As I reflect upon the many years I’ve been involved with the world’s longest toughest snowmobile race, several themes come to mind.
Race teams change. Racers frequently switch partners and brands of snowmobiles. Getting along personally and technically during training and during the race plays heavily into team dynamics. Roles covered are mechanic, strategist, tactician, banker, negotiator, publicist and more. Naturally, more than one role per racer. Roles change, before, during and after the race. Two racers make one team.
Volunteers are key. The Iron Dog Maiden, Harriett Fenerty, recruited me when she made up the entire staff. I worked the night shift in Fairbanks and she worked the day shift. Thankfully, a loyal and tireless cadre of volunteer checkers dotted the trail all the way to Fairbanks. Volunteers came to our Atco trailer, next to Pike’s on the Chena River. They plowed the parking lot and the river, erected banners, placed stakes, answered the phones, faxed press releases, calculated split-times, and provided food. I remember one sweet fellow who worked at the airport and brought me breakfast pastries and hot coffee at 5 a.m. each morning. As the race is growing in popularity and complexity, the number of volunteers must also grow. Volunteers are the life blood of the Iron Dog.
Money is important. It is grease for the wheels and gas for the tank, TV and radio ads, the race purse, staff salaries, rent, lights and so much more. Entry fees cover only a small piece of the budget. Iron Dog is truly grateful to its many sponsors for providing the operating cash and in-kind donations that ensure the race occurs every year. A thousand “thank-yous” aren’t enough, so thanks a million!
Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Whether there is tons of snow, bitter cold, biting winds, or the dreaded dearth of unseasonable warmth and bare ground, every participant faces Her. She plays no favorites, commands respect, and demands homage.
Iron Dog is not a race for cry-babies. Each team that finishes is a winner. Making it to Fairbanks demands focus, discipline, muscle, blood, sweat and tears from each racer. Yes, there are injuries. Yes, there are disappointments. Yes, there are sacrifices made by families, friends, and employers. Yes, they love it. No, it’s not a race for the fragile. When a man or woman runs the Iron Dog and makes it to the finish, they have proven their metal. iron!
2016 marks Iron Dog’s 33rd event, starting in downtown Anchorage with ceremony, pomp and circumstance. The official restart from Big Lake is powered by excitement, adrenaline, and quest for adventure. Iron Dog finishes in beautiful downtown Fairbanks with fun for the whole family. Racers travel over mountain ranges, cross frozen rivers, traverse rock hard tundra, all the while enduring the harshest conditions an Alaska winter can deliver. Dozens of racers will start, but only the strongest will finish. Join me and thousands of other fans as we chart their progress through it all. After all, the Iron Dog is the longest, toughest snowmobile race in the world.
president, Iron Dog
“The Velvet Hammer”