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One Smart Step at a Time: How Dallas Seavey Became the Youngest Iditarod Champion

by | Feb 13, 2019 | podcast | 0 comments

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About This Episode

Dallas Seavey was born into a family of Iditarod legends. His grandfather participated in the very first two Iditarod races in 1973 and 1974, and his father has won three races of his own. Though he grew up working in the kennels, training dogs, and talking race tactics, his sights weren’t originally set on dog-sled racing. In school he made a name for himself wrestling competitively and turned heads at the state and national levels. He was the highest ranked junior in the wrestling World Tour and, after graduation, moved to the Olympic Training Center in Michigan. Unfortunately, he suffered one too many concussions and was forced to retire from wrestling at age 19. After dedicating seven straight years to this dream, he returned to Alaska devastated and discouraged. Today it seems easy to see the bigger picture, but at the time it was challenging to believe that a new dream would arise. Despite his sense of loss, he found comfort and familiarity working with the his father’s dogs back in Alaska.

After two years of working for his dad he began pursuing mushing on his own. He began with only sixteen dogs and has since grown his team to over 100 dogs and eight full time staff. Dallas shares that what he loves about mushing is the complexity of the sport. Unlike wrestling which pushes athletes mentally and physically, mushing challenges athletes on an emotional level. He has had to develop a more nurturing, compassionate style of coaching rather than the harsh, dig deep strategy of so many sports. In short, mushing forced him to develop his character in ways that he hadn’t before. No longer was he making decisions that were only good for himself, but he had to refine the skills necessary to connect with his team, weigh the benefits for everyone involved, and make the wisest choice possible.

Most people think of the Iditarod as an eight day race, but Seavey considers it “the never ending day.” He has found that so many mushers go into the race feeling the pressure that if they don’t succeed in these few days, the entire year was a waste. But Dallas has found that this sort of mindset stunts the ability to lead with perspective and insight. “You have to be willing to give up a win in order to do the right thing for the team,” he says. The reality is that in the end, being free from the weight of winning allows mushers to make the right decision at critical moments in the race.

In one particular Iditarod, Seavey recalls being in the final day and over 100 miles behind the leaders with less than 300 miles of the race left. There had been barely any snow, which made for a very rough, fast trail. Unfortunately, the weather turned in those final hours and 90 mph winds ripped through the icy terrain, flipping the sled–and the dogs with it. After being blown over several times, Dallas had to compose himself and his team and make a new plan. Rather than consider the big picture of the race he zoomed way in to that one particular moment, that one next step. He decided to mush one sprint at a time; with this strategy he was only able to cover 100 meters at a time before being tossed and scattered by the wind. He would hunker down with his team until the gust subsided and then sprint another 100 meters. Over and over Seavey and his team repeated this until, eventually, sprint after sprint turned into 40 miles and his team crossed the finish line with another Iditarod victory.

Though he credits his love of the Iditarod to his father and grandfather, Dallas has developed a style all his own. As a young musher he was always changing his strategies, investing in innovation, and trying new tactics. His father was proud to race cautiously, safely, and with high pedigree dogs. However, their friendly competition throughout the years has forced each one to consider the benefits of one anothers techniques and become better racers because of it. There is one thing that they will always have in common: their integrity. In 2017, Dallas faced allegations of doping when four of his sixteen dogs tested positive after he finished the race in second place. In this week’s podcast he shares that he took these accusations very personally, as he has always run a homeopathic kennel and gone out of his way to make the health of his dogs a priority. But due to the nature of the drug in question and the fact that it was clearly administered before an expected drug test, it seemed unlikely that Dallas was at fault and more probable that tampering was taking place. Triggered by the ordeal, Seavey has led the charge for drastic changes to be made to race security to ensure the protection of each team member and has chosen to abstain from competing until these revisions have been made.

Through all of the ups and downs of the past two years, he is proud to say that his honor and integrity are in tact. “At the end of the day, I know that I did the right thing,” he says. Looking forward he is optimistic that he will compete in the next Iditarod. And if his family legacy is any indication, we surely have many more races to come from Dallas Seavey.

Read Episode Transcript

Laura:

[00:00:04] Welcome to the hope sports podcast where athletes share the ups and downs of their journey to the top. In the moments along the way that gave them profound purpose. I’m your host Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Before this week’s interview, I honestly didn’t know that much about the Iditarod. It’s called The Last Great Race on Earth and it spans a thousand miles of Alaska’s most beautiful and brutal terrain. Today we have with us 4-time champion and the youngest person to win that title Dallas Seavey. Dallas was initially an Olympic hopeful in wrestling. And in this episode, you’ll hear what caused him to give that up. He’ll tell you about some of the most challenging moments on the trail and about how they Iditarod is more than a mental or physical test. It’s an emotional one. I was blown away by what I learned from Dallas and I’m sure you will be too. Thanks for joining us. Here we go. Welcome, Dallas Seavey we are so excited to have you on the Hope Sports Podcast today!

