Race Rules

Hello All,

I hope all of you are having a great summer. Kathi and I just finished our 3rd guided trip and first Alaska trip of the 2013 season. It was a great float on the Kokolik River in the western Brooks Range. Got to see a herd of musk ox with calves, bears and thousands of migrating caribou from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.  We leave for Katmai tomorrow for the next trip. I am looking forward to the paddling and seeing the big coastal bears.

I have been accused (probably rightly so) of being slack on clarifying and enforcing the race rules several times in the past. To correct this and to help keep the race real and fair for everyone I have enlisted a rules committee of long time race veterans. They have clarified the rules and will investigate and make judgments  on claims of rule violations. Take a minute to read the revised rules. I still believe most of you don’t need rules and penalties just a few guidelines about the spirit of the race but time has proven to me that there are  the few who need more.

Just the other day we spent the longest day of the year in the arctic with the sun never setting just making a circle over our head but now the days are getting shorter and before we know it will be time for our annual get together on the Iditarod Trail.



  1. Leave no trace. Do not litter on the trail.
  2. GPS tracking devices, such as SPOT, are not allowed in the race.  Satellite phones and/or EPRBs are permitted.
  3. GPS units for navigation are permitted.
  4. All gear and clothing for the McGrath and Nome races must be carried from the start to the finish. Sending gear or clothing ahead, including but not limited to, socks, gloves, shoes, stoves, sleds, skis, tents, is not permitted.
  5. You may take any route you choose as long as you sign in and sign out at the required checkpoints to McGrath.  Required checkpoints include Yentna Station, Skwentna Roadhouse, Finger Lake Lodge, Puntilla Lake Lodge, Rohn, Nikolai and McGrath. Racers continuing to Nome must call in from Ruby, Kaltag and Nome on even-numbered years, and from Shageluk, Kaltag and Nome on odd-numbered years.
  6. No support crews.  Pacers, friends or family, other than another racer traveling with a racer on the trail, is prohibited.  Racers may not arrange for trail breaking by snow machine or persons outside of the race, nor may aircraft be used for communicating with racers.
  7. Media crews following an individual racer must be approved by the race directors and accompanied by an Alaska Ultra Sport guide.
  8. No outside assistance is permitted to transport a racer on or off the trail (no snow machine or airplane rides).
  9. Respect private property, Entering property posted with Ä‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă…â€œNo TrespassingÄ‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă‚Â signs is not permitted.  Entering locked cabins is not permitted.
  10. Drop bags are limited to ten (10) pounds for each of the drop points. Drop bags delivered by race management to Finger Lake and Rohn (Wolfkill Slough [even years for Nome racers] and Iditarod [odd years for Nome racers]).  Drop bags are for expendables only, including food, fuel, batteries, chemical handwarmers.  Extra clothing, shoes, gloves, tents and other gear are not permitted to be included in drop bags delivered by race management or forwarded by the racer to any point on the course.  Drops may only be forwarded to villages. Racers are not permitted to take support or have food or drop bags stashed or delivered to points on the course.  Racers are, however, permitted to share food. (Drop bags will not be returned to the racers).
  11. Racers are not permitted to take bikes, sleds or skis into checkpoints.
  12. Cyclists must start and finish with the same bike.
  13. Any deviation from these race rules, the spirit or philosophy of the race, or expected rules of fair play, as determined within the sole discretion of the race director, will be treated as a rule violation.
  14. Smiles, Thank-yous and tips are appreciated at all checkpoints.


  1. 4 days from start to Finger Lake CP
  2. 5 days from start to Puntilla CP
  3. 6 days from start to Rohn CP
  4. 10 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds from start to McGrath
  5. 30 days, 23 hours, 50 minutes, 50 seconds from start to Nome

Missing cut-off times at Finger Lake, Puntilla or Rohn will not result in disqualification, but the racer will be responsible for their own food and lodging.


  1. Any racer violating any of these rules will be disqualified and will receive a DNF in the official results.
  2. Disqualified racers will not be permitted future entry into the ITI.

