Lance Mackey’s “babies” were still screaming to go when he slid into Dawson Tuesday night.
“They sure look nice,” said the reigning Quest champ as he walked up the string of lunging sled dogs.
Mackey, arrived at 11:35 p.m., beating William Kleedehn by four hours.
The effort earned Mackey four ounces of gold, provided he crosses the finish line in Fairbanks.
“They way they look, that shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, looking at his team.
Mackey is tricky.
Kleedehn knew this in Braeburn.
“He has all kinds of things up his sleeve,” said the Carcross musher.
“And he’s in no rush at all.”
Kleedehn left the Scroggie Creek dog drop first, followed by Gerry Willomitzer, Lance Mackey and Hugh Neff.
The four frontrunners all pulled out within eight minutes of each other. Mackey passed Willomitzer within the first 15 kilometres, and was “gone.” But he trailed Kleedehn for five hours.
“He finally pulled off, as he should have,” said Mackey.
Most mushers split the 159-kilometre run from Scroggie to Dawson in two, resting at least four hours at the Indian River Bridge, which is about 80 kilometres from town.
But Mackey did the whole haul, only stopping for an hour.
“That was a record run,” he said.
And he plans to keep it up.
“I’m just running the way the dogs look able,” he said, smiling.
Last year, to win the race, Mackey pulled off the same long run into Dawson, but added a detour.
He took a wrong turn on top of King Solomon’s Dome and went about 40 kilometres out of his way.
This year, without that detour, Mackey cut roughly three and a half hours off his time, finishing the run in 14 hours and 20 minutes.
To speed things up, Mackey switched some dogs around.
“I put dogs up front that look like they want to go fast,” he said.
“And I tried out some new, young recruits.”
But to get off Dawson’s main street, he put his champion leader Larry back up front.
“I need my steering wheel,” he said.
His wife Tonga was waiting with his lead dogs, teary-eyed.
She was worried his dogs would have trouble getting into the camp, after learning she couldn’t bait the team with her dog truck.
The dogs were rerouted because of glare ice on the river, one of the officials explained as Mackey prepared to pull out.
“I need to take care of these babies real quick,” said Mackey, as he “hawed” Larry toward the river.
“They deserve a nice long break.”
Mackey needs a break too, although his spirits were high.
“I’m going to sleep and eat as much as possible,” he said.
Kleedehn got into Dawson at 3:33 a.m. Wednesday, followed by Hugh Neff at 4:40 a.m., Willomitzer at 5:25 a.m., Hans Gatt at 6:15 a.m. and Sebastian Schnuelle at 7:23 a.m. Michelle Phillips got in around 9:40 a.m.