Iron Dog Leaders Reach Kotzebue, Other Racers Caught in Norton Sound Snow Storm
24 teams in the 2020 Iron Dog are battling treacherous conditions as they race along the Norton Sound coast. Tyler Acklestad and Nick Olstad maintain their first position lead as they buckle down on the last 10 miles towards Kotzebue where they will spend the night. As of 5pm, Acklestad and Olstad officially checked into Kotzebue.
They checked out of Koyuk at 12:41pm. Team 39 of Cody Barber and Robby Shackle are in second, out of Koyuk at 12:59pm, while Brad George and Tyson Johnson are in third, having left Koyuk at 1:29pm. In fourth position is team #10 of reigning champions Mike Morgan of Nome and Chris Olds who left Koyuk at 1:42pm.
Racers at the middle and back of the back are now dealing with blizzard conditions as they check into Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, and Koyuk. On the GPS tracker racers can be seen averaging speeds between 20- 40 miles an hour, perhaps in an effort to put safety over speed in the blowing snow. On social media, posts from the Iron Dog race actually show five teams putting aside competition to travel out of the Unalakleet checkpoint en masse for safety reasons.
What had started off as an exciting race for Tre West and Daniel Stang of Nome is starting to slow down significantly. Team 36 of Stang/West has dropped in the standings, from 7th earlier today to 21st position, out of 24. And that could be due to machine trouble as the GPS tracker showed them in Kaltag from about nine o’clock this morning to shortly 4:30 this afternoon. Although the GPS tracker appears to show them moving as of 5pm, the leaderboard does not reflect that Stang and West have left Kaltag, nor is there a reason posted yet as to their delay.
Some teams might feel like rookies tonight as they pull into Kotzebue for the first time in Iron Dog race history. They will stay overnight and leave at 7am in the morning to do a loop through part of the Northwest Arctic Borough before heading down to Nome for the halfway point in this race.
Image at top: 2020 Iron Dog teams check into Unalakleet amidst blowing snow and poor visibility. Photo from Iron Dog, used with permission.