Minnick returns to Iron Dog after serious leg injury

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 6:26 PM AKST
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Before two-time Iron Dog champion Todd Minnick even begins the 2020 edition of the race, many consider his attempt to return to the race at all a victory as the 40-year-old competes with a surgically-repaired leg.

"It definitely hurts all the time,” Minnick said. "We are just going to take it checkpoint by checkpoint, day by day, see where we shake out."

During the 2019 race, Minnick crashed into Team No. 8’s Tyler Aklestad just outside of the McGrath checkpoint. The incident forced him to scratch from the race after he sustained a laundry list of injuries to his leg, including tearing multiple ligaments, dislocating his patella, and fracturing a tibia.

“They said it was a one-in-ten-year injury," said Minnick, referring to his doctor’s reaction.

Starting after surgery with a prognosis of a minimum eight weeks non-weight-bearing on his legs, doctors also told him that he likely wouldn't be able to return to the race until at least 2021.

“My poor wife took care of me for quite a long time," Minnick said.

With his legs now back under him, and strengthened during his time in physical therapy, Minnick has made strides in his recovery.

"I remember May 1, because I turned 40, and I knew at that point - if I didn't have a major setback - I would be able to do it," Minnick said.

Fellow veteran racer Dan Thibault went to lunch with Minnick on the last day of sign-ups, and by the end of the meal, the two had decided to compete in the 2020 race. For Minnick, it's partially about getting back out on the course, but also about motivating his children.

“To be able to go out there," Minnick said, "come back from what I did, and show my kids I didn’t give up."

The 2020 Iron Dog will be a chance for Minnick to find out if he can indeed return to his championship form. The race begins Feb. 16 in Fairbanks.

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