sound.
"I owe everything to my dog team," he said. "They were perfect. They were 13 dogs that pulled their butts off and did everything that I asked them to do and in the end, accidents happen and unfortunately the accident that happened to me took us out of the race."
Sass says he'll be back next year but added he's making changes to prevent a similar incident in the future. They include eating better during races, resting more and wearing a helmet.