I just watched The Great Alone. A documentary featuring the Champion Dog Sledder Lance Mackey. What a great film. I’ve got a link below if you’re interested via Amazon. It made my Iditarod volunteering all the more special after I watched the film and got this inside look.
I met Lance Mackey this year during the Iditarod. A sad day for him as he had scratched from the race. A normal day of volunteering for me, working with the dogs. Then it became a pretty special one for me.
He looked pretty beat down and his hands have given him a hell of a time of things since his chemo/radiation/frostbite problems. He had no grip and we had to help him load/unload the dogs into his truck. A scratch from the race is really dishearting for the mushers. I saw four of the thirteen on the dog lot this year after they had scratched. Not forgetting the thousands of dollars that they spend to get in a race, it’s a year of hard work ended short. I saw depression, tears, long hugs from spouses and other race personnel, and from Lance, I saw defeat. Hard to see that in a champion, probably even harder to bear it.
After recovery from cancer surgery and treatment in 2001, Lance returned to sled dog racing. From the year 2005 to 2010, Lance was a winner of either/or the Yukon Quest and Iditarod 1000 mile sled dog races. Earning in both races, four consecutive wins, with two of those years being Quest and then Iditarod back to back. These races are two weeks apart. He also earned the top honor for dog care from both races as witnessed and voted on by the many veterinarians who volunteer for these races. Some great information on Lance can be found here at Comeback Kennel.
When we picked up Lance and his dogs from the plane, Lance told us a great story on the ride to the dog lot about his mom and siblings moving in with him recently. He tells a great story and it was special to see the human side to such a great athlete. We tend to put them on pedestals and forget they’re just like us, living life. But even with that, a great champion is just that. I feel blessed I didn’t just get a picture with Lance after I helped him get dogs in the truck. I got to give him a big ole hug and remind him, he’ll always be a champion.
Thanks for reading! AND WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY!