Iron Dog 2023: Onward to Western Alaskan coast after layover in McGrath

Iron Dog 2023: Onward to Western Alaskan coast after layover in McGrath
Published: Feb. 19, 2023 at 10:51 AM AKST
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MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - After some much-needed rest, those left standing in Iron Dog 2023 are out of McGrath and on their way to Ruby before heading towards the Western Alaska coast.

At 7:58 a.m. Saturday, Team 2′s Bradley Kishbaugh and Ryan Sottosanti, who elected for a 12-hour layover in McGrath instead of the more favored 14, started their engines in the sled yard.

“Just going to ride slow and steady, try to keep our stuff together, that’s the name of the game right now,” said Sottosanti, looking to complete his ninth Iron Dog since 2010. “Get to Nome clean, don’t have any problems, and then restart the race in Nome, come southbound and see what we can come up with.”

But before taking off, the sleds needed attention and deicing.

”A little bit of maintenance, we got to put a bag back on, tighten some tracks and we are missing one bolt, so just some minor stuff,” said Kruz Kleewein, riding with Kenneth Kleewein on Team 3. “Hopefully less than 15 minutes then we’re back on the trail.”

Team 30 was set to be one of the first teams out of McGrath as well.

“Oh yeah, we’re ready,” said rookie Kody Worley as he was putting on his gear.

Until they weren’t.

“We were fixing our auxiliary light, tightening the track, and while we were tightening the track, Kody noticed I had a bolt missing in my rear skid, so the bottom bolt on the torque arm broke off and stripped out,” said teammate Blake Elder. “Thankfully, Kody caught that here before we left because that would have been a mess on the trail and some of the guys from the planes had some spare parts for us. So we took another hour layover.”

“We already went through the — what are the seven stages (of grief)? Denial, grief, anger; we are back on the recovery now,” Elder added. “You can only control what you can control and at least now we are fixing it here and not in the middle of nowhere.”

As riders and sleds took a bit of beating heading into McGrath, a little humor goes a long way on the 2,503-mile trail.

“Yeah, we did,” Ashley Wood of Team 16 said of getting enough rest followed by laughs from fellow racers and race supporters.

“No, not at all,” she said sarcastically in response to if she was feeling the bumps and bruises of the rough, 300-plus mile trail into McGrath.

The racers hope to be ready for anything the race throws at them.

Last year, Leah Bauer of Team 13 had her sled ignite while she riding toward Galena.

”Not yet, but once I hit that spot, probably,” Bauer said of whether or not she fears it happening again.

As there are competitors up to 58 years old in this year’s race, 18-year-old Evan Barber may seem like an Iron Pup compared to his counterparts. But after earning veteran status in 2021, he knows what he has signed up for.

“A little more confidence heading into this one,” Barber said.

“I’m really skinny, my legs have been hurting,” he added with a laugh. “That’s the main thing, in the bumps my legs were a little sore, but you got to push through it.”

Updated standings and scratches can be found here, while there will be continued coverage of Iron Dog 2023 on