Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I’m exhausted



Putting out two blogs a week for eight months has taken its toll.  I’m finally exhausted.  Today is the day I’m taking off folks.  A nice cruise out at Priest Lake and then some downtime on the patio is just what I need.  This dog is whipped….well not literally, but you know what I mean.

With Spring in the air and the Iditarod in its final hours, this seems like the perfect time to post someone else’s writings from the Alaska Dispatch News.  This streamed news has been keeping our house afloat for the past week….we see the photos, the updates, the despair, the lost dog (now found after four days in the wilderness—lured to his unrecognisably goggled owner with a nice piece of salmon), the accidents and the warmth of human kindness  every hour all day long as we sit focused on the race.   I may be a Chowbrador and completely incapable of  pulling a kid’s wagon around the block but I am dog enough to admire the strength and determination of my fellow canines.  Just so you know, more people have reached the top of Everest than have ever completed the Iditarod.  I salute you dogs and mushers!

Anything can happen but it sure looks like Lance Mackey is going for his fourth consecutive win.  His grandchild was born while he was on the trail, he has frostbite in his feet and yet on he goes. Everyone in this race is heroic in my cataract covered eyes.  So, as I take my  well-deserved day off here is an update from Alaska on what is going on up there.  Don’t worry….after the upcoming Karaoke party on Friday night where you get to see the local Telluride choir let their hair down……the Iditarod will become old news.  Hope I haven’t worn you out with the updates but this obsession took over my life and it is hard to shake off.  Thanks for your patience.( Photos of March 15 directly below) And one more thing…I love Lance’s shout out to Nome as he left on the final stretch of the race, “I’ll be there as soon as I can!”

See ya later.  (since the computer keeps erasing kyle hopkins email address I shall put it here in case you are moved to drop him a line about his great coverage….khopkins@adn.com)


Mackey hours from record 4th straight win

by Kyle Hopkins  khopkins@adn.com


Published: March 16th, 2010 07:43 AM
Last Modified: March 16th, 2010 07:44 AM

Lance Mackey just before heading out onto the ice of Golovin Bay on his way to the White Mountain Checkpoint on Monday March 15, 2010 during the 2010 Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

More photos

BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

Lance Mackey just before heading out onto the ice of Golovin Bay on his way to the White Mountain Checkpoint on Monday March 15, 2010 during the 2010 Iditarod Sled Dog Racekey in White Mountain, 77 miles from win

Into the homestretch, odds favor Mackey


WHITE MOUNTAIN -- Lance Mackey left here just before 5 a.m. today, headed for Nome in the final miles of what is looking increasingly likely to be his fourth straight Iditarod victory.

In the race’s 38-year history, no other musher has accomplished the feat. And while there were 77 miles left to race, Mackey’s closest followers said only a major mishap could derail him now.

“My dogs are all fat, they’re going to waddle out of here like a bunch of pigs,” Mackey said this morning, packing his sled and moving leaders Rev and Maple to the front of the team.

The Fairbanks musher left White Mountain, a forced 8-hour pit-stop, with 11 dogs and a two-hour head start on Canadian Hans Gatt, who was scheduled to leave the checkpoint no earlier than 6:40 a.m. Third-place Jeff King, of Denali Park, must wait until 7:06 a.m. to give chase.

As Mackey’s sled disappeared into the early morning darkness, Gatt and King’s teams slept, parked along the banks of the frozen Fish River. Only a disaster could stop the defending champ, Gatt said. “I’m more worried about Jeff catching me than me catching Mackey.”

Mackey estimated the trip to Nome would take around 10 hours, putting him at the finish line in midafternoon.

Before the run to Nome, the top Iditarod mushers spent a leisurely night here at the village hall –- commandeered for the week by Iditarod veterinarians, officials and volunteers.

Mackey had arrived mobbed by autograph seekers, icicles thick as crayons swinging from his mustache. Warm weather had bogged his dogs down earlier in the day – as King had hoped – but Mackey had expected as much.

“I didn’t ask them to do anything special. I just let them cruise at their own speed, which is about as slow as drool,” he said. “But we were moving while other people were stopped.”

Mackey was one step closer to a Dodge truck, the winning prize, along a $50,000 paycheck. “I’m stoked,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”


Arriving late last night inside the checkpoint building -- a wood-paneled collection of offices that will crowd dozens of mushers and volunteers over the course of the week – Mackey hunted for an iPod charger.