2013 Race in the Record Books

Hello All,
The 2013 race is in the record books. In the 350 mile race Jay Petervary set a new men’s bike record to McGrath, Eszter Horanyi set a new women’s bike record, Anne Ver Hoef  set a new women’s foot record and David Johnson won the men’s foot race in near record time pulling a sled that at 36 pounds weighed probably twice as much as the sled Steve Reifenstuhl pulled when he set the record in 2005. Bob Ostrom won the mens bike race to Nome. The legendary “SEVEN TIME” Nome finisher Tim Hewitt won the men’s foot division going completely self supported pulling a 100 + pound sled from the start and did not go inside a building the entire length of the Trail. Ausilia Vistarini took first in the women’s bike division. The women’s foot division was won by Shawn McTaggart won the womens foot division and set a new female record. After looking through the archives (at least the ones that I could find) Shawn also covered the last 77 miles from White Mountain to Nome in 23 hours and 45 minutes, faster than anyone on foot in the history of the race.
Thanks to all of you both on the Trail and at home that supported and cheered on our racers this year. Thanks to all you racers who finished in McGrath and those of you who pushed on to Nome. We hope to see all of you back next year!
Bill and Kathi

Race Update – 27 February 2013

7 finishers have arrived in McGrath. All 7 of them shattering the previous record set by Pete Basinger in 2007. We are still waiting on defending champ Pete B. to arrive tonight. Rookie Eszter Horanyi is also on course shaving off several hours off Louise Kobin’s record set in 2011.

In the running division David Johnston is setting a blistering fast pace and far ahead of his closest competitors Joe Grant and John Logar and Eric Johnson.

6 time Nome finisher Tim Hewitt with his massive sled packed with food and fuel for 24 days is keeping pace with “regular racers”.

A strong women’s runner field including Loreen Hewiit, Anne Ver Hoef and Shawn McTaggert are steadily moving up the trail towards the halfway point in Puntilla at Rainy Pass Lodge. Anne checked into Puntilla at 15:20

While I was writing this Anchorage cyclist Brian Hartman has also finished in McGrath in 8th place.

Cyclists Ausilia and Sebastiano and Joe Grant and John Logar are expected in Rohn tonight.

Exciting day for the racers, fans us, everyone, record setting year.

Mild temperatures, little wind and good trails with a stacked field made it possible this year for all these racers.

Another record so far, no scratches 3 days and 7 hours into the race.

Will write another update in the morning.

Kathi M.

Tim Hewitt wins men’s foot division to Nome

Hello All,

In my last update I forgot to mention that despite traveling unsupported, pulling a 100 lb sled from the start, Tim Hewitt was 3rd overall and won the men’s foot division to Nome.

At 7:00 pm Marco Berni and Beat Jegerlehner arrived in second place in the men’s foot division under the burled arch in Nome. Their time corrected for the time change was 28 days and 4 hours. Congratulations Beat and Marco on a great finish. They dealt with strong winds and sub zero temperatures on their last leg from White Mountain to Nome. Behind them is Shawn McTaggart and Klaus Schweinberger pushing to get to Nome before the 30 day cut off for an official race finish. . Just as with the 10 day time limit to McGrath there is a 23 hour 59 minute grace period for the Nome race. Anything under 11 days to McGrath or under  31 days to Nome is considered an official race finish. Shawn left Elim at 4:00 am and Klaus left at 8:30. Here’s hoping the winds die down so they can enjoy the last leg of their amazing journey across Alaska. Go Shawn and Klaus!!!!!!!!

Bill M

Race Update

Hello All,

Had the pleasure of meeting Tim Hewitt when he arrive in Anchorage after his unprecedented seventh finish to Nome. He has established himself as a true legend of the Iditarod Trail Invitational. This year Tim carried everything he needed from Knik to Nome. No resupply and he did not enter a building start to finish. I enjoyed all the stories but none more than his story of a pack of hunting wolves waking him howling and barking all around his bivy site. Stuck in his bag with a frozen zipper he said yelling  at the critters in the dark that sounded only a few feet away seemed his only option and it worked. Were they chasing prey that just ran next to Tim’s bivy or was Tim the prey they were so excited about. You would think they would know better than to try and eat anyone as tough and stringy as Tim. Guess we will never know for sure.

