Iditarod 2010: Mackey Moves Out In Front

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Due to lots of demands at the day job and in my personal life the past week or so, I haven’t had the time to follow, or cover, the Iditarod as much as I usually do. I’m hoping that will change this week, as the tops mushers are flying along at the front of the pack, and things should get very interesting over the next few days.

Since I last posted on the “Last Great Race”, two familiar foes have started to duke it out for first place. Three time defending champ Lance Mackey and four-time champ Jeff King are, once again, running first and second in the race. As of this writing, Mackey has gone in, and out, of the checkpoint at Elim, while King is still en route, having passed through Koyuk, in hot pursuit. At this point, there just White Mountain and Safety stand between Mackey and the finish line in Nome, and if King is going to catch him, he’s going to need to be fast.

Behind King, and also out of Koyuk, are Hans Gatt, currently running in third place, followed by Ken Anderson in fourth, and Hugh Neff in fifth. The next five behind them, which includes the likes of Mitch and Dallas Seavey, as well as Sebastian Schnelle, are all into that checkpoint, but aren’t like to contend for one of the top spots.

While we haven’t seen any major blizzards like last year, which left the mushers and their dogs hunkered down for hours at a time, the weather has been a challenge none the less. Gusty winds and cold temperatures consistently dropping to -15ºF have definitely taken their toll on the racers and their pups.

As the turn into the home stretch, it’s beginning to look like Mackey will become the first person to win four straight times. On the other hand, King, who has already announced his retirement from the race, is looking to join Rick Swenson as the only five-time winners of the Iditarod. He was trailing Mackey by 74-minutes as of this morning, and it seems that lead may have grown since then, but anything can happen out there in the wilderness, and the race isn’t over until they’re in Nome.

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Iditarod 2010: Mackey Moves Out In Front”

  1. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race.

    During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

    On average, 52 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

    Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses……" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

    Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…"

    Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

    During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running. The Iditarod's chief veterinarian, Stu Nelson, is an employee of the Iditarod Trail Committee. They are the ones who sign his paycheck. So, do you expect that he's going to say anything negative about the Iditarod?

    Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

    The Iditarod, with all the evils associated with it, has become a synonym for exploitation. The race imposes torture no dog should be forced to endure.

    Margery Glickman
    Sled Dog Action Coalition,

  2. While I disagree with your comments Margery, I won't censor anyone on this blog for their opinions.

    The dogs in the race are cared for very well, and mushers pull out rather than endanger the lives of their dogs. THAT is why 50% of them don't make the finish line. There are vets at every checkpoint and mandatory rest stops as well.

    For many of the mushers, the dogs are like family. They raise them and train them, and care for them at every step of their lives, and when they retire from the trail, they are cared for like family pets.

    There are two sides to the story and two ways to look at everything. If you ever spent some time around a dog sled team like the ones in this race, you would know that they find joy in the race and love to run. We should all be so lucky to be able to do the things we love.

  3. Margery Glickman, you are a idiot. You don't know what you are talking about. The mushers love their dogs and treat them great. You must be a member of PETA. You people make me sick. You need to run the Iditarod and see exactly what it is like and what really goes on. Then you will know the truth and not the bull crap that you are spreading.

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