Three-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey says “you gotta be willing to gamble,” and at least for the time being, his bold moves are paying off.
Mackey mushed his team from Nulato to Unalakleet in one, virtually unbroken run, stopping for just 7 minutes in Kaltag on Saturday afternoon and, in the process, overtaking Jeff King for first position. Mackey stayed ahead through his arrival into Unalakleet early Sunday morning; waiting for him were an exuberant crowd, a substantial prize, and KNOM’s Iditarod reporter, Laureli:
Mackey took the Gold Coast Award for being the first musher into Unalakleet, which is the first checkpoint along the coast of Alaska’s Norton Sound. (The remaining trail will mostly follow the coastline through the finish in Nome.)
Mackey was upbeat when talking to reporters (including Laureli) after his Unalakleet arrival; he discussed his “solid” dogs, his impressions of Jeff King, and his tendency to “lay it on the line” on the trail:
At the time of writing (12:07am, early Monday), Lance Mackey is still in first position. He departed the Shaktoolik checkpoint with 12 dogs at 7:00pm Sunday evening: exactly one hour ahead of Jeff King’s departure (8:00pm). His unofficial GPS tracker, which last transmitted at approximately 12:00 midnight (Monday), shows Mackey about two-thirds of the way to the Koyuk checkpoint.