Palin's Husband Races Across Alaska

Each year, they race 1,971 miles through the snow and ice of the Alaskan wilderness, weighed down by sleeping bags, a small tent, a stove that weathers the wind, flares, a hatchet and other gear they'll need to survive if conditions deteriorate.

From Wasilla, Alaska -- the hometown of John McCain's vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin -- northwest to Nome and then east to Fairbanks, two-person teams compete in the Iron Dog, the longest snowmobile race in the world.

While many Washington types and political families might never dream of subjecting themselves to those conditions, that's not the case for Palin and her husband, Todd.

A professional snowmobiler, Todd Palin is a four-time race champion, winning his last title in 2007 with competition partner Scott Davis.

And in the blistering cold, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been found front and center to cheer him on, long after others have retreated to the warmth of their cars.

"She showed up and waved the flag at the start of the race out there," Jim Wilke, a member of the Iron Dog's board of directors, told on Friday. "It was 29 below when I pulled up at the lake, out at the starting line."

Two weeks ago, Todd Palin signed up for the February 2009 race, which would be his 16th run as a competitor.

And no matter where Sarah Palin's evolving political career takes her come November, those familiar with the competition say they expect the Palins to show up as planned again this winter.

"I would be surprised if he didn't," Wilke said. "They're quite a couple. They have not seemed to change their lifestyle a lot since she's been elected governor.

"She's perfectly at home and very comfortable in outdoor clothing," he added. "When she puts on her blue jeans, it's not like she just took 'em out of the box."

Todd Palin's Adventurous Race

Race entry materials for the February 2009 event lay out what it takes to compete in the Iron Dog.

"These participants will brave subzero cold, bad visibility and deep snow to push their snowmobiles and bodies to the limits to reach the finish line," says the entry form. "It is the world's longest, toughest snowmobile race, and it is a true test of human and equipment endurance." Indeed, last year's winning team took the top prize in 42 hours, 33 minutes and 40 seconds on the course, not counting time off the clock to sleep and eat in the freezing cold.

On Friday, the race's executive director, Laura Bedard, told that while there are several factors that make or break the results, Todd Palin has a key element of the race down pat.

"If you kind of look at the winner's circle, especially at Todd and Scott, Todd has won the Iron Dog four times and Scott has actually won the Iron Dog seven times," Bedard said. "Experience actually plays a key role in that."

To be sure, weathering tough conditions could take some getting used to. With GPS tracking devices on their snowmobiles, competitors navigate the elements. They need to plan their fuel consumption on the distance between stops where they can refill instead of carrying too much extra with them. They need to be prepared for an emergency.

"Cell phone service doesn't go everywhere," Bedard said. "They might be pinned down in a storm or a situation that might require them to go into survival mode."

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