Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trouble for Lance Mackey on the trail?

Lance Mackey at the ReStart of Iditarod 44 in Willow, Alaska.
March 6, 2016
Insiders following the GPS movements on the Iditarod Trail noticed something a little worrisome with Lance Mackey's movement - the four time Iditarod champion was moving backwards. In mushing turning a team around is never a good thing. Dogs like going new places, not where they just were. It can be demoralizing to a team - especially a young one. Sebastian Schnuelle reported that Mackey's team is full of 3 year olds, which is a good age for Iditarod dogs.

Schnuelle also reported that when he left Mackey on the trail earlier in the day there was no indication that anything was wrong. Sebastian observed the team looking healthy and active, enthusiastically eating the food their Musher laid before them. These are all indicators that a team is doing well - no trouble. So that makes one wonder if Mackey himself is having trouble. No one has been near him on the trail in hours. After backtracking a few miles his GPS tracker now show him at rest (nearing the three hour mark). Lance is 27 miles from Ophir. Most teams in the checkpoint now are taking their 24 hour layover. He may not get intercepted by another racing team for many hours.

When a musher/team is in distress the Iditarod Race Officials can send someone out to check on them - but if the musher asks for any assistance, their race is over. Last year, Lance's brother Jason scratched his own race plans to travel alongside his older brother to make sure the former Champion could make it safely all the way to the finish. Having help from a fellow musher is completely legal. This year, Lance was seemingly in a much better frame of mind and his body seemed healthier. Videos earlier from the day showed him still feeling good about his race.

So what has changed? Fans and "insiders" alike are speculating - some wildly - as to what could be the issue. Danny Seavey posted on his family's facebook page that he could think of multiple scenarios, but none of them were good. Seavey posted "I am very concerned." He's not the only one. Hopefully when we all awake in the morning we'll find he's back on the trail headed for Nome.

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