Like Sarah Palin, four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey is probably one of the most-recognized names and faces in his home state of Alaska. Get outside the 49th state, however, and the 39-year-old musher is likely little-known.
Mackey is the modern-day champion of the 1,100-plus mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, enduring days of sub-zero temperatures, long hours of darkness and little sleep to ride into the record books this year as the only musher to win the "last great race on Earth" four consecutive times (he is also the only musher to win the Yukon Quest, another challenging 1,000 mile sled dog race, four times, doing so in consecutive years).
Correspondent Jon Frankel traveled to Alaska to speak with Mackey, visiting him at home where he lives with his family (which includes a pack of 12 house dogs that are rescued canines), and runs his sled dog facility, Comeback Kennel.
"I'm addicted to dogs, and not just sled dogs. I love 'em all. All the dogs I got runnin' around my house are -- are pretty much, you know rescue dogs," Mackey told Frankel. "Nobody else give 'em a chance or -- or the time of day. And -- and I felt that was kinda me as well. And -- and -- and because of it, I think the relationship I have with my dogs today is -- is second to none."
Mackey delves into his relationship with his father, Dick, who in 1978 won the Iditarod by one second. He also discusses his youth, when he seemed lost in a vortex of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as his battle with throat cancer, which he wasn't expected to survive.
The segment focused more on Mackey's past rather than the present, which I would have liked to have heard more about -- his family life with wife Tonya and their three children, his work tutoring other mushers, and what he does when not training for races -- but I still found it interesting. Perhaps Mackey wanted it that way though, wishing to remain a bit mysterious, like some of the Alaskan tundra he crosses during the iconic race.
The episode will re-air at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday as well as on May 20, 23, 25, 29 and 31.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo: Lance Mackey shares a private moment with Rev, one of his sled dogs, during the 2010 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Credit: Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News / Associated Press
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