Currently Beat Jegerlehner and Marco Berni have left the warm hospitality of Joanna Wassillie and her husband Jack in White Mountain this morning at 10:30 to finish the last 77 miles to Nome. Joanna and Jack are and have been through the years true trail angels to all of us who have passed through White Mountain on our way to Nome. They go above and beyond to care for our racers like they were family. Beat and Marco hope to finish sometime Sunday in Nome well under the 30 day cutoff for an official race finish.

Shawn McTaggart left Shaktoolik yesterday after she picked up her package at the post office to head out across Norton Sound to Koyuk. Klaus Schweinberger planned to leave Shaktoolik about 6:00 PM. The 40 miles of sea ice between Shaktoolik and Koyuk can be one of the most beautiful sections on a nice day or one of the most intimidating if the wind is blowing. I have heard being on the ice during a ground blizzard referred to as like being on the inside of a ping pong ball. Having been caught in a windstorm on this section I would say that’s a pretty good way to describe it. With no horizon and everything white with no contrast it is difficult to even stand without falling over from vertigo. I hope to hear about their crossing sometime later today when they arrive in Koyuk.

Bill M.

Forty eight finishers in the McGrath race out of 48 starters!

First things first. Good Luck and tailwinds to our racers still on the Trail to Nome: Bob, Tim, Sebastiano, Ausillia, Beat, Marco, Shawn and Klaus. They have had very warm wet conditions but it seems to be cooling off now so maybe the Trail will improve for them. Facebook is a great way to keep track of them on their way to Nome since folks on the Trail have been posting first hand reports.

Forty eight finishers in the McGrath race out of 48 starters! I expect the odds of that ever happening were about as good as winning the lottery. It is a testament to the strength and determination of this year’s field of athletes. Jay Petervary set a new men’s bike record and the top seven finishers broke the old record. Eszter Horanyi broke the women’s bike record and Anne Ver Hoef the women’s foot record. David Johnson won the men’s foot division just shy of a record with a big smile and a thirty six pound sled behind him. Thank you to all of you who came and raced to McGrath and on to Nome this year and all of you folks out on the Trail, in homes, lodges, checkpoints and villages, behind computors, on machines and dog sleds who made it possible and a lot less painful. .

If you have ever wondered what those like lodge owners Dan and Jean Gabryszak, checkers Rich Crain and Iris at Yentna, Mark and Cindy at Skwentna, Zoe at Shell Lake Lodge, Carl, Kirsten, Mandy, Tyrone and crew at Winter Lake Lodge, the Perrins at Rainy Pass Lodge, Rob and OE at Rohn, Nick, Olene and Stephanie in Nikolai and Peter and Tracy in McGrath who welcome us have to deal with—— Imagine welcoming not one but forty eight folks half of whom you don’t know into your home or place of business  to eat and sleep at all hours of the day and night who haven’t had sleep or a bath in who knows how long and treating them like family. And it goes on for days. First place or red lantern winner each one of you racers are part of the Iditarod Trail extended family. That Trail family goes far beyond our racers, checkpoints and volunteers. Alan Tilling received as big a cheering welcome by Iditarod Rohn volunteers as any musher when he came through after having to start the race 5 days late. A musher passing out snacks to some and hot chocolate to others was reported through the Trail grapevine. I heard stories of Nome racers helping the checkers in Iditarod in exchange for shelter and food in the spirit of a time long past some places but alive and well on the Iditarod Trail. Another racer loaned his sat-phone to a musher and helped try to catch a loose sled dog. One of the Iditarod Trail Breakers to whom the Nome racers have to thank for their trail beyond McGrath in many places saying they enjoy running in to our racers going to Nome. Iditarod comms folks retrieving racers drops sent to a village so they were available on Sunday. School teachers and principals checking on and looking after racers in the villages. When we had 3 racers overdue in Rohn and not seen by Rob Kehrer on his way out of Rohn Terry Boyle and the Iditarod Rohn Crew were immediately ready to help. OE aka Kevin Robins one of our volunteers in Rohn was in his plane and looking as soon as he got it warmed up calling us shortly saying he had spotted the racers who had taken a very scenic 25 mile in and out tour of 3 mile canyon before heading over Rainy Pass and were just running a bit late. Thats just some of the stories I have seen or heard this year and I am sure others could add many many more.

