In the same sense that naysayers give race cars more credit than their drivers, it might be time to start calling the dogs the real athletes of the Iditarod. Two-time defending champion Lance Mackey managed to FALL ASLEEP during a leg of the race on Friday, and all the while his loyal steeds pulled on and dragged him to first place at a vital checkpoint.
Mackey was the first to reach the Yukon River, about two-thirds of the way through the 1,161-mile race. He was rewarded with an eight-course meal, but things could have gone horribly wrong had he not woken up and backtracked. But don’t think his dogs weren’t pissed about it.
Mackey, who estimated that he’s had 12 hours of sleep total since the race began a week ago, woke up to find himself far off the map, with no trail markers in sight.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It very well could have cost me the race right there.”
Mackey was forced to do something every musher hates - turn the dog team around.
“When I turned them around they didn’t dig that,” he said. “It really demoralizes their attitude when you spin them around in the trail like that.”
Mackey said the dogs showed their displeasure with him when he finally got them back on the Iditarod trail. They went half as fast.
His prize for reaching the river first? A meal fit for a king, including “braised pork belly…rib-eye steak with a blueberry demi-glaze and a dessert of strawberries finished in Grand Marnier liqueur,” and $3,500. It might not sound like a lot, but the grand prize for risking your life by sledding through a blizzard is only $69,000 and a truck. The dogs, who do all the real work, probably get some Beggin’ Strips or something.