Thursday, March 12, 2015

The end of the Lance Mackey era?

Lance Mackey and team at the
Ceremonial Start of Iditarod 43.
March 7, 2015
Lance Mackey made an alarming statement via Iditarod Insider yesterday afternoon - Iditarod 43 is very likely to be his last. Mackey's heath issues have been no secret the last few years - the man is in considerable pain even after treatments and surgeries to help counteract the effects brought on from the aggressive cancer treatments he went through over a decade ago. Lance has poor circulation in his hands and feet, and it was a major concern going into this year's race. During the Yukon Quest he admitted his team was not the reason they were not competitive - he was.

Looks like things may have been worse than what we all originally thought.

On his run into Tanana, Lance had to deal with a dog tangle. This typically occurs when there is a dog fight (which is caused for any number of reasons). Mackey told Insider that he lost his mitts somehow, so his fingers were essentially frozen. He can't bend them, and he doesn't have any feeling (other than pain) in them. This makes bootying his dogs (to protect their feet) nearly impossible. He declared his 24 in the checkpoint to hopefully be able to recover.

However, Mackey sees the writing on the wall - his body is telling him that his career is just about over. He was tired, cold, and in pain - so no one is willing to truly count him out yet - but he knows the inevitable is coming. Lance was most emotional when he talked about how his brother Jason, also running in this year's Iditarod, was going to scrap his race plan to now run with Lance and help him with the detail work - bootying the dogs, etc. The idea that his brother was willing to "screw up his race" to help him choked the 4 time champion up big time. That was when I started bawling.

Lance can be heard saying "I LOVE this sport... I just can't do it anymore." and that's rough. Lance is only 44 years old. God willing, he'll be around for at least 44 more. He's still at the "prime age" for a musher. The man who holds the record of four consecutive Iditarod wins, the man who won the Iditarod and the Quest in the same year... this man has gone from the top to being barely able to care for his dogs on the same trails that saved his life. It's tragic - Lance has never had an easy go of things, but it seemed that dog mushing was his saving grace... and now even that looks to be leaving him.

This is not how he should have to go out.

Lance and Jason headed out on the trail this afternoon and arrived in Ruby a short time ago. No reports on how the teams are doing, but an interview earlier with Jason on Insider had Jason saying that Lance was determined to get to Nome. If this is to be his last race, he's going to take it all the way.

We're all running with you, Lance. No matter where you place - you'll forever be one of this races biggest champions.

(If you want to go through an emotional roller coaster, read Danny Seavey's blog post about Lance. Bring tissues.)

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