 

Dallas:

[00:01:01] Well thanks for having me. I’m glad to be able to talk to you.

 

Laura:

[00:01:05] Well let’s kind of set the stage a little bit. I wanna know more about your background because you’re already in Iditarod legend but I know there was another sport that you excelled at beforehand. Can you tell us a little bit about your whole life growing up in sports?

 

Dallas:

[00:01:20] Yeah I’ve been surrounded by sports my entire life starting out when I was 5 years old my dad competing in the Iditarod professionally. And that really was the center of my childhood was preparing teams to compete at the top level. So sports has always been a big part of my life. In my youth, I got into wrestling which was kind of a way for I think my dad to put me in a situation that I could excel and have my own life. Both my older brothers were obviously bigger and better at everything and they were both very accomplished in the mushing world. So by lining me up and wrestling you kind of gave me my own sort. And also my grandpa and my dad had a history of wrestling as well so that was a goal for many years. My life was focused around wrestling and that was my plan to wrestle as long as my body held up and then returned to mushing you know when I’m 30 35 somewhere like that. Unfortunately, my body didn’t quite make it that far. I made it to I guess the rest of my last match when I was 19. And at that point I was the highest ranked junior in the US they had been on the Junior World team represented the US in Lithuania. Became the first Alaskan to win a national title an Olympic Style Wrestling.

 

Laura:

[00:02:38] Wow.

 

Dallas:

[00:02:40] Yeah. I was on a good course. I was training at the Olympic Training Center at Northern Michigan University and very very good setup good coaching. And everything was going great until I had a few too many concussions. And they said you’re done.

 

Laura:

[00:02:57] And how did you take that? I mean did you see that coming or we’re you kind of devastated?

 

Dallas:

[00:03:03] No. Yeah. I was devastated. I think to be successful in any sport you have to be in it wholeheartedly. You can’t kind of do something expects to excel at it. And I had built my life around wrestling for really 7 years that everything I did was. The question is is this gonna help me be a better wrestler? Whatever the question or problem before me was. The normal day to day life choices practicing. Whatever. Is this going to help me reach my goal? And when you build your life around something like that. That becomes who you are. And then when that gets taken away it really opens up a big question of what now? Who am I now? And so yeah it was that was definitely a low point for me. Where do I turn my focus? I have built up success as a wrestler to be such a huge thing and for that to go away was created a pretty big boy.

 

Laura:

[00:04:02] So how did you fill that void? Like did you stay at school or did you go back home? Like how. What were your next steps? How do you walk past that? It’s a big deal.

 

Dallas:

[00:04:13] Yeah. It was a very big deal for me. And you know two things. One I’ve always I think had the benefit of being able to see the bigger picture at times. Not always as your initial reaction but upon contemplation. You start looking at it and say you know what in the scope of things I’m pretty dang blessed to be where I am and have as many things going right as what I have going right. There’s always somebody who has it worse you know. So I think that was helpful just being able to look at the broader spectrum I have a great family. Surrounded by people that care about me otherwise, I’m a healthy person. The issues I’m dealing with the concussion stuff will pass. So these are small issues. These are things we can deal with but that’s hard to understand when you’re in that position. You may be able to tell yourself those things but really feeling it or believing it is a lot harder to do. And it’s easy to see what you should think. But it’s another thing to make yourself think.

 

[00:05:10] So for me, I kind of returned to my mushing roots. Mostly what it was these dogs have always been my best friend and my closest companions. I was homeschooled all the way through high school despite wrestling for the high school I was still homeschooled through that. And so I saw a group of absolutely fantastic just very talented athletes in my dad’s kennel 2-year-old. So I kind of took on the job training them and taking them through the Iditarod as just a developmental thing. Kind of our college program for sled dogs where they train and compete Iditarod but not competitively. So I kind of immerse myself from that got back to the roots and where I felt comfortable wilderness and dogs.

 

Laura:

[00:05:52] So in that. Did that like lead right into racing? Or how did that work out?

