TODAY   |  March 01, 2014

Dylan goes mushing with stars of Alaska’s Iditarod

TODAY’s Dylan Dreyer spent some time with the Iditarod’s defending champion, and learned what the contestants must go through as they pursue fame and glory in the Alaskan race.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> ] 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