Dallas Seavey was born and bred to not only run the Iditarod but to win again and again. Monday night, he joined the elite ranks of the race's legendary four-time winners — Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley, Martin Buser, Lance Mackey and Jeff King — and continued his quest to supplant five-time winner Rick Swenson, the winningest dog driver in Iditarod history.
Seavey's pedigree rivals that of his best sled dogs. Father Mitch Seavey is a two-time champion. Brothers Danny and Tyrell Seavey have both raced multiple times. Grandfather Dan Seavey was an Iditarod founder and the third-place racer in the inaugural Iditarod. Younger brother Conway Seavey is a Junior Iditarod champion, and Dallas' wife Jen Seavey ran the race back in 2009.
Clearly, Dallas has learned much from his father but he's long had his own kennel, his own training program. He even bought a dog from competitor Jeff King. That dog, Beatle, cost $1,000 but went on to lead Seavey to two Iditarod wins and a Yukon Quest victory, receiving the coveted Golden Harness award as well.
Funny video: Dallas' training method vs. Mitch's
Earlier this year, Mitch Seavey's youngest son Conway released an entertaining video comparing Mitch Seavey to Rocky Balboa and Dallas Seavey to a scientist in the lab to show how different their training has become. There's Mitch slogging away in the mud, training his dogs on a four-wheeler, while Dallas uses his iPhone to watch his dogs run in a temperature-controlled room on a treadmill long enough to accommodate a 16-dog team.
But technology isn't the only reason Dallas Seavey wins.
The biggest reason he wins is that Dallas Seavey can't be beaten on the Bering Sea coast. Like a runner with a monster kick, he waits for the home stretch before pouncing.
In seven consecutive top-10 finishes, only one musher behind Dallas in Unalakleet finished ahead of him in Nome. That happened in 2009, when veteran Cim Smyth, who scratched from this year's race on Monday, passed Dallas on the run between Elim and White Mountain, and Seavey never saw him again.
Diehard race fans may recall that Smyth also comes from an Iditarod pedigree with a habit of winning the Iditarod award for the fastest time from Safety to Nome — the final 22 miles of the 1,000-mile race. The only musher with more of those awards than Smyth's four is his brother, Ramey Smyth, who has racked up eight.
Race statistics clearly demonstrate Seavey's coastal surge:
• 2009: 11th into Unalakleet, 6th to Nome.
• 2010: 14th into Unalakleet, 8th to Nome.
• 2011: 9th into Unalakleet, 4th to Nome.
• 2012: 2nd into Unalakleet, 1st to Nome.
• 2013: 11th into Unalakleet, 4th to Nome.
• 2014: 12th into Unalakleet, 1st to Nome.
• 2015: 3rd into Unalakleet, 1st to Nome.
• 2016: 2nd into Unalakleet, 1st to Nome.
Dallas Seavey has never won the First to the Coast that goes to the first musher to Unalakleet, the town on the Bering Sea coast. Yet he has won the race four times in five years.
Virtually every year, the coast is where the Iditarod is won. Knowing that he has lost ground to only one team on the Seward Peninsula in seven years gives the confident Seavey one more reason to believe he will win the Iditarod for years to come.
Jake Berkowitz is a three-time Iditarod finisher, including an eighth-place finish in 2013, when he was awarded the Alaska Airlines Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award. He has finished the Yukon Quest twice, both times in fourth place, and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. This is his first year of Iditarod commentary for Alaska Dispatch News. Look for his commentaries daily during the race.