I have watched the race evolve over the years from a couple of dozen diehard bikers with homemade and modified winter bike parts and gear (not because they couldn’t afford it but because there were none to buy), a runner and a skier or two all seen by other Trail users and locals, probably rightly so, as a bit “out there”. To see how we have been taken into the Iditarod Trail Community over the years gives me a lot of pleasure. It says more about the character of our racers than what place they finish. It is all of you racers being such great ambassadors on the Trail and the open hearts of all who help us out there that makes the Iditarod Trail Invitational of today possible.

Thanks to all the Iditarod Sled Dog Race folks some of whom never make their efforts public who have been there for us through the years. To get to be part of our race and the Sled Dog Race as a checker in Rohn is something that makes me personally feel very priviledged. Remember to thank them when you can because without their race ours doesn’t happen.

Thanks to Greg Matyas  bike designer and veteran McGrath racer for holding our pre-race party at Speedway cycles home of the Fatback. Here racers reconnect with old friends and meet the new ones while eating pizza, drinking beer and talking Iditarod Trail.

Kathi had Sharon Heiny long time race checker/supporter/ Iditartod checker and Andrea Hambach veteran 350 finisher and several others including veteran racers and folks on the Trail pitching in on her administrative team this year. Thanks to all of you for making it better for all the folks at home following friends, loved ones or their favorite racer.

Last to mention but by no means least is the nationally recognized, crusty, sometimes jaded or brutally honest old outdoors reporter who has been stalking us since the beginning of time. Sure that someone might be interested in a story about this fringe group of winter athletes Craig Medred has traveled hundreds of miles on the Trail (part of them with me if that tells you anything about the company he keeps) and written thousands of words about our race from a perspective only possible by being there. Thanks for being there Craig.

Thanks to everyone for helping Kathi and I be the facilitators of one of the last great races that belongs to all of you

Bill M.

Race Updates

Most updates are being posted on our face book page, it seems to be the most looked at page covering our race.

It is a public page, so everyone should be able to access it.

8 racers are heading to Nome currently. The weather has been unusually warm, wet and rainy. Despite, those 8 racers are pusing on. Tim Hewitt is leading the running division despite his heavy sled with 24 days of food supplies.

The leader of the race is Anchorage cyclist Bob Ostrom and he is making he way of the 122 miles of Yukon River to the next village of Kaltag. Iditarod is ferrying dog food down to Eagle Island from Kaltag since the bush planes were kept from flying because of bad weather. This should help and firm up this remote section of trail some more since there is no other traffic other than the Iditarod Trail breakers and mushers and runner and bikers of the two races heading to Nome.

Howard Cook and Anne Ver Hoef had finished their race in McGrath, but hace decided to fly to Unalakleet on the coast and travel the scenic 250 miles on the coast to Nome since they had sent out their drog bags on the trail to the village post offices.

Recent posts on our facebook page:

Update from Tim’s wife Loreen:
Tim Hewitt has also left the small community Grayling and is now heading up the 122 miles of desolate Yukon River. Most times racers face a head wind there. Currently there is a tail wind from reports we are hearing. Tim was able to get some rest in his wet gear in his parka along the trail. He is making amazing progress with a sled loaded with 100 lbs of food and fuel for 24 days. Go Tim!

This is a logistical challenge for Iditarod because of bad weather, but…
This is good news for our bikers and runners, if they are bringing in supplies by snow machine from Kaltag down to Eagle Island that means the trails get packed by additional snow machines between Kaltag and Eagle Island. Is is 60 miles of trail on the Yukon River not used by anyone other than the Iditarod sled dog race and our racers and broken out by the Iditarod Trail beakers ahead of the lead musher. article/20130308/ iditablog-mushers-fret-over-dog -food-crisis-yukon-river

Update on Ausilia & Sebastiano from the principal in Grayling: They arrived there late last night at 22:44. They had pushed their bikes a lot but were in good spirits. Thank you Michael. Ausilia and Sebastiano are departing this morning for the 120 mile long Yukon River stretch up to Kaltag which is the next possible place to make a phone call to us. This section of Yukon River is notorious for head winds, if the wind blows and the trails drift in it could take racers 4-5 days to arrive in Kaltag.