 

Dallas:

[00:05:58] Not specifically it was kind of something to do in the interim. I’ve always been the personality type that I need to be doing something. Something that I can really see myself into. Something that’s challenging and complex preferably. So that was supposed to just be a short term you know to figure out what to do next sort of thing. It was two years later when I decided to start my own kennel and develop my own racing team. And I know by then I could kind of come to grips with. Yeah, I guess this was the plan I was gonna wrestle til I couldn’t. And then I was, no go back to mushing it just because it happened sooner. You know what our plans. Only something to be changed I suppose.

 

Laura:

[00:06:39] I love it. Just rolling with the punches. That’s awesome. So I guess what kind of made you fall in love with the mushing part? Was it just that kind of that comfort factor or were you just good at it? Like what really kind of made you say OK now I’m gonna take that next step and opened my whole own kennel. Because it’s a big deal! I mean how many dogs do you have?

 

Dallas:

[00:06:59] Right now I’ve got about 80 adult dogs in my yard and in the last actually the last two weeks I’ve had about 15 new. So. This. Yeah. It just grew a little bit. But I have quite a large group of dogs that we’re generally right around the hundred dog mark. And then with 100 dogs come. Right now I think we have 7 or 8 people that are full-time staff working with dogs. So they become your family as well. So it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a definitely a big step. Now when you get into the sport I don’t think you start with that I started with 16 dogs in myself. And so it grows over time of course. But I think what I love about mushing and what drew me into it to do that it’s a profession and a lifestyle was that it is very complex, it’s very multifaceted, and I think it rewards the right traits. As a wrestler, you learn to push yourself. You learn that there’s always more you learn how to dig deeper. As a musher, I find myself in more of a coaching capacity which is more of a kind of developmental and nurturing capacity almost.

 

[00:08:12] So you. Yes. You have to have that deep grit you have to be able to dig deep and get through the blizzards and go 8 days without sleeping. But you have to be able to do that with compassion. You have to do that without losing your sense of feel to be able to run a team successfully you have to love it. You have to care about them and love them and be able to feel everything they feel. And so to have the toughness but yet be able to keep that caring side open is a big challenge and I think that’s something that’s helped me grow as a person. And then also has been the root of a lot of our success is that we’re willing to feel. Feel everything. That’s the only way to make good decisions is to have all the information. The only way to have information is by feel.

 

Laura:

[00:08:54] Wow! That’s so good. That is so good. Now you became the youngest measure to win the Iditarod when you captured that title in 2012 at the age of 25. Is that right?

 

Dallas:

[00:09:07] That’s correct.

 

Laura:

[00:09:07] And then you also won in 2014, 2015 and 2016. And I really have to just quote something that I loved that I read. After your 4th win, you were explaining what that accomplishment meant to your family and you said it’s just another day of mushing man. That’s what we do. I just love it. You just have this just such even keel ness about you. But I mean like you just said it’s a thousand mile long race, 8 days of no sleep, and you’re trying to be compassionate through blizzards and coaching you know your way through it. Like how can you stay focused for that long a period of time in those conditions?

 

Dallas:

[00:09:50] The Iditarod is the never ending day. That’s the best way to explain it. You don’t look at the race as an 8-day race. Look at it as two hundred hours of consecutive go. And it really is the one time in the year that I have to make every right decision. And I have to stay absolutely focused through every piece of this. Everything we do has to be done well and thoroughly and correctly. Even sleeping is stressful because you lay down and you have a 30-minute chance to sleep. You know as soon as you lay down if you’re not instantly asleep you start thinking to yourself I’ve got to sleep. There’s no way I’m going to stay awake. And then all of a sudden there’s this pressure and then many mushers face the problem of when they do doze off. They jolt awake with an adrenaline rush for fear that they’ve overslept because that is common. There’s nobody out there in remote Alaska and you don’t wake up when your alarm clock goes off or in your sleep-deprived haze, you said it incorrectly 4:00a.m. instead of P.M. or something. You may well sleep for 8 hours and there goes your whole race. But I think to touch back on what you know that comment that you shared after I get the 2016 Iditarod the fourth race that we that we won.

 

[00:11:06] I think that’s a really important point. That’s oftentimes overlooked. We put so much pressure on the event on the race itself that it’s a big deal. And that’s something we choose to do. I see many mushers that train very hard. They work hard to make it to the race. And they go into a race with so much pressure that if they don’t succeed the whole year has been a waste. Or that their friends and supporters and family or sponsors are going to be judgmental of their performance.

