Dallas Seavey wins fourth Iditarod title
In a record time of eight days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Willow musher Dallas Seavey, 29, cinched his fourth Iditarod championship and again, in a repeat from last year, beat his father Mitch to the finish line. Mitch Seavey arrived 45 minutes later at the finish line.
Dallas Seavey arrived on March 15, at 2:20 a.m. under the burled arch in Nome.
Several hundred fans, a thinner than usual crowd, cheered on the old and new champion as Dallas ran beside his sled with six dogs in harness, wagging their tails as they strutted up the finish chute in the middle of a calm and cold Nome night. Looking tired but alert, Seavey hooked down his sled, greeted his wife Jen and daughter Annie briefly and walked up to his dogs to thank them for the ride.
This time, he said, it had been a hard trip.
“I’ve spent the first two thirds of the race to get on my feet,” Seavey told reporters. Fighting off a cold from the get-go, he said this is the longest he’s ever been on the Iditarod to find the rhythm. “But the team started coming together and I started patching myself up a little bit and I felt better and better and better and the dogs started feeling better and the last couple of days were pretty amazing,” he said.
With only six dogs left in his team, Seavey had dropped one in Safety, did he feel concerned that he had enough dog power left to outrun his father Mitch who still had 10 dogs in his team? “When you’re down to eight dogs, you realize you gotta get it into gear,” he responded.
The Seavey clan, including grandparents Dan and Shirley Seavey, Dallas’ mother Janine and brother Danny along with Dallas’ wife Jen and their daughter Annie welcomed him into Nome. When asked who she was rooting for, his mother Janine said she is glad to see her son win, of course, but she also really would like to see Mitch win at least one more time. “It sure makes for a very exciting life,” Janine Seavey said under the burled arch. “It’s a lot of work. You know, this is the glamorous side we’re seeing here. But it makes it all worthwhile to see that they accomplish what they have set out to do.”
Asked about the family’s dominance of the Last Great Race in the last few years, Dallas responded, “It’s just another day mushing for us, man, it’s what we do.”
On the champion podium, Seavey introduced his lead dogs Reef, a four-years old male, who just won his third Iditarod. “Three Iditarod wins in four years that’s pretty dang impressive,” Seavey said, while proudly holding the dog. Reef’s brother Tide ran also in lead and finished in last year’s championship team with Dallas. Lobben, Candle, Ripple and Barley were the rest of the 2016 champions.
Building that fast team is an art, Dallas Seavey said at one point.
After arriving in Nome, Dallas’ father Mitch talked more about his son’s win than his own accomplishment: a second place, and breaking the record set by his son with a run time of eight days, 12 hours and five minutes.
“I’m real excited,” said Mitch about his son’s win. “He’s outstanding, he’s the best dog racer there is right now. It takes a special dog to get here that fast, I mean there are things that happen out there.”
Asked about his own feelings, he thought for a second and responded, “I feel hungry.”
“Are you surprised that he achieved this at such a young age?” a reporter asked, and Mitch answered without hesitation: “No.” “I helped coach him in wrestling,” Seavey said.
“Dallas is a believer. If it’s out there to be achieved, he thinks it is already his and he usually turns out to be right. He’s the only 29-year old with 28 years of experience, that’s a tough combination to beat.”
Taking ownership and pride in his son’s success, Mitch added that his father Dan, one of the first Iditarod mushers, also takes ownership in his success. “The whole clan being into dogs and our success comes because we do work together. We’re fortunate to inherit something like this from generations and we are paying back by passing it on to the next generation, whether it be mushing or some other good principles that you learn,” Mitch Seavey said.
He said he felt there were two chances for him to win, through Dallas or him. “Except we were this close, I almost got him, I still would love to win,” he said.
The biggest difference for Mitch was not having his old steady leaders. Four dogs he in the past relied on were out due to unanticipated injuries and instead he was training a new generation of leaders. “I had a whole truck load of three-year olds that I brought and three is the youngest that I bring on the Iditarod for me,” Seavey said.
He said there is a difference between a good leader in training and having that termination that a great leader shows under the stress of a race. But he was making some leaders along the way, he said. Also, Dallas is more technically experimental with carrying dogs in the sled or caboose. “He’s willing to put more work into that than I am with loading dogs in and out of the caboose and having a schedule,” Also he said Dallas does well on little or no sleep and he can take ten minute naps.
In regards to the skill to maintain speed throughout the race, Seavey said, “We do so much race-simulated training that we do know the speed we want to go. At the end of the race you loose a little bit of speed when you cut rest, but you have gained position.”
In White Mountain the father-son duo had a short talk about the race. It was too soon to talk about who was winning, Dallas said, but it was going to be either one of them. ”I had a pretty good idea who it would be.”