Six more days till the racing field will draw for their starting position. Many racers have said “Oh, it doesn’t matter what place we take off” but I think it does. I counted 36 teams that have early bird drawing rights……certainly a large portion of the field….must be important after all. Day one is plagued with challenges, some of it will be mental and some will be riding challenges….goal of day one— eliminate the challenges— one way to improve your odds is pay for Early Bird.
But my story today isn’t about Early bird, it’s about number six! Team #6 is made up of Brad George and his rookie partner. If Brad listened to Iron Dog veterans he wouldn’t be riding with a rookie, but he has a good feeling about Robby Schachle. Brad told me Robby can wrench and he can keep up, while in the driver’s seat of the yellow and black Bumblebees. Brad has been riding snowmachines since he could walk and he has been on the Iron Dog Pro Class roster since he turned 18. As of race day he and his partner’s combined age is only as old as the oldest champion in the 2016 line up — Todd Palin, age 51.
I spoke with Brad and his dad a couple weeks ago and found out some pretty special things. The conversations confirmed what I already knew, these two have an extraordinary Iron Dog pedigree. Andy rode his first Iron Dog in 1999 when Brad wasn’t even in kindergarten. Brad’s first Iron Dog memory as a five year old is walking back and forth on a tool bench, yakking to his wrenching dad……”Dad, you and me are going to run the Iron Dog SOMEDAY.” That “Someday” came in 2012 when Brad turned 18, unfortunately Andy had a training injury which sidelined him — Andy’s seat was filled on short notice by Cody Barber of Team #14. The young duo didn’t finish that year, but when Brad jumped in to fill a seat with AJ Bartel in 2014 he finished a very respectable 4th place. Brad has a consistent record of 3 out of four 4th place finishes and he has fulfilled his dream of running with this dad twice.
I am fascinated by the team that takes a training ride to Skwentna like it’s a jaunt to the gas station…. after reading Brad’s bio and talking with him…..he sums it up by telling me “That’s my river”. He spends about five days a week on the river — every free moment he has, summer or winter…. a cabin that calls him out like an alarm clock waking him up daily to go to work….hmmmmmm…..just one more run!!! All the training time pays off for sure…..he and Robby have clocked some hours and about 5,000 miles each so far this year. According to Andy’s observation, local racing trophy metal was shared between Brad and Robby….time to see if a new team will perform…..so far, Brad has been impressed with Robby’s cross-country ability…..he leads and Robbie follows….always bumper to bumper which means he is keeping up….a huge plus in Iron Dog….
When they welcomed the new year in 2016 they committed to train every day, best estimate they will have 10,000 miles between them by race day…..if not on the sled seat, they are in the gym, eating healthy and they both gave up alcohol until after race week…..it helps to have a cabin destination, but the burgers at Skwentna Roadhouse are certainly a worthy incentive. Brad has been first racer to collect free lunch for the earliest training rider to Skwentna Roadhouse three out of the past five years…..not bad by anyone’s standard….
Brad, nicknamed Bo Peep by his family, discovered just this year while shopping for Halloween costumes that Bo Peep was a girl “Woa, wait a sec, I had no idea” with a smile in his voice …..I teased him that since he trades up his bunny boots every year he is living up to a girls’ weakness — boot shopping fanatic. He started his Iron Dog career as #13, but dumped that number when he took his only scratch and has been #6 ever since…..his dad is trading in his blaze orange helmet for a flight captain hat to fly cover for Team 6 this year.
Brad believes he will be in top condition by race week…..brains and brawn Bo Peep discovery not withstanding JJ. He is shooting for a win from what he calls “My Generation”. He would love to see the leader board quake to the foundation that has been firmly established for 30 plus years …..I asked him to tell me about his favorite Iron Dog Moments….his first was most definitely his stroll on the tool bench watching his dad get ready for 1999 while his favorite feelings today are racing to Safety Point just outside Nome….the feeling of relief overwhelms him — 30 miles in the horizon is Nome. But by far his absolute favorite feeling is the finish line….leaving North Pole, he has rounded the last curve of the river he is within sight of the finish line —-Success!!!!
I believe that 2016 will offer up a quake, similar to the one we had in Alaska a couple weeks ago a whopping 7.1 richter…..there are 13 rookie teams trying to make their mark amongst a field stacked with experience…..although the average age of an Iron Dog champion is something like 37 we might see a huge shake up this year……don’t count out the Next Generation or as Brad would like to call it – “My Generation” with an average age of 25 or less……Solid Six days of racing begins February 21st and finishes a solid Six days later on February 27th two thousand one solid six (2016)!!! Zoom Zoom Zoom ~ HLF, Iron Dog Maiden, Den Mother, #irondog2016