 

[00:11:33] It’s very important for me to have the right mindset and go into the race and saying OK I’ve had a great year of training with my dogs. I’ve enjoyed this year I’ve done what I’ve loved. I’m so fortunate to be able to spend my time mushing around the wilderness in Alaska with a bunch of sled dogs and be able to call that work. So the races are free. We’re out here where I have fun. The year has already been a good year regardless of what happens the next eight days. And that is the only way that you can be free enough to make the right decisions. On Iditarod, you’re going to have to make a decision at some point that you believe just cost you the race and it’s the right thing to do right now for this team. And three days later you can add is the pivotal turning point in the race and you have to be willing to give up on your hopes of winning the race to be able to do what’s right for the team. You do what’s right for the team and that causes you to do well in the race.

 

Laura:

[00:12:27] I love the integrity that you have and just the way you come at this stuff. It’s so good for. For every athlete in every sport and just in life in general. I mean this is wow! This is some good stuff. So I have to ask you since you are teammates that you’re coaching don’t exactly speak your language all the time. Like how do you? I mean I guess you just have to really learn each dog so well and like what they need and what their. I mean how do you do that?

 

Dallas:

[00:12:58] Yeah. I mean they don’t speak my language but I like to think that I speak their language. I know it’s you know them very well. For example beetle. He has raced many of my races with me I got him as a 2-year-old. He was on my first Iditarod winning team and raced with me the year before that. When we won the Yukon Quest which is kind of with other thousand-mile dog sled race I’ve run over thirty thousand miles with that dog. Now, this isn’t that 60 miles an hour like your car. This is at 8-9 miles an hour. And for every hour of actual traveling, there’s nearly an hour of time that we spend sleeping on the trail together or you know feeding the dogs plus all the time year round taking care of them in the kennel when we’re not in serious training. So yes you notice everything. If your eyes are open you notice everything you see when they come out of their house and they look a little bit tired you know what they’re feeling. If you’re willing to feel what they’re feeling so yeah you get to know him very well.

 

[00:13:58] But unlike people, if you’re not looking for it they won’t tell you. A human will tell you I’m tired. A human will tell you I’m hungry. I need to take it easier. A dog you know you’ve got to be watching for it and they want to do their best every day. So a lot of times they’re mentally excited to go but you’ve got to be able to assess their physical side and say hey we’re going to take it easy today. You know even though mentally you think you’re ready to rock and roll it’s time to back off.

 

Laura:

[00:14:27] Definitely. Now, on the race side of things because it’s a long race. Are you seeing your competitors or are you guys all kind of spread out and you have no idea if you’re in the lead or if you’re in third? Like do you have kind of a grasp of where you are?

 

Dallas:

[00:14:44] A grasp. It’s probably the right word for it. I’m not an accurate down to the second by any stretch of the imagination. There are about 20 checkpoints along the way on the Iditarod. That’s the only place you’re gonna get information when you come into those checkpoints. They’ll have a print out maybe posted in the checkpoint or you can ask the checkers there you know, where am I? And what they’ll have is the information of when other mushers arrive and depart. Now again you don’t have to stop at the checkpoint so much or may go through a checkpoint and then go five miles down the trail and camp. So you have a feel for where you are and in the beginning there are so many mushers around because the race is still very compressed. By the time you get towards the end you know if you’re in the lead you have three or four mushers around you that you’re really kind of keeping an eye on. And you do start to pay attention to them in the last couple hundred miles where are they at. You know for me I’m trying to win as easily as possible how do I take the least amount of risk. I’m very comfortable being within minutes of a second place team as long as I have the stronger team. So that’s my goal is to position myself with a stronger faster team and then keep my competition close.

 

Laura:

[00:15:57] Such a strategic race. That’s really cool. Can you and I’m sure you’ve had many of these but can you give us an example of like a tough situation that you’ve had during one of your Iditarod races and like how you got through it?

 

Dallas:

