Iditarod champ wants to win another truck

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Lance Mackey accomplished something that many people thought was impossible when he won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Yukon Quest in the same year.

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But he said the main thing is just for him and his dogs to have fun.

"I'm going to the finish line to get as many of my dogs to the finish line as happy and healthy as possible," he told a crowd of a couple hundred people Sunday at the 2007 International Sled Dog Symposium.

Mackey said he doesn't discipline his dogs for chewing or barking late at night, and that rather than buying dogs from other championship teams based on reputation, he tries to get dogs that work will together. Other than that, there isn't much different he does with his team.

He knew he had a good group of dogs before the start of last year's season, but he didn't know they were capable of winning both events, and most people told him that it wasn't possible.

"I thrive on underestimation," he said. "The more people told me I couldn't do it, the harder I wanted to prove them wrong."

After winning last year's race his life hasn't changed much, except he's had much more time to concentrate on the more than 70 dogs in his kennel. A truck was part of his winnings, which he gave to his wife, giving him more incentive for next year's race.

"It keeps me focused and determined to get another truck for myself," he said.

The "fireside chat" with Mackey capped off three days of events at the symposium, held at the Pioneer Park Centennial Center for the Arts. This year the symposium attracted about 40 vendors of sled dog equipment and several hundred people interested in the sport.

Joe Redington Jr., whose father was one of the founders of the Iditarod, said that much of the appeal of sled dog racing lies in the management of the dogs.

"It's like being the manager of a baseball team," he said. "You take a bunch of individuals and try to make that much more out of them."

This year's symposium featured a larger silent auction, which also raised more than $8,000 for the Alaska Dog Musher's Association - more than double what was raised last year. Redington was the top bidder for a ticket to ride behind a North American champion musher.

"I wanted to check it out and see what a champion team looks like," he said.

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