The Iron Dog is the longest, toughest snowmachine race in the world. It is truly a test of endurance, not only for the equipment but for the participants. Two men with past success in the event have teamed together this year to try to capture the title together. All eyes are on Team 11: Todd Palin and Tyler Huntington.
Palin has won the Iron Dog four times and Huntington has come out on top twice. Now, they are hoping their amalgamation will translate into another championship. This week Team 11 appeared on Iron Dog Insider, a special program on SarahNET Radio.
Todd Palin knows the over 2000-mile race is like no other. It’s a grueling endeavor. So, he’s hoping a new race partner will shake things up just right. “Tyler has a proven record,” Palin said. “A solid proven racer who knows the Yukon like the back of his hand.”
Huntington also has that fighting Alaskan spirit. He’s returning from a major injury following a horrific crash last year. During a training run Huntington collided with some driftwood and shattered his pelvis. You couldn’t blame him if he hung up his Iron Dog helmet for good after that. Instead the father of three little boys is back and more determined than ever.
Quitting just wasn’t an option. “It would have been like letting Iron Dog get the best of me,” said Huntington. “Even when I was laying there hurt I was thinking of ways to get back on the machine and get back to racing. It’s just what we all love doing up here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Huntington admits he’s still not quite 100%. Clearly he makes up for that with his heart.
One of the toughest things about the Iron Dog is that you almost have to have a flawless performance to have a chance. “You kind of have to compare it to college football because you have to have a perfect record to get to that championship podium,” Palin said. “At the end of the day you could have a perfect run and everything, and then Mother Nature could throw you a curve ball anywhere along that 2000 mile course.”
He speaks from experience. Palin finished about a second behind the winner one year. That’s as close as things can get.
“You just have to have a clean run and you have to be steady,” Palin said. “Everything has to click.”
Craig Compeau, a Fairbanks Ski-Doo dealer is sponsoring Team 11. He has supreme confidence in the Palin-Huntington combo and he feels they’ve got as good a shot as anyone. “They’re going to be tough to beat,” Compeau said. “The sleds are running great. Todd seems really excited about the sled. He’s a veteran. Todd knows what he’s doing. Tyler’s a young really good driver, so you have the best combination.”
The Team 11 sleds and some other Ski-Doo sleds will have a touch of pink on them this year. They’re raising awareness for breast cancer. The team is hoping people will contribute to Breast Cancer Focus.
“We’re just honored to be a part of it,” Palin said. “Anytime that we can raise some funds and get some more attention to breast cancer it’s a good thing.”
Breast Cancer Focus is run entirely by volunteers and the group supports those who have survived breast cancer and those who are fighting it.
So will Palin’s wife, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and the Palin kids be there to see Team 11 off on Sunday? “They always are,” Palin beamed. “They’ll be there.”
After all it is a group effort. “It’s a family event,” Palin said. “Everybody picks up the slack when I’m MIA for a couple of months. No one can do it without family.”
The Palin children enjoy their dad’s annual foray across the state. This is his 21st run, so even the older Palin kids were babies when it all began. “They enjoy it and they like it most when I’m up front,” Palin said.
All signs point to Palin having a chance at the crown once again. He has the experience and a brand new partner to bring some extra juice. Team 11 has been training hard putting in 400-600 miles over the weekends and a couple hundred more miles during the weekdays. Palin’s seen it all over the years. Now he’ll shoot for that fifth win.
“I think it’ll come down to experience,” Compeau said. While some rookie teams may not have the mechanical knowledge and wherewithal, Palin and Huntington do. “They know what they’re doing,” said Compeau. “My money’s on these guys this year.”
To contribute to Breast Cancer Focus visit www.bringhomethepink.org. To hear the complete Iron Dog Insider program on SarahNET Radio click here.