A 17-year-old from the town where the National Iditarod Historic Trail begins is using the Internet to combine dog mushing with the information age.
Seward's Tyrell Seavey has created UltimateIditarod.com, a Web site that follows the Last Great Race from Anchorage to Nome. The site, which has been in operation for two years, is a comprehensive resource detailing every dimension of the race.
The site gives race updates by Seavey and Iditarod veteran Bill Gallea from the trail, along with background information about sled dog racing. The pair are traveling the trail by snowmachine, adding updates and stories to the site via satellite phone as they go.
Seavey said he got the idea for the Web site after seeing how excited visitors to his family's sled tour business were about the Iditarod. He said the firsthand accounts and insights into the race from out on the trail are what makes the site special.
"I'll be out there every step of the way," Seavey said.
Seavey's father, Mitch, is running his eighth Iditarod this year, while Bill Gallea's son, Jim, is competing in his second race. Both the Seavey and Gallea families already have achieved historic firsts in the Iditarod.
Cindy Gallea, mother of Jim and wife of Bill, ran last year's Iditarod, making theirs the first family (parents and offspring) to run the race. Seavey's grandfather, Dan, and brother, Danny, also ran in the 2001 race, making theirs the first family to have three generations of mushers competing in the same race.
Such close ties to the race give the Web site an advantage over conventional media, Tyrell Seavey said.
"One problem the media has, and I understand, is that mushers don't want to be bothered. My dad and Jim -- they'll talk to me and give me the inside story," Seavey said.
He said his site isn't a substitute for up-to-the-date race results, as people can get that kind of information elsewhere. What his site does is give fans the inside scoop on what's really happening on the trail. it also, however, does provides a link to the Iditarod's official Web site, www.iditarod.com.
"They give 4,000 numbers and details, but I'm going to say what they all mean. For instance, their Web site will say when the guy left, but I'll say, 'The guy left two hours ago, but he looked awful. I think there will be people catching him,'" he said.
Other features of the site include details on the gear mushers will carry, the history of the Iditarod, mushing basics and even a section for kids. In fact, the site provides so much information, MSNBC is using a link to Seavey's site on the kids' section of its Web site.
Seavey and Gallea rely on snowmachines to carry them up the trail. They follow along close to race leaders, checking in with the elder Seavey and the junior Gallea along the way.
A satellite phone and laptop computer are used to relay images and text to the Web site. None of these high-tech tools come cheap. Seavey estimates the expense, just for the Web site, is $25,000. And he said getting sponsors hasn't been easy.
"We have a few small sponsors, but if you know anybody that's available, we'll take them," Seavey said.
Sterling musher Carmen Perzechino trains with the Seavey family. He said Tyrell is the perfect person to be running an informative site on dog mushing.
"I've learned a lot from those (Seavey) kids. They know their stuff. ... Those guys are tough," Perzechino said.
Seavey takes the dual challenge of riding a snowmobile and writing about the race in stride.
"The biggest challenge will be to get an open phone line, but that's a challenge I can overcome."
This year will be Seavey's final year running the site. Next year he plans on running the actual race. As a former champion of the Junior Iditarod and with mushing blood coursing through his veins, his racing future looks bright. For now, though, he's content to follow the trail as an observer.
"I did it last year, so I do have experience going over the trail. I'm confident I can do it," Seavey said.
Like it says on his Web site, Seavey plans on going all the way ... "from home to Nome."
Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak contributed to this story.
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