Thursday, February 26, 2009

How I Became an Iditarod Fan

How did I become an Iditarod fan? I’m one of those people who doesn’t read the newspaper of my own city but likes to read papers of places I'm interested in. So I regularly check in with the Anchorage Daily News online. Just two days before last year’s Iditarod I read an interesting article about the 2007 winner, Lance Mackey. I found a video clip of an interview with this ordinary guy who sounds part humble, part cocky. It showed his first place trophy sitting on top of his refrigerator in his humble cabin. I saw the way he loved his dogs. The whole sport just grabbed me. I like sports. I like dogs. I like Alaska. Boom! Iditarod fan.

I was fascinated by the movie-material story of how his dad, Dick Mackey, helped organize the first race back in the 70’s and then dramatically won it the 6th time he raced. He was wearing bib number 13. Then years later Dick’s son, Rick, was running his 6th Iditarod, drew bib #13 and he won it. Can't top that, can you? Well, in 2007, it was the 6th time son Lance was running the Iditarod. It was the first and only time the Iditarod committee allowed mushers to pick their bib numbers, so of course Lance picked bib number 13. He won! AND he did it on the heels of running another 1000 mile race just 3 weeks before! AND he used many of the same dogs. His training and racing knowledge are changing the sport. No one had ever before considered running both 1000 mile races back to back with any serious competitiveness. Evidence now suggests that instead of the dogs being spent and needing a longer time to recover, they actually show greater strength, endurance, energy and enthusiasm the more miles run. Oh, by the way, Lance Mackey not only ran both races within weeks of each other, he won them both. Two years in a row. It literally stunned the mushing world. Oh...and Lance is a cancer survivor. Didn't I tell you it’s movie material?

I always knew the Iditarod existed but never thought much of it, even with my interest in Alaska. Finding out more about it just two days before the 2007 race was the perfect breeding ground for fanship. Two days later I was all over the internet and the Iditarod site "watching" the race. It's really interesting. The challenges these men and women face are real and big. They never know how the weather will factor into things but it always does. Last year's race was during a "heat wave". Temps "soared" up to the 40's making the trails and dogs slower. The dogs prefer temps below zero. The year before, weather affected the race with nasty storms producing white out conditions.

Well, I could go on and on.... but I'll spare you. ( I guess I kinda already did go on and on.)

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