Iditarod 2009

At 2:11am Alaska time this morning Lance Mackey left White Mountain following the mandatory eight hour layover there. Barring some mishap he’ll cross the finish line in Nome sometime between noon and three local time to win the 2009 Iditarod, the last great race on earth.

By all accounts the conditions along the Bering Sea portion of the race have been brutal. Race analyst Bruce Lee commented:

Mackey reported as he pulled into the village of Koyuk that he had just gone through the hardest run of this race and one of the hardest runs of his career.

The wind is blowing here at 30 to 35 mph making the wind chill on bare skin 50 below. To make conditions harder the wind is blowing right into their face.

Mackey’s dogs came in looking strong with leaders wagging their tails and pulling hard. One amazing aspect of this team is that Mackey was lead across the sea ice into this strong wind by a new leader that hasn’t even turned two years old yet.

Clearly, at this point the race is Mackey’s to lose. If he wins it will be his third consecutive triumph in the Iditarod. The victory will have have required determination, athleticism, skill, knowledge of the trail, a great relationship with his sled dogs, and luck. At one point Mackey actually fell asleep standing on the rails and fans of the race down here in the lower 48 wondered as they watched the little flag on the map indicating his GPS location veer from the trail. That cost him several hours and might well have proved disastrous.

But winning the race this authoritatively takes something else, too.

You can’t force a dog to pull a sled. They’ve got to want to do it and for a team to perform the way Lance’s has they’ve got to race with the joy that comes from performing the job you were born to do. Like the late, great Susan Butcher, Lance Mackey is dominating his sport by breeding the best sled dogs in the world. And that’s bound to change the face of sled dog racing for years to come.

The picture above is of Lance Mackey leaving the checkpoint at the village of Golovin. It’s from the Anchorage Daily News.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. hcantrall says:

    With all of the depressing news these days, this was a really nice story to read. I think we need more of that and less of the other. Thank you Mr. Schuler.

  2. sam says:

    Uh, Dave, did you close the html italics on the line “The picture above is of Lance Mackey leaving the checkpoint at the village of Golovin. It’s from the Anchorage Daily News.”?

    Interesting story, btw.

  3. sam says:

    I guess something happened — the continuous ital is gone…

  4. tom p says:

    I know them dogs are “juicing”…

    on the more serious side, the Iditarod is one of the few competitions that is largely the same today, as it was yesterday. One person, one sled, a team of dogs… they either work together and reach the end, or they don’t.

    Who comes in first, is almost secondary.