Updates from the Nome racers: Beat and Marco arrived in Shageluk last night. They are drying gear, resupplying from the packages they mailed ahead. Everyone in the villages, principals, post master has been really helpful. Marco has issues with his borrowed shoes, they stay wet, his old shoes are falling apart, but he carries them as a spare. Beat reports conditions have been very challenging, wet, they got rained on and slushy trails. This morning he says it seems the trails are frozen. Marco wants to take a longer rest in Shageluk before heading out again. Beat plans to leave this morning and make it as far as Grayling tonight.

Update on Anne Ver Hoef:
Mike flew me back from McGrath to Anchorage on Monday, but looks like I may go back out on the trail. I had a back strain, so I could not continue early this week from McGrath. However, I am feeling much better (thank you, extraordinary Rolfer, Barbara Kavanaugh) and I think Cookie and I will fly out to Unalakleet and continue from there to Nome. I so wanted to see the coast and this is a way to run/walk the trail for fun. We already sent our boxes of provisions out there, so we just need to get ourselves back out on the trail. Here’s to fun adventures!

Great update on Howard Cook and Anne Ver Hoef:
They plan to fly to Unalakleet and travel the section of coast from Unalakleet to Nome, about 250 miles! One of my favorite sections of trail besides the section over Rainy Pass.

Howard Cook posted to Kathi Merchant about an hour ago via mobile
“Kathi I think that you will already know by now but I turned round and came back to Mc Grath yesterday . Very sad and miserable but today I have spoken to Anne Ver Hoef and it looks like we are going to fly up to Unalakleet next weekend and finish the last 300 miles or so to Nome . It’s not perfect but it’s a good compromise . Thanks for all of your hard work over the past couple of weeks . I don’t envy your job , being at the sharp end with all the friends and family. “Love Cookie xxxxx

Alan Tilling who started the race 5 days later decided to finish his ride in McGrath and not go to Nome this year. Glad you came to Alaska anyway and had a good ride to McGrath. Hope to see you again in Alaska in future years.

Update from Howard Cook
It’s not pleasant to watch an old guy cry so o took myself a few hours up the trail and sat on my sled in the wilderness . With just no fuel in the tank , sore feet and creaking muscles I had to admit to myself that Nome was a bridge too far . My tears were both of frustration and sadness . Frustrated that I am no longer 35 to 40 and that my age is starting to slow me down . Sad because my journey on the trail has come to an end . The trail is not just the thin White line weaving along the valleys of Alaska but it is also the sights , the sounds the people , the friendship , the sky at night , the hardship , the warm bed and the hot meal. It’s the hard days which cause those brief moments of joy to shine bright like a jewel and become a memory that will never leave you .I am sad that I am not with my friends Shawn & Klaus sharing their companionship and the joint endeavour. As in life it is often better to travel happily than actually arrive and that is why I will miss the trail .

I have now retraced my steps and arrived back in McGrath and due to fly out on Sunday.

Best of conditions for our 350 mile race, with new records possible and 48 finishers!

Currently showing 32 F in McGrath. Shawn McTaggert and Klaus Schweinberger left this afternoon at 12:05 heading for Nome, the next community of Takotna is only 18 miles away. Cookie is giving it another day and plans to leave in the morning and head over to Takotna to see how his feet will hold up. Alan Tilling who started 5 days after the official race start is expected in McGrath today.

We are expecting to hear about the arrival of the first 3 bikers Robert Ostrom, Ausilia Vistarini, Sebastiano Favaro in Shageluk anytime soon.

You never know when the Iditarod Trail opens up it’s own stash of tricks and challenges. It provided the best of conditions for our 350 mile race, with new records possible and 48 finishers! But now the Nome racers as well as mushers are facing challenging warm, slushy, wet and windy conditions on their way to Nome and race director Bill Merchant is battling 70 mph wind gusts trying to get back home from after two weeks on the trail over Rainy Pass. We wish all the racers, mushers and Bill Merchant safe travels out there!

