Alaska News

What the hell is Lance Mackey supposed to do now?

I can watch "P.S. I Love You," "The Notebook" and "Old Yeller" in one night and still be cracking jokes -- just ask my wife. She says I don't have emotions.

Lance Mackey's interview on Iditarod Insider just proved her wrong. It's not often you see a grown man's heart break right before your eyes.

Watch the video, even if you have to pay $34 to do so. In a nutshell, he froze his hands again, can't do much to take care of his dogs, and his brother Jason is going to run with him to help him bootie, etc. But what's moving is Lance's admission to himself that this is his last Iditarod.

What the hell is he supposed to do now?

The Iditarod is just a dog race. Just a big game. But to so many people, it's much more. It's a hobby, it's a passion, it's a career, it's a way of life.

Then to some people, it is life. It's who they are. I know because I'm related to them.

Then there's Lance Mackey. He's on a level of his own. Lance and the Iditarod are among the best things that have ever happened to each other. I don't think any one person has ever been so dependent on mushing, and given it so much.


For those of you who don't know the history, Lance got the very short end of the stick growing up. Other than a mushing legacy, he didn't have much going for him. But like one of those kids who grows up in the projects and wrecks the NFL, Lance is the guy who made it out, turned it around and decided to be a musher. That was before he got cancer.

If mushing didn't save his life then, it was a big factor. Everyone needs something to live for, and for Lance, it's been mushing. I don't mean to take away from his love for his family, but Lance has always been a dog musher.

What the hell is he supposed to do now?

I was a rookie with Lance. We did the same qualifiers and ran the Iditarod in the same group. My grandpa raced his dad, my dad raced him, we bought dogs from him, borrowed them, and sold some back. I've teased him, hated competing against him, judged him and written God knows what about him.

But I've always respected him. I've respected the fact that he never forgot where he came from. He never changed who he was. He has helped everyone around him to the best of his ability. Some didn't want help, but it was there. He loves the Iditarod and its fans. But most of all, he loves to mush.

No one can be truly great at something unless they love it. Lance doesn't love mushing because he wins; he wins because he loves it. He would be the same guy if he'd never won. He doesn't love being famous, people love him because he doesn't care that he's famous. His dogs, the trail, the people -- that's what makes him tick. He's found his calling.

What the hell is he supposed to do now?

Sure, he can get a job broadcasting, meeting tourists, whatever. He'll be fine on the outside. But what about on the inside? Lance is 44 years old. What is he supposed to do for the next 40 years?

Ever wonder why Rick Swenson, Sonny Lindner, DeeDee Jonrowe, etc. keep racing? They know they're not going to win, but they just love to mush. They will do it as long as they can because there's nothing else they want to do.

Most people go their whole lives and never really know what they want. They change majors five times in college, take the first job they can get to pay the student loans and just try to keep up with the mortgage until they qualify for Social Security. It's sad. They're standing outside the fire.

Far worse is when someone finds what they love, knows why they're here, goes to bed completely exhausted and content every night and then loses it.

What the hell is he supposed to do now?

I know this sounds like an obituary, and in some ways it is. Lance will be fine. He'll keep mushing as much as he can and he'll be around the Iditarod. Maybe he'll take a TV job back from me (I hate competing against him).

But part of him died this week and a part of the Iditarod died with it.

Danny Seavey is a three-time Iditarod finisher, the brother of defending champion Dallas Seavey and the son of two-time champion Mitch Seavey. He writes a blog on mushing and the Iditarod.