McGRATH -

While the Iron Dog’s larger field is just getting started Sunday, their trail is getting blazed by a smaller group of racers -- including a few women who arrived in McGrath a day ahead of the main race.

Snowmachiners Rebecca Charles and Rachel Kidwell are with the Iron Dog’s Trail Class, a field of 10 teams set to ride only the first half of the race, from Big Lake to Nome. They're currently in sixth among eight Trail Class teams after two teams scratched at the start line in Big Lake; their third teammate, April Lorah, had to scratch after a crash left her snowmachine inoperable.

Charles and Kidwell, who stopped in McGrath at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday, are still pressing on, though -- taking the lessons they’ve already learned on the trail.

“It’s just been radical,” Charles said. “I always thought I was a really good rider, and I’ve basically improved tenfold since yesterday morning.”

One feature that restricted the duo’s pace is a familiar obstacle to Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race mushers -- the Farewell Burn from Rohn to Nikolai, the stump-laden site of a massive forest fire.

“We took our time through the Burn -- from about Rohn to the bridge we were going pretty slow,” Kidwell said. “We didn’t want to break anything or overheat anything; we just took our time and went really slow.”

Charles says that while there are relatively few women on the Iron Dog trail, they haven’t seen much discriminatory treatment from fellow racers.

“We’ve never really been treated like girls; we’ve always been treated really well,” Charles said. “In fact, the guys kept coming back to try to help us with stuff and we were fine, so it’s been a lot of fun for us to show our skills -- but no, we’ve always been treated equally.”

The 38 teams of the race’s main Professional Class, which stops in Nome for a layover before continuing to a Fairbanks finish line, are expected to reach McGrath Sunday night.