Lance Mackey is nearing the end of the Iditarod Trail Sleddog race. Early this morning he arrived at Elim, a small village along the Northwest Arctic coast of Alaska, 825 miles into the thousand mile race, way ahead of his next competitors. The temperature is -11 F., with wind to 35 mph, bringing the windchill to -35 F. It was worse last night. A following musher, Hugh Neff is reported to have serious frostbite on his face, in spite of the huge parkas with fur ruffs to keep him warm. No one can catch him. He's obliterating the competition. Mackey's dog team is amazingly fast, and he is unbelievably tough. Lance's grandfather, Dick Mackey, and his father, Rick Mackey, were both Iditarod race champions. But Lance is in another class.
Everyone has heard about Lance Armstrong and his bout with cancer, but Mackey is also a cancer survivor, and throat cancer at that. Just competing would have been a major accomplishment. But Lance is more than just a competitor; he has won the Iditarod the last two years. Incredible, yes! But, he also won the 1000-mile Yukon Quest race between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Canada, those same two years! And, these huge races are back to back. I've been fascinated by the races for my near 30 years in Alaska, having run the Yukon Quest myself three times. I was so tired and done in by the end of one race I couldn't imagine getting back on the sled for a second time a few weeks later. So I'm mesmerized by his performance.
Two weeks ago I stood at the starting line of the Junior Iditarod and watched his stepson blast out of the starting gate with the family team. The dogs, the real champion athletes in this race, had already raced in the Yukon Quest, and now the pulled young Cain Carter to the finish line first, the fourth scion in the Mackey hall of fame.
If you want to read more about his fascinating and inspirational life, check out: http://www.mackeyscomebackkennel.com/index.html
And for race updates and to see his amazing finish: http://www.iditarod.com/