TODAY | March 01, 2014
>> ] we're in the middle of one of the harshest winters in recent memory, but in alaska , the people and the animals are built for it. i had a chance to spend some time with alaska 's outback with the race's defending champion , mitch sevy.
>> mitch sevy, your 2013 iditarod champion!
>> reporter: it's alaska 's super bowl . and 54-year-old mitch sevy is its all-star and the oldest musher ever to win the race.
>> this is a big moment for them. they love to go.
>> reporter: the iditarod , an annual 1,000-mile journey led by sled dogs from anchorage to nome, alaska .
>> then put this through?
>> yep, put this foot right up over that.
>> all right, come on.
>> for the sevys, it's all in the family. mitch 's son, dallas, won in 2012 , making him the youngest musher at 25 ever to take home first, and mitch 's father, a competitor in years past.
>> there are more sevy names on the roster of finishers than any other last name. we're certainly one of those crazy groups that have been in this for generations.
>> reporter: so, would you say it's in your blood?
>> i would say it's definitely in our blood.
>> reporter: you're a champ, huh? 71 mushers will race through alaska 's outback this year. okay, you're fast. you're strong. each running a team of 16 dogs at the start that in total will burn close to 200,000 calories a day. their diets consisting of beef, lamb, chicken and some alaskan specialties like salmon and caribou. how are these dogs built for this?
>> these are alaskan huskies. their tough feet, good fur coats and loving to travel. you can't beat them. so you see, they have plenty of power.
>> reporter: without reins, the dogs work on command. now, what is the likelihood of you falling off of this?
>> pretty good.
>> reporter: it will take this year's competitors anywhere from nine to ten days to complete the race. at stake, the largest purse in dog sled racing , $600,000 divided among the front-runners. but mitch sevy says the win is priceless.
>> passion is a polite word. i think many people refer to it as an addiction. a lot of times when the conditions are harsh or i'm tired, i have to pinch myself and say, man, i love my job.
>> the 42nd annual iditarod race is later today in downtown anchorage. mitch , his son and their team of dogs will be competing. and it was