Due to a significant winter blizzard currently hitting the Bering Strait region, the 8 a.m. Wednesday morning restart of the Iron Dog 2023 race is a question mark.
Weather conditions may change the restart time, or push the entire restart back by a day, according to Tyson Johnson, the lead race marshal for Iron Dog.
“(It) sounds like there’s a big storm coming,” Johnson said. “So, we’re actually kind of looking at that (and) monitoring if hopefully we can get everybody out tomorrow. There’s actually a chance with super extreme weather we may have to change something, maybe even adjust the out times and worst-case scenario is we could maybe even wait until Thursday morning. Hopefully, we don’t have to do that. But we don’t want to send everybody out on a complete ground storm.”
Whenever the racers do restart and leave Nome, the racers will face some strong weather as they make the trip back to Big Lake.
“They’re definitely going to be dealing with a lot worse weather than they had coming in, and it sounds like we’re supposed to get a bunch of snow further south toward the McGrath area,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that while some teams have scratched in the early going, the trip back can cause additional scratches due to mechanical and geographical issues. However, the racers that left Kotzebue have so far stayed in the race.
“From Kotzebue to here, no team scratched,” Johnson said. “The sleds that are here all look like they’re in really good shape. There was obviously some issues early on with people hitting stuff. On the return trip it is pretty hard on machines.”
Bradley Kishbaugh of Soldotna is a rider for team 2, along with Wasilla’s Ryan Sottosanti. The pair are in fourth position for the restart. The weather can be a big mental drain, Kishbaugh said.
“Visibility is the biggest thing that makes it tough on everyone,” Kishbaugh said. “It’s mentally draining, and more than anything, you don’t know if you’re going uphill or downhill — it’s like riding with a bucket over your head.”
Past Iron Dog champion Todd Palin is running his 20th race this year and is currently in sixth position. He says he has faith in the race organization when it comes to safety — especially as it relates to weather.
“I’ve heard that we’ve got a storm coming in, but I have full faith in Iron Dog, and they’ll make the correct adjustments for our safety, number one,” Palin said.
Stay tuned to KNOM Update News on Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, for the next Iron Dog race update and live coverage in Nome.
Image at top: Past IronDog champion Todd Palin works on his snowmachine during “Wrench Day” of the 2023 race at the Nome Public Works Garage. Photo by Greg Knight, KNOM (2023).