From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --
Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey wrapped Chatanika musher Jodie Bailey in a hug today as the two Yukon Quest veterans parked side-by-side on the finish line.
Mackey arrived at 11:17 a.m., about 26 minutes ahead of Bailey, who chased him across the Bering Sea coast into Nome.
“I knew I couldn’t catch you, but I wanted you to know I was there," Bailey said.
"Great day to finish the race," Mackey replied in the cold Nome sunshine. "(It’s) 5 O’clock somewhere.”
Still, it was another disappointing year for the Mackey faithful. The Fairbanks musher and cancer survivor conquered the sport with annual victories between 2007 and 2010 before falling to 16th place last year.
I'm struggling to find a consistent Internet connection here in Nome, but I’ll post a clip of the interview with Mackey if possible. For now, here’s the musher in his own words as he talked today about placing 22nd in the race he so recently dominated:
On a positive note, they (the dogs) aint completely thrashed. I’m not completely thrashed. … No, it wasn’t the stellar performance I was expecting.
I made it. I’m not even supposed to be doing this s—t, remember? I was thinking about it earlier today. This is comparable to NASCAR in my opinion. In NASCAR, you have a bad pit crew, or one person in your pit crew has a bad day, it throws off your whole pit crew.
You have one bad lap, 10 cars go by you. You have one flat tire, 10 cars go by you. It’s the same concept. You have one bad day and 10 teams go by you. And with this caliber of field, you don’t make those up.
I’m not going to stand here and make an excuse why I wasn’t here a couple days ago. But the root of all my problems was right here this year. (Mackey pointed to lead dog Maple, his 2010 Golden Harness winner and a lynchpin of the team.)
Maple left the truck in full heat. And just wore my team out chasing after her. She’s been in lead every step of the way. And most of it in single lead, because I can’t put anybody up there. Because she’s so irritated with just about any dog at the moment, she’ll beat up her own shadow to keep them away from her.
The one word I describe my race this year is "entertaining." It’s been a memory.
Its not all bad, even when it’s bad. I think back a few years back when doctors told me I wouldn’t be doing this stuff, and that was bad. Just getting to Nome with a team that is somewhat healthy and somewhat enthusiastic … You don’t have to win to be successful.