Q:What about gloves?
A:There are as many opinions on the subject of gloves as there are racers. However there are a couple common threads. Seams!! After nearly 2000 miles any misplaced seam will cause blisters. The palms and contact areas should be free of any seams. Water proof gloves are a must. Leave your ‘water resistant’ or DWR gloves at home. Only a durable full membrane liner (GORE-TEX®) will do. Most racers prefer light insulation on the palms and heavy insulation on the back of the hand. The Klim Togwotee fits the bill perfectly.
Q:What are the more challenging parts of the trail?
A:Again this is an area where most people have misconceptions about the trail. Racers will encounter a very diverse geography, wildly varying snow conditions and extreme temperatures. There are large open plains with little or no snow requiring racers to be careful not to overheat the sled and melt the hifax - regardless of the ambient temperature. There is a 5 mile stretch known as the “Tunnel” where the trees are so close that a racer might only be able to see 10 feet ahead at any given time. The trick is to keep both skis on the same side of every tree. It sounds simple enough but countless A-arms have been broken here. Some riders narrow their sleds just to more easily make it through this 5 mile section of the 2,000+ mile course. In other places there are ice slides that must be climbed. Without studs it would be impossible, with studs it is still challenging. There are plenty of places were some good side hilling skills are required. (Try side hilling an ice sheet...it often has to be done.)
Q:What are some of the more unknown facts about the Iron Dog?
A:At night, you cannot get out of your bivy sack to use the restroom. You will risk lowering your core body temperature to a dangerous point. And holding your bladder can actually make you colder. What is the answer? A military invented chemical that converts urine liquid into a gel.
Q:How much of a factor is inclement weather?
A:Huge! Racers have reported that storms hit you like a wall without warning, giving you no chance to find shelter and completely removing any visibility. It has been reported that 8 men have failed to be able to set up one two man tent in such storms, this why bivy sacks are so often used. Sleds can be so packed with snow and ice by strong winds during the night that it will fill every cavity under the hood. When the hood is opened in the morning the snow will have taken on the shape of the underside of the hood. The ice has to be chipped out of the engine compartment to be able to steer or even to get air to the engine. Even after that one racer reported it taking 27 pulls to start a fuel injected Arctic Cat. No disrespect to AC. This is just par for the course under these conditions.
Q:Is that tape on racers’ faces?
A:Yes, It is strategically placed Duct tape or surgical tape. It is there to protect the skin from any gap between the goggle and the Helmet. Frost bite will damage any unprotected skin almost instantly.
Q:I have noticed four strokes in the race, will they be a continuing trend?
A:Racers that site the decision to use four strokes are focused on their reliability and on more consistent fuel economy. However two strokes still dominate the Iron Dog.
Q:Is there intense rivalry between racers?
A:While it is a very competitive race, and some elements and strategies are very guarded and secretive, Iron Dog racers realize they are competing against the elements as much as they are competing against each other. Actually the veteran racers are very supportive and open to new teams. Perhaps more so than any other race.
Q:What’s the difference between a Rookie and a Veteran?
A:Unlike many other sports and races, the Iron Dog maintains a long-standing tradition of giving "Rookie" status to all racers who have never FINISHED the Pro Class race. Veteran status is only given to a person who has successfully completed the Pro Class race by crossing the finish line. (Note: Finishing the Trail Class ride doesn't make a Pro Class veteran, they are still Rookies).
Q:What are the funny boots most Iron Dog racers wear?
A:They are called ‘Bunny Boots’ due to the fact that they are big and white similar to the hind legs of a snow shoe rabbit. Think of two pairs of rubber boots, sealed one inside of the other with insulation between the layers. They can be easily recognized by the valve (similar to Schrader valve) used to equalize pressure. They are not comfortable, compact, stylish, supportive or even durable. The only thing they have going for them is since the insulation is sealed inside it cannot get wet, even from water pouring down the inside of the boot. Dry insulation means warm feet. So it is really more of a safety factor and also keeps the racer from packing multiple sets of boots or liners. However they don’t breathe so your feet will always be wet, they often get stuck in the foot wells because they are so bulky and they don’t stand up to long term use. Racers have been known to coat their boots in petroleum jelly to prevent them from binding in the foot wells!
Q:What is the most frequently asked question?
A:It is without a doubt, “who grooms the trail?” This shows the common lack of understanding. Only the entrance to the race is groomed. Sometimes there is no trail. Sometimes the race course has been changed to avoid open water on some of the warmer races.
Q:Has an all-women’s team ever finished the race?
A:Yes. In February, 2000, the first women's team finished the Pro-Class race placing 15th in 60:23 hours. Jackie Page and Missy McClurg are in fact the only women to have successfully finished this race to-date.
Q:How many people have died during the Iron Dog?
A:Although the extreme conditions, terrain, and speed, by nature can be life threatening, no death has so far been directly attributed to the race. Injuries such as sprained or broken ribs ankles and wrists and frostbite and dehydration are common and the extreme cold makes them all the more painful.
Q:What are the most common “break downs”?