[00:16:13] Sure. Well the first one that comes to mind was actually in the 2014 Iditarod was a very very fast and brutal race. Low very low snow conditions caused the race to be incredibly fast but it also caused the trail to be very rough. Generally we count on a lot of snow particularly crossing the Alaska Range as you go through those mountains. We count on a lot of snow to mitigate the terrain differences and that kind of mellows everything out. That particular year the trail had no snow. And as a musher we just got beat to pieces for a thousand miles. I bounced around on frozen dirt. Three stumps the whole works the sleds are designed to drive on dirt. I think any musher you talk to will identify the 2014 Iditarod as the toughest race they ever ran. Because of the high speed of the race and kind of my particular style of I’m generally a closing team I’m usually coming from behind. I was a little bit out of contention as far as winning it I felt in the last three hundred miles I went from a 10 hour deficit. Now you’ve got it down to a three hour deficit. I thought that was all the Colts were going to make it. Long story short we left the last checkpoint and I was in third place three hours behind first. No real hopes of catching up with them. And I was happy with a third place finish that year. It was a challenging race and the dogs had done exceptionally well. But instead of having the casual run to the finish the last 70 miles or so of just mushing through the hills and down the coast and into the city of nowhere the race finishes we got hit with one of the most intense storms anybody ever remembers on the Iditarod with wind gusts of up to 90 miles an hour. The dogs literally could not stand up in those gusts the wind. The first one that hit us it lay every single dog out on their side it flipped my sled over. And we were sliding sideways across the sea ice with no snow. The snow had blown away. We were on frozen ice and rocks and I kind of just hunker down until a gust of wind let up and then we took off again. Now the wind’s only blowing 40 miles an hour. We made it about 100 yards in the next gust of wind counts. And so after getting knocked over for about an hour you start thinking we’ve got another 40 miles of this to go. There’s no way we’re gonna make it 40 miles. So you this is the time for what I call short term view. Now there are times that you need to be able to zoom out and look at the next 10 years or the next six months or the next six days or even the next six hours. But there are times that you only have to make it six seconds. All I can do is when this wind lets up when this gust of wind lets up I’m going to talk to these dogs in a calm way. I’m going to reassure them we’re going to stand up and we’re gonna make it 100 yards. And we’re going to get hit with the next gust of wind. All I’ve got to do is take one more step. And you do that long enough and you make it 40 miles. So we struggled through the storm. Just one little shot at a time we kind of make a sprint when the gust of wind would let up and then we’d get wiped out when the gust came back. Long story short we did that for many hours finally pulled into the finish line and known only to find out that the two teams ahead of us one of them make it. They ended up getting rescued by snowmobiles. The other team had to hunker down at a shelter cabin along the way. So I went from entering that storm in third place three hours behind first to coming out crossing the finish line in first place and I actually did not know I had won the race until about two minutes after the finish. And then the next musher arrived somebody I figured had finished long before. So. There are times in life and in sports I think all you got to worry about is the next 10 seconds. What is the best thing that I do right now. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow. What do I do right now. That is the right choice. That is the ethical choice that the right thing for my team. Take that step and have faith that that leads in the right direction.

 

Laura:

[00:20:26] I love this. You were just dropping three thumbs all over the place. I’m going to have to save this episode and listen to it over and over again when I’m having a hard time. Thank you for this. Now you have a book that you wrote too called Born To Mush. Now can you tell us about that?

 

Dallas:

[00:20:45] Yeah that’s something I think that. Well I wrote that after we won the Iditarod in 2012. My sponsors were interested in doing that. It’s something we had talked about. If we accomplished our goal of becoming the youngest person to win the Iditarod. But I didn’t really feel right trying to author an autobiography or something at the age of 25. That seems a little premature to me so I consented to writing a book that would be a factual book for young adults with kind of the 10 to 14 age range in mind.

 

[00:21:20] However it was written in such a way that it’s an enjoyable light read for an adult. It’s not childish in nature it’s just not complex either. So it’s a light read it’s a fun read for an adult and I think it resonates with some younger folks. I think it carries some things that I feel are truths that might be helpful at that phase in people’s lives. So that’s the book I’ve written and. Yeah. I hope the next one’s written once I’m dead.

 

Laura:

[00:21:53] Okay well switching gears a little bit. You are also on a TV show called the ultimate survival Alaska. And there I think you run all three seasons right? Now, tell us about this show because it sounds kind of intense.

 

Dallas:

[00:22:05] That’s correct. I was. That was actually a lot of fun. Yeah it was intense but it was a lot of fun. Shoot! I got to fly around and see all of Alaska on National Geographic’s dime. I can’t hardly complain. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get to or you have to survive in the wilderness that I’ve been doing that my whole life. So I got to see parts of Alaska in the summertime that I had never seen before. Most of my adventures in Alaska have taken place in the winter. So for example I was with that show that I got to see the Yukon River in the summer for the first time and I had mushed down the frozen Yukon river many times but I finally got to see it thawed. You got to build a bog raft and float the river so those very neat.

 

[00:22:52] It was. It was definitely a challenging competition in places. But I found that my lifestyle and I did ride musher definitely played to my. Definitely helped me out there. Most times that again you don’t think about going to be out here for 50 days or 90 days or whatever the timeframe was. It’s just that I was gonna make it till tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better. You know the delusional optimist is a great way to get what you are four times.

