Lance Mackey did it, and he did it very, very well. He now stands as the only person in history to win two major long-distance races in the same year. Every musher I know is asking the same question. "How in heck did he DO that?"
I believe the answer to that question may well open a new and exciting chapter in sled dog racing history.
In the past, the major jumps in dog sled racing were a result of breeding coupled with the involvement of great dog mushers. For example, the importation of Siberian huskies coupled with the skills of Leonhard Seppela, the selection of the best and fastest village dogs driven by the brilliant George Attla, advances in selective breeding, nutrition and dog care championed by Ray Coppinger and "Doc" Lombard, and most recently the breeding success of English and German short haired pointers to create the "Eurohound" coupled with the sprint mushing acumen of Egil Ellis.
Make no mistake, Lance's breeding program is clearly impeccable, but his accomplishments during this season are a result of much more then breeding alone. Each of his individual accomplishments are astounding. He shattered the previous speed record to win the toughest sled dog race in the world, the Yukon Quest. Then, with many of those same dogs, he toughed it out, overcame some incredible hardships, and came from behind to win the "The Last Great Race, the Iditarod. To do both in the same year and with many of the same dogs, is beyond astounding. In the mushing world it is literally unbelievable. Many top notch racers have frequently claimed that "it can't be done" and "it just isn't possible". As Mackey's team ran the final yards to the burled arch, he shouted out his reply - "Eat your words!"
Today, now that Mackey has proven beyond doubt that it CAN be done, every musher in the north country, from the lowliest of recreational drivers to those who have reached the highest levels of sled dog racing are now asking "How did he do it?" As we learn the answers I suspect it will lead to some amazing and positive changes within the sport.