- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A champion musher just finished near the back of the pack of the Yukon Quest, and he’s fine with that.

Lance Mackey, 44, crossed the finish line Thursday afternoon in Fairbanks in 14th place, two spots from last, and he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://is.gd/Xzdb9S) this was his favorite run.

“You don’t have to win to be successful, and I think that was my trip this time,” he said. “It was really nice to see the whole team mature.”

The finish was better than his last Yukon Quest, when he scratched in 2013. Mackey didn’t race last year as the cancer survivor dealt with health issues.

He has four Yukon Quest championships and four Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race championships to his credit.

Mackey says he has rebuilt his kennel in that time, and this year’s Yukon Quest was a test run of sorts for the stable of 2-year-old dogs. The same team will run in the Iditarod in a few weeks.

“I hate to say it’s a training race, but it’s been exactly that for me,” he said. “I’m ecstatic the way they stood up.”

The team struggled in frigid temperatures during the early part of the Yukon Quest after the Feb. 7 start in Whitehorse, Yukon. After that, Mackey said he enjoyed socializing and watching the scenery of the intentionally relaxed trip the rest of the way. He said this allowed him to recharge his passion for mushing.

“I’ve had a rough few years, and it’s been nice to think about nothing but the dogs and their future,” he said.

He said his health problems remain, leaving his hands and feet susceptible to cold temperatures.

Mackey said hand warmers and electrically warmed gloves don’t prevent his hands from getting cold, and said his feet were “like Popsicles” at the finish line.

But the renewed spirit led him to ask race organizers at the finish when he could sign up for next year’s 1,000-mile race.

“This just makes it all go away,” he said.

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