 

[00:23:25] Now there’s one day at a time and it’s it’s incredible what you can accomplish like that you know for example the Iditarod is a thousand miles. Everybody who’s ever won the Iditarod or finish the Iditarod has done so one step at a time. It’s just one smart step after the next. And you do that long enough and you focus on a step you’re taking now not three or four days from now. And pretty soon you look back at a pretty impressive string of good steps and that’s all we’re trying to do. To make one good decision at a time one smart step at a time. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed when you look at it as a thousand mile race. No it’s just one step at a time. Take each of those as best you can. Sometimes you make mistakes but tomorrow’s a new day. And we’ll have the opportunity to make a better start or to learn from our mistakes.

 

Laura:

[00:24:14] Love it. Now in 2017 you finish second to your biggest competitor your dad Mitch and he’s also a three time champion. He’s the oldest in history. You’re the youngest he’s the oldest and he is 57. So I’m guessing you guys aren’t competitive at all.

 

Dallas:

[00:24:34] Bitterly competitive in a very good way. My dad is my best friend but I think it’s I think it’s really become some very honest competition we’re just like oh how do I say this because it’s my dad. Because I care about him. It does two things. One I know him very well. You know for many years I was by his side helping him train his team. I was kind of his main handler or trainer. The year that he won I did run for his first time in 2004 and I took a lot of personal pride in that team and what they accomplished. So he’d been so closely involved both my older brother had gone off to college and I was the handler. By knowing him so well I know his flaws if you will not to call him flaws but I know where he is likely to make mistakes his weaknesses. So it’s really tough because you don’t want to prey on that necessarily. But ultimately at the bottom of it all at the end of the day it teaches you to race and compete against people and still care about them and love them.

 

[00:25:41] I’m not racing against my dad. Both me and my dad are racing against the trail. We’re racing against our own issues. We’re trying to develop our best team. We’re each trying to do the best we possibly can. And yeah we fight tooth and nail at the end of that race 2016. We pushed each other hard. I ended up winning that one but by a very narrow margin only about 40 minutes between us. But when it was all said and done I think 3rd place came in 7 hours later. Because we were pushing each other. Because we were driving each other to be the best version of ourselves to do the best we could. It made both of us excel and that’s what competition is for. In my mind the purpose of competition is that when we see somebody else accomplish something. When we see them lift a bigger weight than we’ve ever been able to lift or run a faster mile than we’ve been able to do. We know that that is humanly possible. We know it is possible for us to dream of that and then ultimately achieve that. The point of competition is to push ourselves to be better not to try to break down the other one to succeed over them but to make us be better.

 

Laura:

[00:26:49] Well so since you helped your dad when you were growing up. Do you have all his secrets and you’ve just added on to it or is he now trying to find out your secrets?

 

Dallas:

[00:27:00] Oh very very much so. You know we have a good friendly rivalry. I have. My mentality it’s always been one of you know I’ve always worked on creating and approving and developing. And I think I’m a little more free spirited in trying new things and developing. We put a lot of our energy into research and development. Everything from training tactics to the equipment we use. Everything we’re trying to expand and to grow. My dad’s strength is one he has some very good dogs genetically he’s very good at producing the dogs. He’s very good at running a large kennel. His kennel is quite a lot larger than mine so he’s generally working with more potential athletes than I am. I think my strength is more in development. So I have fewer top top notch dogs but I think I can develop them farther. So we both have our strengths and weaknesses. We both learn from each other. But I think just by nature of age when I got into this seriously a 20 something years old I think that’s a time in your life that you are looking to do things differently. Whereas my dad at that time was 50 something when he was beginning to be more in a pattern or routine. And I think my racing and being successful in racing forced him to break that pattern and continue to grow rather than kind of settle into a day to day routine and keep doing the same thing over and over.

 

[00:28:24] So I think we have certainly both been helpful. I think how we race now because racing has changed. I’m not using the same specific tactics or anything like that that my dad used when he was racing earlier. But what he did teach me was how to learn, how to work, how to be a good human. And that’s something that follows you everywhere. So yes I will forever be grateful for the childhood that I had. I didn’t like it at the time. At the time I felt like I was free labor. We worked very hard but you know he taught me the more valuable things that follow you through life beyond sports. And the actual sport I think my dad races more now like money than vice versa. His style more mirrors mine than the other way around as well.

 

Laura:

[00:29:09] Well it’s very cool. I love it. Well after this very exciting competition with you and your dad in 2017. Unfortunately four of your 16 dog team tested positive. And the circumstances surrounding that test have led some to believe that it was accidental. Or as you’ve claimed an intentional attempt to sabotage by an outside party. And I know you protested at this past year by withdrawing from the Iditarod. So what what kind of has happened from this? And how have you I guess you know kept that positive attitude that you are so good at? And how have you kind of moved forward and moved on?

