Lance Mackey and the Iditarod
A few days after the Yukon Quest, on March the 7th, Lance began a new adventure: The Iditarod, the most popular and historical of the great sled dog races from Anchorage to Nome, 1000 miles between the harshest and the most beautiful that the nature can offer.
As a tradition, the first day was a big party where all the crews were doing parade along the street in Anchorage. The start was from the Fairbanks, the nearest US City to the Arctic Circle (190 km to the south).
Racing in group, the competitors were close one to another. The darkness came early so they bivouac together.
Lance reached the first checkpoint, Nenana at 19.00 then restarted again after 3 hours stop to get to Manley Hot springs.
After having the night race, Lance reached Manley Hot springs in the morning of Tuesday, 10th March. Here the nature and the landscape was still so desolate, despite the snow it was also rich in vegetation, the hot springs is also being used as the name of the town as clearly seen in many pictures.
In the next checkpoint, Tanana, a village where 80% of the inhabitants are descendants of the Native Americans, Lance decided to take the mandatory 24 hours stop that any racers had to take sooner or later. The reason to do it early was due to the circulation problem on his left hand as a result of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy that he had been doing in the years before. For this problem, Lance could only expose his hand to the cold just for a short time, unfortunately the operation of dropping the “booties” to his dogs required excessive exposure of his bare hands. Eventually, he learned to take the freezing injuries seriously and not to joke with it.
Taking the first place in the Iditarod 2015 had moved more fans of mushing. During the race, Jason Mackey, his younger brother decided not to pass the Tanana checkpoint to continue the competition in doubles with his brother, so he could be in charge of all the operation where Lance had to take out his gloves. There were many sympathies, praises and support messages dedicated to the two brothers on Lance Facebook page in the section of documentary film about him.
Thursday 12th : We finally arrived at Ruby after 119 miles “walk” between the forest. This was the longest distance between the two checkpoints which required 18 hours travel. In these cases, he didn’t need to reach the checkpoint to rest the dogs because he could stop along the way and he could refresh himself without removing the gloves while the dogs were snoozing.
Saturday 14th: The landscape began to change, in this latitude, the town had more space and less populated. Checkpoint Huslia is a village with 270 population.
Sunday 15th: Travelling from Nulato to Kaltag. In this white desert, there was no shelter during the relentless winds.
Tuesday 17th: Going to Unalakleet, we were at the gates of the Bering Sea and from this point, the mushers know that there might probably snowstorm with violent gusts of wind.
Wednesday 18th: Arrived at Shatoolik From here the race continued for a short distance in the mainland, then it led the mushers to the frozen water of the Norton Bay, one of the most insidious that the crews would face.
A snowstorm surprised some mushers in the night between Wednesday and Thursday. Lance and Jason Mackey found a shelter behind the wall of a shed together with a colleague Chuck Schaeffer and his dogs. This uninhabited hut was built not only for emergency, in fact it was also used by some other mushers who had very bad visibility like Bryan Bearss, who told the reporters he was afraid to die and he had to send the “SOS” sign to request for aid, as all other mushers also have this for emergency reason. Unfortunately he ran out his battery, but then he was lucky as the search team found him in the next morning, and they could take him from the race without any “damage”.
At this part of the journey, more than one mushers retired, but Lance has reached the Koyuk Checkpoint after 22 hours of travel to cover only 50miles between the two checkpoints. These times, the difficulty level has stretched the travel time.
Koyuk was the point where the mushers could breathe a sigh of relax as the rest of the route was at least throughout the mainland. The same storm that blocked Lance and Jason on the way to Koyuk, petrified Scott Janssen and had left him behind. “The worst storm I have ever seen” said the musher, who was at the time could only curl with his dogs in his sleeping bag, where he waited 12 hours to get the help. When the rescue team arrived he got confused and got immobilized hypothermia, he had to get an urgent medical care, without being able to get the dogs along with him.
Eight hours later. Lance Mackey arrived and found Janssen’s dogs, he thought that a musher who left the dogs was probably got lost. He tried to make them react and bound them to the sleigh then convinced them to move from there. He has raced for 48 miles to the checkpoint Elim with bated breath, checking every dark stain on the snow, every shape, every shadow, hoping it was his colleague.
Scott said that when Lance arrived at Elim he was in tears for not having found him along the way, and when he heard the musher was safe, he ran to embrace him in the shelter. “Lance Mackey has saved my dogs, without him …” said Scott Janssen. He added: “He is an incredible friend, an incredible musher, and an amazing person.”
On the internet, it was spreading the amateur photographs of Lance came to Elim, driving two crews of dogs. On his message on facebook where he wrote “I led the largest Iditarod team, 21 dogs, sorry Scott for your situation, I’m glad I helped to save the dogs” rained hundreds of touching and supporting comments.
FORZA10 is proud to be chosen by Lance Mackey. These are the victories we are proud of.