Kathi M.

The 2013 (350 mile) race is a wrap for us

Howard Cook (Cookie) receives the red lantern award this morning and arrives in McGrath. Cookie’s time is under the 10 day time limit.

The 2013 (350 mile) race is a wrap for us with all 48 racers that started finishing in McGrath. This has been a great year for the Iditarod Trail Invitational race! New records, 48 finishers.

New overall record by Jay Petervary: 2 days 19 hours 16 min.( 67 hours 19 min)
New fastest women’s by Eszter Horanyi in her rookie year: 3 days 16 hours 20 min.
Fastest woman on foot: Anne Ver Hoef: 6 days 12 hours 20 min.(that is about 54 miles per day)
First time under the 3 day mark: for the first 5 racers, including 3 rookies!
Another record: No scratches in the 350!

Congratulations to all of you! Bill and I both wish we could spend more time with you all and listen to your stories.

Any write-ups, blogs, race reports,newspaper articles please e-mail us a link to it!

Nome racer update:

The conditions up the trail have been soft and punchy for bikers and runners. 3 cyclist are in Iditarod. They were heading back on the trail behind the Iditarod Trail breakers. Until today there was no trail beyond the ghost town Iditarod. Temperatures have been too warm, making trails punchy and slow. Racers on foot and bikers pushing their bikes tend to get blisters, trench foot and have foot issues. We wish them well and that the temps will cool off for them.

We expect the first bikers in Shageluk (the first place that is inhabited year round since Takotna) by tomorrow afternoon or evening. Howard Cook is evaluating his feet and will make a decision about continuing on to Nome by tomorrow. Shawn and Klaus are planning to leave in the morning and get back on the trail.

I spoke with my husband Bill Merchant in Rohn, the last mushers are through as well and he is taking down our Wall Tent, stove and cleaning up the site. His plan is to snow machine 200 miles back to Wasilla tomorrow.

The weather forecast doesn’t look good for the Alaska Range.

There is a high wind warning in effect with winds of up to 55 mph starting tomorrow through Friday.

We wish him and Terry Boyle (Iditarod checker) good luck on their journey back to town.

Kathi M.

Race Update – 5 March 2013

Klaus, Shawn, and Tony have arrived in McGrath late this evening. We are waiting to hear about Howard Cook’s arrival in the morning. The first Iditarod mushers have already come and gone through McGrath and this is the 9th day of the 2013 ITI. Meanwhile 6 racers are on their way to Nome on the Southern Route, Bob, Ausilia and Sebastiano are in the ghost town of Iditarod. Once a thriving gold mining town of 10,000 a hundred years ago. Today the populations is zero and Iditarod awakens every two years during the ITI and Iditarod. The BLM has built 3 more shelter cabins along the way between Ophir and Shageluk and they are marking the trail as I write this. map and location of shelter cabins Beyond Iditarod there is currently no trail. Until tomorrow when the Iditarod trail breakers ( a group of longtime Iditarod volunteers on several snowmachines) come through. They are punching in a trail tomorrow which might help. Unfortunately the temperatures have been unseasonably warm in the Interior of Alaska, up in the 40′s which can turn a trail into the consistency of mashed potatoes and make trails unrideable for bikers and slow for walkers as well. The best time is to travel at night when the trails might firm up a bit. The first village they reach on the Southern Route is Shageluk Population 139 — The name is an Ingalik Indian name meaning “village of the dog people,” and when the Iditarod hits town, that is especially true. Adolph Hamilton, who lives here, helped race organizers find the original trail to the town of Iditarod, even though he had only been over it once, many years before with his father, as a small boy. I have been in contact with the school principal and keep them informed about the race progress. Along the villages along the Iditarod Trail, the school is the only place to accomodate visitors. For a fee racers have a warm place to sleep,use of kitchen,dry out their clothing, shower and use internet and phone. Those are all great things to enjoy when you are coming off a long section of trail. Kathi M.

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