 

Dallas:

[00:29:51] Yeah. I know that’s been probably one of the toughest challenges of my life is been dealing with this issue specifically. And the way that it was rolled out was not ideal. Let’s put it that way. So there was a lot of kind of funny business going on in there for sure. We run completely holistic kennel. I mean I spent thousands of dollars on mineral supplementation all of our medical care is homeopathic and we’ve major on eastern medicine. Obviously if a dog eat something you know a rock that’s too big to make it through their system. I am very grateful for Western medicine a veterinarian that’ll cut in there and remove the rock.

 

[00:30:36] But as far as an athlete you know our focus always been about creating the healthiest possible dog. That’s setting them up for success and it starts at day one. Everything from mental health you know being an active well acclimated puppy all the way to being a healthy dog that able to compete in a thousand mile race. So it was a really strange thing partially because I always conducted myself on a principle basis. We try not to look at well this decision affect me positively or negatively in the next 10 minutes. But what kind of person do I want to be in that broader question. And you know ethics is at the core of everything we do. So to get you know an accusation like that is it completely undermines. Everything you’ve done you know 10 years previously and everything that I value.

 

[00:31:26] So it was. I took it very personally quite frankly. It’s impossible to know what did happen but I can tell you what didn’t happen. And that is nobody in my team or bowl list first of all had access to the drugs that were there as an opiate. That’s it actually acts as a sedative and a dog. It was given two to four hours prior to a guaranteed mandatory drug test and it was given also inversely two to four hours after the finish of the race. So when you look at this information it’s pretty clear that however the drug got into the system it sure as heck wasn’t by the musher. After the race was over before a guaranteed drug test. It’s actually the only guaranteed drug test in the entire race is every musher in the top 20 is tested at the finish of the race.

 

[00:32:14] So anyway it’s been really challenging for me partially because it wasn’t acknowledged that information. It was rolled out in such a way that it looked to all the casual observers that oh the musher drug their dogs. But when you actually look at the information it’s completely ridiculous that somebody is going to give their own dog a sedative two hours after they finish the race. And you know right before a mandatory drug test. So fortunately for me it was such a high dose. As such an obscure time or such a you know obvious time that it’s going to cause a five positive tests that for the people in Alaska to follow the race and know me personally especially. It was never really a question of whether or not we gave it to the dog. But I think that’s going to be clarified here shortly.

 

[00:33:03] It’s without a doubt the toughest two years of my life. Just dealing with the you know the assumption. Of course every athlete that has a positive test the first thing is oh it wasn’t me. Well what do you do when it really wasn’t you. I mean it’s it makes it so challenging. Well fortunately 10 years in this sport the competitors that knew me as soon as my name was combined with the positive test people said oh we know that Dallas wouldn’t have done that. And I fortunately had the support of my peers and competitors throughout this whole thing. That’s been. Yeah. That’s been majorly helpful but I guess that’s the value of conducting yourself in an ethical way day to day. As you never know when that Curveball is going to hit you and people in it look at what they know about USA does this fit or not. And in this case they said that doesn’t fit. This doesn’t add up. So that was kind of the saving grace there.

 

Laura:

[00:33:57] So do you think you’ll race the Iditarod again?

 

Dallas:

[00:34:00] I do think that I will be back to the race once huge improvement that Iditarod has implemented since this incident. Is they’ve improved the security around the race big time. So now we have live cameras or cameras in the gnome dog yard so once the dogs finish the race they’re actually being observed and watched until they are drug tested which is very important. The food bags that we send out for the race are out of the mushers control from about 3 weeks 2-3 weeks prior to the race’s start. So they’ve now added some tamper proof seals to those. These were all things that were put in effect after that incident in 2017. So they’ve really started to crank up the security of the food that the dogs are eating along the way. And then because it is an eight day race and I have no support team out there I have to sleep. So when I’m sleeping who’s watching my dogs? Who’s making sure that they’re not being tampered with? And the Iditarod is implementing those cameras and the checkpoints and things like that to help. You know Help the mush to make sure teams are secure. So yeah. I will definitely be back to the Iditarod. And I’m very excited about the changes. Unfortunately took in an incident like this to cause those changes.

