MARY PEMBERTON Associated Press Writer
NOME, Alaska Sitting with two of his dogs on the winner’s platform on Front Street in Nome, Lance Mackey savored his first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race victory. His win Tuesday in the 1,100- mile Iditarod came just days after using a majority of the same dogs in winning the 1,000- mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. He had good reason to sit back and relish being the first musher to win both races in the same year: even he doubts he’ll do it again. “Yeah, I’d love to come back and repeat that performance but I’m really realistic here. Once in a lifetime is probably a rare opportunity,” he said while one of the dogs licked some of the frost off his goatee. He acknowledged that his dogs were a one-of-a-kind team, but next year, they will be older. “I owe it to them. I think I’m smart enough to know when enough is enough, to back off a little bit. They’re in their prime, they proved that. So I think it’s time for a little R&R,” he said. But Tuesday night, the downto- earth musher planned a little whiskey for his own rest and relaxation and to celebrate the feat with his family, including father, Dick, and brother, Rick, both past Iditarod champions. “This is a damn dream that I’ve been living, you know, dreaming about since I was a little, little boy when my Dad won this race,” said Lance Mackey, 36. Mackey got his dream early Tuesday evening, crossing under the burled arch in downtown Nome early, completing the Iditarod in 9 days, 5 hours, 8 minutes. Paul Gebhardt, 50, who was third last year, finished second. “He is a very driven dog driver,” Gebhardt said of Mackey. “You got to admit, he’s like the Dale Earnhardt of dog racing.” About a thousand fans braved subzero temperature to cheer Mackey to the finish. He lived the moment, slapping high-fives with fans as his dogs led him down the last block, sometimes jumping off the sled and running with them until his family mobbed him at the end. “Dreams do come true, Mama, they do,” Mackey said, fighting back tears. “This is my passion,” he said, adding he was proud to follow in his father’s footsteps and joked about being thankful his father was a musher and not a lawyer. “It’s our lifestyle, it’s something we breathe, eat and sleep,” he said of the Mackey family’s love of mushing. “This is what we do.