Ice-road mushers face tough sledding

NOME, Alaska — The 2010 edition of the 1,150-mile Iditarod dog-sled race is history.

And two of the top 10 teams were sponsored by J.J. Keller, the Wisconsin-based regulatory and compliance experts.

The Keller-sponsored father and son pair of Mitch (Dad) and Dallas Seavey crossed the tape in 10th and eighth place respectively.

Fifty-five teams finished the grueling endurance contest in Anchorage, while 16 were scratched. Race winner Lance Mackey mushed across the finish line with 11 dogs at 2:50 p.m., Tuesday of this week.

It was Mackey’s fourth Iditarod victory. The feat took him precisely eight days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and nine seconds.

Seavey Sr., who led the race back in ’04, was not particularly satisfied with his position. On the other hand, he’s lucky to have any hands at all.

He wound up with all his fingers taped from frostbite. His face also showed signs of exposure.

Seavey said his dogs were having trouble with their feet, and acting as pawdiotrist to their team in 40-below temperatures cost him time as well as flesh.

Meanwhile, son Dallas was upbeat.

He didn’t have trouble with his team and was happy with his record Seavey family time which was also a full day faster than his 2009 time. This was his second consecutive top-10 finish. Dallas is looking forward to his future racing career.

The race ended with the traditional blowing out of the Widow’s Lamp, signifying that all the mushers and their teams are safely off the trail.

Jim and Rosanne Keller had flown from head office in Neenah, Wisc., to Anchorage to bid the mushers farewell and to host a luncheon for Keller’s Anchorage-based clients and they returned with a film crew for the finale.

So the question arises: Why would a company like J.J .Keller& Sons a get involved in something as off-the-paved-track as the Iditarod?

Turns out Jim and Roseanne met Dallas a few years back when they were on an Alaskan cruise celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.

Young Seavey showed them around the dog camp. The conversation turned to sponsorship and the fact that Keller has thousands of transportation customers around North America — more than 1,000 in Alaska alone.

“The sled dog,” Keller explains, “was an original form of transportation and it would be neat to celebrate this, and I would consider a tie-in with our transportation markets.

“I gave him a $50 tip and said ‘Remember the guy who gave you this and call me in 2 weeks’.”

He did, and the teams were spawned. Keller says the company then created the "Extreme Transportation Solutions" theme in recognition of the commitment of Keller’s customers.

“We also,” he adds, “coined ‘Mushing Together to Nome’ which ties the Keller’s Mission and the Seavey’s Mission together. The rest is history.”

The Kellers and Seaveys are eyeing a championship in 2011.

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