Lance Mackey’s hands are permanently cold. He’s sitting out this year’s Iditarod, just the second time he hasn’t participated in the 1,000 mile race since 2001. Sitting in his driveway, to be precise. He reports that the truck heater gives his hands a concentrated blast his home cannot provide, bringing relief from the debilitating effects of frostbite and infection.
It’s easy to love a winner, and ‘winner’ is an understatement for Mackey. Elite athleticism is prone to romanticism approaching mythology. The sinewy 46-year-old Fairbanksian has always defied the latter, while charting an impressive arc in the former. There are the unmatched four consecutive Iditarod victories (2007-2010), interspersed with four victories of the more remote, equally demanding Yukon Quest race. He twice captured both crowns in the same year, a feat previously thought impossible by mushing insiders. Induction to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Iditarod Hall of Fame. Sweeping film festivals with the intimate, dramatic Greg Kohs’ documentary The Great Alone. Legend car racing, again for the win. But for all his triumphs, his rugged humility may be better revealed through his trials. His difficulties have only seemed to intensify his authenticity.
And they are well-documented trials — medical, financial and marital. 2015’s Iditarod was a withering affair that saw Mackey endure the death of two dogs mid-race.