Rookie father and son team making dream come true in Iditarod 51

Rookie father and son team making a dream come true in Iditarod 51
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 10:46 AM AKST
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McGrath, Alaska (KTUU) - The rookie father and son duo are a rarity in the sport of dog mushing, but one pair is hoping to get to Nome together.

The Vitello’s — Gregg, the father, and Bailey Vitello, his son — are both looking to accomplish a lifelong dream of running, and finishing, the Iditarod trail.

“I’ll be honest, I thought Iditarod on their website — I stopped reading the descriptions and everything because I thought, “They’re just trying to scare us, this is not going to be the case, this sounds ridiculous,’ and it was actually worse,” Gregg Vitello said Thursday after a long run from Nikolai to McGrath. “It was fun though.”

The father and son duo left Willow Lake about an hour apart on Sunday so they haven’t seen much of each other throughout the race. The two continue to say that they are running their own races but that the other is always on their mind.

“Of course I’m thinking about him,” Gregg said. “I hope he’s enjoying everything I’m enjoying, and having a good run. Every time I go down a steep pass, or run into a buffalo, I think oh jeez, I hope he doesn’t have the run I just had.”

The Vitello’s are from New Hampshire but are not new to mushing, running in many different races across the country. Gregg said none of the other races in the Lower 48 are like this.

Bailey added that this is the first time that he has ever gone over 300 miles and has never had to take a 24-hour layover before, so he is curious about how his dogs will respond.

Bailey pulled into the McGrath checkpoint Wednesday morning in the daylight to take his first-ever 24-hour layover, a much-needed rest after he broke a sled runner on the run. The layover gave him time to not only switch to the sled he had stashed in McGrath, but also allowed him to get some rest.

Gregg pulled into the McGrath checkpoint Wednesday night in the moonlight, and while his dogs looked great, he said that he tweaked his back coming down the Happy River steps.

Gregg took his 24-hour layover in McGrath as well so that he had a chance to rest his back and get ready for the next stretch of the race.

The two are looking to complete the ultimate adventure of crossing under the burled arch in Nome, but both know it won’t be easy.

“Everyone thinks it’s sunshine and rainbows, but the fact of the matter is it’s mushing,” Bailey said. “It’s not sunshine and rainbows all the time, you’re going to hit some rocks and it’s OK because it’s an adventure. We really are living a dream that was planted in my head from day one.”