Iron Dog takes new route and revitalized approach to 2020 race

 Broken Tooth Brewing's production line of a new Iron Dog-themed lager (KTUU)
Broken Tooth Brewing's production line of a new Iron Dog-themed lager (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 15, 2020 at 3:39 PM AKST
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There will be a lot of firsts on the Iron Dog trail in 2020.

The new 2,395-mile course will start in Fairbanks, taking a 375-mile loop around Kotzebue before reaching the finish line on Big Lake.

The traditional Iron Dog trail spans 2,050 miles, starting in Big Lake or Willow, and finishing in Fairbanks.

Race organizers say the new route will even the playing field as veteran racers won’t have the complete GPS breadcrumb-like in prior years. The new route will also bring the race to new communities.

“We really want to bring back those rural racers to the Iron Dog, and by bringing the race right to their back door, we feel this is one way we will accomplish that goal,” wrote Iron Dog Executive Director John Woodbury in an email.

While the new trail might present some new trick for the racers, Broken Tooth Brewing has a treat in store for its fans, releasing a first-of-its-kind Iron Dog Lager. The idea for the beer came from former Iron Dog board member Lee Butterfield and Broken Tooth lead brewer Dave Parker.

"I was talking with Dave and I was like 'it'd be really great to have something that says Iron Dog in a place like Moose's Tooth or Broken Tooth Brewing,'" Butterfield said.

"Lee came down, we had a beer and talked about details, and here we are," Parker said.

They hope the beer helps brings the attention to the race from a whole new audience.

"With the changes to the race this year, it seemed celebratory to include something like this in the process,” Butterfield said of the lager.

The Iron Dog Lager and a new race route have all been a part of an effort to give Iron Dog new life after facing an existential crisis due to a loss of funding and resignations from two board members.

An emergency meeting was held in the fall of 2018 in which the decision was made to do what was necessary to keep the race alive.

“The new course, the additional miles and direction change are all a result of that meeting,” Woodbury says.

The Iron Dog still does not have a title sponsor after losing the Alaska National Guard as its main sponsor in 2016. While the luxury of large dollar sponsors would be ideal for the race, Woodbury says organizers are focusing on keeping the race within its means.

“We have also kept a close eye on expenses and are trying to race smarter not harder, and that has paid off greatly,” wrote Woodbury.

The Iron Dog begins Feb. 16 in Fairbanks.

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