The 2023 Iron Dog was officially put on hold at noon today in light of a logistics issue involving fuel along the race trail. Snow conditions along the trail had worsened overnight and these precautions are ensuring that every racer is able to fill all of their fuel tanks to contend with the increased snow they are likely to encounter. Dennis Falldorf snapped a great photo showing the race machines in Galena at milepost 1,916!
Accumulation of snow on the trail means the machines burn more fuel, heat up drive belts faster and to higher temperatures, and overall just makes the sleds work harder as they aren't on a solidly compact surface which they encountered on the northbound section of the race. Trinity Viveiros captured Team 23 fueling up in Kaltag and its very clear that there is a considerable amount of fresh snow on those machines as the racers worked to fuel and oil their sleds before departure.
There seemed to be wild speculation that everyone was holed up in Galena just waiting to see who was going to be brave enough to break trail in light of the new snowfall but it seems that the volunteer checkers at the Poorman checkpoint were saying they didn't have an adequate supply of fuel at that location, 113 miles from Galena. This would certainly be where teams would fill up both their main and auxiliary tanks both as the longest section between checkpoints for the remainder of the race is 93 miles from Poorman to Ophir. Several hundred gallons of fuel would likely be required across 15 teams.
Melissa Captain captured a photo of volunteers filling fuel drums and loading them into large UHMW sleds to haul from Ruby toward Poorman. This begged the question 'Why wasn't there enough fuel there to begin with?' A couple of veteran racers and several people online thought they smelled something fishy going on, but it didn't seem to be the case.
Mike Vasser, Executive Director, reported that the race began with 1,200 gallons of fuel in Poorman and alluded to the fact that some might have been stolen stating they may need to beef up security in the future. This seemed to be a logical and satisfactory answer to race fans to explain the seemingly abrupt halting of race activity leaving Galena.
The race re-started at 4:00pm mirroring the Nome restart procedure with the exception of Team 14, who stayed on their actual split time. Team 7 departed Galena first and is still leading the pack. No additional teams have added themselves to the scratch list since Nome and 15 sets of racers are still working their way south back toward Big Lake with 587 miles remaining in the race.
To follow up on Team 7 rendering aid to the ambassador Team 77, Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad left White mountain yesterday and came upon all but one of Team 77's riders stuck in Golovin Bay in more than a foot of water. Anyone who has spent any time in cold weather knows how dangerous getting and being wet can be. Team 7, despite being the race leaders trying to hang onto their trail position stopped to get the wet riders back to White Mountain.
From the Iron Dog article, it states that 'The Iron Dog Rules manual, on Page 18, states that “all participants are REQUIRED to stop and render aid to ANY persons encountered during the race who are in a life-threatening situation. Race Marshals may adjust trail times accordingly on a case-by-case basis.”' Tyson Johnson, race marshal, made the decision to credit Tyler Aklestad and Nick Olstad 23 minutes as they left the Kaltag checkpoint.
Currently in 14th position, Ashley Wood and Hillarie Gossett are poised to be the first women's Pro-Class team to complete the Iron Dog with the inclusion of the Kotzebue loop. Shawna Berlin was able to capture some local support for the 'girls team' in Buckland.