Thursday, December 29, 2022

Iditarod Insider increases pricing

Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey is interviewed
by Iditarod Insider at the 2019 Iditarod ReStart.
March 3, 2019. Willow, Alaska.
In an email sent out to Iditarod fans today, Iditarod Insider announced that they will increase the price of their subscriptions beginning January 1, 2023. The subscription based streaming service began in 2004 when video on the internet was just starting to really take root. The award winning team of Insider prides themselves of being passionate fans of the Last Great Race and the sport it showcases.

Much has changed from their humble beginnings nearly two decades ago, and with it has been a host of growing pains, but the service is one that fans cling to to keep up with the latest news from the trail. Insider now boasts live coverage in most of the checkpoints, as well as expert and color analysis as the race progresses. Each year's race gets its own documentary produced for purchase (or streaming through the subscription service). Along with video and livefeeds, Insider also provides access to the beloved GPS tracker. Gone are the days of waiting for twice a day updates (unless one was a HAM Radio operator), and heaven help anyone related to Insider if it goes down even briefly because fans are addicted to the information it provides.

While Insider has changed its pricing structure in the past, it was never forced to up the subscription price of the established tiers - they always were able to add a new tier/option for subscribers while keeping the original pricing stable. 2023 will be the first time every tier gets a price increase, but it's a needed one according to Insider.

"We appreciate your continued support in the Iditarod Community," the statement reads, "your support is what helps keep our mushers and four-legged friends doing what they love. For the first time in its 18 year history, we are nominally increasing the Insider subscription prices to reflect the growing cost of bringing these services to our fans. The subscription cost has not paralleled the rising costs of producing the Insider coverage since its inception."

During the 2022 "Town Hall" Zoom Meeting the Iditarod put on in December, Insider producer Greg Heister noted that neither he or any of his team were making money off of Insider, that all profits go directly to the race and that his crew are paid "significantly less than industry standards" suggesting the crew worked Insider out of love for the race and the people and dogs that make it happen. Insider has to pay for its own accommodations, food, and transportation. While, yes, they do use the Iditarod Air Force, they also run snow machines up and down and around the trail and - as we all know - fuel prices are exponentially higher this year. The pricing increases come as really no surprise, though there did not seem to be a hint of the increase during the Town Hall.

Price increases are as follows:
Ultimate Insider - Increase from $33.95 per year to $39.95 per year.
Ultimate Insider Plus - Increase from $39.95 per year to $49.95 per year.

Subscriptions purchased before January first will not be affected, but will see the price increase on their next renewal (June 2023).

To view the full email, click here.

What are your thoughts on the price increase? Will you be purchasing Insider this year? Tell me below in the comments!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Lance Mackey named Honorary Musher for Iditarod 51

In a short statement released today by the Iditarod Trail Committee, the Last Great Race announced the 51st's running's Honorary Musher would be 4-time Iditarod Champion and Legend Lance Mackey. Lance Mackey dominated long distance mushing in Alaska from 2005-2010 when he won four consecutive Yukon Quest titles (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008) and four consecutive Iditarod titles (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) before a number of personal and health setbacks saw him drop in the rankings. The feat of winning those eight titles in the span of five seasons will most likely never be repeated.

The ITC wrote, "Lance was one of the Iditarod nation’s most colorful champions, exciting the crowds and his fans everywhere he went."

Lance was born into a mushing family, he often bragged that he ran his first sled dog race from inside his mother Kathie's womb. Lance's childhood was not your dreamy Norman Rockwell version of childhoods, but he spent a great deal of time watching, studying, and idolizing the men and women of the Iditarod as his father Dick Mackey helped Joe Redingtom start the Last Great Race. 

Lance's young adulthood was fraught with difficulties, most he would later say from his own doings, but when he packed up the wife and kids and moved to the Kenai Peninsula to start fresh, it wasn't long before he picked up stray and unwanted dogs and cobbled together a kennel. He would work hard to qualify for the race he grew up cherishing, and it was his rookie run in Iditarod when Mackey discovered something wasn't quite right. A trip to the doctor discovered he had a very aggressive form of throat cancer. 

Lance Mackey defied the odds and credited his recovery on his dogs. The dogs gave him extra reason to fight, as well as helped him heal. They needed him and he needed them just as much. Mackey was soon back on the runners and even entered the Iditarod just months after treatment (he would later say that wasn't the best of ideas). While Lance and team started to see success in mid distance races, and steadily climbed the standings in the Iditarod and Quest, most counted him out. Even after winning two Quest titles in 2005 and 2006, many did not believe as Lance did that he would be able to continue - and as long as he was winning the Quest it was believed he would never win Iditarod. Two thousand mile races less than a month apart, the experts all said, was impossible to win both. 

In 2007, Lance knew his time had come to prove everyone wrong. Drawing bib number 13 at the Iditarod bib draw the now three time Yukon Quest Champion KNEW he was going to be the 2007 Iditarod Champion. Both his father Dick and older brother Rick had won their Iditarod titles with lucky bib number 13. Lance believed his fate was sealed, and wouldn't you know it, Lance crossed the finish line in first... and would do so for the next three consecutive races. 

