A Word From The Director

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.

Big Lake
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:


11.1. 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.

Closing Thoughts.

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.


Kevin Kastner
Executive Director, Iron Dog


  1. says

    I have to say,
    If I was still the Race Director, I would profusely apologize to both teams and everyone else for my own teams human errosr, and move on…
    It happens. We learn more each year…. .
    I would of then given both teams a time of 22:00:00 and I would split any awards evenly.
    Both teams ran a spectacular race to Nome and both teams and Manufacturers need to be acknowledged and applauded for being such a huge part of the Greatest Race in the world. The Iron Dog
    Let the remainder of the race determine bragging rights.
    This way I would give a team that thought they were beat to Nome,, and a team that did get there first, both the honor of being the 1/2 way winner. A tie.
    Your decision will do nothing to improve the integrity of the Iron Dog race.
    Wes Hamrick
    Tech Director 85-89….
    Race Director 88-89….

  2. Paul says

    I wish I could have been around to help, but I have had to be outside for the past 5 years. My station for this and several dogsled races is Skwentna. It’s been so long now that my Iron Dog 2007 cap is ready for the trash. I have to get back and earn a new one.

  3. says

    Wes, thank you for your input and help with the Facebook fans! I have already expressed to all parties involved that we are truly sorry for the confusion. It’s very important to note that the prizes are not ours to divide. They are provided as contingency prizes by the sponsors and we honor the criteria required to win those prizes. It would be disingenuous for us to arbitrarily divide prizes as a remedy. It should be noted, that a future consolation has not been explicitly ruled out.

  4. says

    I agree with Iron Dog; mere mortals are given to making mistakes, as horrible and shocking as that news may be… hopefully the ending will be more clear then the first half.

  5. Tomcat says

    Thank You Kevin, it was confusing for a bit. An “oversight” in timing is a minor issue. For the integrity of the Iron Dog event, I’m glad it was corrected in a timely fashion, It didn’t cause a safety issue where someone could have gotten hurt.

    Let’s put our “big boy” panties on, and get ready for Fairbanks.

  6. says

    Thanks for the response. I value each volunteer as well as the next guy, errors happen, (been there, done that), just trying to keep folks notified when I see errors. Again, thanks for paying attention to comments and look forward to the finish. Keep up the good work IR does each year.

  7. rickyracer says

    The problem is that it is grossly unfair to only one team. The race director should resign as the buck stops with him and when you make a mistake that costs someone $10,000.00 that is just unacceptable. How is it that it wasn’t caught sooner? Just not paying close enough attention to detail. You just can’t go back too it’s always been course time. You had two teams racing on two different terms with the first team knowing all they had to do was stay ahead of the second team and take care of their sleds which is just what they did. Man up and raise another $10,000 and give them what was rightfully theirs. That is Iron dogs mistake not theirs and they should not be punished for ineptitude.