2023 Iron Dog - Day 3 Update

Kotzebue was the target today for most of the front runners in the 2023 Pro Class Iron Dog race. Many teams are 1043 miles into the race and while 'The 'Stads' are still in the lead, Team 7 has less than a 30 minute course time advantage over Team 14 of Casey Boylan and Bryan Leslie as they pulled into the seaside village north of the Seward Peninsula for a much-needed layover delcaration.

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The day started with three champions in the top 5 positions totaling 11 first place finishes. This field of veteran racers littering the top half of the leaderboard is a class of the fastest long-distance riders on the planet. There is no other race that puts itself in the same category and its often grossly underestimated, in my opinion, on how hard this is. Iron Dog racing veteran Bobby Menne added this to give race fans a bit more info on just how difficult it is to ride a sled over 2,500 miles in just 7 days. Menne reports: "A racer on one of the top teams just sent me this (photo below)... Any dietitian or trainer will tell you it’s almost impossible to sustain that for 6 days. Then add on subzero temps and flat light and wind noise which fatigues the brain and it’s the exact reason this is the toughest race in the world"


While the tough 196 mile stretch from McGrath to Ruby plagued many teams with mechanical issues and parts breakages, today seemed to be no easier on the teams.  Todd Palin and Klint VanWingerden of Team 49 declared a 2-hour layover in Koyuk to change front shocks on Palin's Polaris sled. 
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Adding to the ever growing list of teams drawing a short straw and scratching, Kody Worley and Blake Elder of Team 30 ran into a set of compounding issues that ultimately forced them from the race today.  Below is a screenshot and video from their team page with lots of great details

In more 'noteworthy-scratch-news' Team 10 who are always largely considered to be a very viable selection for championship running was forced from the race as well today due to mechanical issues.  From their official team Facebook page its being reported that "Unfortunately the pro class race is over for Mike and Chris. First and foremost, both guys are safe and uninjured. Mikes sled is far too damaged to continue. Being the ambassadors of this race that they are, they have decided to help trail class team 51 Russell Nelson make it to Nome and help make anothers dream come true. Chris will be riding along side Nelson".  We don't see any videos or photos of the damage nor details on what that additional damage consisted of after they got back on the trail from Ruby.
You cannot miss Leah Bauer and Jacob Dahle on the trail as they fly by sporting neon pink skis, neon yellow bumpers, and bright multi-colored wraps on their sleds.  While it seems that many of the other racers were facing shock, A-arm, and other parts damage, Team 13 ran into motor issues.  

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Their team page reports that "... months of preparation going into the Iron Dog and it ended with a blown engine (crank bearing most likely based on the prior symptoms). Leah and Jacob had a great run going over day 1 and 2 with no damage, clean sleds, healthy spirits, and no injuries ---- one of the few teams that had a clean run going. Coming into Ruby though Jacob's sled developed a knock. In Ruby he put octane booster in but the knock got progressively worse. On the Yukon the knock got unbearable and the sled lost power several times to the point it died. On the Yukon, they swapped pipe sensors, spark plugs, coils, etc. Nothing worked. They limped Jacob's sled into Galena where it died trying to get into the fuel stop. After hours of looking into it and deliberation they made the tough call to scratch."

A very large aspect of the Iron Dog race is the community that welcomes the racers into, literally, their homes and towns while they take rests, need food, and look for a warm place to even take a nap.  Below Team 23 Miller/Miller poses with Cindy Massie on one of their training runs thanking her for the incredible hospitality during their short duration there.  Stories like theirs and helpful hands just like Cindy's are an unsung lifeblood of this race for sure across the entire state of Alaska.

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Team 12 was no stranger to the brutal trail conditions and were unable to escape unscathed along this years trail.  Reports below show that they hit a tree, had ensuing damage, and were forced from the race.
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Lastly on the scratch reporting, Kenny Kleewein of Team 3 crashed and had reportedly injured his arm.  It's suspected that Kruz Kleewein had to drive him back to Unalakleet and subsequently they decided to remove themselves from the race.

As of 7:36pm 14 teams have made it into Kotzebue.  There are only 15 teams remaining in the race, less than halfway toward the finish line.  In under 1,000 miles this brutal race has claimed 40% of the racers, a testament to how difficult the race is on both man and machine.  The weather on the coast looked much better in terms of visibility, wind, and ambient air temperature as well.  If this holds true, we may see some great speed from the rest of the field as they race toward Nome.

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