Dean Osmar was the first dog musher from the Kenai Peninsula to ever win “The Last Great Race” in 1984 and it would be twenty years before another Peninsula musher, Mitch Seavey would be the first through the arches in Nome to claim an Iditarod Championship. The son of musher Dan Seavey who finished in the first historic run of the Iditarod trail that started in Seward and ended in Nome, Mitch once said that the only thing harder than winning your first Iditarod was winning your second. And tried he did running every Iditarod in subsequent years only to see his son Dallas become the youngest musher to ever win the Iditarod last year. But 2013 proved to be the year that Mitch’s determination to fulfill his dream of a repeat victory would pay off. After returning from a Mexico holiday with his wife Janine, Mitch told his tales of the trail at a hometown gathering of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce where his father and son Dallas had joined him to celebrate his first Iditarod win nine years ago, this time with the additional distinction of being the oldest musher to ever claim the title. As the March 13th Peninsula Clarion headline proclaimed, “Old Man Mitch proves he’s still got it a year after son’s win, month after T-200 win.”
A jubilant champion Mitch told the Chamber gathering that Dallas will never be able to break his record of being the youngest musher to win, “But maybe my record is one I can keep renewing for awhile.” Seavey said that someone in the Iditarod thought it would be cleaver to differentiate between Mitch and Dallas by marking all of Mitch’s dog food drop bags “Old Man Seavey,” “It was a special order because they don’t usually put your name on the bags, and I didn’t really like that, I didn’t want to come into a check point and be the old man, so Janine took all of my sixty food drop bags and changed Old by crossing out the O and the L and put an A after the D so that it read ‘Da Man!’ instead of Old Man, it made me feel positive and spurred me on to turn the joke around and be Da Man who was first through the arches in Nome, it helped me feel motivated and it was good to have a little pay back this year. I don’t feel like an old man I’m only 53,” said Mitch. While not claiming to be a “Dog Whisperer” Mitch does claim to have a special relationship with his dogs and can sense how they are feeling, “Sometimes I’ll change a dogs position just so I can watch him better and know how he’s feeling if I sense he’s getting sore or not feeling well.”
Recalling Mitch’s first win his wife Janine in an interview with the Dispatch said, “The first win was thrilling because we had invested 11 years prior to that win with one goal in mind and after a family works so hard for one goal there is such a sense of accomplishment and what I enjoyed most from the victory was the lesson it taught our sons that good things can happen to even you if you put out the effort and do the work that is required and stay committed that it’s not just the other guy that things will go well for but it can happen for you and it has,” said Janine. While many sons of a hard working family want to find a different career Dallas decided to follow in his family’s footsteps, “Dallas we all thought was going to have his success in wrestling, he was at the Olympic training center in Michigan with the Olympics as his goal, but had too many injuries and his doctors advised that he leave his wrestling career and he came back to dog mushing which he had always loved and being a competitive athlete it was a natural for him to come home and run dogs and set his mind on wining the Iditarod,” she said.
This year’s Seavey victory in the 1,000 mile run to Nome came after a dueling sprint against Aliy Zirkle, runner up to Dallas in the 2012 race. “My strategy was to save the team a bit in the mountains for the sprint along the Bering Sea Coast and it proved to be the right choice this year, but we kept passing each other and I’d be thinking I’m winning the Iditarod and then she’d put a push on and pass and I wouldn’t be winning the Iditarod. But when I asked my team for that saved up energy they gave it to me willingly and I was glad we’d saved it up,” explained Mitch. Seavey is one of the few mushers who is able to have made mushing dogs a year round family business, “It’s been our career with the sled dog tours that we do in Seward and Girdwood in the summer and we’ve been able to make a good income which has worked out well and allowed us to hire handlers and keep the dogs moving summer and winter and looking back if I could go back I don’t think I’d do it any different. Winning the second makes a big difference we had won one, but nine years later I’d hate to think that it was just luck and that we were trying and trying and figuring it out, so the second win was really great,” he said. Mitch’s winning team are the same dogs that tourists get to ride behind on the tours so it’ll be a special thrill once again this summer for visitors to have the chance to get up close and ride behind some of the greatest sled dogs in the world, “Folks get to pet the dogs and hold the puppies and they’ll get to see Tanner and Taurus and the entire team that won the Iditarod,” said Mitch. For more information about the Seavey’s Ididaride, and how to book a reservation for “The ride of a lifetime” go to www.ididaride.com