 

Laura:

[00:35:11] At least like you said there is some positive momentum moving forward and that’s always a good thing. Now you had another great quote because you apparently say a lot of things that I like. And this is about the Iditarod I think it’s just good for anything and any athlete in any sport. You said as soon as I find myself racing for one more win or one more record I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. And that’s the time we need a change of scenery. So what are your reasons? What does push you and motivate you? Like what are the right reasons that you keep going?

 

Dallas:

[00:35:43] I think the right reasons is when you can sit here and say you know there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. And now I know as both a human athlete and now you know I say coaching a team of dogs it’s still at fairly physical job. Could you travel a thousand miles by dog sled? It’s still a fairly physical job but not it’s in a different way than as a wrestler as a wrestler you had a very high cardio intense nine minute match. Now it’s you know prolonged agony for nine days. So it’s a little bit different.

 

[00:36:16] But you’ve got to love the pure joy of doing that. You have to love every single day of this. And I think this goes back to what we talked about before. And we’re saying you this is just what we do. The race is a free role. The training. The season. That’s the part you have to love. Otherwise you will find yourself where you feel that you suffered through all this conditioning. Suffered through all this training can now have your glory moment on the competition. You have to love the training. You have to love the lifestyle. And then you can be free enough in the competition to perform at your highest as soon as you put undue pressure on competition day.

 

[00:36:55] It’s not gonna help you perform. It’s not gonna help you do better by quite frankly having fear which is what it is. When you have a lot of anxiety on game day a lot of times it is fear of non fear or non-performance or fear of failure. So by being content and happy with the lifestyle you live by feeling like I love training. I love conditioning. I love getting better at my sport. I love growing. It’s helping me grow as a person. I think that allows us to be free enough to say no. Yeah. It’s race day. We’ll see what happens. We’ll do our best. That’s the only promise I’m gonna make. But if I feel like I’m going into the training season and planning to suffer through the next six months of training so that I get to race. That’s not a good reason to race. I’m going to go to the next six months because this is what I love doing with my dogs and because I love doing that. I will also get to run the race. But my value as a human is not gonna be determined by the next nine days or by this event. That’s not the purpose. I get to choose that I’m gonna retain that power to myself by doing what I love every single day. Not just on game day but every day. I love doing this.

 

Laura:

[00:38:06] I would tell you to drop the mic but I do have like two more questions. OK. I want to know what you want to be remembered for?

 

Dallas:

[00:38:16] I think that’s a question for when I’m 99 years old and have nothing better to do. And I’m sitting on my rocking chair on the porch then I’ll think about that. That also incidentally is that is the time to start counting records and counting accomplishments. You know that’s right now all we focus on is the next day and I think. I don’t know about what you want to be remembered for but I do know how I want to conduct myself on a daily basis. And I think that’s the best we can hope for. I want to make decisions so that I can be proud of. I want to be able to look back and say yeah I made that call. Yes I did that action. And be proud of that.

 

[00:38:57] We get to decide who we are every single day, every hour, every minute. We decide who we are by the choices we made. And sometimes those are tough choices. Sometimes the you know the outcome that we anticipate is very scary.

 

Laura:

[00:39:14] Awesome. Well how can we find your book? Get your book? Follow you on social media? Follow all your next great racing adventures? How can we keep up with you?

 

Dallas:

[00:39:23] Dallas Seavey on facebook. Dallasseavey.comon that world wide web. Otherwise you could write me a letter.

 

Laura:

[00:39:33] Awesome. Awesome. Well Dallas thank you so much for taking the time to do this. You are an absolute inspiration. I love. I love your integrity. I love the way you think. I love your focus on your positivity and your optimism and just taking everything one step at a time. It’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that with us.

 

[00:39:51] Thank you to Dallas for sharing with us on today’s show. His story about surviving the wind storms during that race was incredible. The advice to take things one step at a time. It’s so profound. There can be times when our finish line in life seems so far away and the obstacles are mounting all around us and it’s just overwhelming. But if we can focus in on just that very next step that we need to take. Step by step will begin to cover the distance without even realizing it. Be sure to check out more from Dallas on his Web site and social media outlets which you can find in the show notes or at HopeSports.org/podcast. And today I wanna encourage you to take that next step in your life toward your goals. No matter how impossible they may seem. Step by step you can get there too. Make sure to tune in next week as we’re joined by Mexican cyclist Ingrid Drexel who fell into the sport at a young age but has made quite a name for herself and her country in the international cycling circuit. Be sure to subscribe wherever you listen see it don’t miss a thing. And please leave us a review because those great reviews that you’re giving us they help us continue to bring awesome guests on this show. I’m Laura Wilkinson. Thanks again for listening. This podcast is produced by Evo Terra in simpler media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please visit Hopesports.org