Iditarod set to mint Dallas Seavey as winningest musher of all time

a musher puts booties on a dog
Musher Dallas Seavey puts a booty on one of his dogs before leaving White Mountain in first place in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

Update, 9:15 a.m. Tuesday:

WHITE MOUNTAIN – Dallas Seavey was awake two hours before his scheduled departure time from White Mountain and chatting with third-place Iditarod musher Jessie Holmes inside the city building here, which serves as headquarters for the checkpoint. The two were talking about strategies for running dogs.

It was still dark, later, as Seavey was readying his team for the final 77 mile push to Nome. He thought about dropping a dog named Sebastian, one of his main leaders in this year’s race, but changed his mind after talking to veterinarians and walking the dog to get rid of some soreness he and the vets had seen in one of Sebastian’s front legs.

Even if Sebastian started to lag farther down the trail and ended up in Seavey’s sled bag, he deserved to finish in Nome with the team and had “earned the ride,” Seavey said.

Seavey told the dogs they had one more big run ahead of them to the finish line, where there’d be meat soup and endless straw for them to lie on.

Seavey said some of the more experienced dogs who’d run the Iditarod before might’ve had an inkling that they were about to finish the 1,000-mile race.

“But I don’t know that that makes a big difference to them,” he said, while putting booties on the dogs. “No, I don’t think they live in the long term like we do, you know, future path, half done, quarter done, almost done. They live right now. And so even if they were aware, I don’t know that it would change anything or how they would even feel about it.”

a musher signs out of the checkpoint
Musher Dallas Seavey signs out of the White Mountain checkpoint before leaving in first place in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

Seavey said he felt the same. He’d been in that position before, with a sizable lead leaving White Mountain, the presumptive champion, this time for the record-breaking sixth time if all goes well.

“Obviously, it’s what you dream of all year long, what you daydream of all year long as you prepare this team and train them,” he said. “So on one hand, yeah, it’s easy to drift into the future and say, ‘Is this really real?’ you know. ‘Are we actually going to get number six?’ And then you kind of have to pull yourself back.”

At that moment, Seavey said, he was also trying to live in the moment. The race was just an opportunity to mush his happy dog team, and to do it well, he said.

“Here we are, is what we worked for all year, having a beautiful team that’s traveled 900 and some miles, is perky, happy and eating food, and it’s still enjoying mushing, and I think that’s what we strive for as a musher, is having the knowledge and the relationship with these dogs, you know, the knowledge of the sport and training and everything else and the relationship with the dogs, to be able to coach them and serve them to this point, to accomplish what we’ve just accomplished,” he said.

It would be fun to think about what was about to happen in Nome, but that wasn’t the point, Seavey said.

“You know, the race gives us a reason to do it well,” he said. “I don’t do this because of the race. I do this because I love this, and I love the experience of training dogs and developing them. The race gives us a purpose to do it to the best of our ability, every single day, drive for it, and that’s what the race provides me at least.”

Asked what a sixth championship would mean to him, Seavey said he needed to tend to the dogs and that he’d talk about that in Nome.

Seavey and his 10-dog team raced out of White Mountain at 7:53 a.m.

Original story:

a musher removes a harness from a dog
Musher Dallas Seavey removes a harness from one of his dogs after at the White Mountain checkpoint in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

WHITE MOUNTAIN – Dallas Seavey is well-positioned to win a record-breaking sixth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race championship after arriving at the checkpoint here Monday night more than three hours ahead of his closest competitor, Matt Hall.

Seavey and his team of 10 dogs came in at 11:53 p.m. Monday for their mandatory eight-hour break only 77 miles from the finish in Nome. If he wins, Seavey will break a tie with fellow five-time champion Rick Swenson for the most Iditarod championships of all time.

Seavey also will have overcome a two-hour penalty assessed earlier in the race when officials determined he had not sufficiently gutted a moose, as per race rules, that he shot when it attacked his dog team the previous Monday, which happened to be Seavey’s 37th birthday.

Locals rang the bell atop the Evangelical Covenant Church as Seavey mushed into this village on the banks of the Fish River a few minutes before midnight, led by his veteran dog Prophet.

Two younger lead dogs, Arrow and Sebastian, had led most of the race and done well, Seavey said, but not on the way into the previous checkpoint of Elim.

“Those two were having the time of their life, zigzagging back and forth trying to find the best piece of trail,” Seavey said.

an aerial view of a musher on snow
Dallas Seavey and his sled dog team cross the sea ice at the edge of Norton Bay after passing through the race’s checkpoint in Elim on Monday, March 11, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

The younger dogs couldn’t find a good, hard-packed strip of trail, so he put the older Prophet in the lead dog position, even though he’s not as fast or as excited about leading, Seavey said.

“We were doing twice as much mileage as we needed to, so I put him up there,” he said. “Some of those older leaders get smart to find the hard-packed track or lane.”

Two days and about 270 trail miles earlier, Seavey had mushed into Kaltag with 15 dogs, down only one, Faloo, because the 5-year-old female had been severely injured in the moose attack and flown to Anchorage, where she was expected to survive after two surgeries, he said.

Seavey dropped three dogs in Kaltag, another in Shaktoolik and one more in Elim, not because they were having problems, but because he wanted fewer dogs to take care of in the race’s final stretches.

“I like racing a smaller team on the coast,” he said. “Trying to manage 15 dogs and do short stops, it’s just not realistic.”

a musher uses an axe to break apart food
Musher Dallas Seavey uses an ax to break apart frozen meat in a bag at the White Mountain checkpoint in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

Asked how he was feeling, Seavey said he was tired but doing well, on the cusp of another first-place finish under the famed Burled Arch in Nome.

“I feel like I just ran almost a thousand miles,” he said. “Feeling happy. Very, very, very, very happy.”

a portrait of a man outside

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him Read more about Caseyhere

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