The Iron Dog or Iron Dog Race, originally known as the Iron Dog Gold Rush Classic and for a few years the Tesoro Iron Dog, is an off-road snowmobile race across Alaska, USA. It normally starts on a Sunday in mid-February. At 2,031 miles it is the longest high speed cross-country snowmachine race in the world. A record forty-two teams entered the 2008 event. In 2013 the total purse was US$210,500, with $50,000 awarded to the winners.
The event began in 1984 as a 1,000-mile race in Alaska from Big Lake near Wasilla to Nome. It was approximately doubled to 2,000 miles at the 10th annual race in 1994. The race route now follows parts of the Iditarod Trail, the route of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It starts at Big Lake and follows the main trail and its connecting trails until it hits to the Yukon River at Ruby. It follows the river to Kaltag before it heads to the Norton Sound on the Bering Sea at Unalakleet and it follows the coast to Nome.
Then it returns along the same path in the reverse order to Ruby, where it diverges off its original path by following the Yukon River and its tributary the Tanana River until the competitors finish in Fairbanks. The route changes from time to time; total length has been 1,971 to 2,031 miles since 1993, extended to 2,031 miles in 2011.
Races are typically run in temperatures well below freezing, and -20 °F to -50 °F air temperatures are common without taking wind chill into effect. Some drivers apply duct tape to their faces to protect against frostbite. The machines are equipped with tall windshields for protection from the cold.
Drivers compete in two-driver, two-sled teams for their safety since they travel through remote areas of Alaska. Teams are required to take three six-hour breaks between Nome and Tanana. They also take a 42-hour break in Nome to recuperate before they start making their return. Sleds are impounded during the break, ensuring that they rest since they are not able to work on their sleds. As of 2016 the race had never had a fatality, although there had been close calls.
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