A Sincere Thank You to Our Volunteers.
Before I dive into any other topic, it needs to be said immediately that Iron Dog is largely dependent on the kindness, efforts and work of our volunteers. As a two person staff, putting on an event of this magnitude is an incredible endeavor. I am sincerely grateful for the support we receive year round and especially aware of the stresses placed on our volunteer Marshals and other Officials. Every volunteer deserves to be thanked personally and I hope if you see them working you’ll help me make that happen.
About The Top Two Finishers in Nome.
Many have been wondering what happened in Nome yesterday. I’d like to take a moment to officially clear the air. The most condensed answer is this: Team #17 has the shortest course time and is the OFFICIAL first place and fastest team to Nome. Team #23 is the second fastest team to Nome. For more detailed insight, please read on.
Who is Winning? It’s All About Course Time.
First, I cannot stress enough that the most important measurement of success in this race is Course Time. The shorter the course time, the faster the team. It really is that simple.
The race is broken into four major legs:
- Big Lake to McGrath
- McGrath to Nome (North)
- Nome (South) to Tanana
- Tanana to Fairbanks
Notes about these legs.
When a team leaves Big Lake, they are released on either two minute (2:00) or three minute (3:00) intervals. This year we planned to release teams as follows: 4 teams leave every two minutes (2:00), every 5th team released would leave at three minutes (3:00). This schedule was inadvertently broken when a team was released at two minutes (2:00), when they should have been released at three minutes (3:00). This had no impact on the course timing, but did throw off the TV commercial breaks. We accurately tracked their departures and arrivals all the way to McGrath which showed their overall course time. That data is accurate, official and active on our Pro Stats page.
McGrath – Hold and Restart.
Once teams make it to McGrath we attempt to get teams on the trail closer to their actual split times (or course time separations) by creating a “hold time” in McGrath. By creating this “hold”, the intent is to have the teams sorted in a way that will make it a little easier to know that whoever is in front “should” be in the lead. This is very difficult to see until teams are moving together on the same section of trail and completed their layovers. It’s equally difficult to catch any discrepancies due to the constant jockeying on the trail.
This year, eight teams were released one minute (1:00) too soon as a byproduct of not accounting for the accidental change up in the Big Lake release times in the calculations of the McGrath Hold Time. (i.e. Team #23 was held for forty-one minutes (41:00), and should have been held for forty-two minutes (42:00).
Most Important Note.
It’s difficult to attribute this directly to the outcome in Nome. The first indicator that something might be out of order was when one team arrived earlier with a longer course time. We immediately began an hours long audit to understand what contributed to this discrepancy. We concluded that the answer is what I’ve already outlined above, some teams left too soon and are on the course one minute (1:00) early. The issue only became clear because the top two finishers in Nome were less than one minute (1:00) apart.
To correct this error, Teams #5, 11, 20, 23, 26, 30, 36, and 39 will be held back for 1 minute, off the clock, before leaving Nome. This will of course be calculated with their work times which are being tabulated right now. No additional separation will be added. The Restart from Nome will force the correction automatically.
Note: It is still possible for a team to overtake on the trail and be behind on course time. This is especially for teams released in positions 16 and below, as they are being released out on 10 minute intervals even if their course times are 1-2 hours apart.
After work time and any other adjustments are made, the teams will be resorted by their course time. Our restart schedule out of Nome is very clear and has been published in Section 11 of the Official Rules since August 2012.
Here’s how it reads:
11. NOME RACE RESTART
11.1. Nome Halfway Release Procedures: Starting at 8:00 a.m., Thursday morning:
11.1.1. Teams one (1) through five (5) will be released on their actual trail split times not to exceed forty-five (45) minutes apart. After the release of the fifth team there will then be a 30-minute break.
11.1.2. Teams six (6) through ten (10) will then be released on their actual trail split times not to exceed thirty (30) minutes. After the release of the tenth team there will be a 15-minute break.
11.1.3. Teams eleven (11) through fifteen (15) will then be released on their actual trail split times not to exceed fifteen (15) minutes. After the release of the fifteenth team there will be a ten (10) minute break.
11.1.4. The remainder of the teams will then be released on their actual trail split times or every ten (10) minutes whichever comes first.
11.1.5. Course Times will reflect any Nome work times and time adjustments.
Once teams reach Tanana on the way toward the finish line in Fairbanks, we will again stagger their restarts on Saturday morning in an attempt to get top teams on the trail in a way that will allow them to cross the line both in course time order, but also physically so that the first team to arrive is actually the first place (fastest) team.
Even with our hold and release schedule, it is possible for a team to cross the finish line before another team, but actually have a lower overall ranking based on their course time. In fact, at the end of 2012 race we had a 4th place team come into Fairbanks before the 3rd place team. It’s frustrating and confusing, which is why I will reiterate again, always watch their course times.
Every year I learn something new about how the Iron Dog works. Mistakes are made, but we all work together to find solutions to improve this event in all areas. The very nature of conducting a race that covers 2,000 miles and impacts the lives of thousands of people is a risky business. I am grateful for everyone involved, from sponsors to volunteers and racers that willingly put themselves at great risk. Iron Dog has survived for 30 years, through setbacks and comebacks, good publicity and bad. Despite the challenges it keeps on running.
In the end, what I hope our fans, supporters, staff, volunteers and racers take away from the 2013 Iron Dog is that it was highly competitive, ethically conducted and we all survived to do it again for another 30 years.
Executive Director, Iron Dog