His Iditarod soundtrack ranges from classical to reggae to rap, he said. “I have three teenage kids and a wife and a Jamaican (musher Newton Marshall) in my house. And they’ve all taken turns putting something on there.”


Mackey’s father, 1978 Iditarod winner Dick Mackey, met him at the checkpoint dinner table, where the younger Mackey piled a paper plate with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and two hot dogs slathered in mayonnaise.

The Mackey men talked strategy. Dick had been studying race statistics and couldn’t see how Gatt could catch his son.

Mackey listened, a knee brace pulled over his long underwear, his feet raw and fingers stained from a week on the trail. A rubber band held his hair in a tight braid.

“When he is faster than you, he’s about 0.8 miles an hour faster. And if that’s the case, all you’ve got (to do) is to do your thing,” Dick said. “At this point, it’s your race to lose.”


Across the hall from the chow room is the race’s new drug-testing headquarters – a city supply room filled with file containers and cable TV boxes.

Anchorage-based Work Safe, a company known for testing potential workers for employers, is donating the drug-testing services as the Iditarod began checking mushers for illegal substances for the first time this year.

As mushers arrive in White Mountain, they’re being pulled aside for testing. Mackey was the first.

A throat cancer survivor who once had a finger removed after it was rendered useless by nerve damage, Mackey holds a medical marijuana card. He has admitted to using pot on the trail in the past, and felt singled out by the race’s new drug-testing policy, saying it was spurred by jealous competitors. Race officials said the effort was prompted by other Iditarod finishers and conceded he wasn’t off point.

Mackey said before the race he wouldn’t use pot or the marijuana pills prescribed to him. “I don’t think it’s going to show a damn thing,” he said of the test.

The samples will be flown to Spokane, Wash., for analysis with results known by the mushers banquet later this month, said Work Safe general manager Don Bisby.

King called the testing a waste of money Monday night. “If it’s originated because of somebody smoking pot, I really think it’s stupid,” he said.


After feeding his dogs, King sat at the dinner table eating lasagna, a seat away from Hans Gatt. Gatt’s hair poked in every direction.

The Whitehorse musher won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest in February and is one of several top Iditarod contenders to compete in both races.

It used to be common knowledge you couldn’t win the grueling Quest and the Iditarod in the same year. Then Mackey did it twice.

One theory is that the Quest “hardens” dogs' bodies for the race to Nome. Mackey is racing the Iditarod with six Quest dogs. Gatt brought 13 of his Quest winners to the race.

King asked Gatt about the success of Quest dogs: “You think it could be the training to go slow as much as the metabolic thing?”

“I don’t train slow,” Gatt said at the dinner table.

“You don’t train slow?”


“But, you ran the Quest.”

“The Quest was the fastest 1,000-mile race ever,” Gatt said .

Earlier in the night, Gatt had set out bowls of food for his team, only to find at least some of the dogs looking at him groggily, ignoring them.

He rubbed the head of a blond dog named Newman. “Hey Newmie … feed you later, huh?”

“I guess you guys are too tired,” he said to the dogs.

As the sport’s premier event, the Iditarod is poised for a new round of stars. Mackey has said he doesn’t want to do both the Quest and the Iditarod again in the same year anymore, King says he likely won’t run the race again, and Gatt is done with 1,000-mile races, he says.

“I just can’t get excited about it anymore, so why do it?” he said.

Mackey, meantime, has often been a dynamo at checkpoints even as he describes himself as beat up and “wimpier” than in years past.

Before the race, he talked cautiously about being happy with a top 10 finish. Until he reached Ruby – roughly halfway through the race – Mackey figured he could make the top five, but it’d be a struggle.

“I’m realistic. And I know there’s a hell of a lot of good dog teams in this race with exceptional drivers who are very focused and determined,” Mackey said. “Hans Gatt just whipped my butt in the Yukon Quest.”

But a flash decision to push through Kaltag while King rested gave him a lead that he only extended on Monday.

Last night Mackey figured it would take him about 10 hours to reach Nome – putting him across the finish line in midafternoon and adding another chapter to Iditarod record books.

His message for Nome this morning: “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/03/16/




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