Lance reignited the imagination of mushing fans and mushers alike. He didn't have flashy sponsors, gear, or really much of anything but gumption. Mackey with his "Comeback Kennel" was a sort of throwback to his father's days of mushing, and the world ate it up. He would be nominated for an ESPY award, and be the focus of an award winning documentary.

When fans learned in 2021 that the musher was diagnosed with cancer again (a different type than the first) they rallied around the champion musher. Lance's 2020 was already difficult with the shame of testing positive for methamphetamine - for which he went to out of state treatment for - and the loss of his life partner Jenne in an ATV rollover accident leaving their two children without their mother. It just seemed totally unfair that, once again, things seemed stacked against him. Mackey remained quiet for the next year, with just a scattering of posts about car racing, a few kennel updates where the musher was quietly selling equipment and dogs, and a couple kid updates.

Then August of 2022, Lance gave a gut-wrenching interview with Iditarod Insider's Greg Heister. He was calling in from a hospital room where he revealed he had been in and out of the hospital all summer. The musher said he wasn't done fighting and that's exactly what he did up until the very end. When the news of his passing hit social media via a simple post by his father on Facebook, fans immediately took to sending condolences and tributes - and as Iditarod wrote to confirm that the beloved champion had passed fans immediately called for them to choose him as the 2023 Honorary Musher.

Iditarod heard those pleas, and they have chosen wisely. Jr. Iditarod, also, will have Lance as their honorary musher and members of the Mackey Family will be in attendance at the race. For the Iditarod, the Honorary Musher or their representative ride in the first sled out of the chute driven by that year's Jr Iditarod champion. In Lance's place his two youngest children, Atigun and Lozen, will ride in the sled through the 11 miles through Anchorage. 

You can read the press release here.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Neff speaks to fans about Iditarod decision

Never one to let things go, Hugh Neff hasn't stayed quiet after he announced yesterday the Iditarod Review Board denied his application for the 2023 race. The former Yukon Quest Champion posted more details to his Facebook account citing how he and Jim Lanier knew that Iditarod would not let him run months ago. Neff planned to run dogs from Lanier's kennel again this year, and used their win in the Kobuk 440 as proof that his "forced scratch" from Iditarod 2022 was a farce. 

To hear Hugh's side of things is to hear one conspiracy after the other for the last decade or so. The Quest was out to get him. The Iditarod was out to get him (and in one race he suggested that Iditarod wanted to kill him when they wouldn't send a rescue team out in the middle of a storm out onto the Norton Sound to find the wayward musher). Different mushing clubs/associations who chose to deny him membership due to the Quest's decision to bar him from the 2019 race because of his dog's death in 2018 was found to be caused by musher negligence. So then the vet teams of races were out to get him. Mark Nordman, the musher's hinted, dislikes him and is jealous of him. And don't get him started on all of those fake mushers with tv deals (Seavey? Redington? Holmes?) he's following in the traditions of Alaska and real mushers whereas they're just about money. 

Neff's statement last night cited mushers by description and not name siding with him, stating they won't speak publicly for fear of retribution. In an odd sort of twist it seems Neff is trying to take a few pages out of Dallas Seavey's book after Seavey had to deal with the fall out of the Musher X scandal, with a big difference being mushers spoke out publicly for the musher. Even rivals who had not great things to say about the youngest Iditarod Champion wrote letters of support for Dallas. So far, if Hugh does have supporters in the community, they aren't coming forward.

In his statement on facebook the musher promised he is not going anywhere and plans to continue mushing in "Alaska's Greatland". A quick scan of mid distance race rosters does not show Hugh with any future races lined up.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Neff denied Iditarod entry

Hugh Neff navigates a turn in
Anchorage during the ceremonial 
start of Iditarod 50. March 6, 2022.
In a series of Facebook posts Friday night, Yukon Quest Champion Hugh Neff reported that his Iditarod Registration was rejected by the Race Board. The musher did not mince words and hinted at conspiracy against him as well as the kennel he plans to runs dogs out of - Jim Lanier's Northern Whites Kennel.

All entries for the Iditarod are reviewed by a committee which determines if a team meets the requirements - regardless of past experience on the trail. These decisions are not typically made public by the race other than approvals being posted to the roster. The committee takes in consideration kennel conditions, current races, as well as past Iditarods (when applicable).

Neff has had a string of concerns in the last few years stemming from the Yukon Quest barring him from racing the thousand mile race until he could requalify after they found him negligent in the death of his dog Boppy in the 2018 race. Other races, including Iditarod, followed suit in denying Hugh's entries in the 2019 season. 

Neff ran in the 2022 Iditarod but had to scratch in Ruby due to concern for his dogs. Controversy surrounded his scratch as the musher and the race differ on what happened with Neff accusing Mark Nordman of having a vendetta against him. 

This is a developing story.